Category Archives: London

Getting comfortable

Daughter: Mum, we’re learning about life cycles at school.

Me: OK. What stages are there in a life cycle?

Daughter: Birth, growth, reproduction and death.

Me: And what stage are you at?

Daughter: Growth!

Me: So what stage am I at?

Daughter: *Pause*

Son: Well, you’ve had us, so that’s past reproduction … death?

Daughter: I think there might be a bit between reproduction and death.

We actually had a good laugh about it, and the kids possibly looked embarrassed to have written me off so quickly.

I don’t need reminding of my rock-solid middle age status. The possibilities that were ahead of me decades ago are being slid across the John Lewis dining room table to my kids. I’m still hoping that one of them will be entrepreneurial and/or creative. My own youthful ambitions included:

  • Private detective and also an international spy
  • Science fiction writer in a light-filled attic
  • Boutique paper shop owner in Florence.

Instead, I have a sensible digital marketing career and I live in a regular suburban street.

We will be moving to a new regular suburban street soon. After years of renting, and despite Brexit and bombings, we’ve bought our own place. Our new home looks very much like all the other ones in the street and I’m now OK with that.

I propose to insert Comfortable between the Reproduction and Death phases of the life cycle.

life cycle diagram

My view of the suburbs.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Hype cycle of life. I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU. Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂 Love, mum

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU

Dear kids

Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂

Love, mum

Post-Brexit, I’ve been doing some metaphorical soul-searching. Rummaging around in my drawer of tidy private political opinions. Well, I’ve tipped that drawer on the kitchen table and this is what’s come out. (Some swear-y bits follow below. )

Kids' guide to the EU

This kids’ guide to the EU recently appeared in our kitchen. Great timing.

 

Age-appropriate socio-economic context

I explain the world to my kids with a pinch of age-appropriate socio-economic context. Mentioning background, life opportunities, education, bad luck. I follow up with: “In our house, dad and I think [*insert appropriate liberal metropolitan educated employed opinion*], but there are people who don’t agree. That’s OK.”

Today, a day after Britain voted to leave the EU, bollocks to that nuanced ‘two-sides’ approach. I think that 51.9% of the voters made the wrong decision about the EU referendum. I’m telling my kids that I voted Remain because I wanted them to have the same opportunities that British kids had before them.

Unfortunately, more scared, confused, mean (sorry), arrogant (apologies), wrong (not sorry) people voted Leave. They probably damaged the economy for a lot of us, and they definitely stuffed up the European future for my kids.

More immigrants? No thanks, I’m full.

I’m telling my kids that a lot of nasty people supported a Brexit because they don’t like immigrants. (Of course, not ALL people who voted to leave were bad. Aaaaah – can’t help myself … Sorry.)

Our family is stuffed-full of immigrants. We like to get around, so I’m horrified and disappointed that this debate was so racist and fearful.

The Leave campaign was supported by famous arse-hats. Farage, Trump and a dirty pile of right-wing European leaders talking up the anti-immigration bullshit. These are not my people.

My reactions on Facebook yesterday

1. First thing in the morning – unfiltered emotion.

Went to bed in the United Kingdom and woke up in land of hate and glory. I slept badly, hopefully dreamed that the Remain side would ‘edge’ ahead… Instead I’m now living in Little Middle England.

This morning I had an unexpected cry over politics and unexpected need to share my sadness on social media. I’m not angry. There are apparently enough angry haters out there already and more of them voted. Just sad that being moderate and reasonable and compassionate isn’t good enough anymore.

I’m still glad I supported and voted for Remain. I can tell my kids that.

2. A bit later – after too much information, emotion and social media

My knee-jerk metropolitan liberal elite post-Brexit strategy: combination of stay within safe bubble of left-y urban multicultural suburbs + make sure our kids give a fuck.

European Union 2

Smiling daughter within the European Union. 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Keep the water in your mouth   Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

Where do you go when you press Home?  Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home). My old house is empty and my new house is waiting for me.

My Last Night of the Proms

My Last Night of the Proms

Last night I went to the *Last Night of the Proms. I didn’t realise that the evening included two world-class opera singers leading a full Royal Albert Hall audience in a jolly singalong.  For me, even more remarkable was the range of nationalities represented at such a traditional British event.

