Friday, July 29, 2011

It's a small world (after all)

On Wednesday it was the auspicious day that Husband and I hit 20 years of wedded bliss. In many ways it is an amazing achievement, not least because it seems only the other day I was skipping up the aisle arrayed in true milkmaid style – we are talking the 90s penchant for Diana-like dresses that had a life of their own here remember. Given the personalities involved, particularly once you add in the Drama Queens who made grand entrances into the reality show tentatively termed “Lings on tour”, it is quite extraordinary to realise we’ve made it to 20 years, but I should note that Husband a) makes me laugh more than anyone else I know, b) is still interesting enough to go out to dinner with on a regular basis and c) my heart still leaps when I see him across a crowded room.

I am wary however of the curse of ‘Hello’ where married couples parade their immaculate houses and marriages in printed form in front of the inhabitants of hairdressers on a global scale and two weeks later the happy couple are revealed to be independently seeking legal advice on what constitutes an unacceptable interpretation of the marriage vows. Given the obvious link in terms of reader numbers between ‘Hello’ and this blog, I will therefore opt for prudence and draw a rather appropriate veil over the romantic ramblings and move on to the rather bizarre turn the anniversary evening took.

We had booked to go out to dinner and on the spur of the moment decided to catch our local ferry across the harbour. Travelling by ferry on either a sunny day or amongst the lights at night is one of the major treats of Sydney life and I don’t do it often enough. On this particular occasion we were the only two people getting on at our local stop and there were only seven people getting off so it was hardly a bustling scene.

Husband recognised the first person off the gangplank and gave him a manly wave of the hand. Being by nature a competitive person I immediately scanned the rest of the passengers to see if I could produce an acquaintance of my own and to my gobsmacked, open-mouthed amazement saw one of my closest friends from university strolling off the ferry. He was equally stunned as a) we last saw him in London at least 10 years ago, b) he had forgotten we lived in Sydney (or so he claims) – in which case it must have been a fairly major shock for him, c) he was only in Sydney for a couple of days on business and d) he was of course a guest at our wedding 20 years ago to the day.

There are two major lessons to be learnt from this:

1. Coincidence is a very bizarre thing


2. Sydney is a very small city so if you are one of my nearest and dearest, oldest of friends don’t even dare to think about sneaking in here without ringing in advance and if not booking a bed in ‘Domestic Delight’ at least setting up an evening where we can discuss the merits of Australian wine and recall when we not only behaved like teenagers but actually looked like them too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beautiful lies and beautiful toes - how bare do you go?

Just been to see Audrey Tautou in the French film Beautiful Lies – came home still aflow with laughter and romance and am planning on taking the whole household kit and caboodle comprising husband, three resident Drama Queens and two Scottish Exchange students who are in residence for a couple of nights to see it. After steady diet of okay ish films – this one was like quaffing a cold gin and tonic after a monotonous diet of thick milkshakes – however perhaps that should be like a vodka and tonic given the way all the characters down vodka in moments of stress. Am in fact considering taking up vodka as drink of choice as even after a bender Audrey still looks unbelievably glamorous and attractive.

Realise I will never be true Aussie as in contrast to the Drama Queens and most of the local male population I do tend to wear shoes if I am popping up to the shops or indeed anywhere that qualifies as out of the house. A couple of days ago, in pouring rain and 12 oC, I met a man up at our local shops, fully dressed but in bare feet. Considering I was clad in my favourite leopard skin wellies it is hardly as if I was setting the sartorial footwear bar particularly high, but whilst I admire the practicalities of the idea that if you’re going to get wet anyway why not just paddle around in your bare feet, I was puzzled by why you would then also wear long trousers and shirt – the over all look was of someone who had absent-mindedly forgotten to put on shoes.

We do live in a beachside suburb, albeit a harbour beach rather than surf, so it is quite normal to see people wandering in and out of shops clad in swimmers, towel and no shoes – behaviour that would have led to detention by the police or mental health doctors in America. The DQs and most Aussies don’t think twice about setting off with bare tootsies for the day to the extent you come across notices in pubs and restaurants saying shirts and shoes will be required. My most extreme encounter to date was on the escalator in David Jones the upmarket department store in the middle of Sydeny. I looked down and noticed that the beautifully dressed man next to me was sporting bare feet hovering nonchalantly over the revolving metal teeth of the escalator – quite enough to make my bottom hurt.

My brother in law once walked over Sydney Harbour Bridge with no shoes on – a satorial event that palls into insignificance compared to the fact he didn’t have any clothes on either other than his boxer shorts as he had locked himself out of our apartment – history doesn’t relate what he was doing prancing round the doorstep in his boxers in the first place but I’m sure there was a good explanation. Testimony to what a laid back city Sydney is that you can stroll across one of the national icons, through the central business district and into your brother’s office wearing the modern equivalent of a loin cloth and no one will stop you or even raise an eyebrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hear, Hear for the rain in Sydney

Joy of joys, it’s that wonderful moment where you discover at 7 a.m on a Saturday morning that all school sport is cancelled for the day, meaning that the entire household can go back to bed. One of the discoveries of my student days was that there is nothing nicer on a slightly chilly morning that slithering back into a still warm bed.

It’s nice to find something to feel positive about with regard to the ridiculous amounts of rain that have been cascading down on Sydney over the past week. I was reduced to fury by weather forecasts that kept announcing “showers’ or in a concession to reality “heavy showers” for Sydney – personally I felt ‘monsoonal rain’ or ‘near continuous tropical downpours’ would have been a more accurate assessment of the situation.

