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Showing posts from 2016

On saying farewell to 2016

The dismalness that was 2016 has been well documented. The terrible events of the year – Brexit, the US Presidential election result, the passing of Bowie/Prince/Alan Rickman, Aleppo, the murder of Jo Cox, to name just the smallest selection of said terribleness – have been well documented in the news, Twitter, Facebook and every conversation, ever. Even while I write this, the horrifying events in Berlin continue to unfold. Yep, 2016 was the worst right up until the end. Except…

On Christmas

The sun rises at eight in the morning and disappears, much too soon, at four in the afternoon. The temperature hovers below ten degrees, though sometimes just over. Colourful lights adorn every tree, street, lamppost and storefront. Warming mulled wine is offered at every corner pub. It’s Christmas and I’m definitely not in Melbourne anymore. For all of my thirty-something years, this time of year has usually involved bright sunshine, taking solace in air-conditioned shops because of soaring temperatures, cold meats and seafood, and even colder beers. (Okay, yes, I’m from Melbourne and more often than not Christmas Day itself can also involve rain, hail, icy winds and general mayhem but I’m using artistic licence here so just go with it.) The much more traditional image of Christmas is, of course, white, cold, dark.

On London’s free galleries and museums

It wasn’t so long ago (five months to be exact) when I was living a comfortable life with a comfortable salary. My income was such that I didn’t have to think twice about buying things like food and electricity. Most people would call these the good old days. I, on the other hand, am quite happy to see these days in my rear-view mirror. Gone is the complacency that comes with stability! I for one love the thrill of walking into Tesco so I can play the ‘what can I buy for dinner with the last two pounds in my bank account’ game. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days when I do remember my full-time remuneration with a sense of acute longing because I do live in London. There is a LOT of stuff to do/see/buy here. There is a lot of EXPENSIVE stuff to do/see/buy here. But when you stop buying stuff because you have to, you do realise just how much you don’t really need. Sure, I still walk down Oxford Street and wish I could buy an item of clothing from somewhere other than Primark or H

On my love of afternoon tea

It begins with sparkling wine. Just the one glass because, on an empty stomach, one glass is enough to have an immediate effect. With a touch of light-headedness, a warm blanket of happiness descends as a towering steeple of treats is brought to the table. The bottom plate holds sandwiches filled with no more than two ingredients and cut into delicate fingers, no crusts. The middle plate is adorned with scones, jam and cream and your tastebuds are already clamouring to have these traditional baked delicacies in your mouth. The final plate is the crowning glory and its contents are entirely dependant on your location. One thing you can be sure of. The bite-sized sweets on this final plate will be truly delicious, and you’ll probably struggle to eat them all. To complete the occasion, teapots are dotted around the table, each containing either traditional or more exotic blends of loose-leaf tea. And so begins one of life’s true joys. Afternoon tea. TREATS!!!

On opening a bank account in the UK

It was a blustery day and I thought the wind would clean sweep me off the street. The changing of seasons was no longer a future notion, it was nipping at our heels. Winter had, almost, arrived. I pulled my coat tighter around my shivering frame and wished I’d had the good sense to put on all the clothes I owned before leaving the flat earlier that morning. To combat the chill creeping into my bones, I knew I needed to take shelter somewhere, anywhere. But of course, when you’re in utter desperate need of just one bloody coffee chain, just one! not even a stupid Starbucks is anywhere nearby. Unwilling, or more accurately, unable, to part with more money than the cost of a single hot beverage, huddling within the warmth of a proper restaurant was out of the equation as was a visiting a book/clothing/shoe store. Looking at stuff you can’t afford when you’re so cold it hurts is actually a very specific form of torture I wanted to save myself from. And so, what is the next best thing,

On the life-affirming waters of Venice

There are few things in life as beautiful as Venice. To the point where this blog post could have been entirely pictorial. I mean...

