Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bring on the Pink Paper - Long Live the Weekend FT

Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time (that’s you, Mother) will know I am a big fan of the weekend UK based Financial Times. It takes until mid morning for it to hit the shelves of my two local newsagents and I skip home, clasping it to my chest. It’s very rare I don’t find an article that either interests, amuses me or makes me think – and sometimes all three at once – you can tell when this last phenomenon has happened by the furrowed chimpanzee brow look of concentration on my face.

This week’s edition of the pink paper was a real winner, I found an article on beading in fashion (Thank you from Drama Queen No. 2’s Textiles project) plus an article on Aboriginal art in the Northern Territory that features Lords’s Safaris, run by Sab Lord the charismatic character with whom we had the most fabulous day in Arnhem Land in October, that left everyone from truculent teens to blasĂ© adults open mouthed in amazement at the Aboriginal Art that decorates the rocky outcrops like life blood running through the veins of the land.

The best thing about the paper is that thanks to last weekend’s edition I now have a new life goal. The article ‘Let’s do lunch!’ by Matthew Engel chartered 18 years of the weekly lunch date between an FT writer and someone who is probably best described as a person of interest, coming from any sphere, from fashion designers to business tycoons to artists for example, this week’s luncheon guest is Anish Kapoor, the British artist. Engel recounts the story of Gavin Ewart a 79 year old British poet, who had such a good lunch with writer Nigel Spivey that as Spivey wrote in his article, “We departed the CafĂ© Royal in moderately straight line.” Spivey put Ewart on a bus and wended his own merry way, only to receive a phone call the next morning from Mrs Spivey who said, “There are two things you need to know. The first is that Gavin came home yesterday happier than I have seen him in long time. The second – and you are not to feel bad about this – is that he died this morning.”

So there we are, new goal, to reach such exalted literary heights to warrant a lunch invite from the Financial Times in my comparative old age, and to embark on a fabulously enjoyable lunch such that I expire happy - on second thoughts perhaps the expiration bit should be optional?

Friday, May 4, 2012

No more spiders in my bath?

Had a couple of fabulous autumn days in Sydney, the combination of sunshine, a sky so blue that it seems to pulsate and the gold of the leaves of the non-native trees is magical. The only thing that takes the edge off the beauty of my early morning walk is the necessity to keep my eyes peeled for the spiders’ webs that festoon the bushes and paths. There is really nothing to bring a spring to one’s step like the gentle caress of the gossamer tendrils of a large web trailing gently across the face. Actually if I’m truthful it’s less the sticky filaments round my face I’m worried about and more the thought of the large hairy leg that in best horror film tradition, is about to tap me on the shoulder.

The wet summer in Sydney has apparently been a complete boon to spiders as the insect population has thrived in the rain. Worth noting leeches are also having a bumper year and are presumably swelling with pride, not to mention other creatures’ blood, at the explosion of their numbers.

My mother used to recite the following ditty, a happy reminder of her days at a Scottish boarding school.

“No More Latin, no more French,
No more sitting on the hard [school] bench
No more beetles in my tea
Making googly eyes at me
No more spiders in my bath
Trying hard to make me laugh”

I am not actually that worried about finding a spider in the bath – as basically given the size of some of the whoppers we have, not sure it would manage to squeeze its way out of the plughole. I am far more concerned about the very large and hairy monster that has taken up residence in the car. It’s a Huntsman spider, a species that whilst harmless, holds pole position as the big daddy of the Sydney spiders. This particular one specialises in making makes forays from its vehicular hidey-hole, its appearance is generally heralded by shrieks from the Drama Queens, and an overall reluctance to open the car door. Fortunately up until this point it has stayed on the outside of the car where it creeps up and down the glass like a bad horror movie seeming impervious to the rushing air and wild swerves as I attempt to dislodge it. I suspect it lives in the driver’s wing mirror as the glass is now almost totally obscured by spider web tendrils – I generally fight down the urge to wind down my window and clean it with my hand – infinitely preferable to crash into something really.

We did have one friend with a resident Huntsman spider actually inside the car – when he hit a certain speed the vibrations obviously upset the spider and it would shoot out and perform an agitated tarantella upon the dashboard. Speaking for both the Drama Queens and myself this would be the moment that the ‘Abandon Car’ signal would be given.

Fortunately the return of good weather means I can abandon my wellies, there’s nothing to beat the thrill of sticking your hands into the damp cavern of a welly boot to check for spiders before thrusting toes into them. However I take comfort from past experience that has demonstrated that my footwear is basically a death knell for things that go squeak. There was a particularly memorable outing to the beach with Drama Queen No. 2’s class in Rye, NY, where I pulled on my water shoes with some difficulty, only to discover the tight fit was due to a dead mouse in the toe of the left shoe. Nice to know there’s some circumstances that smelly feet have a evolutionary, basic survival advantage.