Saturday, December 29, 2012

Throw out the old New Year Resolutions - on with the new

Due to a combination of circumstances it looks a fair bet that I will be watching the fabulous Sydney midnight fireworks from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where Drama Queen No. 1 is currently in residence – I am told the roof of the hospital has a great view but am not sure how many people it is going to be possible to smuggle in for the Ling alternative New Year party.

RPA as it is known, has become our home from home this year and I was wandering through the hallway first thing this morning – we always seem to be there at weekends when the hospital functions as a shadow of its normal vibrant bustling self and thought about New Year’s Resolutions or indeed New Year’s Aspirations which sounds a less threatening way of putting it and reflecting how shallow and self centred my normal ones are – (shallow – moi?), revolving as they normally do on an annual basis around loosing weight, not being such a slob on the housekeeping front, writing more, talking less etc.

So my 2013’s New Year Aspirations are going to be at the deeper end of the meaningful pool.

1.     To remember that life and love are the most important things in the world, everything else can be replaced.  It sounds trite but it’s easy to forget the importance of these two great truths until you have to stare down the hard stuff.
2.     To follow the passion in life – this applies less to the pursuit of unsuitable men, but more to the fact I feel we should treat life as a mango full of juice and aroma begging to have teeth sunk in, juice dripping down chin, rather than as a lemon from which to recoil with teeth on edge.
3.     Remember Drama Queen No. 2’s stress mantra which is “Will this be important in two year’s time?”  In actual fact it does often take two years for things to rise to the top of the ironing basket.
4.     Rather than eating and drinking less, to make time to ensure I am eating and drinking well with the friends and people I love. – though I might have to add in a small memo to self to drop the daily chocolate Freddo Frog that I have currently kidded myself is essential to my wellbeing.
5.     To celebrate whenever and whatever I can – so if you spot a small blondeish figure skipping round Mosman singing at the top of her voice – early in the morning or late in the evening– yes it’s likely to be me.

Happy New Year!

Dear, Deer, the ultimate radiator

You have to be British, or at the very least a child of a cold country, to appreciate the true beauty of a radiator.  To qualify for true radiator worship status it helps to have passed a childhood jostling for a perch on a school radiator despite their bottom unfriendly design with cast iron sharp ridges and the added thrill of the rumour that prolonged exposure was a surefire route to piles.  But any radiator was better than the chilly alternative, in my last year of school I was taught in what was in effect an unheated classroom, and I have memories of wearing every article of clothing I possessed to stay warm before the exasperated and presumably freezing English master gave up and invited us all round to his place, where we could study without succumbing to frostbite, whilst politely trying to ignore the dodgy poster of girl in tennis dress scratching her bottom that adorned his kitchen.

Likewise I remember my unheated bedroom at university.  Cambridge is possibly the coldest place in England, with a Siberian wind that crackles straight across the Fens.  Rather than getting undressed to go to bed, I doubled the layers, and clambered into my tracksuit as a last layer of insulation, hard to overestimate the attraction of this particular outfit, and attempted to build a type of nest with the bedclothes.  It is safe to say I would have killed for a radiator at that particular point in my life.

Sydney houses and flats quite often don’t do central heating, relying on the fact that winter is generally short and sweet by Northern Hemisphere standards, and where there is heating it tends be in the form of reverse cycle air conditioning or systems such as ours where hot air is puffed round the house and I do hear rumours of underfloor heating in newbuilds – quite enough to make my toes curl with delight, but in general radiators are pretty much an unknown concept aside from their wimpy cousins, the towel rails.

My Australian friends are thus somewhat perplexed by my latest fashion passion on the home d├ęcor front, though my more heat challenged Kiwi friends get the concept of marrying warmth with good looks.  The November 24 th/ 25 th edition of my favourite read – the Weekend FT, published the most fabulous article by Kate Watson-Smyth entitled “The Heat of the Moment”, highlighting some of the modern takes on the traditional radiator.

I love it when I see something clever and utilitarian that represents a completely new approach to a standard boring bit of life and these fabulous radiators shaped like paperclips, paper dolls or in the piece de resistance, a deer, were enough to bring me out in a heat induced hot flush.  I just love the deer created by Gewoon Guus of the Netherlands, and defy anyone not to look at it and smile.  I now have my heart set on buying a herd of them to place in the hallway of the baronial Scottish mansion that I am obviously going to require in order to do my stunning new radiators justice.  Given the price tag, Husband is less keen on the herd of heat radiating deer idea – not to mention the baronial mansion purchase, but then when it comes to radiator fashion he’s got no eye for deer – or no eye deer in possibly the worst pun ever – 2013 can only raise the tone.

