Single Figures…

We are down to single figures peeps.

In just 9 sleeps, my little sister (aka Lil Chicky) will step off a very long flight from Down Under and into Old London Town (well Heathrow Airport anyway).

It will be her first ever trip here – hopefully not the last.  And I am ridiculously excited.

It’s getting difficult to think about anything else at the moment. I try to remember what my first London Loves were and I find myself wondering what are sorts of things she would like to do and see. Are they the same things that struck me when I first travelled here in 2000? The history, the theatre, the eclectic cultural mix, the architecture? Or is it something else? Perhaps a little high tea or some high kicks at a show? Or shall we take in the Eye, the Abbey, the Shard, the Wall or even the Cock in the Square.

The National Gallery and St Martin in the Fields overlook Trafalgar Square and the latest installation on The Fourth Plinth

The mind boggles.

Lately I have found myself in the midst of my day when I am struck by something I want to show her or share. Like on Friday night when I left the office (my ‘new’ one – our Head Office – where I am now based) and saw this…

…or the view from Waterloo Bridge at night which, after almost 10 years here, still makes me catch my breath and say to myself ‘I really did it. I live here. This is my home.’

So much to do and so little time.

And only 9 sleeps to go.

That’s exciting.

Going Downto(w)n…

There has been a blogging hiatus here at Gidday HQ as life in general overtook…well everything over the last couple of weeks. Preparing our exhibition at an international industry fair last week has been a six month affair but the last couple of weeks have been all-consuming and short of tapping out my 3am lists of things to do here on Gidday – not very interesting reading – I’ve been a bit bereft of my usual ability to blog about the things that I have found fascinating, curious, annoying, inspiring and funny. It was like everything all got stuck in the pipe and I couldn’t find the wherewithal to squeeze them out.

So this weekend has been a time for making space, for letting my head empty and my body unravel from the work of the last six months and in the process, I’ve discovered a whole new addiction…

Downton Abbey.

Highclere Castle, or as we know it, Downton Abbey.

I know many of you may be wondering how I have managed to come so late to this particular party in light of my predilection for the historical. Well, a few weeks ago I was out for dinner with friends and they were talking about the show, how great it was, and were quite surprised that I hadn’t succumbed. We left the pub agreeing that Season 1 would find myself to me the following day…and the rest, as they say, is history. Season 2 was done and dusted soon after.

With both a purposely empty Sunday – to recover from the last seven days away and enjoy an unimpeded re-aquaintance with my own bed – and the start of Season 4 screening tonight, I have spent this weekend watching Season 3. If any of you have watched a whole season of something in a compressed period of time, you might understand the emotional rollercoaster of watching a whole nine episodes in quick succession. There are A LOT of ups and downs in this season so I’m thinking that it was probably much less exhausting to allow a week in between viewings.

But be that as it may, I am completely hooked. So I’ll be joining the hordes of fans for tonight’s frolic through Fellowes‘ fictional take on upstairs and downstairs.

And just in case you were wondering (it’s been a little while so you may have forgotten), there are 23 sleeps to go until Lil Chicky arrives at Gidday HQ.

And I only have six working days left until I move into my new role at work

So much excitement, I can hardly stand it.

Cut To The Heart…

I love my street. It is a wonderful street to live in. It’s chock full of old semi-detached houses with amazing architecture, intricate decorative detail and gorgeous leadlight windows which come alive when I walk along the footpath at night.

During the day, it’s a leafy avenue lined with a magnificent array of trees that signal the passing seasons with their colour and bloom. And there’s a particular tree that signals the entrance to Gidday HQ. It’s verdant boughs cast a familiar shape across the sky as I gaze out of the window from my lazy-weekend-morning pillow and I’ve watched it transform from stripped bare to a riot of pink blossoms to its recent coat of rich, deep red.

So I was devastated to arrive home one evening last week to find this.

Finchley Council…not so fabulous!

Fabulous Finchley…Misty-eyed

Last weekend it was time to do a little more exploring of the new ‘hood so I decided to wander down to Victoria Park just a 10 minute stroll away. 

The park was proposed by Henry C Stephens to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 and was finally opened in 1902, a year after her death. It’s not a large park and it’s kind of set back from the street and tucked away behind the lawn bowls club but it was originally part of Colby Farm where Charles Dickens penned parts of Martin Chuzzlewit – or so the sign says – so there’s a touch of literary significance as well.

So I wandered around for about an hour, pausing to snap gorgeous pic after gorgeous pic. Bear in mind as you look at these that it was about midday when I arrived!

Amazing misty sun photo – I was stoked when this pic turned out!
Entering though the Ballards Lane gate
Trees in the mist
Following the winding path
Rooms with a view
An avenue of trees through the centre of the park
Tennis anyone?

Is the fog starting to lift?
A place to rest
The local cafe and the place to book your tennis court

Backlit by the sun
The sun finally comes out and reveals brilliant Autumn colour

How wonderful it is to find so much inspiration just around the corner. I can’t wait to explore a little more.

