A taste of Spring

I ate a plum today.

———-

I took it from the fridge

and left it to warm in the sun

as I read on the patio.

———-

When I picked it up, I stopped

 to admire the shine

of its bruise-purple skin

before I took a bite.

———-

I leaned forward

and brought the round glossy fruit

to my lips.

———-

I felt the skin resist

then split under my teeth

surrendering

its lush golden flesh.

———-

It was firm – “al dente” –

keeping the juice softly wrapped

in the meat of the fruit

as I took each cool, sweet bite

around its stony heart.

———-

In five bites I was done

and the seed tossed casually away

under the rose bushes.

———-

I ate a plum today

and it tasted like Spring.

———-

The joys of Spring

After last weekend’s blast of ‘summer’ and a weekend spent topping-up my vitamin D levels, I was all set to embrace a week of glorious weather. I had a rummage through my ‘clothes-not-in-season’ wardrobe in the back room and wore dresses twice…which also means I got my bare legs out. (Disclaimer: no passersby were blinded by said bare legs.)

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A pretty frock always makes me feel like Spring has arrived and the week continued to deliver splashes of sunshine-y colour.

On Thursday, I was walking back to the office after popping out to the bank. The sun was dipping in and out behind the clouds and I was enjoying the warmth on my shoulders every time it emerged. Suddenly, I saw this appear on the footpath in front of me…

I let out a ‘wow!’ – yes, I said it out loud – and started looking around to work out where it all had come from – much to the amusement of the less excitable people sitting nearby. I finally looked up to see the coloured panels on this building’s roof…

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…and thought how clever and delightful this was. It really made my afternoon.

Then Friday saw three of us skipping our regular supplied-at-work lunch to purchase some vittels for an impromptu picnic in the park opposite the office.

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Sitting on the grass in Victoria Tower Gardens – a pretty nice view for my part.

There were clusters of people scattered everywhere and sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun and admiring the view was a great way to cap off a truly Spring-like week.

Inspired by all of this Spring-iness, when I got back to my desk I made an appointment to have some new nail polish applied on Saturday…but by the time Saturday rolled around, Spring appeared to have ‘unsprung’ with the expected top temperature dropping to just 11C. So while I got my paws prettified as intended…

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This is O.P.I.’s Flamenco Pink for anyone who feels inspired to follow suit

…afterwards it was off for a) a bowl of soup and b) a scrumptious cappuccino to ‘warm me cockles‘.

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A real treat: an hour in my local cafe to read – I’m really enjoying Ferney by James Long at the moment – and sip excellent coffee.

You’d think that after living here for 12 years I’d not be so surprised by this meteorological u-turn but there you go…in any case I spent a delightful hour ensconced by the window, reading and people-watching.

One of my regular weekend chores is meal planning – aka how many quick meals I can prepare for during the week to prevent snacking on cheese and biscuits the minute I am in the door – so as I left the cafe, I decided to pick up some fresh veg on the way home.

There are a few Eastern European-type grocers on my way but I always visit the same one. I like to buy local, these guys were there when I first moved to Finchley and I like to be a regular customer. And as the quality is always good, I’ve never seen any reason to defect to any of the others that have opened (and for some, closed) over the last five years.

Anyway, I was unpacking my purchases at home and picked out the receipt from the bottom of the bag. I normally just throw it away but something made me glance down the list and I laughed out loud.

tomatoes

Now that’s my kind of tomato!

And that brings us back to Sunday again. The sky is blue and although it’s not the dizzying heights of the 26C we had last weekend, the patio is flooded with sunshine so it’s out with both the washing and my good self to soak up whatever Spring has deigned to offer.

Until next time, here’s wishing you all the joys of Spring.

A dinkum daughter

My name is Kym Hamer, I am 46 years old and I have just cooked my first BBQ.

Yes yes I know. As a dinkum Aussie sheila, I ought to be ashamed of myself for not mastering this patriotic part of my culinary repertoire before now.

It’s not that I’ve been blind to the art of BBQ – I have actually been around BBQs most of my life but it has always been someone else pricking the snags and flipping the burgers.

