The Spirit of the Games…

There’s the small shindig happening in London later this month. It’s happened a couple of times before. A gathering of sporty types who’ll bring their best, enter the arena and fight for the gold in front of a global audience. Dashin’ and prancin’…
…the Olympic Games are comin’ to town.
And the Olympic flame, that which symbolises the spirit of The Games, has been wending its way to London through rain and shine (but mostly rain) to inspire the people of England.
On Sunday afternoon, a few folk gathered along Hatfield Road in St Albans to eat, drink and wave a flag or two. The vibe on the street was dry (surprisingly enough) and humming with excitement and anticipation…

All of a sudden, the convoy had arrived and with it, the flame…

…and before too long, it was on its way again, safe in the hands of Huddersfield Supply Chain Manager, Glyn Carter.

Just as well we snaffled a sneaky snap while Glyn was waiting his turn…

…to show we were really there!

Only 17 days to go peeps. Are you ready for the Games of the XXX Olympiad?

This post is part of July 2012’s Post of the Month Club

Wired For Sound…

This weekend I was back at the lovely Phoenix Cinema for another From The Archives screening, this time to celebrate this particular local’s 100th birthday on May 9th.

Every From The Archives follows a theme and as The Phoenix was the first cinema in the area to show a ‘talkie’ – The Singing Fool starring Al Jolson – in 1929, this afternoon’s theme was the advent of cinematic sound.

The first clip set the scene – a ‘trailer’ for The Jazz Singer. Not a trailer as you and I know them but rather an earnest young man describing and then cutting to footage of the film and the opening night itself. In that day and age, cinema goers were astonished – the man’s lips moved and his words came out! Extraordinary stuff when you put yourself in those shoes.

The second film was Walt Disney’s first foray into sound and his introduction of the world’s most famous mouse. I had read about Steamboat Willie a couple of years back as part of a biography on Disney – the movie is only 7 minutes long, but features Mickey and Minnie and big cheerful dose of that irrepressible Disney magic.

And then it was time for the main event, the completely joyous Singin’ in the Rain. For those of you who have been living under a rock (and shame on you if you have), the story revolves around the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 and the scramble of the major studios and their leading men and ladies to survive the rise of the talking picture.

But it is the combination of wonderful music, show stopping routines and the chemistry of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor that has you leaving the cinema humming ‘Good morning, good moooorning!’ and generally feeling that life is a pretty wonderful place to be.

And all of this for free.

Finally as part of the nod to 100 years of local cinema history, we had our photo taken in the auditorium before the show to be put in a time capsule for future generations to find. Just imagine what someone might think of us in 100 years’ time!

And since I have been to three Phoenix freebies now, I decided to put my money where my feel-good is and become a Friend.

It’s just a whole lot of unmitigated feel-good really.

Flattened By Easter…

As you know I like a little baking foray every now and then. Easter is a very opportune time for this as a) I love Hot Cross Buns and b) every one of the little blighters here comes with a healthy dose of mixed peel (which I cannot eat being allergic to oranges). So as I started last year meaning to go on, it was time for Gidday’s Easter Buns.

Buoyed in anticipation of lashings of butter on warm fruity buns, I weighed and mixed and kneaded and poked the fruit in. Waited an hour then formed my little parcels of Easter yumminess ready for the oven.

But something didn’t feel right and I knew before I took them out of the oven (actually I knew before that but I was in denial) that there would be no light and fruity bundles scoffed at Gidday HQ today.

There was no rise. No uplift. The yeast had lain inactive. Inert. Literally flattened by the chill in the air. (In retrospect, I should have left it in the bathroom – the warmest room at Gidday HQ – to do its ‘thing’.)

So I spent 4 hours today making fruity – and inedible – rock cakes.


Afternoon Delight…

Today, I was all set to post about other things. Not Mother’s Day mind, as ‘mine’ happens in May (but am wishing all Mums celebrating today a fab day just the same). But I had a few ideas from the week and following on from my two part ‘danger mouse’ thriller, I was keen to change the rhythm and tone again to keep things fresh and interesting for all of you lovely Gidday-ers.

But I’ve had the most delicious couple of hours and I just HAD to tell you about it.

I’ve been to the cinema.

So what? I hear you say.

No I’ve been to THE cinema, the delightful Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley.

It’s what I call a proper cinema with old fashioned, theatre style seats, lots of leg room  and a shiny, swishy gold curtain at the front.

