The carnival is over

After an end to August that was bathed in glorious sunshine, Autumn has arrived under a bit of a cloud – literally. For several days now I have been pricking my ears at the sound of rain spattering on the kitchen skylight and have been caught in a few unexpected downpours (only to find myself sweating it out in my mac when the clouds lift ten minutes later). Suddenly layers – and umbrellas – are the things I need to be thinking about.

I was walking back from East Finchley on Monday afternoon – the sky drab with cloud and the air heavy with humidity – and decided to pop into Long Lane Pasture.

It’s been two months since I first discovered it during a geocaching exploit with stepmum-B. On a warm summer day back in July, we had plodded curiously along the grassy pathways, stopping to admire a bright flower, taste some small golden plums or wonder at an unusual plant. Profusions of ripening blackberries, just a few short weeks from plump purple readiness, lined the paths and we had been delighted to find a patch of cool relief under a draping willow tree by the railway fence.

LLP July montage

Since then, the blackberries have all but gone and with things having been mowed and generally tidied, it was clear that the volunteers had been hard at work.

LLP Sept (3)

LLP Sept (4)

LLP Sept (2)

This grass circle (above left) contains 17 different species of native grass which, apart from being hand-weeded, are left to grow wild.

And speaking of native, the middle picture below is a Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), native to the British Isles and named for Gelderland, a Dutch province. It grows in hedgerows and still grows wild in the London Borough of Barnet although this particular shrub was planted in the Pasture. Birds love the berries but they are acidic and slightly poisonous for people.

LLP Sept (1)

I also got a gander at some rose hips (above left) – which I’d only ever experienced during my childhood as ‘jelly-in-a-jar’ – and all to the accompaniment of bees buzzing away industriously. On the way out I put some coins in the donation box by the gate to support the efforts of the volunteers who tend this little patch for the community.

I continued on towards home and as I passed Victoria Park, I noticed something unusual on the grass.

Victoria Park

No, the aliens have not landed. Rather over the last ten days, the park has been playing host to a kiddies’ carnival – rides, bouncy castles, you know the sort of thing I mean. I’d grown used to it on my morning walks. But on Monday it had vanished leaving nothing but the marked grass as testament to their stay. With the rain, it will no doubt green up even more quickly than usual but I was astonished at how much of an impact the ten days had made.

And speaking of astonished, the garden at Gidday HQ continues to surprise and delight, particularly given the absence of green-coloured-thumbs. Small sprays of roses keep bursting forth, the insects continue to buzz busily and a flourish of striking red poppies has cropped up along the garden fence.

ChezGiddayFlowers Sept17

I did not plant any of these but most days I wander out to visit them, enjoying their delicate freshness and vigour and wondering what other surprises might be in store. I’m also flabbergasted at their undaunted survival and the unequivocal claim they have made at the home of one so horticulturally-challenged.

Nature is a marvellous thing isn’t it?

As I type this, my feet are tucked into my cosy sheepskin slippers. The lounge room is noticeably darker without the sun streaming in and while the desk lamp illuminates the keyboard under my fingers, the floor lamp in the corner behind me casts soft light across the room. The days are already feeling shorter.

Yes peeps, the carnival is definitely over. Long summer days are already yielding to brisk autumn nights. The kids are back at school and daily commutes are crowded with the busy and the anxious again. The steady march of annual comfort telly – the flurry of The Great British Bake Off and the flounce of Strictly Come Dancing – has begun.

Nevertheless I’m hoping that it’s not quite over yet. A bit like the roses at Gidday HQ, just when I think they have finished their annual flowering, their scented petals burst forth again, enchanting me one last time.

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So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one still smelling the roses…and keeping my eyes peeled for a late burst of summer.

Shining on a rainy night

Well here we are in July and embarking on the second half of the year. Can you believe it? Where did the first half of 2016 go?

In Britain, we’re also a third of the way through Summer. This year we’re yet to hit the sweltering heights of last year’s temperatures but we have had a goodly swathe of low to mid twenties days (that’s in Celsius of course) which have been the perfect excuse for lunches in the park and lolling about on the patio.

But over the last few weeks, the weather has become somewhat schizophrenic – full of yoyo-ing temperatures and dry days fractured in the blink of an eye with intense, heavy downpours. Just this morning, I wandered over to Homebase in the warmer-than-expected sunshine (I was thinking that I may have over-egged my outfit) only to emerge 15 minutes later to big fat drops of teeming rain (and feeling smug grateful that I had my umbrella). Five minutes on, the sun had emerged again. And it was a repeat affair this afternoon. I was ready for it though and dashed outside in time to rescue the washing.

