Thursday, 28 February 2013

Under The Bonnet...

I've noticed a bit of a boost in the number of you popping in to Gidday From The UK recently. January's witterings prompted an all time high of 6,241 page views and some time over the last couple of months I passed the 50,000 views milestone. 

So I've taken it upon myself to have a little rummage around under the bonnet here at Gidday to see what the deal is. Here's what I found.

For a long time, coffee held a seemingly unassailable lead at Gidday with my post on the art of latte in July 2010 in first place. But it would appear that while I wasn't looking, a fair few of you became enamoured of my first time as a guest blogger in February 2011 (yes, two years ago - I can still remember the excitement) and it now holds the top spot. My observations on mid-life, duly recorded in September last year, have also shimmied up the ranks to a respectable third, pushing both Christmas and Australian fashion down the ladder.

Indications from views of the Gidday! (512) and Book Nook (490) tabs also suggest that there are many new visitors to Gidday curious to meet the (t)wit behind the (t)wittering and a multitude of bookish types who like to keep abreast of Audrey's latest Commuting Gems.

Unsurprisingly the most frequent searches leading to visits are latte/latte art (over 1200!) but strangely enough the number 42 ranks next, leading neophyte Giddayers to a little birthday poetry. (If you like a rhyme or two you might like to catch my crime series in two parts - yes that's one, two.)

Gidday would not be where it is today without my lovely fellow bloggers who are generous in both visiting and featuring Gidday From The UK on their blogrolls. Many thanks to those of you who do this - a special nod goes to fellow Aussie The Vegemite Wife who, in the face of many advertised and agreggated expat blogs, is the the number 5 provider of visits to Gidday. Thanks mate!

And finally I had a squiz at where my 'readership' has hailed from. Sites like Seen The Elephant and The Displaced Nation have lifted Gidday's profile in the USA (and since Seattle-A moved stateside, she maybe doing her bit as well). And being a blog about an Australian living in the UK, you'd expect the 2nd and 3rd places to be held by the UK and Australia (respectively). But who do you think has crept into 4th place?

Who knew that Ruskies liked a little irreverent Aussie banter in their digital mashup.

Oh those Russians!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

London's Hip Pocket..

Last Saturday I had one of those wonderful afternoons when I rediscovered a forgotten part of London.

After a lunch with the girls at the fabulous Banana Store, we emerged into the chilly air right in the midst of Southwark - the Catherdral rose grandly in front of us and with The Shard looming in the background, it was an amazing view of old and new.

Peeking around the corner we could see another nod to London's historic past.

The Golden Hind was the vessel that carried Frances Drake and his crew around the globe during the latter part of the 16th century and there is a full-sized replica of this berthed snugly at St Mary Overie Dock. Amazing to think that such a small craft carried a crew and supplies while it circumnavigated the world - it must have been cosy on board!

Just nearby are the remains of the Great Hall of the old Winchester Palace, built in the 13th century for the Bishops of Winchester.

And finally, not to be outdone, there was the famous Borough Market and we eagerly joined the late afternoon throng, milling around the stalls and soaking up the foodie atmosphere. We even added our own pecuniary contributions and came away with fresh produce to inspire the balance of our weekend eating - bread, fruit & veg, cheese, fish just to name a few of our respective vittels.

Gone fishing
Say cheese
That'll do donkey
This little piggy went to market
So that was my few hours exploring this jammed-packed hip pocket of London and I finally bundled myself on the tube home happily tired. Hope you've enjoyed your armchair tour and it inspires you to visit for yourself.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Jeans have long been deemed a modern nod to corsetry. Many a girl has pummelled, poured and squeezed herself into denim for the sake of a flat tum and a pert bum and aside from 'magic underwear', jeans have continued to shape our fashion sense since their first appearance in 1873.

And just when I thought jeans could not give any more, Wrangler has come up with a beauty.

Denimspa is a range of moisturising jeans that can also help in the battle against cellulite.

The cloth fibres in each pair are impregnated with microcapsules which burst as the wearer slides them on. The moisturiser lasts five days before the jeans need to be topped up with a spray. There are three versions available: Aloe Vera, Olive Extract and my favourite, Smooth Legs which contain caffeine, retinol and algae extract to help fight cellulite.

Unfortunately they only come in Skinny Fit...and pear-shaped girls plus skinny jeans do not a match in Heaven make.

For those of you Skinnies afficionados, you can buy your Denimspa strides here.

