The carnival is over

After an end to August that was bathed in glorious sunshine, Autumn has arrived under a bit of a cloud – literally. For several days now I have been pricking my ears at the sound of rain spattering on the kitchen skylight and have been caught in a few unexpected downpours (only to find myself sweating it out in my mac when the clouds lift ten minutes later). Suddenly layers – and umbrellas – are the things I need to be thinking about.

I was walking back from East Finchley on Monday afternoon – the sky drab with cloud and the air heavy with humidity – and decided to pop into Long Lane Pasture.

It’s been two months since I first discovered it during a geocaching exploit with stepmum-B. On a warm summer day back in July, we had plodded curiously along the grassy pathways, stopping to admire a bright flower, taste some small golden plums or wonder at an unusual plant. Profusions of ripening blackberries, just a few short weeks from plump purple readiness, lined the paths and we had been delighted to find a patch of cool relief under a draping willow tree by the railway fence.

LLP July montage

Since then, the blackberries have all but gone and with things having been mowed and generally tidied, it was clear that the volunteers had been hard at work.

LLP Sept (3)

LLP Sept (4)

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This grass circle (above left) contains 17 different species of native grass which, apart from being hand-weeded, are left to grow wild.

And speaking of native, the middle picture below is a Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), native to the British Isles and named for Gelderland, a Dutch province. It grows in hedgerows and still grows wild in the London Borough of Barnet although this particular shrub was planted in the Pasture. Birds love the berries but they are acidic and slightly poisonous for people.

LLP Sept (1)

I also got a gander at some rose hips (above left) – which I’d only ever experienced during my childhood as ‘jelly-in-a-jar’ – and all to the accompaniment of bees buzzing away industriously. On the way out I put some coins in the donation box by the gate to support the efforts of the volunteers who tend this little patch for the community.

I continued on towards home and as I passed Victoria Park, I noticed something unusual on the grass.

Victoria Park

No, the aliens have not landed. Rather over the last ten days, the park has been playing host to a kiddies’ carnival – rides, bouncy castles, you know the sort of thing I mean. I’d grown used to it on my morning walks. But on Monday it had vanished leaving nothing but the marked grass as testament to their stay. With the rain, it will no doubt green up even more quickly than usual but I was astonished at how much of an impact the ten days had made.

And speaking of astonished, the garden at Gidday HQ continues to surprise and delight, particularly given the absence of green-coloured-thumbs. Small sprays of roses keep bursting forth, the insects continue to buzz busily and a flourish of striking red poppies has cropped up along the garden fence.

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I did not plant any of these but most days I wander out to visit them, enjoying their delicate freshness and vigour and wondering what other surprises might be in store. I’m also flabbergasted at their undaunted survival and the unequivocal claim they have made at the home of one so horticulturally-challenged.

Nature is a marvellous thing isn’t it?


As I type this, my feet are tucked into my cosy sheepskin slippers. The lounge room is noticeably darker without the sun streaming in and while the desk lamp illuminates the keyboard under my fingers, the floor lamp in the corner behind me casts soft light across the room. The days are already feeling shorter.

Yes peeps, the carnival is definitely over. Long summer days are already yielding to brisk autumn nights. The kids are back at school and daily commutes are crowded with the busy and the anxious again. The steady march of annual comfort telly – the flurry of The Great British Bake Off and the flounce of Strictly Come Dancing – has begun.

Nevertheless I’m hoping that it’s not quite over yet. A bit like the roses at Gidday HQ, just when I think they have finished their annual flowering, their scented petals burst forth again, enchanting me one last time.

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So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one still smelling the roses…and keeping my eyes peeled for a late burst of summer.

Smelling the roses

I am not really a gardener. I love a neat and tidy bit of greenery to admire and in the past, have even turned my hand to some moderately successful veggie growing but a green thumb I am not. So when I moved into my current pad several years ago, I did not really understand what I had and the delights that my new garden would provide.

I headed out for a little patio session today and was greeted by this…

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I’m not a rose person but every year, I’m absolutely thrilled by this profusion of roses in my garden.

And they smell. Really smell. So while they are freshly open, I try to get up close and personal to have a sniff. These peach ones have a sweetish delicate perfume, nice enough but not entirely to my taste.

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These yellow ones (yes I have two rose bushes), with their deeper muskier scent, are more my thing.

As I have a bit of a penchant for yellow flowers – they are so happy and really lift my spirits – these are the ones that win me over.

In any case, they are too beautiful to pick and it seems that they are happily proliferating in earnest on the bush. So that’s where they will stay and if the number of buds is anything to go by…

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…I may have a few more weeks of smelling the roses ahead of me.

Lucky lucky me.

Patio sessions

It is a gloriously blue sky day here in London and I’m out on the Gidday HQ patio catching up on a spot of reading.

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Whilst Aussie-K came over for a coffee  yesterday – the day seemed too good to waste so we chatted about life’s trials and tribulations and scoffed some millionaire’s shortbread bathed in gentle sunshine – today was the first real patio session of the year. The cushions have been dusted off and placed on the chair and I have a few magazines and a bottle of water at my elbow. It’s only 10 Celsius but sheltered from the wind, it feels warmer so I’ve stretched my luminous winter legs out onto the chair in front of me.

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I miss my patio time over the winter months and as soon as it’s warm enough, I spend my weekend hours out here. As I read my latest issue of Intelligent Life – now with the new moniker 1843 – the washing dries in the sun, the birds twitter and squawk and the neighbour’s ginger cat ventures over to investigate.

