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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Festive Britain

So Christmas is over and its back to work tomorrow, albeit just for 3 days and it should be pretty quiet. Heres a shot of the inside of my lovely offices with a bit of a sunset happening outside.

The Christmas season never seemed quite right in the sunshine for me, I took a wander along the Thames and took some night time shots the other week with everything feeling very festive

I did take a small dent in my determination not to be sucked into the English doom and gloom machine when the cold and snow was at its worst, and when i took a cheapy flight to Faro in Portugal and managed to spend the whole time in a hotel room with a nasty stomach bug and flu all at once, but a Christmas weekend with Sharon in front of the telly with lots of food has set me back on track again!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Froth and Nonesense

EmmaEmma by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wonderful thing about an Austen is that to be honest not a great deal actually happens, but yet it manages to remain entertaining. What I like to call frothy nonesense. Its all Bonnets at Dawn and Whos scheming to marry who to who, who fallen head over heels but has ideas above their station, who looks down on everyone but has the manners of a cart horse, who needs a good lie down or a turn around the garden etc etc.

Austens dialoge is superb and very entertaining.. Her hypochondriac father is a favourite :

"A man," said he, "must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks
people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as
this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most
agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest
absurdity--Actually snowing at this moment!--The folly of not allowing
people to be comfortable at home--and the folly of people's not staying
comfortably at home when they can!..."

And another example of her wit and way with words

"Some change of countenance was necessary for each gentleman as they walked into Mrs Westons drawing room - mr Elton must compose his joyous looks, and mr John Knightly disperse his ill humour. Mr Elton must smile les, and mr John Knightly more, to fit them for the place - Emma only might be as nature prompted, and shew herself just as happy as she was. "

And more entertaining nonesense :

"Emmas very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and he had sendf for a chaise and set off intending to return to dinner, but with no more important vie that appeared than having his hair cut. There was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such and errand; but there was an air of foppery and nonesense in it which she could not approve."

Mrs Bates never shuting up and finishing a scentece and Mrs Eltons stuck up mutton dressed as lamb were other favourites.

Emma herself is quite flawed - a total snob. But i find Austens books to be such a fascinating glimpse into another society. This really was how life was like amongst a certain set. It certainly has none of the gritty realism of Gaskell - -none of these folk have done a stroke of work in their lives, about as far as anyone will fall is to have to contemplate being a governess. But nonetheless its facinating to see the trials and tribulations of ladies in the country with nothing much better to do with themselves that visit each others houses and matchmake.

Its probably a four and a half - I wouldnt want any more of it, and you definately have to be in the mood for it, but i loved it none the less.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wintery London Adventures

My first morning heading up to Central London to report for work (one day late due to Anti government protesters!) was atmoshpericaly foggy - like a sherlock holmes novel.I could barely see the other side of the river as I walked across Vauxhall bridge.

My building is where that big tower is peeking out tof the mist in the pic to the right. Its Shared with the Conservatives on level 3 (I enjoy spotting toffee nosed Tory types as they get in the lift and guessing which floor they will disembark..somtimes i feel like waving a placard at em!)

Ive been loving the location, once i emerge like a canned sardine from my train..if i can position myself tactically close enough to the exit so i can get to it before the train leaves... then i have the River to cross, views of London that just get better as i get into my office. Its easy to be distracted when you can see the Union Jack flying off the top of the Houses of Parliament as your being trained!.

Lunchtimes have seen forays into the Tate gallery a few doors down, a lovely leafy square close by for sandwiches.albeit in the cold. And a lovely church square surrounded by Georgian terraces. (Remember you can click on any of the pics for close ups)

This morning i emerged from the house to be greeted by virgin snow on the driveway which caused a flurry of excitement! I saw snowflakes falling throughout most of the day from my offices and trudged through some mini drifts of it to get home. Chilly but fun!

It certainly feels like the right place for a Christmas Market by the riverside complete with chestnuts! Now Nat and I just have to find our dream home...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Waverley Cemetary Sydney

On my last afternoon in Sydney I took myself down to Waverley Cemetary with my book, it was sunny and i found a warm spot for a power nap in the grass and a read. Cemetraries are peaceful places I find. This one is a particularly historical one with a fine view over the sea.