I have a long, long list of topics I could write about today. I could write about the perfect Italian mini-break I had with my beloved sister not so long ago. I could write about nearly tripping over deer in the beyond beautiful Richmond Park, around which I went for another long, long walk. I could write about my glee at security tickets to see David Tennant in a play early next year and how my 26-year-old-self would feel vindicated after missing out on seeing him play Hamlet when I last lived in this fair city. I could also write about how I finally got myself a UK bank account which makes me feel that I finally 'live' in London. But I'm not going to write about any of those things, not today. The reason? Well, today is a day I'd rather forget. It's the day I became utterly dismayed with the United States of America and crossed it from my list of 'places to visit anytime soon'. America, a nation that decided they prefer a president that gra

On the life of a (new) writer

The imagined everyday life of a writer, and the actual everyday life of a writer are often, and perhaps will always be, at odds with each other. I myself had fanciful notions of what it might be like to be a writer. My mind’s eye would conjure the image of a human (usually me, though a more literary, sophisticated version) at a perfect desk. This perfect desk housed a perfect typewriter (naturally) and was perfectly positioned in front of a window. This window opened out onto the perfect view: the lusciously green rolling hills of the countryside or the calming blue of the ocean, depending on my mood and the season within which this daydream was taking place. Mugs of coffee would be scattered around the room, mixed with glass tumblers containing the residue of some painfully chic-sounding alcoholic beverage. The gentle sounds of a warm breeze would be the only soundtrack to each writing day, although the odd bird’s chirp could also be heard every now and then. A perfect pair of read

On a break from this blog's regularly scheduled programming

My life at this particular moment is filled with what you would call first world problems. Tomorrow morning I need to be up, showered, dressed and ready to leave my flat at 5.30am for an early flight to Italy. This may seem like a wonderful way to begin a Thursday but I am NOT a morning person. Add to which the fact I haven't begun to even think about packing and you can imagine the panicky spiral I'm about to journey down. Still, I'm super excited to be spending a pasta-and-red-wine fuelled mini break with my sister but today needs to be all about what the HELL I'm going to take to the most fashionable cities in the world. It's empty, EMPTY!! Send help.

On attending Letters Live (twice)

Napoleon, Madonna, John Cheever, Jacqueline Kennedy, Iggy Pop, Zelda Fitzgerald, Lester Bangs, Fidel Castro, readers of the Guardian, my dad. All these people have something in common. They have written letters. Another thing they all have in common? Me. Earlier this month, I found myself surrounded by the literal written word. I became a reader, and listener, of letters written in the recent past and those written in a time relegated to the annals of history. I loved every moment. Apart from the handcrafted ode written to me by my father (more on that later), these letters were discovered as part of an extraordinary event called Letters Live. An event like no other

On getting out of London and going to…Liverpool!

When I was in my early teens, my mum gave me one of the best gifts she’s ever bestowed on me (save for the woollen jumper she is currently knitting and will send to me in time for British winter). In my early teens, my mum gave me her entire collection of authentic, 1960s Beatles memorabilia. This amazing collection included magazines, records, John Lennon’s book ‘In His Own Write’, her ticket stub from their concert at Festival Hall in June 1964, and so much more. The gift marked the midway point of my blossoming obsession with the Fab Four. An obsession that my mum understood, approved of and encouraged. The Beatles - an obsession all mums approve of At this point, you may be wondering what The Beatles have to do with my declaration that I wanted to spend my next weekend doing something completely different. Something I could never do in Melbourne. Well, wait for it…

On visiting Ikea in London/Melbourne

When I first started travelling, I loved nothing more than discovering a new store, buying a unique piece of clothing, taking it back to Melbourne and waiting casually for the inevitable ‘I love that! Where did you get it?’ question, to which I’d haughtily reply ‘Oh this? I picked it up when I was in Barcelona/Paris/London’. Oh the smugness! As gentrification crossed oceans, the ability to impress people with my international purchases went the way of Borders. (Oooo, too soon – sorry!) No longer were friends impressed with my tops from Zara, or my shoes from Topshop. Everyone in Melbourne sported a piece of clothing from Uniqlo which meant I could no longer crow about how good their jeans were, if only you happened to be in NYC to pick up a pair. And it’s not just fashion that has become homogenised. We’re all pretty much Topshop-wearing, Wagamama-eating, Game-of-Thrones-watching, people. Sometimes everywhere's the same You know what else we all do? Visit Ikea.

