It's a completely cool, multi-purpose blog.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'll never have to mow the lawn again

A trip to the GP for blood test results is never fun, but a reduction in cholesterol levels was a nice reward for a sustained change in diet. I miss cheese.

Turns out, to my incredulity and flabbergastation, that I am a bit overweight too.

Here's the odd one, though. I also had an allergy test which scored High Positive for dust and animal allergies. Anything over 17.49 counts as a very high positive, and my score for grass allergy was...66.8! Dr Ilona said she's never seen anything like it. I must say I was surprised because I've never felt much more than bog standard hay fever. Perhaps I am just the uncomplaining type?

Nobody's baby now

To my lingering disbelief, yesterday was Barnaby's second birthday. That means that he is now officially a toddler rather than a baby. I liked having a baby. I'm going to miss having a baby around the place, although not so much that I actually want to have another one. The very thought fatigues me.

We had a low-key celebration with family at the marvellous Fagan Park. I've posted a bunch of photos over at Flickr, but here's a wee video as a taster:

Kind of coincidentally, we also chose yesterday to move him from his cot to the Big Bed. No more baby, no more cot. Sigh.

In other weekend activities, I watched 8 movies, tore my hair out at Arsenal's self-destructive capacities, bought some furniture and...oh, some other stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The end of an aura

It’s a peculiar pleasure to be a pom in Sydney while England is beating Australia in the Ashes. Sporting banter is one of the mainstays of conversation at MPOW, and it has generated quite a lot of email chatter with various friends too. I confess that I rubbed it in a bit yesterday, skipping around the library workroom and singing Jerusalem as I went about my business, but fans of English cricket have to take their pleasure where they can find it.

It wasn’t a classic series in terms of quality, but it was exciting and competitive. Both captains emerged with credit, and I think Andrew Strauss summed up the series nicely when he said "When we were bad we were very bad and when we were good we managed to be good enough."

Obviously the time difference meant that coverage here started at 8pm each night and went on until about 3.30am, which was a drag. At least it was on free-to-air, unlike in the UK, which is a scandal.

Dozens of late nights haven’t done my sleep patterns any good, or my alcohol intake for that matter. With splendid timing, M&I have both committed ourselves to having an entirely booze-free month, effective from yesterday until her graduation party on 26th September. I’ll be enjoying my beer that night, I can tell you now.

Comedy is a funny business

I'm in too much of an Ashes inspired fug to write anything sensible today, I am addled by late nights and bad wine and delirious jigging in my living room.

Instead, here are two comedy clips that made me laugh like a drain over the weekend. The first is sophisticated verbal comedy in the Ronnie Barker tradition whilst the second is pure silliness. For some reason they both appealed to my sense of humour, but I suspect most people would have a strong preference for one over the other.

Which one do you prefer?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Feelin' Groovy

The weekend effectively started on Thursday night, with Dani's birthday bash at her local pub where, as usual, we won a meat tray. We saw the same crowd on Saturday, this time for a drink at a German style beer place and a comedy club. I managed to scrape my knee in a spectacular stack walking in to the pub, which seemed a little wrong.

In between we had a lovely afternoon with friends at Mark and Tanya's place, where we saluted departed dogs and plotted a boy's night out for next weekend.

Sunday afternoon was my father-in-law's birthday bash at which we enjoyed good fine, good wine and unseasonally good weather.

I got to spend lots of time with the kids, we watched lots of Spaced and Brideshead Revisited DVDs, listened to hours of Simon and Garfunkel, and Arsenal started the new season with a flourish.

In sum, had this weekend been a song it would have been this one:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Airborne Kabbalistic Event

You'll know that I am not the greatest admirer of religions, or indeed any non-rational set of beliefs, but this little video takes things to a whole new level of dumbstruck incredulity at the lunacy of the clerical classes.

Behold a crack team of 50 rabbis flying around over Israel, chanting and blowing magic horns to provide protection from swine flu. The JREF does a neat job of surveying the many aspects of wrongness required to make this seem like a good idea. I'm getting Woody Allen, I'm getting Father Ted, but most of all I'm getting a big healthy dose of WTF.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bury my heart at Leicester Square tube station

Once in a while M&I get our "doing heads" on, Worzel Gummidge style, and go on a getting-things-done-around-the-house blitz. Such was the case on Wednesday (day off work) and Saturday, which we spent in a productive whirl of hardware shops, allen keys and storage solutions.

It was very satisfying, but the lack of fun time was probably a contributing factor to my current funk of homesickness. My dad being unwell is the main contributor here, together with Nick's departure for the motherland, English cricket's perpetual ability to inflict mental disintegration on its followers and a general sense of boredom with work.

It's a funny thing, but even after having lived in Sydney for 8 years, and having lived in London for about 4 years back in my 20s, my heart is still very much over there. If you could plot a graphic of the most significant places in my own personal psychogeography, I reckon the epicentre would be on Charing Cross Road, somewhere between Trafalgar Square and Fopp.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Everything Else

I am painfully aware how much I've missed out in this brief highlights reel, but that's just the nature of it I suppose. Parks, pubs, museums...friends, family, new faces...laughs, excitement, could make a very cheesy montage out of it, perhaps soundtracked by Peter Cetera.

There are a heap more photos on Flickr, if you're interested.