A Polish bodice ripper

Push Not the RiverPush Not the River by James Conroyd Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up a suitably bendy and well loved copy of this one at a good friends in Wales a little while book. Set amongts dramatic political changes in late 18th Century Poland at a similar time to the French Revolution, It is supposedly based on the real life diary of the main character which came into the hands of the author somehow via one of her descendants. A real life connection with Historical Fiction - asssuming the fiction is well researched is always a bit of a bonus. I went to Krakow a couple of months ago too so it was nice to have a Polish set read. Theres a suitably scandalous scheming second lead in the shape of Zofia, the cousin you love to hate. A great foil for the ever so slightly too goody two shoes Anna. All in all its a great period romp and quite an incredible life story even if only half of it were true.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010


"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart,
and can sing it back to you
when you have forgotten the words."

This is my good friend Symon, who is still living in sunny Sydney. We have shared stories, laughter, silliness, axnts, holidays, places to live, cafe breakfasts, music and many more things over the last 13years. He likes the cold and the rain (as long as he is inside), the colour green, frogs, dogs and all things shiny like a magpie.

He lives in a great loft style studio which hes made his own and gets to walk to work in the city past views such as this... which he enjoyed rubbing in, when i wes there to leave Sydney behind and come to London!..

He is a true friend and I will miss him greatly now that I am in London.

I hope that he finds the strength to follow his dreams..

This is Symon hanging upsidedown..which is a very Symon thing to do....

Monday, November 8, 2010

London -San Francisco - Sydney - London

My Life is so complicated right now!. So no posts on here for over a month, sorry folks. After my gorgeous little English countryside trip in early October it was time to sort my life out and figure out what the bloody hell I was going to do next. Now generally I find it hard to decide what to have for dinner let alone what life choices to make. I had however had the feeling that I wantd a bit of a change on embarking on this adventure so I did put all my stuff in storage. Now after much deliberation I've decided to give living in London another bash, this time hopefully living and working fairly centrally. So this week ive been back in Sydney going through 10 years of aquired stuff, Ebaying and donating and generally stressing over lists of things to do - but this Friday is it - flying back to London. Meanwhile on my hastily arranged flight back to Sydney last week I did manage to squeeze in a 2 night stopover in San Francisco. This was a welcome break from all the organisation and stressing, it was nice to feel 'on holiday' again. I hadnt been in San Francisco for about 20 years. The last time i remember deliberately dropping my guide book in a cafe and mumbling something in deliberately emphasised Queens English in a (successfull) attempt at picking up a local. We ended up on a mini break up through the redwoods. I used to love how shallow people were about a twinky 21 year old with an English accent!. I have to say it doesnt quite have the same effect when youre 42 with a mongrel pommy/aussie accent!. Anyway i very much enjoyed wandering about and taking my snaps. Could be the last set for a little bit so enjoy

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Millennium #3

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium, #3)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it - needless to say, after the first two, there wasnt much doubt this one would be a winner too. A friend wss saying to me the other day, she wasnt going to read these becuase everyone was and they they were books for people who didnt normally read. I say - beleive the hype, they really are great page turner reads, they are smart and clever and unusual. Great characterisation. I love the Swedish setting, with Swedish sensibilities and a very modern socially sound feeling to them. This ones very phychological - Lisbeth spends much of the book within one room but still manages to be a captivating central character. Blomqvist is the new James Bond - actually i was a little dissapointed with him copping off with yet another character in this one as it was a little too Bondy but i still like his no strings relationship with Berger. I must admit although it can never be the same - i think i would quite like someone to continue to write sequels to these -preferably a Swede

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Stately Omes and heritage

At the start of October I came back to the UK and went of for another lovely B&B break with Mum and Dad for more English Heritage and pub dinners. Lovley jubbly. We went to Sherborne Abbey with its incredible gothic arches and fan vaulting. I loved the light streaming in. This photo was inspured by that famous portrait of the Queen at her coronation in Westminster Abbey with that dramatic depth of field and arch behind her..

