Thursday, September 23, 2010

Meeting Manolo

A couple of weeks ago, Liberty launched its Manolo for Liberty Accessories collection, a range of Liberty prints designed by Mr Manolo Blahnik. Arriving at the Liberty store, my friend skillfully sweet-talked our way into the press room where we got to meet the man himself. A charming man with a presence about him that can fill any room, he was dressed impeccably and with style and grace, not unlike the shoes that he brings to life, to the delight of so many women around the world. Yet, the whole time in that room, I remember praying that he wouldn't notice the well-travelled and tatty $30 ballet flats on my feet. If he did, he was certainly polite enough not to say anything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes, Another Food Post

As I was finishing up work this afternoon, I couldn't wait to get home and cook. I'm still not sure when the transformation took place for me - from despising cooking to really finding joy in the art.

On the weekend, I once again hit the farmers' market in Ealing to stock up on fresh vegetables for the week. I had no idea what I would be cooking with the peppers, cherry tomatoes, green beans, courgettes and aubergines but I figured I'd cross that bridge when I got to it. Sure enough, with very few recipes in my meagre repetoire, I've been spending most nights on the internet searching for recipes that featured those ingredients but didn't require too much else (or have a prep time of two hours).

Today, I tried out a simple side dish of French beans with garlic. I was drawn to the recipe because it looked really really easy. And I already had the garlic. Sold! It went great with my pumpkin pasta (that, I didn't make from scratch). And literally 10-15 minutes to make.

This is as opposed to the two hours it took three girls to make ratatouille last week. I thought I would be adventurous and try out the ratatouille recipe on my own one night, only to have two of my housemates come home (slightly intoxicated at 5pm) with dips, crackers and wine. I offered to make them dinner and they poured me a glass of rose and helped me stir and clean up.

We cooked, we danced, we ate. It was a ridiculously fun night.

And finally, I just wanted to share the courgettes I got on the weekend.

Did you know they came in round shapes, and some the size of golf balls? Well, I didn't and it took two guys at the market a lot of energy convincing me they were indeed courgettes. I thought they were screwing with me. Anyway, I bought one of each shape, cos they were cute, and told them I'd be back next week and will know if they lied to me. Well, they didn't lie. Each one of those tastes what a courgette should taste.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Work Work Work

Oh dear. I have been neglectful of this blog lately. Certainly, a lot has been happening in this part of London.

As you know, I started working last week at a property development business as an admin support person. It's three weeks full time with regular weekday hours, which I appreciate, and I am actually finding it very satisfying dressing up once again in clothes that shouldn't go in the washing machine or tumble dryer. Note to self - put time aside for hand washing this weekend. The only downside to this job is the early mornings. As the weather in London gets colder, I find it harder and harder to get myself out of bed. When the alarm goes off in the morning, I find myself cursing out loud, and one of my housemates has even remarked that I hit snooze for a whole half hour before getting out of bed. I suppose it doesn't help that I'm still blogging at 12am either.

The work I do is pretty straight-forward - entering defect requests into a system, following them up, closing them off, liaising with site managers and customers, filing, billing, your usual admin duties. I am collecting quite a vocabulary of construction terms though - mastic, plinth, balustrade. Still waiting for an opportunity to use these words in a sentence. I suspect I might be waiting a while. The office itself is very nice, but in Brentford, there is very little surrounding it. Having worked right in the heart of Melbourne city for the last six years, it's been quite a shock to the system not having a Starbucks within 50 metres of my workplace. There is, however, a Maccas 10 minutes down the road but that's no good to me as I'm trying to undo the damage of my Heathrow injection, of which I think I got a double dose. And by the way, Maccas is strictly an Aussie term, as I learnt the hard way today. Here, it's McD's. Really, people?? Bell St McD's just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Enough rambling for one night - I must be up in six hours time. Buenas noches amigos.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Next Phase - Work

I can't believe I forgot to mention - I start work tomorrow.

Last Friday I registered with a recruitment agency for some temp work. I asked for administration work in various industries, so doing what I know while getting a taste of the different other industries that exist. Up to now, I have only worked in local government and retail.

My first post will be with a property developer near where I live, offering admin and reception support. I expect to be there for three weeks covering for someone. I'm really looking forward to it, as it's been four months since I left my last workplace. Four months of not setting alarm clocks, not wearing business attire and not living by any routine. The latter has been the most rewarding and simultaneously difficult. It seems that I thrive on purpose, direction and discipline.

The summer of travel has been fun... sooooo much fun. But, as the London air gets chillier and we say goodbye to summer, I am ready to enter the next phase of this adventure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Time for a Health Kick

I had a fat moment yesterday as I got ready for a job interview and realised my suit pants were much tighter than they were four months ago. So, last night, I stayed up for hours looking for healthy eating solutions.

The first gem I found was a farmers’ market in Ealing, held every Saturday morning. So that’s where I headed this morning to pick up a bunch of fresh and colourful ingredients. Courgettes, aubergines, cherry tomatoes, peppers, bananas, some greens, and a large piece of Turkish bread to go with the dukkah I brought over from Melbourne.

Back in the kitchen at home, it was well over an hour of madness as I tried out two relatively easy recipes I found online the previous night – courgette (zucchini) fritters and baked aubergines. The fritters are from a vegan cooking blog I found, Easy as Vegan Pie. Quite simply, you grate the courgettes and mix with flour, chutney, onion, garlic and tomato paste. Cook with a little oil in a fry pan and the results are very tasty. As for the aubergines, it was just a case of halving lengthwise, slitting the surface with a knife and seasoning with salt, pepper, fresh garlic and chilli. Drizzle with oil and bake for 35 minutes.