There is something about this rain that reminds me of living in Melbourne. It’s mercurial and torrential and insistent. There’s no polite drizzle but rather a spate of sudden downpours that overflow drains and splash up from the pavement to dampen bare legs and trouser hems. And there’s that peculiar, distinctly rainy smell just as the heavens open that lingers a little once it’s over.

Yesterday was the first of the month and therefore time to turn to a new page on my wall calendar. It – the calendar I mean – was a Christmas present from Mum (& Co) and contains a series of black and white images taken by Aussie photographer Matt Irwin. His pictures capture the Melbourne beyond the postcards – they celebrate her moodiness, her light and her spirit. With the gentle touch of his camera lens, he shows me the Melbourne I love.

July’s page shows a couple huddled beneath the curves of their umbrella as they stroll past the National Gallery on St Kilda Road, the wet pavement glistening beneath their feet.

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It’s Melbourne, shining on a rainy night. It was perfect, I thought.

And I smiled.

May: Between the bookends

The month of May has the dubious privilege of being book-ended by bank holiday weekends here in the UK and it has to be said that the weather on both occasions was worthy of a patio session or two. But true to form, the temperatures in between have dipped considerably so this month I have found myself veering between layering up from my Spring wardrobe and delving back into some light woollens.

But the flowers (and other green things) were out and about…

…and so was I, starting with two contemporary dance shows at Sadlers Wells.

The first was from one of my favourites, Rambert, and their triple bill – the moody seamlessness of Terra Incognito, a dichotomous look into the mind of Macbeth in Tomorrow and the exuberant joy of the Brazilian Carnival in A Linha Curva – left me breathless and thrilled. Then I went to my first Nederlands Dans Theatre show. Actually it was Nederlands Dans Theatre 2, the 2 referring to the company’s troupe of ‘up-and-comers’ – if their extraordinary programme was anything to go by, the main company might just blow my mind. They were awesome.

Staying with the stage, a friend and I went to see Kit Harington (yes he of Game of Thrones fame) in Doctor Faustus. It’s a story I know, having seen the play for the first time on a school trip to the Adelaide Festival in my teens and it also provides the overarching serial killer narrative in the movie Seven. This was edgy, swinging between being absolutely hilarious and intensely shocking. There was even a nod or two to modern times woven into Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 script. It’s received quite polarised reviews but I really enjoyed it. It probably helped that Mr Harington spent quite a long time on stage in his underpants. After all, I’m only human.

I also heard Chris Anderson speak at the Institute of Directors last month. Who is Chris Anderson? He’s the CEO and curator of TED and has been doing the rounds promoting his book, TEDtalks: The official TED guide to public speaking (as opposed to the Talk like TED tome that has been doing the rounds since 2014). In any case, spending an hour listening to him speak and handle some Q&A before I started my work day definitely gave me a bit of pep in my step.

On the food front, I cooked my first BBQ – ever…

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…I went to a masterclass on being good to your gut with Eve Kalinik

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The goodie bag

…and then topped the month off with a visit to a free chocolate museum in Brixton which, being underneath a chocolate cafe, meant that Aussie-K and I were inspired to indulge after our visit – the gingerbread hot chocolate was absolutely delicious.

In literary news, the best of the five books I read this month was Ferney, a ‘time-slip’ novel by James Long. It may have been published in 1998 but right here in 2016, it earned itself a big fat five-star rating from yours truly. An inspired recommendation that I’m glad I took on…and there’s a sequel. *squeals with joy*

And speaking of time-slip, I managed to find some time to slip across the road from work to enjoy a bit of sunshine…

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The view from the grass in Victoria Tower Gardens

…and sculpture.

It’s really just as well that the month ended with a long weekend – June is beckoning.

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.


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.

Patio sessions

It is a gloriously blue sky day here in London and I’m out on the Gidday HQ patio catching up on a spot of reading.

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Whilst Aussie-K came over for a coffee  yesterday – the day seemed too good to waste so we chatted about life’s trials and tribulations and scoffed some millionaire’s shortbread bathed in gentle sunshine – today was the first real patio session of the year. The cushions have been dusted off and placed on the chair and I have a few magazines and a bottle of water at my elbow. It’s only 10 Celsius but sheltered from the wind, it feels warmer so I’ve stretched my luminous winter legs out onto the chair in front of me.

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I miss my patio time over the winter months and as soon as it’s warm enough, I spend my weekend hours out here. As I read my latest issue of Intelligent Life – now with the new moniker 1843 – the washing dries in the sun, the birds twitter and squawk and the neighbour’s ginger cat ventures over to investigate.

