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


Hanging out

It’s been a busy few weeks and if you’ve been reading recent posts, you’ve probably gathered that Mum has been for a visit. The last time I saw her was on my bi-annual pilgrimage Down Under in December 2014 and, being rather a long time between familial drinks, we made a plan for her to have a three week sojourn at Gidday HQ.

Over Easter we had ourselves a three-night city break in Liverpool but this was just the tip of the iceberg – for three weeks we drank coffee, saw a few sights, did a bit of shopping and cooked some meals – Mum made some old favourites from my childhood and I added a few new dishes to my repertoire (so great to have the time and opportunity to try out a new recipe on someone else). But mainly we just enjoyed hanging out together. Here are some of the highlights.

We strolled along the Thames on a cool Spring Saturday and met some friends of mine for lunch at the Design Museum.

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Mum, yours truly on the banks of The Thames

We took a short tube ride and spent a colourful couple of hours at Camden Market.

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Left: Camden High Street is a mecca of self expression. Right: Statue of local girl Amy Winehouse

We also managed a Fab Four, post-Liverpool top up with Richard Porter’s Beatles In My Life walking tour which wound its way through John, Paul, George and Ringo’s London haunts and culminated in that crossing on Abbey Road.

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I stopped traffic but it had to be done

We went to see Glenn Close demonstrate some serious vocal chops as Norma Desmond in the musical Sunset Boulevard and also took a trip into the world of Downton Abbey with a visit to three of the show’s most famous filming locations…

Cogges Manor Farm (aka Yew Tree Farm) in Witney…

DA - Cogges Manor Farm

The top middle photo shows where Mary’s antics with the muddy pigs were filmed (fans will know what I mean!) while the roof seen top right is where Daisy gets a new perspective on Andy in the closing scenes of the series.

…the village of Bampton (aka Ripon in the series)…

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The village church (top right) was the scene of many a Downton wedding whilst the hospital scenes were filmed in this old schoolhouse to the bottom right

…and of course “Downton Abbey” itself, Highclere Castle.

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The castle is a family home – the family being the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert, Lady Carnarvon and their children – and as such is only open to visitors 60 days a year. Did you know that their ancestor, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered Tutankhamun‘s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922?

Then on Monday night I put Mum on a plane and that, my friends, was that. Three weeks – gone by in a flash.

It was busy and full and so fabulous to spend time with Mum. And even though it’s always tough to say goodbye, there’s only about 8 months (or 251 sleeps) to go until I arrive in Melbourne for Christmas. In the meantime, this weekend has been ‘going-out free’ and today, with the washing drying in the Spring sunshine, the patio might be beckoning…

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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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?

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.

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.

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 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

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

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…


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…