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?

This Is My Life…

In perusing my weekend-ly dose of Saturday Times this morning, I read that Deborah Meaden – yes the multi-millionaire businesswoman on Dragon’s Den – was a gifted pianist as a child who, upon winning a prestigious music scholarship, decided she wouldn’t do it because ‘all eyes were upon me and it became someone else’s thing.’ 

She doesn’t say anyone pushed her but does cite her ‘refusal to obey orders’ in the preamble to this tale. I suspect no-one ordered her to ‘do’ anything but rather felt that they were merely encouraging what she loved to do anyway and wanted her to fulfil her promise. But now her passion and talent had an expectant audience and it had stopped being hers.

And in her anecdote of childhood wilfulness, I recognised myself and a lifetime of rebellions and I won’ts flashed before my eyes. If you are regular Gidday from the UK reader, you can probably figure out some of these for yourself, my sudden move to the UK being among the most notable.

But there are many – giving up clarinet as a teenager after 9 years of playing, an all-or-nothing approach to my tertiary choice, a double degree that no-one had heard of (no-one did 2 degrees at the same time then) at an institute of technology, rather than a university. Not playing the corporate ‘open all hours’ game to get ahead, climbing the ladder at a rapid rate anyhow by producing results no-one thought I could. Refusing to fill my life with the work or ambition that ‘society’ suggested I should in the absence of children. And even now walking away – sometimes mentally as well as physically – from the people and the things that don’t work for me.

It took me a long time to reach this point – where my life is mine and mine alone – and to stop feeling battered by the best-intended expectations and good opinions of others. For while my rebellion may have seemed intransient on the surface, it was so often underpinned by guilt and inquisition. Was I cutting off my nose to spite my face? What sort of a person did this make me, this proud and jealously possessive soul?  Selfish, impatient, ungenerous, obstinate and righteous?

These were not ‘nice’ things to know about myself.

I look back over almost 9 years in London and I am proud of what I’ve learned from all the challenges I’ve faced here and how my expat experiences have given a different cast to the way I shape my life. That’s not to say that all of those years leading up to January 2004 didn’t teach me a thing or two. Things like resilience, resourcefulness and learning to ask for help (although the last could always use a little more practice than I give it).
Somewhere along the way I learned to believe that saying no was valid, that disagreement was OK. That the love and the listening of close family and true friends really was unconditional, whether they actually liked what I was doing or not. That they just wanted happiness and success for me even though the direction I chose did not appear to be the obvious path to them.

Many years ago, I committed to living a life of complete generosity and inspiration. Little did I realise that the biggest bridge to cross was to be those things for myself first before others.

And in this, I finally learned that all of the ‘theys’ (and that includes all of the ‘yous’ who might be reading this now) don’t have to like my life.

I do.

And that is when I found happiness.

This post is also part of Post of the Month Club – October – pop over to discover more great bloggers.

Nailed…The Truth About Beauty

Today we are going to be talking about nails.

Not the hammering kind but the ones attached to the ends of your fingers and toes.

I suspect you fellas are wondering whether this is a post you are going to be remotely interested in. Well I’ll leave that for you to discuss with your machismo.

In these recessionary times, it appears that we will still pay silly money for anything from a lipstick (£20) to potions and lotions that hide the effects of treating our bodies/skin/hair in such a cavalier fashion for so long.

Note: A 30ml pot of Creme de la Mer will set you back £95 – that’s over £300 per 100ml – and if you are really looking for a bargain, buying it in the 500ml bulk size will set you back £1,150 but is ‘super’ value at just £230/100ml.

But I read in yesterday’s Times newspaper supplement, The Beauty Economy, that the new boom in the world of cosmetics is nail polish. According to Mintel, sales have increased 123% since 2005 and nail varnish now represents 14% of all colour cosmetics sales.

While first appearing around 3000BC in China, the birth of modern nail polish occurred in the 1920s under the auspices of two seemingly unrelated innovations.

The invention of high gloss car paint led makeup artist Michelle Maynard to wonder whether it could be applied elsewhere and with the invention of technicolour, bringing colour and fashion-forwardness to the movies, at about the same time, Maynard had a hit on her hands (pardon the pun!)

From its invention by the Chinese – of the ‘lacquer’ that is as opposed to henna staining which had been in evidence in India a little earlier – right through to today’s crackle, glitter and pop, the stuff is everywhere.