23KYM

My introduction to BBQ-ed vittels started early in life – but Opa (back middle) was in charge of the cooking.

And quite frankly these BBQ bastions have been happy for me to do my part by plonking a few salad leaves artfully in a bowl and scattering a few condiments around, so who am I to argue (with glass of wine in hand)?

But the weather was looking good…

Phone temp

…my outdoor setting had been re-oiled after a long and rather exposed Winter…

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…so Aussie-K came over for a barbie.

Of sorts…

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To be honest, my turkey and chilli burgers stuck a little and would probably have been better served by a hotplate…

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…but they tasted delicious alongside the lime and chilli mayo, salad and warm ciabatta straight from the oven. And wine of course.

(I would not want you to think I was some sort of kitchen maestro or anything so I must confess again, this time to not making the ciabatta myself.)

And we topped it all off with a slice of shop-bought (just keepin’ it real here peeps) lemon tart, fresh berries and cream.

So on this Mother’s Day, with our respective Mums on the other side of the world, chatting in the sunshine and eating good food together was a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

As was ticking my long overdue BBQ baptism off the list.

Mum would be so proud…5KYM

Happy Mother’s Day Mum from your fair dinkum Aussie daughter.

Spring shoots

Today is the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK and after a basking in some long overdue Spring sunshine yesterday, it’s time for me to keep my word and share my last two months of gadding about (which, with Mum’s 3-week visit smack-bang in the middle, pretty much disappeared before I knew it).

There have been a few highlights of the stage-and-screen variety since February starting with a ‘goosebumps all-over’ moment as Glenn Close filled the London Coliseum with her performance of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The BBC ran a gripping six-part adaption of John le Carre’s The Night Manager that starred Hugh Laurie – in fine and menacing form – and Tom Hiddleston which had me transfixed on Sunday nights. (For those of you who don’t know Hugh, think House and Black Adder.)

And I saw a couple of really great movies – Spotlight and Eye in the Sky, the latter being a charity screening at my local cinema, The Phoenix. In his pre-film talk, director Gavin Hood explained that the technology featured in Eye in the Sky is real and out there as we speak. Mind-blowing stuff.

There were also some things I expected to love more than I did. The Maids at Trafalgar Studios was edgy and well-acted but a little too crazy for me and Immortal Tango contained patches of thrilling Argentine Tango but was brought low by too much tinkering with the quintessential drama and passion of the dance. Based on how much I loved The Night Manager, I had another stab at reading le Carre’s novel only to remember how convoluted and unwieldy I find his writing. And reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was spoiled by knowing ‘who dunnit’, having seen it on TV earlier this year (another brilliant adaption from the Beeb).

There have been some firsts as well.

I attended my first political debate on the EU referendum at the London Palladium. It was chockers with people and points of view and while it didn’t really help me to make a more informed decision, I did leave with my view of politics and politicians intact – grandstanding and emotive argument just don’t do it for me.

However what did do it for me was Painting the Modern Garden, an exhibition featuring artists from Monet to Matisse (and many in between) on my first sortie to the Royal Academy.

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I also visited Poole, site of the second largest natural deep-water harbour in the world (after Sydney).

sunny poole

Dorset Quay, Poole

Last but not least, April alone has meant birthdays galore. It started with my two favourite little dudes turning 3 with Mum, Seattle-A celebrating a week later. And on the 30th, my good friend of more than 15 years, Swiss-S, finally turned 40 on the same day that high school friend, Aussie-J, marked her slightly more advanced passage through life (although she’s still younger than yours truly).

And the great Bard himself, Shakespeare celebrated his birthday on April 23rd, the same day as he popped his clogs 52 years later. There’s been much ado about this and for my part, this Bard-themed week has been book-ended by  Shakespeare Live! last weekend and a Shakespeare’s London walking tour on Saturday just gone with the Museum of London.

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Memorial to John Heminge and Henry Condell, the two actors who published Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 in St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden.