On the view from the top…of a double-decker bus

I’ve been a user of public transport since forever. I drove a car from 2002-2006 but those are what I call my ‘lost years’. At all other times, my main mode of transportation has been trains, trams and buses. I’ll not go into the reasons I love PT (though the eagle-eyed amongst you would have figured out my PT passion from my blog design) save to say I can’t see myself driving any time soon. The 96 tram in Melbourne is the best of the best, and it was the tram that got me to work every day and then deposited me back home in North Carlton. While commuting, I distracted myself by listening to podcasts, music or reading my latest book. I also began tweeting from the tram once I realised what an invaluable resource PT was for wacky observations that could be succinctly described in 140 characters.

On being (happily) outside my comfort zone at the Festival of Writing 2016

I nearly flunked out of university. It was the second semester of my first year that proved to be my downfall. I didn’t nearly flunk out because I handed in terrible work, I nearly flunked out because I stopped attending lectures and tutorials. At the time, I told myself I didn’t turn up to my classes because there was too much good coffee and Italian food (my DNA is 80% carb) to sample along Lygon Street (a convenient five-minute walk from campus). But if I’m completely honest, the reason I didn’t turn up to my tutorials especially, was because the thought of having to speak my mind about Classic literature, discuss my opinions about Shakespeare and generally chat with my fellow students/strangers about any topic, gripped my insides with fear. And after a few subjects of sitting in classrooms, racked with nerves as I waited to be called on to speak, my cheeks glowing red just at the thought of saying something embarrassing/stupid/obvious, I realised I was completely outside my comfo

On accidentally visiting Austenland (aka West Wycombe Park)

I’m a planner. Always have been. Those planners amongst you will know how difficult it is for a planner to become anything other than, well, a planner. Even when writing, I’m more of a ‘plotter’ than a ‘pantser’ (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your). The one time I didn’t plot out my story and just ‘pantsed’ it, I ended up deleting eighty per cent of my work and was found rocking in the corner of my flat, contemplating a career change to that of a truck driver. But sometimes I wonder if I've planned my life a little too much,  possibly at the expense of missing out on other things. I used to be so petrified of not having an answer for those all-important questions - what subjects did I want to do in my last two years of high school? what did I want to study at uni? what career did I want after uni? - that maybe I answered these questions a little too quickly, with a little too much planning, rather than waiting to see where the universe and my subconscious would take me. To be fair,

On the privilege of seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (no spoilers, promise!)

Beloved characters from books, films and television shows are often sacred ground for us fans. We have journeyed with them, taken them into our hearts and think about them when our real lives are being a little less than spectacular. And so, when these characters are revisited for what sometimes feels like a money grab, and what sometimes is (I’m sure) a form of closure for the creatives, we wait with the duelling emotions of hope and fear, wondering if those in charge are about to wreck everything. Most often than not, they do wreck things, a lot (Mitch Hurwitz and your Arrested Development season 4 shambles, I’m looking at you!). While I always want more Bridget Jones, Mad About the Boy didn’t quite do it for me and I’m terrified about seeing Bridget Jones’s Baby for fear that watching it will forever ruin the first film and first two books for me. Similarly, I’m nervous about the upcoming Gilmore Girls episodes even though I’d give my right arm to go back to Stars Hollow. And maybe

On almost dying at Clarence House

Before I begin this week’s post, can I take a minute to say that I just picked up my tickets for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ BECAUSE PART ONE IS TONIGHT!!! In fact, I could very well be at the theatre when you read this post. I.Can’t.Even. Ahem. Right, now back to this week’s decidedly more royal post. There is a lot to love about Britain’s traditions. I love almost all of them, which should be an unsurprising fact considering I’m currently living, for the second time, in the UK. And you can’t talk about the traditions of Britain without mentioning the Royal Family. Australia has a complicated relationship with Britain and its Queen. Britain itself has a complicated relationship with its Queen (a hint of which is portrayed so, so brilliantly in the film ‘The Queen’ which I could watch on repeat forever.). As for me, my relationship is much more straightforward. I’m not a monarchist (I believe Australia should 100% be a republic), but I freakin’ LOVE the royals.

