Archive for the ‘myfavouritethings’ Category

Because this blog is something I dash out during my lunch-break or after work, I worry that too often I use it to relax – with a rant. Life is generally really pretty good – awesome in fact, so here’s a few positives I missed recently.

  1. Jaffa Cakes – very English, very addictive, have decided to overlook the fact that the English cricket eats them, but can’t keep a whole tube in the flat. Still a mystery to meĀ  how a nation of complete choc-orange lovers could be a stranger to the Jaffa….
  2. Drinking outside – meant to snap a shot of everyone standing around the Clerkenwell Green yesterday arvo, enjoying the early evening sunshine (such a novelty after the darkness of just 10 weeks ago…) and chatting over a pint (mostly cider, which I will discuss another time!) There are huge problems with drinking in this country – alcohol related illness and deaths are on the rise in the UK, and there are waaay too many alcohol outlets for good taste. That said, when it comes to being sensible about drinking on footpaths from a glass, these Poms are on to it. All related to sunshine appreciation I guess.
  3. The rollercoaster that is the English sports fan – more fickle than an Aussie counterpart. Just by beating Bangladesh (not by much) – the same pessimists who’ve been telling me their campaign is over now all think England are peaking at just the right time in the Cricket World Cup! (At the same time, they will call for the blood of a football manager without any thought about the availability/affordability of a replacement… cripes!) It is silly, and stupid, but the optimism, in the face of some rather shabby play, is cute.

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BBC Light Snow Showers !

Yep, more snow is coming to town – after a week or so of gorgeous spring sunshine (including some hideous Poms-in-Tshirts sightings) that has been just magic, the BBC is now saying that some light snow showers will arrive Monday night, just in time for Mum’s arrival on Tuesday and my already-booked tickets for the London Eye. Might mean we get some magical views of the city, might mean the ‘flight’ is cancelled, but am giggly with the thought anyway! May need the extra layer of my doona for Monday night, as it’ll be -1!

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HMSO Keep Calm and Carry On

Had an amazing dinner in Pimlico with Kate-o last night – just like we’d seen each other far more recently, with lots of giggles and a nice recharge in energy. She managed to share so many interesting ideas, and empathise with my my-accent-is-sometimes-unintelligible woes. Very recharging and good indeed – AND she bought with her (via the US, major brownie points) two tubes of Vegemite. Bless. True to form, we stood in the street trying to say our goodbyes for far too long. Total flash backs to our Thai dinners in Kirribilli, but with coats and the tube.
Kate/Rock reads my blog via her del.icio.us account, which is the parent of ma.gnolia, which I use – this is cool as it means I can see when she’s reading things (hello Rock!), but also means (and this is why you, interesting friend, should be sharing bookmarks through one option or the other) I can look at all the gorgeous, creative blogs she reads.

Keen for another hit of Kate this morning, I went looking through her links to find Hop Skip Jump, and from there this gorgeous poster. Although it is a reprint of an HMSO original during WW2, it is just as relevant for me today! It’s now on order, for just a few pounds, and will make a nice reminder in the morning. The trip to Ikea for a frame will require a few weeks until I have the strength – my nearest store is so popular that it’s dangerous.

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Two really late finishes and a massive day tomorrow – but addicted to posting daily, even when I don’t have a real lunch break (which is when these things tend to happen.)

Eurovision News – Less depressing, and (in places) more interesting than real news

Have had crazy levels of interest in my Eurovision blog entry, Making Your Mind Up, from last week. I knew that it had some kitsch event in Australia, but the people taking it seriously (including, ludicrously, the UK contestants) is a little alarming.

