Friday, 29 March 2013

Creative Cacophony...

It's Day 2 of my five day Easter staycation and today I hopped on the tube to spend a couple of hours over lunch at a friend's new pad in Chalk Farm. Exiting Camden Town Station and turning right for the very first time, I found myself thrust unceremoniously into the throng meandering along Camden High Street. Determined to arrive on time, I hurried along, eyes focussed on finding the gaps in the crowd, without much of a sideways glance.

But when lunch was over and we'd said our goodbyes, there was time for a little exploring. Yet after wandering around The Stables section of Camden Market, it left me feeling that I'd barely scratched the surface. 

Entrance to The Stables section of Camden Market
The market is filled with figures which pay homage to the area's equine past.

One of the exits back on to Camden High Road
Alas I'd dressed more for a quick stroll between the warm tube and the cosy climes of Gidday HQ/my friend's new pad (versus braving the chilly air for an extended period) so after an hour I set my pedestrian compass for a return to the tube station...which took a little longer than I thought. 

Here's why...

3D efforts made a corner interiors store stand out against the grey sky... well as letting passersby get under foot.
Hard to see the detail in this photo but this building is a riot of colour and imagery.
This extraordinary dragon marks the start of a triad of creative retail frontage.

Hard to choose a favourite but I loved this frantic kitty best of all.
This riot of colour and expression exists in just a 5 minute walk between Camden Town tube station and Castlehaven Road. And I can't believe it's taken me 9 years to get there.

I'll definitely be back!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

London Lullaby...

This week has been an absolute treasure trove of fascinating finds.

It started out with my foray into John Lanchester's Big Fat London Novel, Capital on Monday night.

Friday night I went off to The Lost Lectures, an evening of enchanting topics for enquiring minds in a 'secret' London location.

And mid-week I was checking out my daily fix of clever clogs-ness on Springwise when I came across a rather beautiful and inspiring idea.

Great Ormand Street Hospital (GOSH) is a children's hopsital in London which is famous for its innovative research and forward-thinking practices in child healthcare. As part of a redevelopment project, it has had the exterior pipework on a section of their building repurposed to create a Lullaby Factory, a series of horns and tubes which play sounds to soothe the young patients recovering from illness.

Image Source:
StudioWeave created the intricate piece by adorning the existing pipework with horns of all shapes and sizes which can only be seen from inside the hospital. The 'music' was composed by sound engineer Jessica Curry and can be listened to on the Lullaby Factory radio station or through special listening tubes. Between them they have fashioned a kind of industrial lullaby.

In 1929 Great Ormand Street Hospital received the rights to J. M. Barrie's work Peter Pan - the royalties from this continue to help fund the work of this amazing hospital. So it seems fitting that they continue to create a little Neverland-style magic for the children of London.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Capital Evening...

Last night I went to see an interview with John Lanchester, author of Gidday From The UK's Book Nook entry Capital (#6 in 2013).

Lanchester, while sounding as English as they come (to my ear anyway) was born in Germany and spent his early years in Hong Kong before being educated in England. He has bridged the literary leap from journalist to author via what might appear to be a rather convoluted crossing: writing obituaries, reporting on the football, editing books, contributing to The New Yorker and becoming deputy editor of the London Review of books. I think it's safe to say he comes from the 'broad church' school of writing.

John Lanchester
image source:
And he can really write. I loved Capital - what Lanchester calls his Big Fat London Novel - especially the minutae of the residents in and visitors to a reasonably affluent suburban street not so far from where I used to live, so I was really looking forward to this chat with the Guardian Book Club's John Mullan.

The interview was fascinating and the hour was crammed with glimpses into the mind of this interesting and engaging writer and when I left, two of his quotes especially stood out for me.

The first is London is a city that the world presses on. 

This is a feeling that I've tried to capture so many times when asked - as people do when you are Australian - what are you doing here? The best I've been able to come up with is that London is in the 'centre' of things and that Australia feels incredibly isolated and 'out of things' by comparison (mind you, this is not always a bad thing). The rush of being in the centre of the world's issues is addictive and as these simple words left Lanchester's lips, I felt the voice in my head say emphatically, 'yes that's exactly it.'

The second quote referred to the 2011 Census (which Lanchester mentions several times over the hour - obviously one of his own addictions!). 45% of the London population classes their ethnicity as White British. That means that White British are in the minority in London.

With such a large multi-cultural population, I've always felt quite a distinct and unusual dichotomy between the newness and ferocity of the immigrants and the resigned apathy inherent in London's incumbents. Lanchester talked about the range of non-London characters in the book and how they provide a fresh set of eyes and opinions on what others might either see as ordinary or may not even notice at all.

He particularly talked about his Polish builder (a mere visitor in the fabric of this extraordinarily everyday street) and this character's amazement at seeing the extreme drunken-ness around the edges of Clapham Common, a way he's never seen people (particularly girls) behave back in Poland.