On buying toilet paper in a new city

It’s the little things. They’re the parts of life that can offer the greatest moments of joy or send you into the darkest depths of despair. This is true never more so than when you’re trying to create a new life away from the comfort, security and familiarity of home. The first time I moved to the UK was ten years ago. I was in my mid-twenties (read: actual mid-twenties) and I was lucky enough to have arrived with a job and friends to stay with until I got my own place sorted. Nevertheless, I still experienced some sharp learning curves and long, dark moments of doubt about the choices I’d made. Thankfully, I came out the other side a better, more learned, more experienced person who could often be heard remarking how living in the UK for two years was one of the best things I’d ever done. On my second move to the UK, which entered its one-month anniversary this past Sunday (hence the reflective tone of this post), I expected things to be very different. I was at a different

On falling back in love with Shakespeare

Dear Richard, I get it. You’re an actor. Keeping fit is a priority. But for the love of god man, maybe think about using the gym instead of running outside, in nature, where bad things can happen LIKE YOU HURTING YOUR ANKLE AND NOT BEING ABLE TO FINISH YOUR RUN AS ROMEO! Ahem, anyway, just wanted to put that out there. From, A Fan The London theatre scene is a treat. Not only are performances plentiful, but more often than not, you have the option of seeing a film and/or television star on stage. Now, I like to think that for me, the play or musical is the main reason I book tickets for anything I see. If I’m being honest though (and what is the point of a blog if not for honest thoughts), Kenneth Branagh’s theatre company production of Romeo and Juliet caught my eye because of the stars in this poster. I mean to say...whoa! I mean, even if you weren’t a fan of Lily James and Richard Madden, you’d book tickets for this production immediately, right? And so I di

On going for a really, really long walk

The English countryside is beautiful. This is a fact I’ve known for a while and not just because I’ve seen every Jane Austen adaptation ever. I know it because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it from the window of a train. I’ve seen it from the window of a bus. I’ve even seen it from the window of a plane. But it wasn’t until the first Saturday after I arrived in London that I got to see the English countryside without the barrier of a piece of glass. I got to see it, by walking in it. The English countryside as seen NOT through a piece of glass

On a spanner in the works (aka Brexit)

What. The actual. F*cking. F*ck.  They…they voted to leave the EU?    But why would they do that? WHY? What about all my planning? What about this amazing new life I was supposed to be starting? Is it all over already?! I see rebranding in this cafe's future   But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to when my idea of moving to London was unblemished by a referendum vote and the words ‘I’ve made a huge mistake’ weren’t playing on a constant loop inside my brain. Because actually, once you’ve decided to change your life ( with or without the aid of young wizards ) everything else falls into place with such ease, you tend to wonder why you didn’t change your life sooner. Yes the planning itself was easy. The emotional cost of some of the life-changing steps, though, was high, like handing in my notice for the job I thought I'd still have well into my eighties. And not because the company had me chained to the de

On buying tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and deciding to change my life forever

October 28 2015. It was a date I had looked forward to for some time, ever since whispers of more Harry Potter had swirled around the internet and then exploded the brains of fans around the world when it was announced we’d get to hear more of the story. Nineteen years later. The Palace Theatre, London October 28 was the date priority tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child went on sale.   The play was to open in June 2016 and though I hadn’t quite figured out how to get to London in time for whichever performance I was able to get tickets for, it seemed an insignificant detail to be worked out later. At eleven pm that night, my sister and I were sorted into the ticket queue at random and crossed all fingers in the hope there would still be tickets available by the time we got to the head of the line. Before I was quite ready, though it was about an hour later, I was alerted that it was my turn next. I held my breath as I clicked on the option for three tickets and