In other news, I was very excited by the Monopoly-themed loos at Marylebone Station…

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I had to wait for everyone to leave the loos before taking these pics so no-one thought I was being weird or creepy (she says, posting them for all the world to see.)

…my fabulous new shoes…

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…and that fact that Spring finally ‘sprang’…

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Delicate Spring flowers  lined my street for about two weeks before they dropped to leave leafy green boughs behind them.

And I think that’ll do. Just as well that the month ended with a 3-day weekend…but the batteries are recharged and I’m ready to go again…

…come what May.

(Geddit? I just couldn’t resist a play on words.)

Water Water Everywhere…

It’s the first of March and Spring has sprung. In the last week, our mild winter has melded softly into more blue sky days and some double digit temperatures. Bunches of green pointed leaves have broken through the soil and the anticipation of bright bursts of yellow daffodils lies hopefully in parks and gardens. It would appear that unusually, the heralding of Spring has corresponded with its calendar counterpart.

It’s come after months of storms and torrential rain which has put something of a dampener on the start of 2014 for many in the UK. And waging a watery war with this, one of the harbingers of climate change, brings us to this month’s Calendar Challenge from Simon Drew

Image Source: Simon Drew’s Famous Phrases Calendar 2014

I was reading an article about the impact on rising sea levels this week. A report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers released five years ago suggests that areas like London and the Norfolk Broads could be consigned to a watery grave if society’s impact on the environment continues unchecked.

Image Source: http://www.carbonmanagers.com

Ecologically speaking, one could argue that this small island nation has good reason to worry.

And yet on the other hand, a large – or certainly larger than it should be – proportion of the world’s population has no access to water. 

A recent campaign by Water Aid UK shows a young girl walking more than two hours to draw ‘life-giving’ water from a muddy pool, dirty water that could kill her or her family. How often each day do we simply turn on the tap – to fill the kettle, brush our teeth or even take a drink of cool, clear, safe water?  Even with all of our efforts at limiting water waste, we live in our Western ‘bubble’ where having no access to a flushing toilet or a morning shower occurs not as a part of everyday life but rather as a short term immersive ‘experience’ in the realms of adventure travel.

So this year, I’ve started donating to Water Aid UK – as little as £10 per month is enough to fund a well to reach clean water far underground. 

There are a myriad of ways to contribute more to the world we live in and this is my small step into this battle alongside the elements. But every journey starts by putting one foot in front of the other and along with my monetary contributions, I’m also hoping that tuning my environmental antenna to such a cause will lead to more opportunities to educate myself and understand how I can make a difference.

Oh and I’ve also resolved to stop grumbling about the rain.

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Calendar Challenge 2014 – Back Catalogue
Keep Calm And Carry On
Sour Grapes

An Idée Fantastique…

This morning I am sitting at the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International.

I’m here early, having woken at the same (ridiculous) time as a normal workday and decided that instead of lolling about under the covers, I would head down for a perfect mini-break breakfast (Mark II) of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and rye toast. (Mark I – consisting of fresh blackberries and yoghurt – was around 6.30am.)

Replete, I’ve now positioned myself in a comfy chair within eyesight of the boarding screen and have a little over half an hour to wait until train 9018 departs for its glorious cross-channel run.

Yes peeps, I’m off to Paris.

I’ve been to the City of Lights before but the last trip was in 2003. That’s a whole ten years ago so a couple of weeks back I decided that taking an extra day around this already 3 day Bank Holiday weekend and treating myself to a May mini-break was an idée fantastique.

The weather promises to be dry and in the high teens (celsius that is) with some sunny periods so my light layers are packed, my camera is close at hand and with the main tourist sights already ‘in the bag’, I’m ready to wander, eat, drink, shop, wander some more and breathe in the Gallic charm of this metropolitan monument to the romantic spirit.

Boarding has now started so I bid au revoir to the week that was…

…and a cheery bonjour to *gay paree*.

ps…I may or not not post while I am there – it largely depends on whether I can find time between the wandering, eating, drinking, shopping and wandering some more…c’est la vie!

