Monday, February 28, 2005

Snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes...

Its been snowing across the UK for the last week or so and I have to confess I've loved it. I love the crispness of the landscape after it snows and the seeming stillness that pervades the air in the wake of a proper covering.

Last Friday I took my rather huge golf umbrella with me (suitably corporatised by my company's logo for I work in marketing now so this is one of the perks...). However, given the nature of this particular snow fall it was of absolutely no fecking use. The snow just seemed to swirl wildly around my lower limbs, clung to my coat with some of it even making up into my face. So I ditched the brolly pronto and tried to avoid inhaling rogue snowflakes.

This morning as I was leaving the house (late again as I stayed to watch what is fast becoming our favorite TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond because Channel 4 are airing it at the positively absurd time of 8.00 am!) I was faced with a veritable snow storm! OK, it was not as bad as that but as I pondered out loud whether to take my brolly with me, Ian gave me one of those looks that implied I would be rather soft* to do so. So given it had only just started snowing and it looked fairly innocuous, I left without said brolly.

Needless to say that by the time I got to the bus stop the snow was falling faster and fatter and by the time the bus got to town I was too scared to get off it. It was like walking into one of those The Price is Right games where squealing housewives scrabble for the money that is fluttering around with copious amounts of polystyrene filler. I was covered in the stuff and although it looked amazing, as soon as I entered our overheated building it melted, as snow is want to do. I was not a happy bunny.

And now I have to now trek out into what looks like sleet to meet Ian and my mother in law for lunch right across town.

What was Julie Andrews thinking?!

Listening to: My Dancing Bollocks playlist courtesy of Tim the iPod.
Reading: Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon (yes, again!)

*Soft being a Northern term for anyone who can not endure a winter without heating, or who someone who can not walk in Manchester's infamous mizzle sans umbrella or down 10 pints of bitter, 2 kebabs and a curry and get themselves home without getting arrested.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Food glorious food!

I had some of the best meals I've had in a long time while we were in Melbourne over January. It is very hard to come back to Manchester and find myself struggling with all the things that are simply not available here. I find myself getting more and more critical and resentful.

We spent a small fortune on smoothies and fresh juice at many of the hundred Boost bars in Australia. On a hot day when you can't face food these places are a fantastic little oasis where you can indulge in a low-fat tasty smoothie that you know is doing your innards good!

We had a fantastic meal at The Stokehouse in St Kilda which is just about my favorite space to eat in Melbourne. We sat in air-conditioned comfort as the outdoor eating area was full and had such a great meal which only cost us £24 - my main was a huge porterhouse steak which would have set me back at least £15 here in the UK.

The sheer abundance of choice in Australia in terms of eateries is staggering and after 20 months away I had forgotten just how much of our social lives in the UK is limited due to the inverse of this face. Eating out in Australia is affordable which is how it can sustain so many restaurants / cafés / brasseries etc. as people can afford to eat out more.

Now I know we were on holiday and paying in pound Stirling but in comparison to prices/quality here, well, there is no comparison. Maybe if we earned £100K between us we could eat out more and broaden our choice but that is not the point. I do not want to be paying out extortionate amounts of cash for food I know cost a third less in Australia. I'd rather cook myself to be honest as at least then I know what I'm paying for!

Ian got home from work on Sunday afternoon and as it was a bright, sunny but oddly mild kind of day I could have done with finding a nice little café somewhere to wile away a couple of hours. Sadly you know nothing came to mind. Well, lots of places came to mind - Journal in Flinders Lane, Brunetti's in Carlton, Volumes in Eltham, the Kent Hotel in Rathdowne Street but as I prattled off all these places Ian told me not to get maudlin. How could I not - all these places are on the other side of the planet and people other than me are enjoying them as we speak!

There is a place in Manchester I am truly going to miss when we eventually leave here. Greens is our 'local' if you like and if I'm honest, it is one of the best restaurants I have eaten at. Greens is 3 minutes from our house, it is vegetarian, reasonable, BYO (huge plus), non smoking (even bigger plus) and just so brilliant. It has won Manchester Restaurant of the Year for 2 years on the trot and its no wonder. We love it. We'll miss it.

On a more hypocritical note Ian and I went to another brilliant Melbourne eatery for our 4th wedding anniversary early last month. Circa (click on the 2nd box for Circa) at The Prince is slick, fresh and sumptuous - we loved it! I drove there in my brother's car only to decide upon seeing the wine list that that was a terrible error in judgment! We quickly decided that we'd catch a taxi home and collect the car in the morning thus avoiding a parking ticket - which we did sporting huge hangovers which we cured over breakfast at Big Mouth in Acland Street!

Back to Circa - $300 and 3 bottles of wine later we had convinced ourselves that this was the life and Ian magnanimously suggested that when we move back to Melbourne we could eat here regularly. Sweet man. Drunk but sweet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


I confess I saw a copy of Desiderata post on Faith's website today and it just seemed to sum up things at the moment.

I look at life from different points to ascertain how it is all going. Firstly, my internal state. Am I anxious? Peaceful? Content? Are my thoughts running towards something good or are they dark and brooding?

How are my relationships? Are they fraught? Is there angst? Unresolved issues? Do I need to forgive? Ask forgiveness?

Am I making a difference in all I do? And you know what? This is where I come up short. Now before you say something like 'our lives touch other lives every moment of every day' I understand that. I know that I make a difference to those around me but this is not what I am struggling with.