1843 (360x640)

I love my patio. It has played host to celebrations with friends and visits from family. There have been Saturdays full of brunches, lunches and catch up coffees and many solitary Sundays spent trawling through the magazine reading that lapses a little over the winter months. I always promise myself I’ll do it during the week but I can’t help but flick open my kindle for just one more chapter of whatever happens to be my latest commuting addiction as I drop into my seat on the tube.

But most of all it’s my haven and today’s session has invigorated my mind, calmed my soul and given me a little respite from the hurly-burly of life. So I’m hoping that we may have turned the corner into the early stages of Spring and with a few more days like today, I might get on top of the reading pile…

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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…

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.

Last of the Summer Wine?

It’s a rainy Sunday here at Gidday HQ.

I can hear the occasional car swish by on the wet street outside and this morning my feet slipped easily into my fleecy purple slippers, my toes sighing in toasty relief.

There are no shouts from next door’s football-playing children today, confined to indoor pursuits by the inclement weather. 

And earlier this week, I bemoaned my lack of an ‘extra layer’ as I stood on the platform at West Hampstead station and felt the chill in the air through my jacket.

Autumn has arrived in earnest this week with its chill-blue skies and brisk damp air.

But this year, it has crept up on us all.

The trees have not heralded Autumn’s arrival with their usual fiery display of foilage, confused (it has been said) by the ‘poor summer’ and an on-again-off-again burst of warm sunshine around the August Bank Holiday weekend. 

Last of the Summer wine?

It has tiptoed quietly in, behind darker mornings and shorter evenings, allowing us to stick our proverbial heads in the sand and pretend.

But in the dark of each workday morning this week, I have found myself automatically reaching for my ‘cosier’ dressing gown, where it has hung patiently all Summer, behind the bedroom door.

And after Monday’s invigorating reminder, my Autumnal work coat was brushed down, readied to commence its Fall 2012 season on Tuesday. And I wore tights to work.

Most years, we accept the transition from English Summer to Autumn’s embrace with a little moaning and a stiff upper lip. (After all, how else can one start a conversation with a Brit if one is not up on the mildly depressing vagaries of the weather?)

But if you listen closely, there is still a hopeful whisper of an Indian Summer, another burst of sunshine and warmth before the nights close in and mornings become crunchy with frost for good. 

So in spite of the Autumn chill, I shall leave a few lighter items in the corner of my wardrobe, still within reach yet just outside the more immediate array of cardies, polo necks and mid-season jackets that I suspect will be needed in the coming weeks.

And socks. Yes, I think socks will become a constant at Gidday HQ from now on as well.

New Tesco socks – ready to go

So could someone please explain to me why I spent an hour yesterday painting my toe-nails?

News From The (New) Patch…

Last week marked the start of Wimbledon with some unseasonably warm weather…and a few torrential downpours. The newspapers have been filled with pictures of flooded roads and cars abandoned to the eddies of the rising waters.

But not in London.

While it’s had its grey moments, the sun has shone down on London town and bathed the city in preparation for summer…

Oxford Street still looking all Jubilee-esque
Great College Gardens, Westminster on the way from Westminster tube to Head Office

And not just on the outside either…

Lit in glory, the ceiling at the Wyndham Theatre, near Leicester Square

Gidday HQ has not been spared a spritzing of summer either and I am delighted to report a couple of exciting developments at my new ‘patch’.

Those of you who have been reading along for a while now may remember the trials and tribulations of my first patch, featuring any number of pot-reared veg, a few herbs and the curious case of the disappearing ‘strawb’. Well over the last week, I’ve discovered a veritable panopoly of shiny red berries hidden beneath the leaves overflowing the old strawberry pot…

Luscious and ripe, my strawberry plant has more than just survived the move north of the river

And last but certainly not least, there is a new addition to Gidday HQ. Delivered and legs reattached this weekend, it seems fitting that it has emerged on to the back patio in all its glory after such a week. So without further ado…


…and there’s a big umbrella too!

And the first Gidday soiree is already scheduled…

Your 2012 Five A Day – July

It’s July already and the sleeps to go count down will be starting soon. How have you been enjoying your Summer so far? Here in the UK, the festival season is off to a traditional start. 

After a rather damp River Pageant to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee at the beginning of the month (which left The Royal Husband with a urinary tract infection), the pee-ing down continued with the Isle of Wight festival being a bit of a mudbath last weekend, giving all those Surrey-shiny Hunter Wellies the chance for a proper outing.

Speaking of pee-ing, this month’s Violent Veg sees the return of Colin Carrot who, having recovered from his brush with danger with the little ones, has this month decided to live life on the edge…

So have a fab July pea-ps!

(Geddit? Pea-ps instead of peeps?)

Oh and there are only 31 sleeps to go…just in case you were wondering…)


Five A Day Back catalogue