  1. Danielle de Niese “was born in Melbourne to Sri Lankan parents of Dutch and Scottish descent, and grew up in Los Angeles.” She led us in a joyful Sound of Music medley. This is an American film set in Austria with the very British Julie Andrews and her excellent diction.
  2. Jonas Kaufmann, a German tenor, belted out (in a top class opera sense) Rule, Britannia! This is a traditional patriotic anthem from 1740, celebrating Britain’s naval dominance. The original poem describes a ninth-century British king defeating Danish invaders. It felt oddly exhilarating to be singing “Britons never will be slaves!”
  3. Marin Alsop was an electric conductor. She is an American who divides her time between Baltimore and Sao Paulo. She chose to teach us an old American children’s song by Copland called ‘I bought me a cat’. One of the lines was “My pig says ‘Griffey, griffey'”. Weird. [Aside: at the end of the concert she swapped her baton for a selfie stick! Read her guide to taking concert selfies...]

I had expected the Last Night of the Proms to be awash with Union Jack flags. There were a lot, with a few novelty waistcoats too. But there were also flags from all around the world, and a very large, simple “Refugees welcome” too.  Story via The Guardian, obviously http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/refugees-welcome-banner-steals-show-last-night-proms-royal-albert-hall

My Italian friend and I felt rather pleased to be part of this charming event. We even stood up to sing Jerusalem. This was absolutely the musical equivalent of a warm ‘upper body only’ British hug, with a firm back pat.

*Use of capitalisation as per the official programme.

Last Night of the Proms

The view inside Royal Albert Hall.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Where do you go when you press Home?  Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home).

Happy Chinese Australian New Day Chinese New Year and Australia Day completely passed me by this year. Instead, we surrounded ourselves with cheese, mountains and snow in France.

 

A funeral from afar

A couple of weeks ago we went to a funeral service in our pyjamas. Thanks to the power of the internet, at 2:30 in the morning (UK) we sat in our dark bedroom, and tuned in to a webcast of an early afternoon funeral service (Australia).

I normally associate webinars and webcasts with work-related learning. “27 reasons why you should horizontally integrate your on-boarding data with your digital marketing ROI leverage opportunities”.

In contrast, this webcast was a fond remembrance of a loved uncle. We listened to the gently amusing, achingly sad and warm-hearted tributes to the unfamiliar other facets of this man – father, brother, friend. All from the comfort of our suburban bedroom, cradling mugs of tea, with a light scattering of pretzels over the duvet.

Technical issues

There were some technical issues. At first, although we could hear the service, the video was mostly an old-fashioned test pattern of bold coloured stripes. The experience of listening to the voices pausing and wobbling with emotion, in the silent dark made the eulogies even more moving.

test pattern

Later on, as the service began drawing to a close, we lost the audio, but gained video. We saw the people rising and falling and shifting and singing.

I don’t work for you

As interesting as this was, we thought that we would enquire about the simultaneous transmission of audio AND video. We called the funeral home and then it got a bit weird.

INT. BEDROOM. NIGHT.

The funeral home reception person has put us through to the ‘technical people’. A very efficient man listens as we describe the issues – what we previously could or couldn’t see or hear.  He performs some technical jiggling at his end, asks us some brisk questions, and we duly report back on what we can or cannot see or hear.

IT MAN: (businesslike) Right. OK. Seems to be some kind of issue with the cabling at (‘name of funeral home location’). I need you to get on to that straight away before the afternoon service.

US: (Baffled silence)

HUSBAND: (quietly) We don’t work for you…

(Pretzel packet rustles slightly. Mugs of tea are silent. )

ME: (confused) We’re calling from London, trying to watch a webcast of a service …

(Uncomfortable micro-pause.)

IT MAN: (mortified) I am SO SORRY. I thought you were calling from the venue. I didn’t realise … etc etc

US:  (Speechless with laughter.)

FADE TO BLACK.

I’m not sure if the tears in my eyes were from the strangeness of this last conversation, or the moving stories of a great man.

[– In memory of PJ –]

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Love is not dead, it’s just resting. How often do you tell your loved ones that they are loved? On a sliding scale, I think the most romantic medium are (with 1 being most lovely) …

Video

Step away from the shopping!

A heavy glossy Christmas shopping catalogue has fallen out of the newspaper. It’s from Liberty. I fear it.