And for those of you who do not aspire can't be bothered with 'skinny' stuff, this piece of cute and gastronomic inspiration appeared on my Facebook feed this week... that's my kind of smooth...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Age Is Just A Number...

I recently read a snippet from Seven Sentences called Why Age Is Just A Number In Your Head and it gave me pause.

The premise of this short article is not simply that age is no barrier but that overcoming perceived obstacles like 'age' inspires others. And that opting out denies the world your dream.

Here's why I paused. Should the world really be waiting for me, to live vicariously through my dream? Or should they be working on their own?  And how should they divine where to draw the line between bravery and the just plain ill-advised?

I've been surprised by the extraordinary emerging courageously from what I thought to be ordinary. By the same token, I've also been gobsmacked by belief in attributes actually in absentia - making me sometimes wonder whether my own truths are really so self-evident - and also in this glib sense that one should be able to have whatever one wants.

In our world of instant gratification and easy celebrity, there have been many moments when I have listened to someone declare their passion, that 'this' is all that they have ever wanted, and been torn between cynical disbelief and tearful admiration (although mostly I sit somewhere - unmoved - in the middle).

But where does hard work and doing what it takes come in? What part does luck play? And where is the balance between heart-felt self-belief and pragmatic acceptance?

After all, we can't all be good at everything. Life is full of knocks so how do you determine which of your passions to keep getting up for?

Thomas Edison claimed that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, Ralph Waldo Emerson liked to start with laughing often and loving much and Robert Frost was a firm advocate of the road less travelled. Even Albert Einstein seemed to subscribe to the view of a 'lucky few':
Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes, and feel with their own hearts.
But why this sense of scarcity? Is it really so difficult to dream?

Or is it owning it - taking responsibility and accepting all of the consequences - that scares us into silence?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Litany On London Largesse...

Since coming back from holidays just over five weeks ago, I have been struck by how many great things there are to do in London, particularly when it comes to activities of the stage variety. And I have to admit that I've been a little lax in sharing this largesse with my lovely Gidday-ers so I thought I'd make this post a litany of my recent cultural adventures.

I'd been back not much more than a week when I popped down to Sadlers Wells to see Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Regular readers might remember my first Matthew Bourne experience last year and I was really looking forward to his take on this traditional tale.

And I was not disappointed. A combination of modern irreverance and gothic spirit cast their magic over the story and I found myself enchanted by Bourne's mastery all over again. There were moments of laughter and darkness and beauty throughout and I left the auditorium wondering whether I'd get an opportunity to see the balance of Bourne's Tchaikovsky triumvirate - Swan Lake and The Nutcracker - anytime soon. Sleeping Beauty has left Sadler's Wells and is touring so you may have the chance to see it somewhere near you.

Sunday before last I went to see Argentinian company Tango Fire's show, Flames of Desire. This had been inspired by a half price ticket deal in The Metro on my morning commute earlier the same week. 

For two hours the auditorium thrummed with passionate pas de deux, fleet feet and erotic attitude as the five couples, musicians and a rather smooth crooner brought the milonga (late night dance hall of Buenos Aires) to life. It was heart-stoppingly, breath-takingly brilliant. And when the cast - musicians, singer and dancers - took their curtain calls at the end, their absolute delight in the thunderous applause from the audience was as wonderful to see as the performance they had just given us.

And most recently, it was dinner and a show last Friday night with a friend. Again a deal dropped into my lap a couple of weeks ago and after a fabulous feed at Italian restaurant  Polpo near Carnaby Street, we took our seats for the greatest of musicals, A Chorus Line

While I'd seen the 1985 movie starrring Michael Douglas, I'd never seen the show. I am thrilled to report that this oversight has been corrected.

Because thrilled I was.

Every foot-tapping, fractious moment held me in thrall. The individual stories laid bare on the stage before the darkened auditorium: the pert, the cynical, the world-weary and the hopeful. The rediscovery of tunes I knew but had buried themselves in my memory. The cleverness of the choreography, entwining itself around the differences in shape, size, style and attitude of each dancer to create a whole truly greater than the sum of its parts.

And the culmination of all of this in the finale, 'One'. One moment in the presence of an amazing cast and the most quintessential show tune of all time - a 'singular sensation' of glamour and celebration and synergy. Which took A Chorus Line to my all-time top 3, sharing my trinity of musical favourites with Les Miserables and Chicago.