What I find most difficult to process in any sane way is that I do not know how to make a difference to the state of the world that is tangible and long term. I give money to OXFAM and the NSPCA. I donated to the Tsunami Appeal. I make one off donations to good causes but I never know if any of this impacts the problems in real terms. There is still a cardboard box next in the unused doorway of the pub across the street which leads me to believe someone sleeps there each night. !80,000 Africans still die of starvation and disease every day. The planet is still warming infintisimally each year and the forecast seem catestrophic.

So what can I do?

I suspect the answer is 'what I can' which in light of all I read in the newspaper and see on the news, just doesn't seem like enough.

For what it is worth, this seemed like a good thing. See what you think.

Listening to: Tim the iPod ... random.
Reading: The Riders, Tim Winton



Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Friday I'm in Love

I am in love.

Not just cause its Friday.

No, its my bloke I love. He is the best that ever happened to me.

That's all.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Illuminated moments

One thing I've noticed is that I don't seem to have very many illuminated moments these days. You know, the moment when you look up from the mundanity of your everyday life and see the setting sun dance on the water like a million faeries going home after a day of magic.

Or when you realise you are actually a better person that you've been telling yourself you are. Or that the awful thing you have been thinking about someone else is wrong and you need to change and you can.

Lots of changes are about to hit us over the next few months and I feel I am being shaken awake. Being in Australia for 5 weeks has opened my head up to just how much my life has closed down in many ways. I am not saying England is a bad place or that it has been bad to me. Far from it. However, life here is limiting for us. Limiting for me. And it was not until I had been in Melbourne for a few days looking at the big sky and actually seeing the sun overhead that I realised I needed to be there. I needed the warmth on my skin, the vibrance of my people thrumming in my veins again and possibilities I had let myself forget reignite my soul.

Listening to: The Dogs Bollocks, a compilation of the best song on every album I own. Courtesy of Tim the iPod.
Reading: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke

The Universe is talking to me

I used to be quite into signs. Not your run of the mill STOP signs or GIVE WAY signs. No, that was my brother's fetish for a while in his misspent youth. He actually collected quite a stash including one of those flashing yellow lights you sometimes see at road work sites. In the end his conscience won and he returned them all to the council. I must ask him how he actually did that without incurring a dirty great fine.

I digress. Signs or sign-reading is something I spent my awkward youth (in my case read 14 - 29 yrs of age) playing with God in my head. For example, "If I see a number plate bearing the letter 'C' and the letter 'J' then I am destined to end up dating Jim." Or, "If I make it right through the intersection before the lights go amber I will get the job." Or, "If the next song on the radio is [insert appropriate song here], he will one day love me." In hindsight I suspect that God was more often than not absent during said discussions.

Thankfully I grew up, began to trust my own judgement and leaned a little more on God. Just as well for I'm sure you also see how poor my life choices would have resulted had I continued using the sign-reading method of life direction.

Sign-reading Incident No. 1
Then a few weeks ago when we were in Melbourne (a whole other post just not today) I went to see 'The Very Long Engagement' with my sister Nan. Now, not only is this a beautiful, enchanting and often harrowing film, to my delight, the leading lady Mathilde, is a master at sign-reading.

After seeing her fiancé off as he heads for the battlefields of France during WWI she tells herself as she runs through a field that if she reaches the bend in the road before the car bearing he beloved, he will return from the war alive. Or, if the train she is on reaches the tunnel before she is asked for her ticket, her beloved is still alive. The film is scattered with sign-reading like this as Mathilde relentlessly searches for her long lost love, Manech. A brilliant film I would not hesitate in recommending to anyone. It was so good I saw it twice.

The film struck a chord in me as it reminded me of my own sign reading, and through Mathilde, I saw I too sought signs because I could not face the harshness that life often delivers. Mathilde sign-read because she would not let herself believe her love was never coming back. I think this is something we all do don't we? Like when you are in a hurry and every traffic light is green. Don't you think to yourself for just a minute that maybe someone is looking out for you? Or that maybe things will get a little easier. Or that this might just be the start of a string of good luck? Or is this flawed way of thinking just for the eternally optimistic among us?

Sign-reading Indicent No. 2.
There are roadworks happening on my usual but route to work so I am having to take a different route. On a couple of consecutive days last week the exact bus I needed happened to be at my stop just as I arrived. Not one to miss an opportunity to believe something good might actually be coming my way I decided that my timing is getting better. Or perhaps, just perhaps this might just mean that God is letting me know that His timing is near and always perfect. When you are in the business of trying to conceive this is the only train of thought you are going to get on.

Sign-reading Incident No. 3.
Watching Meet the Fokkers last night with a work colleague, I was struck by another series of signs in one of the first scenes. Our stars are heading to the airport to spend a weekend with their respective parents who are meeting for the very first time. From the moment they step out of their apartment, the signs seem to be working for them. From the green lights all the way to the airport to the upgrade to first class. Not wanting to jinx the weekend they are reluctant to voice their hopes that somehow, the universe is trying to say something good this way comes.

So I've been inundated with sign-reading over the last month but I have so far refused to acknowledge that it means anything. Or to give it all any credence. Or to believe that it there is any substance at all to its insistence. Or to look for other signs rather than wait for them to find me. The waiting is hard though.