Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Different sides of the street - which side do you walk?

One of the things I have loved about living in different countries is the writing and books you discover.  America was a classic case, I arrived there in 2002 convinced on the basis of loving Alison Lurie, that I knew all about American writers and of course had my arrogance and naivety immediately blown away by the talent and wonder of Barbara Kingsolver, Wally Lamb, Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler to name just a few contemporary American authors.  I can still remember sitting in the Rye Free Reading Room, reading Wally Lamb’s “I Know This Much Is True.” and just going ‘WOW’.

Likewise Australia has been a delight in terms of introducing me to authors such as Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Peter Temple and Craig Silvey. 

However it is not just novels that one discovers, great realms of poetry appear, and in America I came back to Robert Frost, via one of the children’s school books, and some of his lines do just stay with me, in particular these lines from “The Road Not Taken”.

“I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I am a creature of habit, I have walked the same road, every morning at about 6 a.m. with small adjustments for light and downpours, same dog, same route, same coffee stop at Arena’s Deli at 7 a.m. every morning where I nod to the other regulars and then last week I decided to take the road less travelled by, and I walked up the other side of the street and discovered the joy of a new view, a fabulous new bakery that I had never realised existed  - (it’s been there for a least a year apparently so spot the woman with her finger on the pulse) – La Banette, purveyors of baguettes, hot from the oven at that time of the morning, conjuring up the taste of France via Vietnam. 

La Banette

Having decided stepping out of the groove is good for the soul – if not the waistline, (baguette with butter and jam anyone?) I then followed the bakery detour up with a visit to the Night Noodle Markets that set up in Sydney’s Hyde Park during Sydney’s Good Food Month.  Fabulous idea, set up 40 stalls selling every variety of Asian street food, add in chairs and tables, open up at 5pm every night and wait for the masses to roll in.  Colour for the eye, tongue and the all important soul and I am coming to the conclusion I should be setting myself a goal, were it not for the fact that my goal keeping record is pretty abysmal, but anyway one can only aspire - so here goes for a goal.   I should be either a) doing something I’ve never done before, b) reading an new author or c) taking the other side of the road as it were, every week.

Sydney's Night Noodle Markets

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Trafalgar Day - wish I could say as the smoke clears

Happy Trafalgar Day – 208 years since Horatio Nelson’s naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21st 1805.  The only reason I know this bit of trivia is that it is also the birthday of one of my three brothers, so Happy Birthday Alasdair, and your present is in the post.  This tardiness on the present front comes despite the fact that Husband has just set a world record on the international mail front and proved it is possible to send something from the US to Australia in two days.  However the downside to this speediness is that if you are absent minded and fail to specify that when you say ‘Airmail’ you don’t actually mean “Fedex the dammed thing”, you subsequently discover the modern equivalent of a man running full speed with a forked stick is in fact very, very expensive.

Out on the water this morning on one of my rowing outings, it did in fact feel a bit like being on a Trafalgar Day type naval battlefield, not because of any crowded conditions as in fact we had Middle Harbour to ourselves as we rowed up the river, but more as a result of the smoke drifting down through the gum trees and trickling over the sandstone cliffs.  The huge bushfires that are burning outside Sydney are a good hour’s drive away, but the smoke from exploding bushland clouds the city sky and creates the type of sullen, yellowing light that I associate with the end of the world.  Unfortunately New South Wales is due for a further round of hot, windy days so the fire fighters who have already been battling blazes for days, have a mammoth task in front of them in their efforts to protect various townships and property.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

“Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot,” I just love these clips with the music from Bina Mistry from the end of   ‘Bend it like Beckham’, which has to be one of the original feel good movies.  

Whenever I see actors and production crews goofing around and obviously having a really good time, as they were in these clips, I find it almost impossible to imagine bankers and teachers cavorting around having such fun and I am thus tempted to rush off and enrol myself in NIDA, the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, for after all there must be some roles for middle aged ladies with a good track record.  As a tone-deaf child it was a requirement of my totally terrifying primary school music teacher who was an ex opera singer with the requisite chest to match, that I make an appearance on stage rather than wrecking her choir.  My great dramatic moments thus included a baby angel (a number of times) and lured on by this early success, numerous senior school productions including a totally dreadful Mrs Sullen in a Restoration comedy called The Beaux Stratagem (with hindsight I cannot think what madness overcame the Glasgow Academy master who chose that one as there has never been a play less suitable for a school packed with teenage boys).  I had a ball as one of the four girls imported into the cast to provide the love interest but I don’t think any of the cast – or indeed the audience, ever understood what on earth was going on in the play.  My dramatic career may have peaked with a performance as an “Old Etonian Fag and Friend” in ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ – funny how some lines stay in your mind for ever, just recalling my 16 year old appearance in plus fours and a cap also makes me wonder why my girls’ school didn’t return the dramatic favour and import some boys for the roles that called fairly obviously for a bit of testosterone. 

‘Bend it like Beckham’ and actors hamming it up aside, ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ applies to Sydney today.  34 oC or 93 oF today at 4pm, with a hot wind blasting through.  The Drama Queens and I took ourselves off down to the beach at 6pm, the water temperature is about 20 oC and was cold enough compared to the air temperature to provide an initial shock, but such bliss to come out of the water and be warm within seconds – being a product of windswept Scottish beaches where running up and down the beach was required to restart circulation and no one in their right mind stood still to let the wind dry them off for fear of hypothermia setting in, I find warm weather bathing an ongoing treat, particularly when followed by a walk along the beach to the bottle shop to buy an ice cream.  Doesn't come any better than a small tub of Ben and Jerry's, sitting with my girls on the esplanade watching the beach day come to an end.  

The wind is getting up this evening as I type as what is called a ‘Southerly Buster’ blows in and cools everything down, but there is a joyous feeling that even if the stage fails to beckon me forward into the spotlight, there is at least the long, hazy days of a Sydney summer where the locals don’t wear shoes, to look forward to.