Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Art of Mindfulness...Music To My Ears

During the week, I was flicking through Wednesday's free-issue Stylist magazine when I came across a piece on The Art Of Mindfulness which postulates that, with technology at our fingertips and able to deliver (almost) every whim and passing fancy, we have lost the ability to live in the now. 

"The internet felt like an amazing opportunity but it's made us slaves.  And unable to live in the now."
Both Susan Maushart (In The Winter Of Our Discontent) and David E Mayer (director of University of Michigan's Brain Cognition and Action Laboratory) suggest that multi-tasking is a myth and that what we are actually experiencing is the brain focusing and re-focusing so quickly on consecutive tasks that we are left feeling forgetful and unfulfilled. 

I was quite inspired by this notion of being in the 'now' so I spent the back half of last week resisting the temptation to flit between facebook, emails, sms-ing and reading during my commute - 'trying the idea on' so to speak.  I heard the classical strains of Vivaldi as I passed through Vauxhall Station in the morning, saw the gorgeous pink sunset from the train window on Thursday night (no photo to share because I was just looking at and enjoying it) and laughed until my eyes watered at my Turkish friend's rendition of an 80s-song-to-remain-unnamed (because I can't remember it!) on Friday night's commute.

So this morning I was catching up on some of my fellow bloggers musings from the week and in the spirit of mindfulness, read with single-minded determination (that means all the way through - that's right, from beginning to end - in one sitting) the latest post from Seen The Elephant about expat Russian accordionist Alexander Sheykin.  Click here, be still, and be moved by some of the most beautiful and haunting music I've ever experienced.

And all through the wonders of the internet.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

London...On The Cheap(side)...

I had lunch with some great friends of mine today who moved to the UK permanently two and half years ago. We were chatting about how long it takes to feel 'settled' and they reminded me that, in their early expat days, I had said to them that it took me somewhere between 18 months to two years before I'd started to feel like I had actually 'built' a life for myself versus the feeling of being a long staying tourist.

Did I really say that?  I can't really remember...

But what I do remember is my initial shock at how expensive things were and a big part of feeling 'settled' for me was finding ways to do things cheaply - most expats in the UK can reel off a whole variety of discount 'opportunities' - and I soon learned that if you look hard enough, there are lots of ways to do this.

For example, today's lunch included a 50% discount off the food bill and was booked through toptable...and my travel to our fab foodie feast was courtesy of Oystercard (which almost halves the bus fare).  I have also booked a 70min massage for a few weeks time through Groupon at a whopping 66% off and I have had countless 2-for-1 meals with friends using vouchers from newspapers like the Metro, email newsletters (Giraffe, gbk and Pizza Express are particular faves) and voucher websites like vouchercloud and

So the key to London 'on the cheap' is this - Sign up for as many things as you can.  You may fill your inbox to overflowing but when it comes to getting the deals, it really is a numbers game.

And you can also rest assured in the knowledge that you'll never go hungry - if all else fails, supermarket-brand baked beans are only 19p a can!


ps...for you Londoners that might be interested in some terrific Turkish fare, get yourself down to Cirrik in Richmond...via toptable of course!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Language Barrier...Mind The Gap!

I've lived here in the UK for just over 7 years now.  I came from another English-speaking country - a colony of the British Empire no less, built on the entrepreneurial and criminal exploits of those shipped in from the Mother Country.

And I have spent a not insignificant proportion of my time explaining passing comments, pithy retorts and ironic witticisms that lose their essential meaning when transported to the other side of the world.

The comment that sparked it all off 7 years ago was this:

I went for a fossick on your desk.

I had presumed that fossick was a word in use in everyday English language but clearly not.  And I found myself, flush-faced, explaining to the wide-eyed recipient of said comment that it meant to rummage about for something, using all of the relevant Aussie 'looking for gold'-isms I could think of! 

I am secretly quite proud that I haven't yet fallen for the whole 'I was walking to work today and my pants got wet' gaffe (for those non-English people out there, pants are underpants here) but there have been a few faux pas including thongs and vests (both also undergarments) and a few smiles/sniggers/raised eyebrows at comments like this week's pearler, 'suck it up Princess' (directed at one who needs to get over oneself!)

And it reminded me of some of those truly 'choice' (the English would no doubt say 'cracking') sayings that I had under my belt when I arrived 'off the boat' that captured the essence of a sentiment in the way only an Aussie can:

(Best I warn you here: if you would rather avoid references to swearing and general, unlady-like behaviour, you should stop reading now)

Feeling like a shag on a rock - the shag being a bird of the feathered variety - does not mean I would like to have sex in an uncomfortable place but rather that I've been (to use another metaphor) 'left out in the cold'.

As useless as t*ts on a bull - which has now been replaced by the more genteel 'as useless as a chocolate teapot' - you get my drift, right?

...and one of my all time favourites...

Don't p*ss down my back and tell me it's raining - which is really not for use in anything other than highly-social, alcoholically-lubricated situations but really sums up what the little voice inside my head is screaming saying sometimes.
So now you've had a peek behind the sunburnt brow of this ridgy didge Aussie Expat.  Shocked?  Well, I may not have painted a very erudite picture, but I'll bet you wouldn't have learnt any of that watching Neighbours!

But you can do your bit for British-Aussie relations yourself by clicking here and swotting up courtesy of the The Australian Slang Dictionary.

Then we might actually be speaking the language!