Even the blokes are getting in on the act

Nail bars dot the high streets, cosmetics counters offer a kaleidescope of colour and nail art is emerging as a must-have in one’s primping toolkit with this week’s LOOK magazine offering a how-to in Tribal-Print Nails.

The industry today is worth £152million to the likes of Revlon, Nails Inc, Chanel and Barry M (just to name a few).

And as a marketer/woman of means/vainglorious beast, here’s my contribution from Gidday HQ…

I know – it looks a bit lacklustre after all of that fancy stuff. But this effort takes a good couple of hours of my Sunday afternoon. In addition, I need to save myself from boredom so I snaffle the weekend paper/a few of the latest mags from the ever-growing pile near the comfy couch and faff about with those, waiting for everything to dry so that life can go on. 

To be honest all that tribal stuff just looks like hard work and quite frankly is beyond the limits of my unsteady hands – those who’ve seen me carry a full cup and saucer (or a mug in each hand) will know what I’m talking about.

So the truth about beauty here at Gidday HQ – the real story if you will – is a delicate balance between vanity and pragmatism….and a little faith that it’s all worth the effort.

Bliss For The Worker Bee…

This weekend is a Bank Holiday Weekend meaning some celebration of British-ness has given we worker bees next Monday off.

True to form, the skies have opened, the temperatures have dropped to single figures – 8C is the high for today, THE 5TH OF MAY (yes, that’s me shouting) – and the forecast is not filling me with the hope of any improvement.

As usual.

But a damp-on-the-outside weekend can hold many joys.

Like a cover-to-cover reading of my beloved Saturday Times…

…some inspired planning for my Roman Holiday… 

  …or a few choice flicks (thanks to a free trial from those kind folk at LoveFilm)…

…from the fabulous cosiness of the Gidday HQ couch.

But best of all?

I have nowhere I have to be and I have 3 lovely days in which to do whatever I please.

Now THAT’S worth celebrating.

The Cat In The Hat…Is Back!

I went into work a little late today and someone had generously left their Times newspaper on the seat opposite so excited by a little more erudite reading I started to flick through the pages.  The big news today is this: the Liberal Democrats are having their Annual Party Conference, SAB Miller has bought Foster’s Australia and the most exciting news of all, The Cat In The Hat is back!

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 and aside from being an animator, cartoonist and artist, under the nom de plume of Dr Seuss he published some of the most notable and loved children’s books in history. Who can forget Green Eggs and Ham, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Fox in Sox, The Cat In The Hat, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back and a whole lot more? Over 200 million of them in 15 different languages. And a Peabody, two Emmys, two Oscars and a Pulitzer to show for it. Now THAT’S prolific.

So imagine when I read that just next week, the new Dr Seuss lost story collection will be out. Discovered like a buried treasure – Carter may have discovered the treasures of Tut but scholar Charles D Cohen has hit the literary jackpot.  Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

One bright sunny day, a young duck named McKluck
Had a wonderful wonderful piece of good luck.
He was walking along when he spied on the ground
A marvellous thing that is quite seldom found.
‘Twas a small silver box. And it looked mighty old
And on top of this box, it was written in gold:
“Who finds this rare box will be lucky, indeed,
For inside this box is a Bippolo Seed!
Plant it and wish! And then count up to three!
Whatever you wish for, whatever it be
Will sprout and grow out of a Bippolo Tree.”

So here goes…




                                            TAH DAAAAH!!

The Bippolo Tree and Other Lost Stories is out on September 29th.

That’s only 7 sleeps to go.


ps…thank goodness I was late and picked up that discarded paper eh? Beats that shoddy ‘excuse for a beer’ story any day!

What Was I Looking For?

I have just been reading about our 21st century malaise. 

Flicking through The Saturday Times today, I found a guide (their words, not mine) to the latest and greatest of modern-day society’s afflictions. Being interested in social culture and all of that and having paid for my newspaper, I read on with mild interest, some skepticism and a little agreeable head-nodding.

(You on the other hand, would have to pay for all this – no more free news online from The Times – thanks to that Rupert chap.)

Anyway, I figured that if I just shared the list, a handful of links and a few of my choice-est views on the matter, you could decide for yourself whether you wanted to go to The Times website and fork out for more learned opinions on this subject than mine. So here goes.