Spring Frolic…

This afternoon I hosted a small group of friends at Gidday HQ.

Our quartet – or Fab Four if you like – makes an effort to do something together every month. March saw us venture into The Lost Lectures, February was lunch at The Banana Store and a wander around Borough Market (see my post on London’s Hip Pocket for more on this outing) and last year we discovered  some rather delectable delights at Ceviche in London’s Soho and beneath Tower Bridge at The Perkin Reveller.

It has been such a busy time for our little quartet that there was a danger of April slipping away without a Fab Four frolic. So I took matters into my own hands and invited my trio of lovely ladies for a Gidday soiree on the back patio.

To my delight (and great relief) the weather stayed dry and while it was a trifle chilly, I had blankets and wraps on hand. There was even much excitement when the sun made a cursory appearance between main course and dessert and for a few brief minutes, we basked in Spring-like warmth.

I learnt years ago that the key to being able to enjoy hosting these events is being prepared – I have no desire to be stuck in the kitchen while my guests are having all of the fun.  So we started proceedings with a vegetable platter, an avocado dip and some Mediterranean bread and seeded crackers for dipping – and I got to enjoy the wine and conversation, both of which flowed effortlessly.

To follow was a cheese and vegetable pastry-less quiche which went down a storm and after part-baking this morning, only need another 20mins in the oven. It came with a big bowl of green salad (easy to whip up) and some fresh vine tomatoes marinated in a light dressing (made last night) all of which meant I spent more time at the table…and drank more wine.

But the thing I am most proud of is my dessert – individual ginger and white chocolate cheesecakes…

..built to frame the cute champagne candles I had found in Tesco a couple of weeks ago and complete with golden ‘bubbles’. And made last night meaning even more time at the table for me this afternoon.

Before long, over three hours had passed, the coffees had been finished and it was time for my visitors to go.

It was such a pleasant Sunday afternoon and it reminded me how much I love to cook for other people, an opportunity that needs to be ‘manufactured’ in my time of singledom versus being ever-present – as it was – when I was part of a couple. And in any case, solo cooking exploits can be quite dangerous. Prior experience tells me that one cannot should not consume cheesecake (or any baked goods for that matter) on one’s own and still expect to fit into one’s jeans. Sharing is definitely the key.

So here’s to more Spring Sundays with fabulous friends, scrumptious sustenance and convivial conversation.

Double Digits And Drowsy Daffs…

If you’ve been speaking recently to anyone living in the UK, you will know that we have felt the grip of winter’s chilly fingers well beyond the ‘start’ of Spring. Night-time temperatures have dipped below 0C for far longer than usual and the days have nipped at the noses, fingers and toes of anyone daring venture into the outdoors.

But last weekend, things shifted. The sun appeared, the mercury climbed into the mid-teens and I found myself moving to the patio at Gidday HQ to breakfast, read the paper, paint my paws toenails and anything else I could think to do that meant I could stay in the warm mellow sunshine.

The days are getting longer too (I mean versus the night, not that we are getting more than our requisite 24 hours). In the last week I have walked from the office to the train station three times, a wonderful 15-20 minute respite in the fresh air dividing the frantic busy-ness of the office and the cocooning commute of the train. 

The best bit is that Spring colour is starting emerge. There have been signs of spring here and there but it would seem that the week of double digit temperatures has opened the ‘blooming’ floodgates (geddit? blooming…did you like what I did there?) and the tree out the front of Gidday HQ has burst forth in a riot of delicate pink blossoms.

And the daffodils are out. Their yellow heads have lifted from their winter sleep to bob drowsily in the breeze, lining paths, meadows, gardens and even the main entrance to the office. The Metro has been filled with pictures of Wordsworth’s host stretching across the Lake District in a golden sheet of colour – a sign of lighter, brighter days to come.

I have always loved daffs. They are such joyful, hopeful flowers and nothing makes me happier than a big vase of bobbing sunshine-y blooms. In Australia, they are in season around August and Mum always bought me a humungus bunch for my birthday so for me, there has always been a really strong association with family and happy times.