We went for a forest walk near Golden Cap on the coast, Forde Abbey and Athlehampton Manor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The Knight of Maison-RougeThe Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Classic French bodice-ripper based around various plots to free the captive Marie Antoinette in French Revolution Paris. Bit slow to start and in danger of being as deathly awful and grim as Dickens' Tale of 2, from the same era. Its not easy to sit through grim as grim can be Paris with heads rolling left right and centre, im very loathe to pick up the lengthy Les Mis now. In Dumas style though, there is humour and it does reach a swashbuckling page turner pace for the 2nd half. Really not a patch on Count of Monte Cristo or Queen Margot though unfortunately.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Poland - Krakow

Its hard to believe that just last week I was eating dumplings in cold and rainy Poland. It was quite a shock to the system after the Middle East and Greece, my first reminder of the general climate of Northern Europe that I was raised in. The sun surprisingly has decided to show itself again in the UK where I am now. It comes across as a pretty prosperous and livable city and I enjoyed spending some quality time with my parents there.

Krakow is one of only a handful of cities in Europe lucky enough to emerge from the war, architecturaly (if not emotionaly) unscathed and has an extremely well preserved medieval old town as well as an impressive hilltop castle - the 'Wawel', seat of the Polish kings and site of thier coronations and burials. We did also manage to get out of the town and visited Czestochowa monastary, home to the much 'Black Madonna', so much revered in Poland that it was officialy crowned Queen and Protector of the Polish Nation and is believed to be responsible for several miracles. Despite the years of Communist rule, Poland came across as fervently and devoutly Catholic, no doubt partly due to Pope John Paul II being from here - something they are clearly very proud of. I had a momentary panic while taking my turn to file past the icon when everyone in front of me decided to get down on their knees and proceed to work their way round the chapel like that. I wasnt quite ready to join them. On the way back from Czestochowa we stopped off at Pieskowa Skala Castle which has a section of the Wawel museum based there and an interesting collection of historical furnature (doesnt sound that gripping I hear you cry! - I really am quite a nerd at heart.)

Heres the pics..

Friday, October 1, 2010

Travel Philosophy Number 8 - A Thirst for Knowledge

Broken Jewish Tomb Stones - Kazimerz Cemetary

Without trying to be too preachy, not everyone has the opportunity to get out and see stuff in the world, sometimes people have not been able to travel outside their own town, and perhaps due to the media they are fed by which ever governement they live under (North Korea's been popping up on BBC World alot in the last few days), they may have a pretty limited understanding of the larger world around them. I always feel a certain responsibility to myself to learn as much as I can while I'm traveling. A good day is a day that sends you to Google to research something further.

Without setting out for it to be that way, this trip has been quite a religeous education for me. As I've said previously, I dont hold any strong religious beliefs, but at the same time, the concept, culutural traditions, shared beliefs and historical backgounds of the major religions is fascinating and learning more gives you a much deeper understanding of the world today. It just so happened that Ive ended up travelling through Biblical lands and Muslim countries and now in Krakow I am in what was once one of the most important centres of Jewish culture in Europe. I say 'was' in that there are now only approximately 200 practicing Jews in the city following the devastation of the war, but then it is still a major site of Jewish pilgrimage and has the grave of a prominent Jewish holy man. We hired our own local guide to give us a walking tour of Kazimerz, the historical Jewish disctrict. We visited Synagogues and learned alot about Jewish culture and traditions.

Learning stuff is not neccesarily always a fun experience either - our next stop was the site of the wartime ghetto, where the local Jewish population were moved into and literally walled in - a starting indication of the deliberate cruelty was the fact that the ghetto walls were made in the shape of Jewish tombstones. Close to there was the Oscar Schindler factory. with an excellent newly completed exhibition on Nazi occupied Krakow. Not an easy exhibition to go around, even though it was housed in a place linked to an uplifting message - i.e the thousand or so jews on 'Schindlers List' who he managed to save.

