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!

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…

Hello? I’m All Ears…

With the Australian Labour Party electing yet another leader this week (they’re a fickle bunch), it would appear that the powers that be are still trying to get the measure of public opinion Down Under.

But perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the South Korean city of Seoul.

In an effort to encourage communication between the elected and the electorate, Seoul City Council has installed Yobosayo, a giant ear, outside City Hall.

Photo credit: www.lifethings.in

Passers-by can bend this particular ear simply by leaning in and airing their views…

Photo credit: www.lifethings.in

…which are transmitted by microphones inside the ear and broadcast through loudspeakers inside City Hall for all and sundry to hear.

Yobosayo means hello? in Korean and it rather tickled my fancy to think that as each person leant into the ‘trumpet’, they would utter this self-conscious salutation before embarking on their particular litany. Think about how often this is our ‘greeting’: to the unknown caller, a potentially unoccupied room and even an obscure fact.

Anyway it rather amused me to think of all of those important councillors being ear-bashed by hundreds of hellos each day.

And speaking of hellos, there’s a rather big hello in the offing here with only two sleeps to go until Lil Chicky gets her big gidday hug in the Arrivals Hall at Heathrow Airport from yours truly.

I’m so excited – I do love Arrivals

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.

T Minus 43…

Exciting news this week at Gidday HQ.

Chicky is coming!

Yes, after almost a decade of me living here, Lil Chicky has booked her ticket and is coming to experience a bit of London Love at the hands of yours truly.

We’ll get to hang out (so completely ace just on its own) and I get to show her around Fab Finchley and my adopted hometown.

We’ll also make a little pilgrimage across the Channel to visit Dad’s birthplace – the land of clogs and tulips – Amsterdam.

And there’ll be the small matter of celebrating a rather important birthday while she’s here.

So much to do in so little time together.

And 43 sleeps to plan it all.

Luckily she’s already bought the t-shirt…

So in case you missed it, that’s T minus 43 peeps…

Let the countdown begin!

Ye Olde Bucket List…Part Two

With the previous night’s Shakespearean sortie under my belt, on Sunday I added another satisfied tick to Ye Olde Bucket List by visiting Lord’s.

Lord’s is the home of cricket. It’s located in North London and as my local bus goes right by on its way down to Victoria Station, you can get a glimpse of the Nursery Ground over the wall. So it was with much anticipation I arrived at the gates with friend The Umpire to see Australia versus England in the second Ashes test.

With England leading by about 500 runs from the first three days of play (for those of you who don’t know your cricket, test matches can go for five days), I had little hope of an Aussie victory but the Ashes series is an age-old contest between our two nations and when in Rome London, Lord’s is what one must do.

Australia got an absolute shellacking. No surprise there given recent performances. But it was a great day. Lots of sporting banter, a cricket umpire as a companion (to answer all my inane cricketing questions), some really fabulous weather and a goodly selection of vittels to keep us sustained: what more could a person want?

Oh yeah. A few more runs on the board.

Here are a few pics of my Big Cricket Day Out.

The first one’s of yours truly, mainly to prove not only that I was there but also to demonstrate that England is actually having a Summer (note the blue sky behind the hat and sunglasses).

Fans had travelled from across the world to stand sit shoulder to shoulder and support their team.

The emergence of the players at 11am…England was STILL batting.

This is the Grace Gate, the official players entrance. It’s Grade II heritage listed – that happens a lot in London.

And this is the Big Vacuum Cleaner, ready to suck up all the rubbish it could find. Just kidding. It’s actually the media centre.

And in true form, the banter was everywhere. Even on the back of the dunny toilet door.


And that, my dear Gidday-ers, was Lord’s and another tick made on Ye Olde Bucket List.

Speaking of ticking things off, never fear peeps. I’m still ticking off the days until the very fabulous  birthday celebration of yours truly. Just 7 sleeps to go…

The World’s Coolest Bottle Opener…

So the big birthday bonanza is on and this year, first card past the post(box) is from Mum.

She’s gone for a very practical design this year. Knowing how much I like a vino or two, she’s come up with something I’ve actually been looking for all my life – the perfect bottle opener.

It’s a mix of ‘easy on the eye’ and getting the job done. Style meets pragmatism if you will. 

It’s not quite handbag-sized but I could see myself taking it everywhere.

(Although popping my cork on a whim may not be entirely appropriate in every situation.)

Oh what’s that?  You’d like to see it?

Well if you must…

Only 13 sleeps to go peeps…NOW I’m excited…

A Marilyn Moment…

London is officially having a heatwave.

(It does make me chuckle at the thought of a mere 32C sending weatherpeople and policymakers into paroxysms of fear and foreboding, causing them to issue warnings to the old, young and mums-to-be.)

London does not do heat well. Its narrow streets swelter and arterial roads melt, its transport system buckles and its buildings steam, constructed to retain rather than dispel the heat. People visibly droop as the mercury rises and breeze is a rare thing on days such as these.

Which is why I stood my ground this morning.

I got to the station a few minutes earlier than my normal train courtesy of what I like to call a ‘fast bus’ (one where not many people make it stop and/or get on). I heard the speaker crackle heralding news that the next train wasn’t stopping. I had been standing in the shade, positioned where the door usually ends up when my train stops.

Rather than step back as I’m usually wont to do, I stood still, flattened my palms against my light summer skirt and as the train raced past, I let the breeze swirl around me.

I felt my body sigh in sheer relief.

It was all over in under a minute but my Marilyn moment stayed with me all day.

Even now it makes me smile.

ps…and speaking of smiling, my smile will be getting bigger and bigger as my special day approaches. Just 15 sleeps to go peeps…

The Body Beautiful…

I was flicking through yesterday’s Times when I saw the most amazing thing.

Looks like a frog right?

Look a little closer…can you see the five people?

This colourful tribute to the amphibious is courtesy of 2012 Bodypainting World Champion Johannes Stötter.

While there’s part of me that wonders at the ways people keep themselves busy (eg. how do you first work out you want to paint bodies), the other part of me finds this fascinating. And I guess that’s the power of art – polarising, puzzling, poignant. Sometimes none of these. Sometimes all three…and then some.

Anyway Stötter has been using the body beautiful as his canvas for 12 years, having painted his first at the age of 23. His website and facebook page are a veritable showcase of the human frame drenched in the inspirational colour and texture provided by the world around us.

It certainly brightened up the News section of The Times.

ps…and speaking of brightening things up, the Wish List is underway and there are only 24 sleeps to go until the Big Birthday Bonanza…can you feel the excitement?