Purpose built in 1910, it’s a single screen cinema, and was actually saved from the wrecking ball in 1985 by the formation of The Phoenix Cinema Trust, a charitable organisation that runs the theatre for the community, reinvesting its profits both in education and maintaining this wonderful tribute to cinematic history. 

I used to live close by a similar independent cinema in Melbourne (The Classic in Elsternwick for any Melburnites reading this). My old home-town has quite a few thriving independent cinemas and it’s something I had missed a little while living in South West London. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I used to love wandering down and submitting myself to a screening of something I’d choose simply by standing at the Box Office and seeing what was about to start.

Anyhow, The Phoenix is not far from the new Gidday HQ and this afternoon there was a ‘From the Archives’ screening of Imitation of Life, a ‘legendary Hollywood melodrama’ (which I’d never heard of) about racial identity. I thought it seemed a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The story centres firstly on Lora, a young widow chasing her dreams to be an actress who is supported by her black housekeeper, Annie in the raising of her daughter Susie  alongside Annie’s own  ‘light-skinned’ daughter Sarah Jane. Lana Turner plays the ambitious and glamorous Lora and, along with the marvellously good-looking John Gavin as her love interest and a perky Sandra Dee as Susie, provides much of the froth and bubble as well as a little wry humour throughout the film. But as things unfold, it is the relationship between Annie and Sarah Jane which gives this story its real potency.

This film was made in 1959. It would have been quite a daring affront to the ‘seen and not heard’ issue of black and white America but more importantly, the film shows that there’s more to the world than merely a black versus white view and Susan Kohner’s rebellious and then bittersweet performance of Sarah Jane captures this better than any words I could write here. And the industry obviously thought so too with Kohner winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Oscar nomination (along with Juanita Moore for her portrayal of Annie).

Two and a half hours flew by and before I knew it, I was sitting contentedly on the bus coming home filled with absolute delight at my new discovery. 

At the venue or the film? I hear you ask.

I can’t decide.

Visit The Phoenix. See Imitation of Life.

I’d recommend both.

When Two Tribes Go To War…

I celebrated my 8 year anniversary in the UK on the 21st January. I have had many firsts here – broken bones, high teas, baking exploits, snowfalls, sub zero BBQs just to name just a few. But until last Sunday, I had never been to a football match here.

In Melbourne, the prevailing game is AFL and while I would never say I was a mad fan, I watched games sporadically on the telly, chatted avidly about the Footy Tipping around the water cooler at work and have been to the MCG twice – once to watch my beloved Brisbane Lions reign supreme on the last Saturday in September 2001 and again, to the traditional ANZAC Day match between Collingwood and Essendon in 2007 on one of my prodigal visits down under.

Since getting ‘off the boat’ in 2004, I have grown to enjoy a good game of soccer (as we call it), enjoying the World Cup/Euro matches from the comfort of my couch at home but had failed to develop either the inclination or the opportunity to sally forth for real. So when a friend got some great tickets for last Sunday’s match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium, who was I to say no!?

Here at last! Emirates Stadium 29th January 2012
A little context first. My friend is an Arsenal supporter and this was the 4th round of the FA Cup (it said so on the program) so things were bound to get heated. His partner had not been particularly keen to attend so I got a guernsey by default (A-down-the-hill and I call that being an ’emergency handbag’) so I felt compelled to band together with said friend in the Arsenal camp. But in any case, Emirates is the home ground for Arsenal and we were completely surrounded by the red and white so cheering for anything but a Gunners win was likely to be bad for my health. And at heart, I’m a wimp pragmatist.

Pre-match colours from the Gunners fans
Oh dear, fun over!
The match started and Work Friend was kind enough to give me a few pointers on the teams themselves and patiently answered my neophyte questions so that I could follow the action. I’m no soccer football expert but it wasn’t long before I was muttering and shouting with the best of them. When I heard these immortal words pass my lips – What’s he doing kicking it there when there’s no-one forward? (I’ll spare you the swearing) – I suspected I may have been converted.

At half time things were not looking good (Aston Villa 2-0 Arsenal) but two penalties early in the second half (converted from the boot of Robin van Persie and yes he’s Dutch) levelled the score and before long Arsenal led 3-2.

Match just getting underway – after this I was too busy swearing watching to take pics

As the match progressed, the stadium was filled with chanting with my favourite being ‘Who Are Ya?!’ as forty odd thousand Gunners fans celebrated the equalising goal early in the second half. Unfortunately, match rivalry here spills over into a bit more vociferous argy bargy off the pitch and between that and the high ticket prices (£50+ per adult at least), I’m disappointed to say that football here does not have the same family feel as in Australia. 