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I love my patio. It has played host to celebrations with friends and visits from family. There have been Saturdays full of brunches, lunches and catch up coffees and many solitary Sundays spent trawling through the magazine reading that lapses a little over the winter months. I always promise myself I’ll do it during the week but I can’t help but flick open my kindle for just one more chapter of whatever happens to be my latest commuting addiction as I drop into my seat on the tube.

But most of all it’s my haven and today’s session has invigorated my mind, calmed my soul and given me a little respite from the hurly-burly of life. So I’m hoping that we may have turned the corner into the early stages of Spring and with a few more days like today, I might get on top of the reading pile…

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…eventually.

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…

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My wreath has had an Aussie update this year

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

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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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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…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…

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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.

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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?

Rites of Passage

Today I had a grand plan to complete some posts that have been lounging about in the Gidday pipeline in various states of draft-ness.

But today London is basking in a gloriously sunny 16C and after months of a) commuting in woolly tights (among other items of apparel) and b) weekends snuggled up indoors, I could not resist the temptation to make a quick Plan B – a couple of hours catching up on my Vanity Fair reading on the back patio with sun warming – yes warming! – my bare arms and shoulders.

And it would appear that March is certainly living up to its name as London marches resolutely into Spring. Much to my delight, I found my first daffodils bobbing their merry yellow heads on the patio…

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In other news, after my dual personality nationality status was bestowed upon me back on a grey day in January, last night’s post held another important rite of passage – my first British passport.

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So there was nothing for it but to celebrate with yet another rite of passage – scoffing a couple of Mint Slice biscuits, packets of which have been recently discovered on Ocado courtesy of a helpful tip from fellow Aussie witterer, Vegemite Wife. (Thanks mate!)

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So that’s me sorted. How are you marking the change of seasons?

A new chapter

Gidday!

Welcome to the new look Gidday from the UK .

After more than six years of tap-tap-tapping away, I’ve finally decided to relocate my witterings to a brand new home. Six years is about the longest time I’ve lived in any particular place of abode so with hindsight, one might see the inevitability of this move as a result of some subconscious alarm clock. Or not.

Anyway, here we are – courtesy of WordPress – with a new url:  giddayfromtheuk.com.

As with all new chapters, it’s an opportunity to take the best of the familiar and to explore some new horizons. The most obvious change is to Gidday’s look and feel. The masthead photo – of Trafalgar Square – was taken on my daily commute: standing on the corner of Northumberland Avenue waiting for the pedestrian lights to change on a brilliantly blue-sky summer morning. I love its unusual perspective, of seeing the possibilities of the world – it seems – from Admiral Nelson’s point of view.

It’s also a chance to rethink, reshape and recraft based on what the last six years have taught me inside and outside the blogosphere.

There’ll be a myriad of reflections on the world – opinions, musings, questions about the things I see, hear, read on my way through life.

You can also expect more of those everyday ‘nows’ that remind me that life is filled with millions of these tiny, poignant moments and is all the better and richer for it.

And you can still expect a healthy dose of Aussie irreverence. After all, it wouldn’t be Gidday from the UK without it.

So thanks in advance to my Gidday-ers: those of you who’ve supported my blog in the past and may migrate from the old to the new digs with me. And a big Gidday welcome if you are new to Gidday from the UK.

I hope you enjoy this next chapter and as always, I’d love to hear from you.

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pssst…if at any point, you’re interested in a little trip down memory lane, or to see where Gidday from the UK began, you can check out the original website at www.giddayfromtheuk.blogspot.com

Keep Calm And Carry On…

Gidday peeps and welcome to 2014. I hope you found something to celebrate and be inspired by as one year ended and another began.

In between getting out and about, I’ve been sorting stuff at Gidday HQ over a restorative nine days off before facing my first day back at work on January 2nd. And life’s bright shiny distractions meant that a further two days passed before my first 2014 post. 

So here I am at last –  better late than never – four days in.

Today has been a bit of a personal maintenance day (the ladies out there will know exactly what I mean – looking good takes a little effort) but the other important thing on my to-do list was to find Gidday HQ’s 2014 calendar. I had ventured out a couple of times over the Christmas period in an effort to have something ready to go come January 1st but had not found anything sufficiently inspiring, heart-warming or engaging to take pride of place on my fridge…

…until today.

This is part of the front cover of the Simon Drew‘s Famous Phrases calendar.  You can probably see why I was drawn to it…hic!

Anyway, each of his sketches is accompanied by a particularly witty twist on a well-known phrase. This one was also on the cover…


Core Jets / courgettes…geddit?

Anyway, it made me laugh in the shop so I bought it and brought it home, filled in all of the important dates and events I already know about and stuck it on the side of the fridge. And to celebrate its comic contribution here at Gidday HQ, I thought I’d take on the Calendar Challenge again, last seen in 2012 and featuring the irreverent bunch from Violent Veg

The Calendar Challenge means publishing a post on the first day of each month using the corresponding calendar page from that month as my theme/inspiration. And look at this, it’s the 4th and I’m late already. But January has some good advice…


…although I’m not sure who ‘Ron’ is.

Anyway, I reckon there’s only one thing left to do – let’s get stuck in to 2014 and see what happens. 

Hope you enjoy the ride.

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…