  • Shearling ear muffs £120
  • Rose-cut diamond star brooch £3,500
  • Myrrh Imperial candle £65
  • Small Leather Rhino £165 (I have no idea…)

I am not linking to these, in case in a moment of madness, you click and accidentally buy something ridiculous.

Yesterday was Black Friday and the police were not impressed: Shopping madness! The words ‘anarchy’, ‘violence’ and ‘paramedics’ all featuring in an article about people buying TVs.  It’s unfortunate that Black Friday has seeped in to the UK shopping agenda. Even my supermarket was sending me emails telling me about Black Friday specials. Did I say: ‘Ridiculous’?

Calm down peoples. It’s just stuff. Stop shopping and watch this calming video…

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

I give up. I keep giving up. I have THIS MUCH to do each day. (Imagine me holding an over-sized hand-knitted cushion.) I have THIS MUCH time each day. (Imagine me holding a medium box of assorted supermarket chocolates.)

First World Problems. I live in the First World and I have problems. Some people call this ‘White Whine’, but as I’m not technically white, I prefer the term ‘First World Problems’.

12 reasons I don’t hate Christmas

My crying in front of the Christmas tree has been interrupted by the arrival of our online shopping order. Bags of quality produce to last us through the next few days of family, friends and festive-ness.

I’d just received one of those phone calls dreaded by expats, involving “sad news” and “I wish I could be there”.

The call itself was fine. It was only a few minutes afterwards that the sneaky waves of sadness started washing over me. An unexpectedly large wave knocked my legs out from under me, and I gave in to a little quiet seated weeping.

The shopping delivery put an end to that. As did the discovery that the luxury Madagascan vanilla custard was substituted by an own-brand LOW FAT custard.

You shall not say that you hate Christmas

It may be fashionable to declare that one despises Christmas. This year, Christmas is reminding me of the good things in my life.

Here are 12 reasons why I don’t hate Christmas:

  1. Pork, in all its many forms. Every meal is piggy.
  2. A wobbly drunk man in a novelty Christmas hat (with dangling fake mistletoe) trying to kiss strangers on the Tube.
  3. Christmas craft. I made a willow wreath.

    Willow Christmas wreath

    Willow is bendier than I expected…

  4. This is the last year that my son sort of believes in Santa. “I think it’s you putting my present under the tree, but I’m not sure. I hope he’s real, because I want an iPad.”
  5. I’m not homeless.
  6. Husband is like a Christmas cooking machine – shortbread, pavlova, potted duck, Christmas pudding, pork terrine.

    Christmas pavlova

    The secret ingredient is crumbled Flake chocolate bar.

  7. Parcels and presents and cards are outnumbering junk mail.
  8. Kids singing. Even if they’re not entirely in tune, the sound of kids singing carols is wonderful.
  9. Half price Nordic cheese domes. (I have no idea…)

    Nordic cheese dome

    I thought about it briefly, but didn’t buy one.

  10. We put aside any concerns about global warming and turn on ALL the lights we can find, as soon as it’s dark. It’s so pretty!
  11. Christmas jumpers. I bought my first one this year and have been told that it is Awesome.

    Christmas jumper

    I wore this to work – twice.

  12. Family and friends, and my health and my home.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

You ungrateful cow. Would you like a whinge with your excellent coffee today? I would. It’s almost a reflex: “No sugar thanks. (The man on the bus smelt like old sausages.) Full fat milk please. (I hate filling in forms.) Just a regular size coffee today. (Charity muggers are taking over the streets.)”

Get out of my house

[Warning: This particular blog contains no humour, or wit. It is just me complaining.]

There are strangers in my house.

Well, it’s not really mine because we are renting it. That‘s the problem. The landlord is selling the house, and strangers are potential new owners.

Once again, we are boxing up and moving out.

The ‘For sale’ sign appeared a few days ago, and a steady stream of smug, anxious professionals is coming through. They want to buy ‘my house’.

My son’s face crumpled slightly when I told him that we have to move, so I talked up all the positives. New = good. It’s exciting. Woohoo…

I could write something thoughtful about having a sense of place; connection to physical structures; belonging in a community; the need to ‘nest’… blah blah blah. Instead, I will just say that I slightly want to vomit at the thought of moving house again.

[Insert wise words “At least you’re not moving overseas.” or sensible comments “You’ve done it so many times before, just get on with it.”]

Our local squirrel has offered to help me pack.

And here’s one I wrote earlier…

Where do you go when you press Home? Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home).