Given Sweden’s pedigree, I could understand that their Melodifestivalen deserves some popularity – it is the closest thing to a time machine in predicting future dance floor remixes. Cool too, that the lcoal Swedes have an event planned at a bar in Marylebone – the Swedish equivalent of a Walkabout, packed with good looking blondes worshipping at the altar of pop, both by fancy dress (Abba tributes, surely?) and sing-a-long, is a good night out, by anyone’s standards. (via Londonist)

So what right do UK acts, with similar form to the National Football team in World Cups, have to go all earnest sporting cliche in this piece, again from BBC ‘News’:

Some were more keen than others to take part. Hawkins admits he only said yes to the opportunity after dreaming about the contest. “I woke up feeling really positive about it,” he says. The flamboyant singer, who has teamed up with Beverlei Brown to perform They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To, says he is hoping to complete a life-long ambition. “I think it’s every boy’s dream to represent their country at the highest level. I think it’s the biggest, most glamorous and possibly the most important music event there is,” he adds, vowing he will not give up if he is unsuccessful this time around. “Every year I’m going to go in for Eurovision, it’s going to be like Cliff Richard and his Christmas songs,” he jokes.

Big Brovaz are taking a more serious approach to the whole event – and hope they will set a precedent for R&B acts to follow in their footsteps. “I must make that very clear, we came here to win,” says singer J-Rock. “This is an opportunity for us to showcase UK hip-hop and R&B on a world scale,” adds bandmate Randy. “We’re the first urban group to ever be asked to do this competition, so we consider that a privilege as well.”

But for Brian Harvey, his biggest achievement was to walk to the contest’s launch. Following a freak accident in May 2005, doctors told him it was likely he would lose the use of his legs. “Words can’t really describe what goes through your head when someone tells you you’re never going to walk again,” he recalls. He admits that before the accident he was on a “downward spiral” – as well as the accident, he has spent time in prison and was attacked with a machete in 2001. But he hopes the contest marks “a fresh beginning”. “This means a hell of a lot,” he says. “I cannot stress enough that I’m not supposed to be walking, let alone be here.” His song, I Can, was recorded a few years ago, but he never got around to releasing it. “It’s the best song I’ve ever recorded ever – or could ever hope to record. It really is that good – I feel that confident about the record,” he says.

Liz McClarnon – who says her track (Don’t It Make You) Happy is “upbeat” with “lots of brass” – is too busy focusing on her nerves to think about anything else. “It’s really really scary. I’ve watched Eurovision for years,” she says. Although excited by the contest, she thinks Hawkins and Brown are likely to go through to the Helsinki finals as they have the “coolest” song.

Pop act Scooch, who reformed especially for the contest, are huge Eurovision fans. Singer David Ducasse instantly reels off a list of performers and what year they appeared in the competition. He describes their song, Flying the Flag (For You), as an “out and out pop song”. “It’s about time Eurovision had a pop act to go through for the UK,” he says.
Finally, Cyndi hopes that despite being French, her song, I’ll Leave My Heart, will be enough for her to go through to the contest. She does not think being a French citizen will be a problem for the voting public.
“As a performer and singer, I’ve got to do my best. I would sing the same way if I was singing for France,” she says. “Whatever my nationality my job is to perform. I really have faith in people, they will choose whatever song touches them the most.”

Given that Israel’s Eurovision entry is a song about nuclear annihilation, there is a lot of material for a Saturday paper Review feature here, me thinks.

Two yummy-licious things in glass – pudding and yoghourt

A lot of Internet code has already been dedicated to the magic of Gu puddings, but I too am now also enamoured, and searching for uses for the inevitable set of glass containers (ramekins and shot glasses) I will be forced to accumulate. Several levels of sugary late night indulgence – am trying to avoid the Heathrow Injection by not keeping too many in the flat at any one time.

But a late bolter on the dessert/sweet in glass front is the most amazing Loseley yoghourt (note that I am not so enamoured as to loose my Aussie accent on the pronunciation of this word, despite catching myself on duvet a few times…) – am hoping that work will stop sending me on all these useful courses, to one that involves the eating of the Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge flavour… yes, I am comfort eating my way through dark/cold/stress…. but very, very carefully.

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I’ve previously alluded to the very tip of the iceberg of my tech-nerdiness (as if my blog wasn’t a good enough indicator for you….), but today I thought I’d mention a few tech-resources related to my London experience. Lots of people who are already here in London will tell you about TfL‘s Journey Planner, Gumtree, the Lonely Planet site’s forum Thorn Tree, but here are a few more that are a little more exotic…

Londonist – A blog of news and events, restaurants and bars, happenings and goings-on in London. It’s varied, random and feisty! Features gig reviews, images of London that clever design types have modified, events, trivia and history.