Such is London's largesse that I've managed to see all of these in the space of a month. Life may not always arrange itself so supportively - and cost-effectively - around my cultural interests, but let me assure you that I intend to grab every 'moment'.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Another Rainy Sunday...

I can't quite believe that I've been back five weeks. The days have flown by and it feels like much longer since I sat under that hot blue sky and felt the fierce Australian sun on my shoulders. Particularly since I have been rugged up at home this weekend keeping the chilly grey dampness outside well at bay.

This afternoon I've been watching Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I've seen snippets of it before but have never sat and watched the whole thing through. What an amazing movie - kind of like Beaches and Thelma and Louise (enduring female friendship flicks) combined with The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird (for commentary on racial injustice). If you haven't seen these films, I'll let you google them for yourself to avoid this sentence getting a little 'link-crazy'. 

The four leading ladies are extraordinary and I can only surmise that there was some stiff competition during the 1992 awards season for while Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates received nominations at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, the 'Whistle Stop Cafe' trophy cabinet remained strangely empty.

Rear: Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker
Front: Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy

There are times when I still find it difficult to believe that the era of black oppression and the Klu Klux Klan actually existed. But then prejudice is still prejudice no matter what the 'colour' and I think about Sarah's Key (which I saw recently at my beloved Phoenix as part of Holocaust Memorial Day) a film that tells the story of the 13,000 Jews rounded up by the French authorities in Paris in 1942 for transportation to Auschwitz and my visit last September to the old ghetto areas of Krakow and the camp itself.

And then I think about the recent 'burkha debate' that has reared its rather unattractive head in various institutions of 'learning' across Europe and of a recent book I read called The Cypress Tree (the Book Nook 2013 #3) by Israeli-born journalist Kamin Mohammadi and it seems to me we've not come so very far at all.

Anyway, the final credits rolled and I found myself wondering why I'd never watched this movie before. And it strengthened one of my 'resolutions' (for want of a better word - I don't really do resolutions) to branch out from my traditional favourites and to watch some older, unseen films when the comfy couch beckons again on another rainy Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Symbol Of Freedom And Light...

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was great debate about whether Australia should become a republic. A survey was created (called a referendum) and all of the people in the land were invited to participate. The results revealed a nation divided with the vote to maintain Australia's colonial status quo snatching victory from the republicans  55/45.

But there was outcry. Some of the people suggested that the questions did not really present a clear choice between Republican-ism and Colonial-ism. And so while the Colonialists won the battle in 1999, the undercurrent of discontent around the Great Republican Question bubbled on.

And in the midst of this, there remained another question - the question of the flag and whether it was really fitting for our modern and multicultural nation.

I love the Australian flag.

I love how it celebrates our southern location and open skies with the Southern Cross constellation.

I love how it honours our Federation with the seven pointed Commonwealth Star - with six points representing the six previously self-governing states and one point representing the territories and any future states.

And I love that it also gives a nod to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 to make the first modern settlement in Australia, 16 years after pioneering Englishman Captain James Cook sailed along Australia's eastern coastline.

But like most things in life, this is not a simple fairytale and our nation is still on its journey to find a happy ending. Does our flag reflect the indigenous, the discoveries of the Dutch (through explorers Willem Janszoon and Abel Tasman) and the emergence of a multicultural nation inspired by new horizons, the prospect of success borne of hard work and not least, the hopeful opportunity of the Gold Rush.

Is it really a reflection of our modern nation, whether it be colonial or republic?

And then earlier this week, I opened an email from Mum to find a poem that was given to her in the late 1970s by an ex-servicewoman she knew in Cairns. As I read it, I felt proud that our flag held such patriotism and passion in its thrall and my fierce republican heart couldn't help but recognise the validity - and poignancy - of her words.
Our flag bears the stars that blaze at night
In the Southern sky of blue
And a little old flag in the corner
That’s part of our heritage too.
It’s for the English, the Scots and the Irish
Who were sent to the ends of the earth.
The rogues and schemers, the doers and dreamers
Who gave modern Australia birth.
And you who are shouting to change
You don’t seem to understand
It’s the flag of our law and our language
Not the flag of a faraway land.
Though there are plenty of people who’ll tell you
How, when Europe was plunged into night
That little old flag in the corner
Was their symbol of freedom and light.
It doesn’t mean we owe allegiance
To a long forgotten imperial dream
We’ve the stars to show where we’re going
And the old flag to show where we've been.

Out with the old and in with new? Suddenly it's not such a simple question.