I also have to pause for a shout out to HTC. All of those photos were taken with my phone and it’s getting increasingly difficult to justify taking my camera anywhere with quality pics like this!

Until next time peeps…

A Place For All Seasons…

Two sleeps.

 That’s right peeps. Only two sleeps to go.
I have two sleeps left in Kingston.
Nestled under the currently thinning winter canopy of the tree that has, for almost seven years, shaded the highs and the lows of this Australian abroad.
It has been my haven.
An oasis, tucked away at the top of the winding street.
A spiritual home.
Summer Shade
A place of happiness and heartbreak.
Of worry and frustration. Of peace and calm.
Autumn Colour
A place for all seasons.
 Where I succumbed to my love of books, brilliant skies and bracing British winters.

Winter Sunset
Where I wrote my first blog post, discovered the joys of an afternoon spent baking and picked my first blackberries.

A Burst of Spring
And it’s almost time to go.

To leave my cosy front window.
To tap away in pastures new.
That’s right peeps. Gidday HQ is on the move.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of…

I was happily ensconsed at a local cafe this afternoon, sipping my coffee and picking at a slice of quite sublime lemon and ginger cake, when I came across an interview in The Times with some of the Brisbane-ites who were affected by Australia’s shocking floods 100 days ago (yes I thought, ‘only 100 days’ too).

Right in the middle of the first column was a paragraph that really made me stop and think – it went something like this:

Someone said to me ‘You should be thankful you’re alive.  What you’ve lost is just stuff’, she said.  ‘But your ‘stuff’ is what validates you.  Now we feel invaild and invisible.’

When I arrived in the UK over seven years ago, I had planned to be living with the one person I knew and had arranged for the contents of my flat in Melbourne to be professionally packed up and shipped here.  Long story short – he freaked at the ‘responsibility’ for me coming over here and I moved out after six weeks into a share-house with someone I didn’t know. As one does in London…you know the adage ‘When in Rome…’

So my ‘stuff’ (and my dreams) sat in storage.

I moved into my current flat a year later and I cannot even describe the joy of unwrapping MY couch, unpacking MY books, MY music, MY photos and pictures and basically surrounding myself with MY stuff.  It made me feel whole again, reminiscing over things that had been by-the-by in Melbourne but that had suddenly taken on a comforting and joyful nostalgia.  I remember unpacking my stereo, unearthing an adaptor from somewhere and, in the midst of the mountain of bubble wrap and paper wadding, listening to one CD after another: Kylie, Aussie Crawl, Bachelor Girl, Savage Garden, Noiseworks (just in case the neighbours did not realise that there was an Aussie ‘in da house’) as well as some vintage Madonna, Elton John and Neil Diamond.

And in that one afternoon, it became MY place.  A haven to recover from the knocks I had never expected, and the ones I suspected were still to come.  To catch my breath and take stock of who I was and to assess what I had always thought I wanted.  And to realise that in this ‘stuff’ lay not only the life I’d had so far but also the building blocks for the new chapter I’d started to write.

Six years later, I am sitting in my front window, the late afternoon sun is streaming through the dappled leaves and it’s lovely and warm on my face.  I’ve written many more chapters since – the good, the bad and the heart-breaking – mostly ones I never expected I would write. 
And I remain resolutely and inordinately attached to my stuff…and dream of the chapters that are still to come.

A Travelling Life…It’s Good To Be Back…

I started a new job four weeks ago.

(It is not my usual policy to blog about work-related things as I think it can get you in a whole lotta trouble if it’s misconstrued but bear with me, the job reference is incidental).

During two of those weeks, I have been travelling to visit some of our manufacturing plants as part of my induction – in the South of France and the Czech Republic.

I haven’t travelled for a couple of years now and I had forgotten both how fascinating and wonderful, yet challenging, it is.
My trip to Mont (near Pau – Pyrenees) in France reminded  me how truly beautiful the French countryside is (soft, soft sunlight bathing the bald hills and ploughed fields), how unbelievably good the food is (I have no words, only noises, to describe it) and how difficult it is to be brave enough to use the smattering of French words I know – and I mean smattering as ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’, ‘au revoir’ and ‘Parlez-vous l’anglais s’il vous plaît?’ about covers it!
And then last week I went to Pilsen.  As a first timer to the Czech Republic, I was more than a little perturbed to hear the pilot announce on our arrival in Prague that it was a chilly minus 9C – I know many of you just snorted derisively but it’s the coldest place I’ve ever to been to – leading me to wonder whether I could actually wear everything I’d packed in my carry-on all at once.  But the 40min cab ride to the factory had me warm and toasty on the inside.  And at the same time, I tried desperately to resist pressing my nose to the cold window in childish delight as I watched the snowy fields and dark green fir trees straight from the pages of fairytales flash by.

Unfortunately time didn’t permit any tourist-type nosing about on my part but I’ve returned with the spring in my step (and both a disgusting cold and case of mild sleep deprivation – who ever sleeps well in hotels!!??) that exploring new pastures has always given me…

…as well as a fervent appreciation of my own bed.

Ah travelling…in more ways than one, it’s good to have you back!