Fridaycities – London by London – Formerly an email list known as LbL (London by London), now a fully grown (OK, so in beta…) web2.0 community that know everything within hours, can find what you’re looking for, and have a lovely British sense of humour, with a reasonable helping of London-cynicism.

g24 – I mentioned this before, but you can avoid the free paper flood, really you can. This is updated enough that anyone who uses public transport should check this one out – read something better than celebrity trash alone (do both and recycle!) The Saturday Guardian lasts me a week, but this way I can be educated during the week, in case I ever go to dinner parties, or get trapped in a lift, etc..

Trusted Places – Have added some reviews here, but also handy to find places in one of the many corners of the city you’re new too. Information, photos and reviews of bars, restaurants, cafes and other place.

TubeTracker – This is a cool thing I found via Londonist, who put me onto the blog of creator Tom Morris. Basically, it sends tube info (delays, closures, people under trains, etc) either to your Twitter page, mobile phone or IM. Am doing OK not getting too addicted to Twitter (despite it being so fun and addictive and quick to play) – but you could ruin this by letting me know if you’re on there…

[I realise that lots of my fans readers are friends, family and former colleagues in Australia, so not all of you are going to find a collection of some cool resources all that interesting when they’re London-specific…. sorry, come back for fresh content tomorrow, which might be more your bag!]

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Ooooh! Gotta love living in Britain just now – the weather is mild, the football’s been pretty juicy of late, now that we lose to NZ in the cricket rather than the UK the abuse has died down and we’re entering the selection process for the UK’s entry into Eurovision.

Yep, it’s official: on BBC One, on 17 March (not many sleeps away now!), the six acts that have been shortlisted as Eurovision hopefuls will battle it out for the chance to represent the UK in May’s Eurovision Song Contest. And the BBC have chosen some exceptional contestants (from here):

Scooch, made up of Russ, Natalie, Caroline and David, describe themselves as “this generation’s Bucks Fizz”. After a series of hits in the late 1990s the band members went their separate ways but never forgot each other. The chance to be on Making Your Mind Up was too good to ignore: “We felt it was our job to bring Eurovision back to its former glory,” they said. Their airline-themed Flying the Flag promises a catchy tune, a great dance routine and perhaps a surprise or two.

Liz McClarnon
(Don’t It Make You) Happy! is only the latest in a series of musical achievements for Liz McClarnon. As one third of Atomic Kitten she enjoyed huge chart success across the UK, Europe and Asia selling over eight million albums and singles. Her debut solo single, the Robin Gibb-produced Woman in Love, made the top five in February 2006. Along with an appearance on Celebrity Love Island she found time to write her “huge, upbeat” Eurovision entry.

Justin Hawkins and Beverlei Brown
Hawkins & Brown consists of the talents of former Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins and his friend Beverlei Brown. His distinctive voice helped the Darkness to score a series of top 10 hits and two double platinum albums. Brown has worked with Blur, Joe Cocker and Razorlight and hopes to release an album of her own. Their entry, They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To, was the result of “instant chemistry” in the studio.

Brian Harvey
Brian Harvey became famous as the lead singer of 1990s boy band East 17. Named after their native area of London’s postcode, the group scored 18 hit singles and five albums. Harvey appeared on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2004, survived a serious car accident in 2005 and still performs with the band. He says he is thrilled to be entering the song I Can in Making Your Mind Up, and describes the Eurovision Song Contest as a “national treasure”.

Cyndi’s entry – I’ll Take My Heart – is in the style of I will Always Love You, the song which inspired her to pick up a microphone for the first time. After singing for friends she entered a talent contest and made it, aged just 14, to the finals in Paris. She was offered a recording contract after an executive thought her vocals must be sampled from a soul diva. I’ll Take My Heart has been produced by renowned Grammy award winning producer Brian Rawling.

Big Brovaz
Big Brovaz are a London based R&B group who had five top 10 hits in 2002, most famously Favourite Things which sampled the Sound of Music song. Their debut album Nu Flow went platinum in the UK and they won two Mobos, Smash Hits (Best Urban Act) alongside Capital Radio and Disney awards. They are returning as a four-piece with their new single Big Bro Thang. Big Brovaz are confident they can take Eurovision to a new level with their not-so-traditional-Eurovision style.