This is something I try to do. Not the extreme drunken-ness (oh you naughty Gidday-ers!) I mean to have that fresh-eyed view. Being present to the extraordinarily everyday moments: an historic snippet in an unexpected location or a beautiful burst of sky on my early morning commute or some stunning architecture dappled with London light. And then there are those moments of human-ness - sometimes in an exuberant child or a cache of voluble friends, at other times a glimpse of a soul bathed in poignant solitary-ness.

His responses to the questions from the audience were every bit as interesting and all too soon, the event came to a end and I was left inspired to read more of this fantastic writer's work.

Yes, I've become a fan.

Lanchester's pragmatic empathy in talking about his vast range of characters and his deep love of this unique and multi-cultural pressure cooker called London have definitely earned him a spot on this immigrant's reading radar.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Proving A Point...

Yesterday I decided that Sunday would be baking day at Gidday HQ.

I've been thinking about this ever since I got the More Secrets from the Beechworth Bakery cookbook for Christmas. Reading through it has made me think how wonderful it would be to develop some proficiency in bread making so that I could just whip up a tasty loaf or two on a whim rather than it occurring like an enormous ordeal.

The silly part is that I've already had some previous successes with a scrumptious Rosemary and Walnut Loaf and my very first attempt at Easter buns being rather light and fruity (and delicious with lashings of butter) so my thinking's that I just need a little more practice.

Anyhow after an inspirational Saturday evening watching my favourite foodie movie Julie and Julia, I decided to face up to last year's Easter bun bomb and have another go.

Getting ready...I like to have everything measured out before I start.
Thirty minutes in and the first proving had appeared to have gone nicely...

Results of the first proving look promising
With hopeful spirit, I folded and rolled my dough and submitted it to its second proving...

Back into my home-made prover (hot water in the sink with a towel over it!)
I'm attempting Tiger Bread which involves painting the top of the proven dough with a paste of plain flour, rice flour, water, caster sugar, salt and vegetable oil. So it's swish swish swish with my brush and into the oven...

My basted Tiger Bread goes into the oven
...and about 40 minutes later look what I had!

Tiger Bread: looks more like leopard spots to me but who am I to argue with the Beechworth Bakery?
I tapped it on the bottom to make sure it was cooked through then left it to cool a little before carving myself a slice.

It was delicious! So much so that I decided that the only thing for it was to whip up a batch of pumpkin soup to go with it for lunch.

I feel positively Delia-ish!

And now that I've proven my point - albeit to myself - I can't wait to dip back into the secrets of the Beechworth Bakery and try something else. Easter's just around the corner you know and I need to redeem myself with regard to my unauspicious output from last year...

Gidday Disclaimer:
This is a bread-maker free home. I do not need another gadget to take up more valuable space at the back of the cupboard and the addition of my beloved birthday coffee maker to the Gidday HQ benchtop last year is as far as I'm prepared to go on that score.
Yours in Baking Earnestness
The (Only) Gidday Bread-Maker

Friday, 15 March 2013

Leopard Flats

Well I was set to post about all sorts of trivial things this week. The new Pope. The new head dude up in the space station. New revelations in the horse meat scandal. A visit to Sadler's Wells. The anticipated shape of Sunday night telly now that Dancing on Ice and the wonderful Mr Selfridge have taken their final bows.

And then these arrived.

They are my very first own-design Shoes of Prey shoes. Made especially for me.

I was beyond excited. Opening them was an experience in itself with layers of bows and paper lovingly swaddling my luscious leopard-print flats.

There was even a photo.

(Shoe afficionados - like Lil Chicky, who I hold entirely responsible for this new addiction after a small shoe showcase over Christmas - will know that this is to put on the outside of the shoe box so when all of your lovely leather, scrumptious suede and general foot-ish fabulousness are stacked up in your cupboard, you know exactly where to find the perfect pair.)

But I digress.

I love them. Really LOVE them.

I've always wanted a pair of leopard-print shoes. There's something immensely frivolous about animal print and the Shoes of Prey website is a veritable treasure trove of imagination and creativity and just plain desire.

They arrived on Tuesday. It's Friday night and I've worn them twice already.

Super comfy as they are, they come with a little bag of tricks - heel grips, gel inserts and the like - to ensure that you can create the perfect fit for your fetish feet. And a super lush shoe bag has helped my little leopard friends make the commute to the office this week in what has been some rather inclement (and unseasonably chilly) weather.

Not for them the travails of the chill and damp. Oh no.

Oh and by the way, if you are wondering about the potential perils of buying made-for-me shoes online, the Shoes of Prey returns policy is awesome. If your new arrivals don't make your soles sing and your heart beat a little faster, you can return them - up to 365 days later.  Yes that's right. A whole year. I couldn't believe it when I first placed my order.