And that'd be bonzer mate...

Friday, 18 February 2011

My Very First....Guest Post!

For the last two and and half years here at Gidday from the UK HQ, I have constrained my ramblings and wittering-on to the pages of my own blog.  But today we celebrate another Gidday First - my very First Guest Post!

Inspired by my 50 Book Challenge, I submitted my Gift of Fiction idea on Seeded Buzz and well, one thing led to another until, thanks to Gidday-from-the-UK-er, Spriteyone, and the good folk over at Aurelia...


I was published!

And you can just click here to bask vicariously in my success/narcissism/nostalgic meandering through the books of my childhood...

...or for a more 'now' helicopter view, check out the latest 50 Book Challenge update here...

Published! Can you believe it?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

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...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Pareto Principle...Ahead Of The Curve...

Somewhere back there in distant sands of time, when being an economist of any note meant people named things after you, there was an Italian gent called Vilfredo Pareto who decided that there was something called the 80:20 rule (also called The Pareto Principle which sounds a bit like a Jason Bourne novel) meaning that 20% of a population controlled 80% of that population's wealth.

It would appear that this rule can be applied to all sorts of things - grains of sand, hard disk drive errors, human settlement and areas burnt in forest fires, even Project Management where apparently doing 20% of the work will produce 80% of the project benefit - and I am wondering whether this can be applied to my 50 Book Challenge.  

I am 20% of the way through (having finished book 10 this morning, Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) and have to confess a rather high hit rate in the enjoyment stakes at this early stage (90%). 

Does this mean I am ahead of the curve - with 20% of the reading generating 90% cracking reads?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Commuting Gems...Wakin' To Bacon...

Some mornings manage to lighten my lengthy commute with a giggly pearl or two and just ten minutes of flicking through the free Metro newspaper on the first stage of this morning's trip yielded another gem I couldn't wait to share with you.

I bring you the latest in alarm clock buffoonery...

Yes, it is a clock.

Yes, that is cooked bacon in the little drawer.

And yes, it is built in the shape of a wooden pig!

(What, you missed that?  Look a little closer peeps!)

Some people just have too much time on their hands...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Piece De Resistance...Of Birthdays!

Last weekend I found myself tucked cosily in my sunlit train seat chugging my way across London to a 1st birthday party in Borehamwood.

Little N was an Australia Day 2010 arrival and having visited him in hospital when he was just a day old (I have the dubious honour of being his first 'friend' photo), I am constantly amazed each time I see him how much he's grown into even more of a 'little' person.  And it's been two months, what with travelling, Christmas and the like, so trekking across London on a fine Sunday afternoon seemed the least I could do.

Being of the child-free variety, I had been invited to attend 'the adult's party' where there would be substantially fewer small people and more grown up fare (ie. drinks and nibbles).  And after his small person shindig earlier followed by a baby power nap, N was in fine form and ready to receive our assorted offerings in the '12 months and older' category.  He even gave every parcel his due and careful attention...until the next one appeared!

(Between you and me though, I'm afraid that the whole 'ding dong' and 'more things for me' association that was happening is just likely to yield disappointment and/or frustration for him on all days non-birthday.  Sigh...we all have to grow up some time...)

But really, the point of this entire post is to brag about the piece de resistance - I give you (dramatic pause)

...The Cake...

And in case you couldn't see Drago the Dragon on top, here it is again...

And underneath that awesome icing, there was Red Velvet Cake (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook no less)...and Mum A made it all herself!
Do you think six months prior is too early to start dropping hints for my big day?

ps...and before I head off to plan my strategy/plead my case, I'd like to extend a big gidday to new follower, spriteyone.  Come on in and make yourself right at home!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

A Travelling Life...It's Good To Be Back...

I started a new job four weeks ago.

(It is not my usual policy to blog about work-related things as I think it can get you in a whole lotta trouble if it's misconstrued but bear with me, the job reference is incidental).

During two of those weeks, I have been travelling to visit some of our manufacturing plants as part of my induction - in the South of France and the Czech Republic.

I haven't travelled for a couple of years now and I had forgotten both how fascinating and wonderful, yet challenging, it is.

My trip to Mont (near Pau - Pyrenees) in France reminded  me how truly beautiful the French countryside is (soft, soft sunlight bathing the bald hills and ploughed fields), how unbelievably good the food is (I have no words, only noises, to describe it) and how difficult it is to be brave enough to use the smattering of French words I know - and I mean smattering as 'bonjour', 'merci', 'au revoir' and 'Parlez-vous l'anglais s'il vous plaît?' about covers it!

And then last week I went to Pilsen.  As a first timer to the Czech Republic, I was more than a little perturbed to hear the pilot announce on our arrival in Prague that it was a chilly minus 9C - I know many of you just snorted derisively but it's the coldest place I've ever to been to - leading me to wonder whether I could actually wear everything I'd packed in my carry-on all at once.  But the 40min cab ride to the factory had me warm and toasty on the inside.  And at the same time, I tried desperately to resist pressing my nose to the cold window in childish delight as I watched the snowy fields and dark green fir trees straight from the pages of fairytales flash by.

Unfortunately time didn't permit any tourist-type nosing about on my part but I've returned with the spring in my step (and both a disgusting cold and case of mild sleep deprivation - who ever sleeps well in hotels!!??) that exploring new pastures has always given me... well as a fervent appreciation of my own bed.

Ah more ways than one, it's good to have you back!