First up it’s Decision FatigueToo many decisions make us tired and lower our performance levels. 

No sh*t Sherlock. I did not need The Times or Roy Baumeister to tell me this although I appreciate that nothing ever changes unless we label it and make it a big issue so kudos to the man for that. I think that for me, the issue may lie in something much smaller – listening to my actual choices, you know the ones I actually make. Like when I ask for tap water with no ice, don’t bring me tap water with ice in it and get annoyed when I send you away to get me what I asked for. Call me a pedant if you will but it’s the small things people, the small things.

Next there’s Erotic Capital. The Times calls this ‘monetising what the Good Lord gave you’.  Catherine Hakim calls it Honey Money and wrote a book about it.

I want to believe it’s bullsh*t. Because then what’s the point of employing all of those other things like charm, persuasiveness, intelligence, listening and just plain good manners?

Twitter Jitters is next. Apparently it relates to whether you are posting frequently enough. For what? I ask you. Is this a race? Is there a prize or something? And what about Twitter SPAM?  I am already managing this quite well thank you in my email-slash-blogging life. And quite frankly, sometimes what starts out as a delightful trickle of tweets disintegrates into retweet rubbish and I wonder what beautiful scenery I might have enjoyed by gazing soulfully out of the train window instead.

Next cab off the rank is Weekendvy. Yes, there’s another stupid word that dictionaries the world over can add to their erudite tomes in a year or so’s time. The point of this is that we lie to make our weekends seem more fun / glamorous / relaxing / exciting / virtuous / wholesome than they actually are.  (I sense a bit of Keeping Up With The Joneses here). 

And the dunderheads who actually commissioned this research and coined this phrase (according to The Times)? Travelodge. I rest my case.

Number five is Helicopter Parent Syndrome. There are words mentioned here like Child-bothering and Teacher-bullying. Ripe for provocation. Spoiling for a fight. 

But I.Am.Not.A.Parent. for a reason (many of them in fact). So no comment. Nada. Move along people – nothing to see here.

And last but not least there’s Internet Stupidity. Apparently our brains have atrophied and we spend many hours wilfing (from What was I Looking For?), wandering online from link to link to link. Although I should point out here that this is not a new phenomenon. I have been doing this from room to room in my not-large flat for many years now.

And the panacea to this malingering?  Well therein was the most sensible piece of advice in the whole article. Three little words. Right at the end. Read.A.Book.

So here endeth the rant from the Peanut Gallery.

Now where’s my Kindle?

Oh yeah…and what do you think? (WILF WILF)

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.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics…

They say that you can prove anything with statistics.

The Times reported yesterday that ‘$200 a barrel for oil [will] hurt and squeeze spending’ for households (no sh*t Sherlock!) and earlier in the month, The Economist used The Shoethrower’s Index to determine the potential for unrest in the Arab World – apparently Yemen is ‘Top of the Pops’ here, right ahead of Libya.  In other news, Michelle Williams wore the ‘most loved Oscar outfit’ according to Friday’s Metro – with Aussies bastions of style Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett occupying the first and third rungs on the worst-dressed ladder respectively – and the National Trust informs us in the latest edition of their member magazine that a ‘large-beach-towel-sized’ area of coastline costs £52 a year to maintain (and there’s room for 624,800 of said towels!)

But what do statistics really prove?

One of the cool features of having a Blogger account is that there is a stats area where you can check out things like daily and weekly visits to your blog, most popular posts and where your visitors are coming from.

It’s quite addictive as you can click on all the ‘Mores’ and get more fascinating detail to pore over like the most popular post/s and where your audience is located.  But I am often mystified by how it all works.

For example, I am Australian with family and friends in places like the USA and the United Kingdom, and I have recently posted about an expat Russian accordionist who lives in South Korea so these nations being near the top this week makes sense to me…

…but I don’t know anyone in Poland, Iran, Taiwan, Philippines or Moldova (where a few kind souls have visited from this week) and then today, some chaps from Vietnam, Ireland, Turkey and Belarus popped by – I don’t know anyone from any of them either.

Is this what is meant by the Global Village?  Maybe they are just being neighbourly and are stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar…after all, my most popular post is about The Art of Latte!
Or maybe it’s just people mispelling ‘late’ in their google search…