We'll be over again briefly at the start of January, with Big Trip '10 scheduled for July. Laters!

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Lord's

The whole trip was permeated with Ashes excitement, and the zenith came thanks to my mate Dave who defied the MCC's absurdly baffling ticketing system and snagged a pair of tickets for day four at Lord's. If you recall, that was the day when England took five early wickets to set up an easy win, only for Clarke and Haddin to counterattack and send us all home muttering about missed opportunities. It all turned out OK in the end, though.

I had never been to Lord's, so that was an experience in itself, but in the context of the Ashes I was utterly thrilled. I could even grudgingly appreciate Clarke's elegant assault on the spinner, but it was the dismissal of Ponting that really brought the house down.

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Brizzle

Then on to Bristol to stay with Amy and James and the girls. We spent our time entertaining the children whilst obsessively keeping track of the score in the Ashes by any medium available. B1's favourite moment of the whole Big Trip was a ride on Amy's horse, Sugar. B2 loved it to, and took the chance to get all Marlborough Man on us.

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Northumberland

The centrepiece of Big Trip was a week in Seahouses, Northumberland with my mum, my sister and my two lovely nieces. It was a wonderful opportunity for the 4 cousins to play together and it worked out really well. We also had various friends and family visit us from various parts of northern England and southern Scotland throughout the week on a kind of roster system, so we got to see everybody without rushing around like mad folk.

Northumberland is not too well known but is in fact a stunning area of amazing coastlines and fascinating history. The kids loved being able to walk to the sandy beach every morning but for me the highlight was probably the none-more-historical Lindisfarne, aka Holy Island.

Big Trip 09 Highlights - York

It's a long drive from Brentwood to Seahouses, so we broke up our trip with, effectively, a 24 hour stopover in York. It's a remarkably lovely city, and compact enough to do it all by foot. We covered the glrious Minster, the Jorvik Centre and the misleadingly named Castle Museum, which is actually a nostalgihistorical recreation of Ye Olden Days. We took this educational activity it all very seriously, as you can see.

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Sheffield

I snuck off sans M & the Bs for a night in my old uni town of Sheffield. Following a nostalgic chat on FaceBook, a few old mates had organised a reunion of sorts. The auld place hadn't half changed from my day, largely for the better I think. It was lovely to catch up with Steph, Di (plus her partner Neil), and Emma&Liam (who I introduced to one another all those years ago). Drinks were drunk, laughs were shared and we even got to talk about books a fair bit, which I'm sure never happened when we were supposed to be studying literature.

Big Trip 09 Highlights - Berlin

3 days in Berlin to visit the lovely Marko and Kathryn. Basically, Marko did all the heavy lifting for us including booking our excellent accommodation and taking time off work in order to drive us around the major tourist sites.

Berlin is a very cool city. In an odd way it reminded me of Melbourne in that there is no obvious, spectacular centre but plenty of groovy neighbourhoods with interesting cultural scenes and nightlife. My favourite spot was a bar built on wooden pontoons floating on a canal. Funky.

Song of the trip: (to the tune of Mississippi Goddam) "Everybody knows about the pretty city Potsdam"

Quote of the trip: "Would it be inappropriate to change Barnaby's nappy on the Holocaust memorial?"

Big Trip 09 Highlights: Brooooce

After some shenanigans with a dodgy eBay seller, M&I eventually snagged some tickets to go see Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park. He is my original musical hero so it was a big deal for me, and M has tolerated my obsession with her usual aplomb.

After a lovely afternoon in London exploring Mayfair and drinking way too much wine, we timed our arrival pretty well perfectly. It was an amazing gig, 3 and a half hours of hardcore Bruceness including a whole bunch of my favourite songs (Racing in the Street - yes!) delivered with great showmanship. Probably the most memorable moment was the opening number, a perfectly chosen cover version if ever there was one:

Big Trip 09 - overview

So, a week on from our return to Oz, I have finally go my act together enough to write something up about our trip. Rather than one enormous post that would go on forever and nobody would read, I'll do a few posts about the highlights, which should make for a more digestible platter.

First, though, I'll answer some of the most common questons:

"How were the children on the long plane flights?"
Great, thanks for asking. Beth knows the routine by now, and has even started telling Barnaby about putting on his seatbelt etc. I should add the caveat that they were great as far as M&I were concerned, people sitting nearby may not hold such a benevolent view.

What was the weather like?
Pretty good. Not particularly warm but neither cold nor wet. In fact, the English summer turns out to feel very much like the Australian winter we have returned to.

Was it nice to catch up with your family?
Of course. We saw plenty of my immediate family, and most of the extended family were able to come and visit us in Northumberland. Sadly my Dad's health has deteriorated significantly since we last visited, in ways both physical and mental. It's put a great strain on my Mum and sister, and the whole situation is very distressing. On the positive side, he had a lovely time with the Bs, both of whom enjoyed his company in return. Dad can hardly recall one moment from the next any more, but he is still capable of experiencing and giving joy when in the moment.

Did you see lots of friends?
Oh yes indeed. I won't post about every social occasion we attended because that would get very boring very quickly, but M&I had a splendidly debauched time zipping about and seeing the usual welcome faces. Thanks to all those we saw, and to those we missed out apologies and see you next time. As always, there was nowhere near enough time with anybody but we're in Blighty twice next year so we'll see you soon.