And here are the results.

I’m looking forward to using the rest of the ingredients – peppers and greens – in a stir fry tomorrow.

On a side note, I built a bedside table today. By ‘built’ I mean ‘assemble’. I'm very proud of myself nonetheless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Birthday, a Musical and a Surprise Encounter

Today I probably had one of my best days in London, for two reasons. Firstly, I celebrated a belated birthday with my three lovely housemates who waited until I returned from Melbourne to head into town for a girls day out. And secondly, for the very first time in London, I randomly bumped into people I knew on the Tube, something that might have happened often in my home city but I didn't think would ever take place here.

So the day began with four girls getting dressed to the tune of Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. And fun we had indeed. There was Hamley's, Carnaby Street, Spanish tapas in Covent Garden, a visit to the Australia shop, four pitchers of cocktails and cake. Lesson of the day: if you rock up to TGI Fridays on your birthday, they make you stand on your chair while everyone sings to you. There's also free cake, compensation for the humiliation as I like to think of it.

We then headed to the Wyndham's Theatre to see Avenue Q. The musical, if you're not aware of it, is about a group of muppet-like puppet characters that live on Avenue Q, a dodgy, slummy part of New York, and centres around the principal character Princeton on his quest to finding his 'purpose'... after graduating with a BA in English. Avenue Q's inhabitants are naughty, inappropriate, politically incorrect but, nonetheless, so endearing. The show works because it succeeds in weaving together themes and issues that reside on our conscience, matters that have a contemporary relevance and with which many of us will connect. Princeton's search for a purpose in life is a journey that most of us will find familiar in various forms. For other Arts graduates, like myself, this is a little too familiar. A lot of fun and laughter all round.

I should add at this point too that the goal I set myself earlier in the year to see one theatre show a month has well and truly fallen flat with this being my fourth musical in two weeks. To be fair, two were in Melbourne and three were birthday related.

So, onto my other excitement for the day. When I first moved to London, one of the hardest things about living in this city is the feeling of anonymity. I knew a total of about five people in the entire city of 7.5 million and stood no chance of randomly bumping into someone I knew in the streets, one of the real delights about living in Melbourne. These days, I know about 12 people living in London, still not great odds. But today, getting on the Tube at Tottenham Court Road heading to Leicester Square, I heard my name being called out and spotted two mates in the carriage. Both went to high school with me, and one was only in London for a day. At that moment, I felt like a local in London, and a sense of belonging in this city.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why I Love Melbourne

Last year, I took this photo in ACDC Lane in the heart of Melbourne city and it’s a view of Melbourne I really love. Of course, as with any city, Melbourne can be imagined, experienced and lived from limitless perspectives, but this is the city through my eyes, my Melbourne.

Walking through the city one day, I came across these brightly coloured buckets hanging cheerily from the power lines at the entrance to ACDC Lane, off Flinders Lane. After a bit of digging, I learnt that this was not a commissioned art installation, but the product of some passer-by’s imagination. Sure it wasn’t legal and sure it was taken down mere days later, but this momentary display of colour and creativity made me, and undoubtedly countless others, smile.

The truth is, while this impromptu expression of art made me pause, think and linger, it is not out of place in this city. A city is never static, rather it is fashioned and shaped by the people that populate it and the social activities that take place within it. This cannot be more apparent in the city of Melbourne, where a dark corner, a narrow lane, a hole in the wall, often turns into something delightful and charming. And, it’s up to us to seek out its secrets and engage with and explore its gems. Fortunately, Melburnians are good at that. We are a curious bunch, and love nothing more than to interact with the city and participate in its dialogue. Which makes this year’s Laneway Commissions particularly intriguing.

Into its eighth season, the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions invite artists to bring expressions of art alive in Melbourne’s beloved laneways. But I was compelled to write about this year’s installations as they seem to depart from previous works and form a new generation of public art. Each of the three works asks the audience to participate in shaping their experience. We are no longer in the realm of static public artworks exposed to the peril of pigeon poo.

MyStory, Urban Codemakers and Public Writing are this year’s projects and each engage their audience in a different way. MyStory brings some of Melbourne’s popular laneways alive through storytelling and exploration of the histories of those spaces. Taking public art into the 21st Century, the storytellers use audio files, which can be easily downloaded from the internet onto mobiles, to spark visitors’ imaginations and guide us through the human dimensions of these lanes. This project runs alongside the Melbourne Writers Festival, also currently taking place in Melbourne.

Three competing guilds have emerged in the aptly named Guildford Lane and surrounds in Urban Codemakers, a project that in fact takes the form of a game, urging audiences to participate in shaping its narrative. With guild leaders named Crossmedia Ecologist and Locative Urbanist, visitors are asked to choose a side to compete with. Aspects of the game exist in the physical world – markings will emerge throughout the city’s laneways – but later spills into the online world, where participants can continue the conversation on Melbourne’s competing urban spaces. It is evident that this journey will be both unpredictable yet pertinent.

Lastly, Public Writing is a video animation projected onto the wall of Lingham Lane. The main image is a hybrid machine, of a typewriter with quills protruding from its base and, according to that’s melbourne, ‘allows the audience time to reflect on what is permitted, said or read in mass media and how it may reveal some of life’s absurdity, sub text and meaning.’ I consider Public Writing to be a starting point, or springboard, for thinking about the written form that surrounds us in abundance in everyday life, and hope that conversations continue beyond the walls of Lingham Lane.

If you’re in Melbourne, take the time to explore the city’s laneways. Be part of the city, learn some of its secrets and join in its dialogue.

For more information on the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions 2010, visit that’s melbourne: