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Cloudy horizon

Sky skyDear London,

You have not been the easiest city to love. Your weather tantrum can be atrocious and unpredictable, your taste in food is tragic and when you decide to turn your sun light out by 3 in the afternoon during winter months I wonder why I bother. Yet, for some reason or another the thought of leaving you is making me decidedly unhappy.  You are lots of fun to be with and although the idea of never quite knowing what will happen each day can be terrifying, it is also exhilarating.

I wish our time is longer, but I guess it is not meant to be for now…

With less than 12 hours left in London, the inevitable panic starts to set in. I still can’t believe I am actually leaving this country, with so many things I have yet to see and experience. At the same time, I can honestly say that I am glad I came and took a gamble by coming here. It had been grand, and beautiful at the same time. It frighten me that I have no idea what will happen when I return back to Sydney, whether I will settle back to my old life, or whether I will still be pining for this country and everything I’m missing, like the Bust London Summer Craftacular that’s happening this Saturday, or a weekend photo trip to Salisbury.

Between the sky and the seaI still have so many photos left unprocessed to go through and post, and I can imagine it will be very surreal to look at photos of cloudy, green Ireland in sunny Sydney. Incidentally, these photos were taken on a weekend away with some friends as we wandered through the southern cost of the Republic of Ireland, ending somewhere close to Dingle.

So French…in London

Vive la crepeA very dear friend came for a visit last fortnight and true to style we ended up spending most of our time eating and drinking in London. Despite its at times, well deserved reputation of the city where a tastebud is an abstract concept, we managed to entertain ourselves drinking and eating our merry ways through London.

Take La Creperie de Hampstead for example, well known for its crepe buttery goodness. I could have sworn my tastebud swooned the moment the chocollate and banana filling reached my mouth. If there is a little bit of callory heaven in London, this is it and it is perhaps the best crepe this side of the chanel. At the same time, I am somewhat relieved that I didn’t find out about this place earlier, or my waistline would have exponentially increased with each visit.

Open from midday, you can find it at:
77 Hampstead High Street
London, NW3, United Kingdom

Talking about all things French, I nearly forgot that I saw Soko in Camden a couple of weeks ago. Best known for her song “I’ll Kill Her”, she refused to play the song throughout the entire gig and threw the content of a bottle of a water on an audience member that was heckling her. The show itself started off playfully, with plenty of giggles and banter, but after the dozen or so “new song” she insisted on playing it was becoming ridicilously self-indulgent. By 11:30pm I left the show, along with half of the audience member leaving only the die hard myspace/youtube fans to continue filming the rest of the show.

Soko

Auditing for the masses

It’s Sunday evening, you had a fun filled day eating all the best bits at the Taste Festival, ideally this would be the best time for you to wind down the rest of the day.

Right?

Somehow I managed to bump into the Guardian’s rather brilliant idea to outsource looking at just under half a million expense and claims documents, by asking the public to do it. The idea is rather ingenous really, all documents are scanned and the reviewer is asked to categorise the document into 4 types, note any items of interest and enter line items. Being nosy for the good of the community, and sad person that I am, I am rather mesmerised by the whole thing. The majority of the documents are dull and straight forward, but being able to pull out any pages requiring investigation turns the entire excercise into a quest for possible corruption.

Fun for the whole family, and it’s just not me who’s doing it either looking at the number of pages reviewed in the past few days.

All packed up and nowhere to go

Moving DayThe longest day of the year is today and I can believe it. I’m typing at half past ten at night and even now, the sky is still a dusky purple. It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was still recovering from jet lag and a week before, I was back in Australia. Even more difficult to believe that 12 months ago I first moved into this apartment with a group of strangers, armed with nothing more than two bags and wide-eyed optimism.