But I don't think that will be necessary.

Because I love them.

Really love them.

A lot.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A Tiger's Tale...

I had a particularly challenging week last week so when I fled the office on Friday afternoon for a night at Sadler's Wells (more on this in a later post), it couldn't have been soon enough for me.

Upon reaching Kings Cross-St Pancras International station I was strolling down the concourse, mentally debating the merits of popping into Peyton and Byrne, wandering around Foyles for a bit or heading straight down to the tube when I saw this...

 ...a large orange tiger.

Having been assailed with much advertising about the 'movie epic' Life of Pi, I wondered fleetingly as I walked by whether this was an homage to Richard Parker.

But what made me stop was not the tiger but the bales of cans ready for recycling it was standing on. How strange you might be thinking but I work in the packaging industry, have been to an aluminium recycling centre and have seen what happens so I was pulled up short wondering what they were doing in the middle of St Pancras Station. Besides I didn't find out about the milk bottle thing until I walked around to the front of the display.

Speaking of the display, commissioned by Veolia Environment (they are one of the rubbish and recycling contractors here in the UK), it appears that it's all part of Tiger Tracks, a Save Wild Tigers initiative designed to raise awareness and funds for tigers in the wild. It is made entirely from recyclable materials found in Merseyside's household recycling bins. That'd be 300 milk bottles and over 58,000 cans that artist Faith Bebbington has reused and recycled to recreate this life-sized Bengal tiger.

And as I moved around to the front, inspired to take a few smartphone snaps, do you think anyone would stop their whizzing past to let me capture the moment? No...

This was the best I could manage...

Sorry peeps.

In the meantime, you can find out more about Save Wild Tigers by clicking here or by popping down to St Pancras International Station anytime during March for more tiger themed activities.

Otherwise efforts to save this noble animal from extinction could amount to nothing more than catching a tiger by the tail.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A Pinter...Pause

Last night I went to see Old Times with a couple of friends. The play follows a particular evening in the lives of married couple Kate and Deeley, an evening when Kate's old friend Anna comes to visit. It's 80 minutes long and stars Kristin Scott-Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams so I was ready for enoyable evening.

I did not factor in that it was a Harold Pinter play.

As we walked back across Leicester Square to the tube station and puzzled over what we'd seen, all I could say was 'I just don't get it'.

We debated what we thought it might mean - I had read somewhere that the two female characters actually represent two facets of the same woman's personality and the play explores Deeley's interactions with each. We compared notes on restlessness and boredom - both our own and of those around us throughout. We all agreed that it was well-acted but enjoyable? It was thought-provoking - definitely - but I was left feeling a bit 'so what' about it all - but not so much that I was sorry I had gone.

It wasn't until this sharing afterwards that it occurred to me that this had happened before.

I saw my first Pinter - Betrayal - back when I was living in Melbourne. And then it was Old Times last night. A Pinter pas-de-deux so to speak.

And I realised that both times I'd felt the same...incomplete-ness. A kind of bereft-ness, like I'd been on the outskirts of a conversation that I didn't quite understand and had then been cut loose and left to drift away.

I'm not averse to a challenge but after a couple of similar experiences, I'm starting to think that perhaps Pinter's just not for me.

Or maybe it's just that I need another Pinter Pause...

Saturday, 2 March 2013


If you haven't heard about the latest scandal here in the UK, you've probably been either living under a rock or cryogenically frozen for the last six weeks.

The discovery of horse meat in a high profile brand of frozen burgers back on the 16th of January has led to outrage, a**e-covering and some serious spin doctoring from all quarters and producers and retailers alike are re-examining and re-fortifying their supply chains. Ikea has withdrawn its weiner sausages from sale, Tesco is vowing to back British farmers and only yesterday, the Food Standards Agency revealed horse meat DNA in even more products. 

Needless to say frozen burger sales have plummeted 43% (source: Guardian 26th Feb 2013) and I suspect other family 'mince-based' favourites like frozen lasagne and spaghetti bolognese won't be far behind.

The press are loving it.

But it's not just sensational headlines that have been shifting papers. Co-op placed a full page ad in last Saturday's Times newspaper and Tesco have also boosted the media's advertising coffers by placing full page ads in the Metro newspaper starting with a rapid fire response the day after the scandal broke followed by a double page spread this week.

I'm sure this is all intended to reassure their shoppers. But quite frankly, when I turned the page and saw it, all that registered was 'blah blah blah' and rather than being reassured, I was left thinking 'what a load of s**t'.

How cynical you may be thinking. And you're right. 

The damage has been done, another dent left in consumers' waning confidence and with trust at an all time low, it will take more than a couple of ads to restore it. And every subsequent exposé will serve to underscore this deepening lack of faith in the world around us. 

Or will it?

Do you think we can find it within ourselves to trust again?

What is it going to take?