When I first arrived in the UK I was having a really difficult time, and I remember sitting on the bus, gazing out the window and quietly despairing about how I was going to keep getting up each day and build this ‘new life’ I’d crossed the world for. The bus rumbled over Kew Bridge and suddenly the view was filled with hundreds of dancing yellow daffodils splashed across the Green. My heart lifted, my resolve stiffened and in that moment I felt that somehow, things would all turn out.

So for all of you lovely Gidday-ers who enjoy my expat ramblings here at Gidday from the UK, you have a host of drowsy Spring daffs to thank. 

 

And every year, when those glorious golden trumpets appear again and toss their spritely heads, I remember that moment on the bus nine years ago when an unexpected burst of Spring gave me hope and I found the courage to keep building my dream.

I Feel Pretty…

I was out and about earlier and while there’s still a nip in the air, there are blossoms everywhere, leading me to believe that Spring might have finally arrived.

Early in March I was delighted to see some scattered daffs under a tree in nearby Victoria Park…

Then we had a couple of weeks of gloriously sunny weather (remember that time when we were warmer than you beloved Melburnites?) We were all delirious over here and there was even a breathy mention or two…could this be the year that we have a ‘good summer’?

Then it rained for a few weeks and I had to resort to bringing the outside in…

Bunches of daffodils are cheap here at this time of year and last between 10 days and two weeks

But today’s blue skies and spring-like 14C (I know, my expectations have lowered considerably on the temperature front over the last 8 years) have brought forth a veritable tour-de-force of blossoms…

I was crossing the High Road in East Finchley today when I snapped this glorious spread behind my bus stop
I noticed these buds on my side fence from the kitchen window last weekend which are now in bloom. I don’t know what they are so if any less horticulturally challenged than me can advise, I would not look stupid in my own garden be grateful
These are growing in random plastic buckets in the back garden. Haven’t a scooby what these are either. They live without much input from me. This makes me look good happy.

London is so unbelievably pretty in the Spring – I actually think it’s one of the things where it beats Australia hands down.

Even Google is getting in on the act!

Google 22nd April 2012

But lest you be misled, I should let you know that after a glorious t-shirt and light jumper walk this morning, it’s now raining…

Yes indeed, Spring has definitely sprung.

Who’s Gonna Drive You Home?

Last August, I relinquished a part of my life that I was inordinately attached to…my car.  Apart from working in London and using this city’s quite amazing PT system every day, financial pressures meant that it was time to let it go.  And so it was with a heavy heart that I handed over the keys and began the daily face-off with my vacant off-street parking space.

It was inconvenient at first but I soon discovered a joy in being able to experience the world rather than it whizz by un-noticed.  For the most part, being out in the weather was invigorating: crunching through the snow, smelling the rain, feeling the sun on my face and breathing in the elements.  After a few months, my knees ached less and my legs took on a much greater supporting role as my body changed shape and my fitness improved – recently I even found myself trotting spiritedly up the steps to the train platform.  And if you read this blog regularly you’ll know that commuting allows me to indulge in one of my favourite things to do every day – read.  You can’t do that in the car!

But the biggest delight has been keeping quietly to itself and waiting for Spring to arrive and now its here, I find myself inspired by blue skies, green fields and the awakening trees that makes England’s prettiest time of year…well, really pretty…

I was walking home from the train station when I was struck by this beauty

And this tree is about to burst into bloom

Then I was walking to Kingston today and noticed this gorgeous wisteria draping itself possessively over a number of houses in the street…

And so, still feeling inspired after a visit to the Oxfam bookshop to top up my commuting bookshelf, a bout of fruit and veg shopping at the Market Square and a leisurely toastie and soya cappuccino at a local cafe, I bought myself a little flowery inspiration…

…say hi to Gerry the Geranium!

Gerry is one of a pair (the other is Gerri with an ‘i’) and tomorrow we will find the perfect pot (and indeed the perfect spot) for the two of them to bring a little touch of Spring to Chez Hamer.