Hard to know which entry to love most – but I think my early favourite, without listening to a single track is Harvey & Brown.

Hooray! I can’t vote in council or national elections here (despite paying a whack of tax to both levels of government) and have to queue with Kylie at Australia House to vote in my own elections – all of which is such dry, detatched democratic process in the face of this truly great process, ao am excited to have something meaningful to get involved in….

There’s so much to love about the pop culture icon that is Eurovision – in the UK’s case, it is a rather bizzarre-o emblem of what it is to be European-but-fighting-the-label-for-political-points. People here, rightly I say, feel it’s time that they triumphed in the oldest pop battle in the world. Also, this means two parties- one to select the contestant, another to watch the Final! Having seen how the Poms cope with defeat, I really hope they’re not eliminated in the Semis!

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3 foods

Three foods that English people all seem to love, that I’m getting into

  1. Jaffa Cakes – Made by the McVities people responsible for my favourite pity party biscuit, the Digestive. People here are mad for the chocolate-orange combo, and these are supposed to be ‘the bench mark Jaffa Cake, the Model T Ford of Jaffa Cakes’, but are also the official snack of the ruddy English cricket team.
  2. Minstrels – along with Wine Gums, we have these in the office as a Friday afternoon corporate sugar rush. Like big, flat M&Ms, but without the slight flavour the coloured coating gives. Also a must for cinema visits, quite cozy with Maltesers.
  3. Smoked Haddock – everyone made a big hoohah when I reheated some Cauliflower and Smoked Haddock gratin in the office, because it did smell a bit. As soon as I pointed out that weird and smelly seafood is pretty British, they looked really proud of how hard I’m clearly trying to fit in.

Three TV shows I have seen over here worth mentioning

  1. Party Animals – when the Poms make their own West Wing, it’s just the same, but waaay more smutty and not nearly as aspirational/fictional. At least some of the show’s writers have to be disgruntled Torys who got sick of all the good looking people being on the Left of politics – as the Labour staffers are all a bit daggy.
  2. Dragons’ Den – reality show where entrepreneurs pitch a show to the ‘dragons’, who are real world investors considering putting their cash into the companies they see. They’re cranky, contestants have crazy ideas, and one of the ‘Dragons’ is Aussie and clearly a cad.
  3. American Idol – never saw it in Australia, but out here they have the annoying Cat Deely, also of So You Think You Can Dance, to ‘translate the show’. Oddly, she appears at either side of the add breaks to anglify a rather obvious show. Not sure why, but she does.

Three rather sensationalist stories that summarise the kind of free newspaper I read here

  1. Connor McCreaddie, (who at 8 years old has been roundly named and photographed,) whose pre-Christmas weight of 15 stones and eight pounds (99kg) is three to four times the weight of a healthy child of his age. Although he’s around my height (5 foot), and despite the fact that he’s lost around 9kg in the last two months, his mother and grandmother have been summoned by letter to a child protection conference today to discuss his case. While taking him into protective custody is the last resort (with protection lists are more likely), Connor has difficulty dressing and washing himself, misses school regularly because of poor health and is targeted by bullies. I think a debate on obesity as child abuse is important, the type of footage shown and the photos of Connor’s body are sickening.
  2. Lots of gossip based on the two tribe theory of London celebrities: one set (including the Princes and their gfs) all seem to eat at Nobu (celebrity-magnet restaurant) and party at Boujis (and other private clubs,) despite there being a lot of other places to go in the West End; the other set have their own social customs involving being dirty, drinking in Camden and having large hair (arguably cooler, even if just as shallow.) The interest in photos of the same people leaving the same venues in similar states of intoxication is insatiable. Have started printing my own paper to read on the way home.
  3. Jade Goody’s visit to India, in an attempt to rebuild her personal brand after her racist rant on Celebrity Big Brother. This whole black hole of human endeavour needs little comment. Today’s edition of The Sun, with headline “Kebab Belly goes to Dehli” and her quote “Everybody knows I love an Indian” (referring to the curry houses open at 1am here, not the people) will suffice.

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