Work Friend said he loved the tribalism of it and that’s the perfect description. The atmosphere in the stadium was absolutely electric and given the chance, I would definitely go again.

But first things first: I believe Arsene Wenger is awaiting my post-match analysis…

A Little Tinkering…

Well peeps it’s been a cosy, curled-up-indoors kind of Sunday here at Gidday HQ. I’ve done chores (well, some), read a little, sorted some pics I took in London yesterday, had a chat with Mum and carried out a little virtual redecorating. Yes, in the spirit of trying out new stuff and beginning a shiny new chapter, I have been tinkering away to give Gidday From The UK a bit of a lift. 

This year is about new horizons for me, whatever they turn out to be, so I wanted a ‘eyes up’, skyward theme. But I also like the relaxed feel of Gidday – a bit like I’ve invited you over for a cuppa and a chat – and didn’t want to morph into something that just wasn’t…well, me. So I’ve decided to use a picture of my very own street in Fabulous Finchley as the backdrop to all things Gidday.

Taken from the footpath right outside my front door

The last year has also seen me out and about a bit and I’m quite chuffed about this new notoriety. And I wanted to acknowledge the generosity of my fellow adventurers in the blogosphere for saying nice stuff about Gidday and for some especially brave souls, letting me loose on their patch to witter on about stuff.  So I’ve added a new page, Going Walkabout.

Gidday has played host to some Special Guests this year too. I love the variety it brings to the Gidday journey and so am putting this out there now – if you’d like me to write a guest post for you on…erm…something, I am completely up for it.

Speaking of putting stuff out there, I told you yesterday about another new page, Mind The Gap! designed to capture all that’s sublime and ridiculous about charting one’s course through the Queen’s English in Blighty. Please feel free to contribute your stories – the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned (and thanks to Michelloui for her LOL tale of #expatfail on yesterday’s post).

The Book Nook (previously the 50 Book Challenge until I got to 50) will remain at large and in the last few months has featured the scribblings of two of you, Charlie Wade with The Bailout (No. 51) and Jack Scott with Perking The Pansies: Jack and Liam Move To Turkey (No. 57).

No doubt there’s more to come and not just from Jack and Charlie. You (well some of you anyway) seem to like my mini-reviews so I’ll keep ’em coming for 2012.

As for the rest, we’ll see what transpires as the year progresses. I already anticipate much travelling and a fair amount of fossicking in old London Town so some new themes may emerge on this front. In addition, the new Gidday HQ offers many opportunities not available in my previous super-small abode. I can see a few soirees of the outdoor variety taking place on the sizeable patio/in the grassy bit of the garden (which may or may not overshadow any future baking exploits). And let’s not forget that Gidday HQ is guest-ready – Mum will be here in just 37 sleeps.

And speaking of Mum, she’s is a stickler for manners that one – I may never meet HRH but Mum is comforted by the fact I at least know how to behave well. So thank you for all your reading, laughing, scoffing, following and commenting. Let me assure you every one of your comments is eagerly opened as I make my daily commute to and from work. This is the place where I put little old me on the page – whatever that may be at the time – and being cheered, supported and surprised by your feedback can really transform an often lacklustre commute.

That’s it for now so I hope you enjoy Gidday From The UK’s new duds. I look forward to more exciting travels through the blogosphere with you and if you are ever actually in London and fancy a face-to-face with an irreverent Aussie sheila, just let me know.

Pukka Picnic and Polo Ponies…

As regular readers of Gidday from the UK will know, I had a birthday.  Not a ‘big’ birthday by society’s reckoning but I like to endow each of my special days with a significance and joyful anticipation befitting someone who has not yet reached double figures.  And faced with how to mark my special day this year, we decided to do the only thing one should do in south west London on a sunny Sunday afternoon – a picnic at the Polo.

Ham Polo Club is located just a 15min bus ride from my place and every Sunday from May to September, you can pop along for a fiver and picnic alongside the rich and…well the rich.  And every Summer for the SIX Summers I’ve lived nearby, me and A-down-the-hill have said ‘Oh we should go!’ and then before we know it, October arrives and we’ve missed the season.  Well not this year!

So on the last day of my year, the SS 41 chugging slowly and gracefully into its mooring, two Aussies, a Scot and four Turks packed their picnic vittels and headed to TW10 to grab a dainty bite of quintessential English-ness.