Credit crunch snackPerhaps it’s true that luck is a frame of mind. I felt lucky when I landed in London a year ago, hopeful in finding new experiences, faces and adventures. Since then, Recession 2.0 smashed the economy and I somehow managed to exile myself in Sydney for no good reason. I don’t know what the second year in London will bring, it’s still undecided whether I can spend the year in the country past August, so many things are beyond my control at the moment.

So today felt a little surreal…packing up all my belongings into 7 boxes, a far cry from the backpack I had in the beginning. Even more disturbing was the nagging thought that I will be homeless for the next few weeks, while waiting to see whether I will be going back home to Australia or stay in the UK. Regardless of the outcome, it is uncomfortable to be reminded that my time here is finite. To that end I should just make the most of this short, but significant part in my life and experience as many different things as I can.

Small pleasures such as sitting in Regent’s Park after finding the most decent cheap coffee I had at Markus Coffee for £1.50 and a plate of the most buttery baklavas from Ranoush Juice for £1.00. An absolute bargain during these oh so lean times and the sun was complimentary too…

What’s up duck?

Suspicious looking duck

Last weekend was partially spent visiting London Wetland Centre in Barnes admiring beady eyed fowls as they stared back with avian suspicion/ curiosity. I heard a while back that there was a wetland centre in London, but it did not prepare me for the fact that the centre was actually embedded within walking distance of London’s suburbia.

WWT Barnes

If you look very closely at the picture above you can almost spot the houses on the horizon. The effect was a little surreal as I wandered around rather aimlessly gazing at birds that I could not tell apart even as I try.

“Moor hen you say, hem yes, yes can definitely see one” actually translates in my head as “oh look, it’s another brown bird. Isn’t that the same brown bird as before, oh wait it’s a different species”

Pirochan if you are reading this, I would definitely drag you to see the centre if you ever come a visiting, being the bird fan that you are, but I am hoping whenever that is, the variety of birds will be a lot bigger than what I saw.

WWT Barnes

As for me, the past few weeks had been exhausting. I am not very good at coping with limbo and right now there are just too many things beyond my control that I would not be able to do anything about except wait. My flight is booked for next week to go back home and as much as I am looking forward to see my family and friends it dawned on me that I am actually starting to build a life in this country. In many ways I had been incredibly lucky in meeting the wonderful, gorgeous people I have made friends with over the past few months and that made the biggest difference. The thought of not being able to come back to the UK (touch wood), should anything happen to my application left me cold.

WWT Barnes

Pancake Tuesday and Owl Parliament

Blue berry pancakes

Finding it difficult to believe that Easter is round the corner and with today being Pancake Today to boot. I cheated with the photo, it was taken on Sunday when one of my housemate decided to cook pancakes for everyone. He did repeat the performance today, cooking a batch of blueberry pancakes for his workmates. If you would like to recreate this wonder yourself the recipe is here.

Owl Parliament

I did go to church on the weekend, but not for the traditional reason. Owl Parliament was an all day folk festival held at the Union Chapel in Islington, a functioning church with a rather innovative approach to raising money. It was easily the most unusual venue I have been to, especially when we sat down in our pew and saw  the large stained glass window looming behind the stage.

Owl Parliament

Part of the attraction was to see the incomparable Laura Marling perform. Unfortunately we were late to come back from the dinner break and only saw her for a good twenty minutes or so. The rest of the line up included: Jeffrey Lewis, Herman Düne, Johnny Flynn, Mechanical Bride, Planet Earth, Peggy sue, We Aeronauts and Stars of Sunday League. I am not sure if we just had the misfortune of missing out the better acts because we were late, but I was not that impressed with the acts we managed to catch; Jeffrey Lewis (pretentiously  unfunny) or Herman Düne (isn’t this the same song?). I was rather disappointed to miss out on Johnny Flynn, but at least he’s local enough that the chance of catching him in the future is high.

Owl Parliament

Owl Parliament Owl Parliament Owl Parliament

I heart spring

I heart snowdrop

Snowdrops signaled the first sign of spring I was told. Not too sure if this applied to Snowdrops grown in a hot house, but I like to think so. The sky is finally brightening up and the days are finally getting longer and if the only sign to even remotely confirm this is a white flower with a heart shaped mark then I’ll take that as a yes.