I am feeling particularly bitter about the rain as I feel in part I am the cause of it – as I explored in this article I only have to commission some type of building project and you can guarantee any carpenter in the area will be hauled off the job in preparation for ark building.

It’s hard to describe how desolate the back garden looks – half finished construction projects have a special woebegone appearance. To put things in context even Sydney Harbour has lost the tones and colours that sparkle their way across the blue and green spectrums and is now sporting what could only be termed a revolting muddy brown shade as the result of all the run off.

The highlight of my day yesterday was I got a cold call where I really couldn’t make out who was speaking. After I’d hollered ‘You’re really going to have to speak up” and “I can’t hear you” and basically given a complete Oscar winning impression of an ear trumpet holding octogenarian the lady at the other end said apologetically that this was the local hearing clinic wondering if I’d like to take advantage of their free testing programme. I of course announced grandly that I didn’t fit the non-hearing category – thankfully I couldn’t hear her snorts of disbelieving laughter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cooking up a storm - wonder if Jeffrey Archer's free?

I am having to get up early despite the fact I am officially on holiday as the builders who are currently turning the back garden into a Somme look alike arrive at 7am and there is a ridiculous ‘what will people think’ part of me that means I can’t appear in front of them clad in my granny nightie and Nora Batty type sheepskin slippers – as you can probably deduce, vanity is the prime driver here rather than modesty.

One of the discussions between the Drama Queens in the car during one of our prolonged ‘trips of terror’ otherwise known as clocking up DQ no. 1’s driving hours was how you could go off a song once someone you hated liked it– remonstrance from me that hated is not a word you use about people. This has always been one of my mantras to the extent I once overheard one of the Drama Queens at the pre-school stage saying very piously “hate is a word we don’t use in this house” when some small friend declared they hated peas - or more likely the food in general in my house. However hating friends aside, I have to confess to a small frisson of disquiet when I read Jeffrey Archer’s selection of the best short stories in The Week. Amongst his top five he had nominated two of my all time fave raves, Sredni Vashtar by Saki (actually I’d include almost all the Saki short stories) and Bernice Bobs her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald which I used to use (very unsuccessfully) as my teenage guide to how to attract a man. It’s not that I ‘hate’ or even dislike Jeffrey Archer, in fact I think he is rather a splendid character, but it is disconcerting to find you have so much in common with someone who is so very different – or perhaps more accurately it is a tribute to the great short story that appeals to such different people.

One of stand out features of my trip to the UK is the way in which all my Sydney friends rallied round the helpless husband – he is in fact not all helpless, being far more competent than me in the kitchen department but judging by the offers of dinner and delivery of food parcels he is obviously rated as unable to pick up a kitchen spoon or more worryingly seen as delectable dining companion by all my nearest and dearest female friends – perhaps it is time the nightie and slippers got a make over for his benefit rather than the builders. Humiliation continues to be heaped on in shovelfuls in that the Drama Queens are demanding that I get copies of all the recipes for the delicious dishes delivered to our doorstep. I just know the end result – I will slave away to recreate the dish only for my assembled expectant crowd to stare disbelievingly at the plate and declare, ‘but this isn’t what Judy/Diana/Libby’s X looked and tasted like’ and like an unsuccessful Generation Game contestant I will be sent home having failed to imitate the masters – (NB you really will have to be my Generation to remember the Generation Game though I was pleased to see Brucie is still going strong with a starring appearance at Wimbledon – wonder how the lovely Anthea is going? Still twirling presumably).

I have just come across the most fabulous George Eliot quote that I have stuck up above the stove to cheer me up as I wrestle with yet another ‘Mummy Surprise” dish:

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” – and on that note am off to pursue life as actor and writer – please send all future correspondence c/o my agent.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Little lamb who made thee - that skimmed latte? (with apologies to William Blake)

Sunday was a beautiful morning, and Husband and I walked the dog up to the Shot Café, one of the more picturesque local spots. The café is perched on one of the headlands looking out to the Heads as the looming cliffs that guard the entrance to Sydney Harbour are known. It was all a fairly normal scene of couples and families sitting around having a leisurely breakfast/caffeine intake, dogs are not supposed to be around the tables but this is the suburb of indulged pooches and our particular menace was tucked under the table. One of the other tables had what I assumed was a particularly prissy type dog, clipped to look like a lamb, but then in a reverse of the wolf in sheep’s clothing gag, it folded its gangly white legs in a completely un-canine way and revealed itself as the real McCoy, a week old lamb on a fetching blue lead and harness that set its snow white fleece off to perfection. The dog noticed the sheep imposter at the same moment as I did and did the equivalent of a doggy double take before spending the rest of breakfast doing back flips in a vain attempt to pop over and lick its chops.

The concept of taking your lamb out for coffee made me laugh and reminded me of the book I am currently reading (and loving), “Wait for Me” by the Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest Mitford sister. Early on she recounts the story of her paternal grandmother who used to have a pet pig that accompanied her on a lead to church.

Have now decided the black Schnoodle is passé and am contemplating what type of pet accessory a fashionable girl such as myself should be escorting. I could rustle up a Guinea Pig no problem but it could take us some time to get to the post office and back. In the interim I’m taking the said Schnoodle to be clipped tomorrow, so I will of course be requesting a lamb like clip and he can masquerade as the black sheep of the family, a role he fits to perfection.