The sun beamed down upon us, the wine flowed freely and the players and their ponies polo-ed.  There was a smidgen of educating (we learnt about chukkas, treading in and the like), a modicum of movement (chair to field to chair to field to…oh you get the picture) and a whole lotta laugh-out-loud-ness as commentator after commentator filled the slow bits gaps in the action with that droll, dry humour that the Brits do best.

Anyway here’s how the day went…

The game started with something a bit like a passing out. The eight players and their ponies line up in front of the clubhouse (where all the posh people sit) and as the players are introduced, they ride in a little circle around their team mates before stopping back in their original place. Bless! 

‘Passing Out’
Then the action started – these eight grown ups ride around on their horses with big sticks trying to hit a tiny ball up and down a big field and through a couple of posts at either end. No, I don’t play golf either.

An unexpected and rather noisy spectator dropped in for a while…(I hope at least he paid his fiver!)

…before it was back to the action as well as a change of direction (the scoring end for each team changes after each goal)…

 …which is unbelievably confusing for all concerned.

Every so often play stops and they all gather around for a throw in, which look a little like a Rugby Scrum on horseback.

And lest we forget, polo is the sport of the everyman – NOT!  Ponies are usually changed after each chukka making it at least four per game.  Whatever happened to sweating those assets?

Anyhow, after paying for all those posh ponies, there’s not much left in the pot for grounds maintenance so it was our job to chip in and ‘stomp those divots’

Stomping the divots or ‘Treading In’ as it’s called here
Stalking Up close and personal opportunities

 …while our Scot ‘minded the store’.

Four and half hours later, sun-kissed and inebriated it was time to go and in the back seat on the way home, I believe I gurgled happily about what a lovely day I’d had!

So that was my fond farewell to forty-one and another one of the ‘things I must do while I live in Kingston’ ticked off the list.  But to be completely honest, now I’ve been, being local is no longer a mandatory for future attendance.

Chin chin!

ps…I’ve also been submitting some articles and reviews on a site called Weekend Notes – why don’t you wander on over and check out what I wrote about this little adventure and some of the other things I’ve done in London.

Let Me Eat Cake…

I thought it was about time for me to report on my efforts so far in The Great Bake Off

I have to confess it’s not been a frenzy of culinary activity and after an incredibly slow start, there has only been a slight acceleration in pace this year.  But I’ve managed three successes out of three and have become ‘sold’ on the whole concept of planning a Sunday afternoon baking ‘sesh’.

It started out in October last year with Pineapple and Banana Loaf, followed by my inspired return from Christmas in Australia and the even more inspired Mango Fruit Cake adventure in March.  Today’s sunny Sunday success is Apple and Raspberry Squares…
Yes, that is evidence of my choppers tucking in for a little taste…
Whilst not wishing to brag at all (ok, maybe a little bit), I appear to have ‘mastered’ the whole cake with fruit thing so in the spirit in which My Year of Baking was born (ie. to remove the mystery from baking in all its forms), I promise to move into uncharted territory next time (maybe chocolate, pastry?)…although Easter is next week, and if I manage to find a substitute for mixed peel (I am allergic to oranges – but not lemons, limes, grapefruit – go figure), I might just need to give Hot Cross Buns a whirl…
So does anyone know where I can get candied lemon peel in SW London?  Anyone?  There could be a cuppa and a potentially decent Easter Bun in it for you….

Sunday On My Mind…

Today’s weather has left a lot to be desired, particularly after yesterday’s more inspiring blue skies, so I have been getting on with a few chores.  And washing (of clothes, dishes, hair) done – and trying to avoid looking at the enormous bag of ironing on top of the cupboard – I finally ventured outside between showers (the precipitous, not bathroom kind) to trim winter’s obvious bleakness from my surviving plants and to cut a few choice bay leaves in preparation for tonight’s culinary exploits – a Kym-style take on cottage pie accompanied by roasted squash.

To my surprise, I could see rows of tiny ‘bud-lets’ along the seemingly naked stalks and in recent weeks, my continental parsely seems to have been inspired back to life.  The bay tree by the door soldiers on as always and my strawberry plants may just be redeemable with a little TLC so there’s a chore for next weekend already.

The weekday mornings and evenings are getting slightly lighter now and during the week I was delighted to see that my daffodil bulbs had emerged, green and stoic and heralding Spring-around-the-corner.  But today, bay leaf snippets in hand and having pocketed my almost redundant secateurs, I turned to check on my brave little daffs only to find four – YES FOUR – flower buds nestled amid the greenery.

And after last year’s flowerless haul, there are no words to describe the joy that the prospect of those happy, yellow blossoms gave me today.

The year is looking better already…