Orchids

I wandered down to Kew Gardens on the weekend, hence the rather surprising number of flowers in this post. Incidentally if you love orchids then a visit to the many hot houses is a must. It made me feel rather nostalgic being surrounded by orchids, my grandmother used to grow a number of varieties and when we were very very good, we were allowed a closer sniff. Personally I was always rather tempted to steal a blossom or ten, but knew that my grandmother counted the number of buds that bloomed every day.

Iris

Random flower

This year also marked Kew Gardens’ 250th anniversary. A number of activities and exhibitions were planned, with the Tropical Extravaganza being the first of many. It felt a little surreal seeing areas sectioned off as Australia and Oceania with plants being oh so carefully sign posted when I grew up with a number of them growing on the road side or my own backyard.

Kew's birthday

Speaking of home and on a more serious note,  the Australian Red Cross are accepting donation for the Victorian bushfire appeal. There are a number of ways that the knitting community are contributing to the cause that you can participate in.

Cactus close up

Freaky Valentine

When valentine invades

What happened when Friday the 13th was the day before Valentine’s Day? Aside from the horror of heart shaped sashimi and (I suspect) a heart shaped axe being sold somewhere by a canny entrepreneur or two somewhere, the two rarely meets.

Zombie flashmob...

On Friday I wandered down to London Bridge to catch a glimpse of a flash mob dressed as zombies. Unfortunately the zombie mob was outnumbered by the photographers mob and the rather wary looking police force overlooking the entire scene. It was nothing like the impressive mob from last year’s World Zombie Day crowd, but I found the whole thing rather comical.

Lemon butter cookies

As for today, I was adamant not to touch anything remotely heart shaped. However after walking down Hampstead high street and being ambushed by everything from heart shaped cakes, cookies and giant signage I gave up and bought some heart shaped cutters. The recipe for these lemon butter cookies came from here. I added vanilla extract, but otherwise did not alter in any way. It was a nice simple recipe that would have been easy to alter, switching the lemon for vanilla, rose of attar or any other random flavour. I should have glazed the cookies before baking them, but otherwise I was quite happy with the way it turned out, buttery with a hint of lemon tang.

Lemon butter cookies

Snow day part 2

Snow Day 2009

I was hoping for another snow day today, but after watching the snow turn to rain it is looking increasingly unlikely. Like every other Londoner on Monday we were stuck at home with all modes of transport crippled to a halt. Buses were down, trains were canceled and the underground was chaotic. With so many to do, what else could we do but make pancakes and drink Irish coffee before running off to Prim Rose hill.

Snow Day 2009

Snow Day 2009

Early snow meant an early summer so they say, but this was and is rather difficult to believe when temperature is still so cold and the sky is still so gray.

Snow Day 2009

Part of the charm was the sheer surprise of it all. Having to travel somewhere to see snow in the past, it was rather magical to see big fat drops of it just outside my window. I learned to my dismay that making snow man was actually hard work! Our hands kept freezing as we rolled and packed the snow. Somehow my very sensible idea of claiming someone else’s snowman as ours was vetoed for not good reason!

Snow Day 2009

Snow Day 2009

Let it snooow

Cold winter night

I was about to blog about something else when something rather magical happened. It snowed. Not the horrible, spity bits from the sky but proper fluffy snow. Even now as I look out the window, the ground is almost gone from view and every flat surface is  now white.

Snow!

With such freaky going on we did what any sensible soul would do when given the choice between staying indoor where it is nice and warm with plenty of heating and freezing outside with the chance of catching pheunomia. We ran outside and started a snow fight. It felt surreal, cold and a lot more fun than I expected. Now if this continues I have no option, but to work from home for the next few days!

Snowfight

Flaky snow Budget snow man