Happy New Year and may all your celebrations be warm ones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It must be Christmas - the Agapanthus is out

Getting back on a blog is a bit like getting back on a bicycle I’ve decided – you’ve got to just tell yourself it’ll all come back and push off – though I do have a very clear memory of hurtling down a hill on a friend’s borrowed bike years ago and thinking “OOPS” in the best cartoon character manner.

I stopped writing the blog in May because one of the Drama Queens became seriously ill. At first there was no room for anything trivial in my life and then as things calmed down a bit I realised it was her story, not mine, but I found it impossible to write as if nothing was happening in my life. Fortunately we are now emerging from what has been a challenging year – and that’s been polite and restrained in my assessment of it, and there is a definite sense of everyone picking up their lives again, so I feel it’s time to mount the bike, perhaps not close my eyes, but certainly push off down the hill and see where it takes me again.

There are certain signs that that the Australian summer season has kicked in.

1. The Geese getting fat is obviously a traditional sign of Christmas and in the spirit of things I am swelling in a Magic Pudding type manner owing to the amount of chocolates floating around the house.
2. Sydney is a swag of blue as all the Agapanthus flowers are out, although they are originally native to South Africa, they line the streets here and are such a joyous counterpoint to all the festive green and red.

3. The lawn had suddenly sprouted large pits and holes overnight where the deranged dog has attempted to dig up the crickets that come out at this time of year.
4. This ritual rearrangement of the lawn leads directly to the annual inclusion of a stuffed and mounted dog on Husband’s Christmas wishlist.
5. One of the most fabulous things to do in Sydney in January and February is to go to the Outdoor Cinema in the Botanic Gardens and yet again I have managed to miss getting the tickets I wanted. It is a totally magical experience as the screen rises up against the back drop of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Tickets went on sale at 9am on December 13th and in what has become a annual event – I went online at 9.05a.m. and discovered that I was too late and far from the anticipated treat of gazing at Hugh Jackman in ‘Les Miserables’, the only thing left I fancied was ‘The Sweeney’. However actually the whole thing is such fun with pre film drinks and food in one of the most spectacular settings in the world plus delicious ice creams to clasp as the music starts up, that really the film isn’t that important – plus there is the added bonus that now the Botanic Gardens have persuaded the huge colony of fruit bats that dominated the gardens to move on, one’s chances of being shat on by a bat mid film, have decreased significantly.
6. Wishlists have mysteriously appeared on the fridge – including one for the dog who as mentioned will be lucky to survive the festive season intact. The unfortunate downside of these lists is everyone in the family seems to seize upon the easiest object resulting in the lucky DQ who is about to receive 2 identical tea strainers – a girl can never have enough is what I say. (Though in an aside here I should point out I have just been informed by DQ no.2 that she knows of 3 separate people who are giving me identical family organiser calendars – an unsubtle theme going on here I feel.)
7. The Christmas tree – or what passes for a Christmas tree in Sydney is looking shaky in terms of lasting to the actual day. Our first year here we travelled miles to purchase an “American style” tree, hotly and bear in mind how hot it can get at this point of the year, pursuing an unrealistic dream of a fabulous spruce or Norwegian fir that would recreate our New York State Christmas experience – ho ho ho are the only appropriate words to mutter as we discovered that American style translates into an unfortunate native conifer hacked into a rough triangle.
8. It is at this point in the festive season too that it dawns upon me that one of the very few downsides of Christmas on the beach is the realisation that this is going to entail me donning suitable beach wear on Christmas morning and I have a suspicion that last year’s miracle hold swimsuit might have in a display of fellow feeling, succumbed to middle aged sag.
9. I also realise how much I love the Aussie Christmas season, it’s hard to be too uptight when the sun is shining, the back of the house is opened up to the breeze and the hammock is up in the garden. Plus one of the great benefits of the climate is the opportunity to mix hot and cold traditions so we’ll be having oysters, tuna tartare, prawns, turkey, roast potatoes and a number of salads in a glorious mix of cultures.