Finaly an experience which is hard to describe and whilst certainly not being enjoyable, was profoundly moving and again a travel experience to learn and take something away from - Auschwitz.

I found the diverging train tracks at Auschwitz II - Birkenau, where someone had left flowers at the junction quite symbolic as essentially when people arrived at the camp and got down from the trains the first thing that happened was the 'selection' where they would either go to the left if deemed fit enough to work or to the right - straight to the gas chambers and cremetoria if not.

Also very effective for putting things into perspective were the collections of possessions found in warehouses on liberation of the camps. When you look at the piles of shoes, shaving brushes or suitcases and really imagine each one belonging to a different person, and that these were just a tiny proportion found there at the end, it gives you some idea of just how many people passed through these camps where in the words of Rudolph Hess, the only way out was through the cremetoria chimneys. And then of course this collection of 3 camps was not the only one in operation in Europe.

I've been joined in Krakow by my 80 year old parents who were in their early teens during the war. My mother found the Auschwitz camp experience particularly unsettling I think, as she remembers very strongly feeling petrified as a girl of the Germans being succesful in their attempt to invade Britain and what would happen to her if they did. As it was they lived through the air raids and remember the bombs. It does make you think how lucky you were to be born in a certain place though - i.e on an Island as opposed to just over the border from Nazi Germany.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Millennium #2

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Im still going with a 5 even though I'd peg it v slighlty below the first one, I think for me more because the concept was fresher for me the first time round. That said though, its just as much of a page turner and Salander is simply awesome as the lead character, really coming into her own. She's ruthless. Brilliant. Im tempted to drop a point for all the pointless name dropping - I really dont need to know the details of each bit of Ikea furnature she buys or be told shes having a cafe latte in italics each time she has one. Though being a coffee addict I do quite enjoy the endless coffee drinking in these books!. The extent of the computer hacking was quite disturbing - I presume the author new his stuff as he was evidently a computer nerd - so im guessing that all that went on was pretty much possible, you have to wonder how much of that really does go on. I like the anti-establishment stance of the books too. All in all another winner and like last time I'll probably struggle to find a suitable follow on book to read after something so fast paced.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Unlocking Santorini

For those of you that don't know, Santorini is basically one big exploded volcano that the sea has flooded, with the big cliffs forming what was the caldera and a small smoking volcanic island remaining in the middle. The top notch address in any of the towns and villages is to be on the 'Caldera' side and thus be perched on the cliff face with that incredibly dramatic view of azure blue sea. Theres certainly something to be said for that, although its easily accesible for stroll and a cafe if you cant afford the prices of those glamourous boutique properties.

I was certainly happy in the end with my small village but within walking distance of one of the main scenic towns. I noticed that prices in Firostefani and Imerovigli are marginaly less that that of the main town of Fira and the view is just as dramatic if not more, as they are higher up. I suspect that in peak season it might actualy be preferable to stay somewhere out of central Fira. I personaly would still pick a property that your going to be happy to relax and chill in as its that kind of destination. I didnt venture as far as the beaches on the other side of the island, be warned that they are volcanic though - so black sand. Really Santorini is all about those cliff top vistas, impossibly photogenic white washed houses with blue doors, dramaticaly positioned eateries, steps and paths leading to tucked away cafes and bars. Just wandering and soaking up the atmosphere. Theres few places that can compete with its inpossibly romantic setting.

Dog on the Hot Rocks

This post is dedicated to Symon and also Los Puppitos from Uruguay. I had planned a whole set on sleeping dogs of Santorini but ran out of battery power.

And heres a pushkin for good measure .....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Santorini Sunsets

Sunset time is big business on Santorini - It can only be described as a bit of a circus, once you get down to the end of the headland at Oia, which is THE place to see it from. Coachloads pile in for it and your hard put to find a little spot, its quite a spectacle. Everyone applauds when the Sun finaly dissapears. You cant help wondering what some of the locals make of all this, although most of them would probably be doing very nicely from it. Nat's Dad always asks me how I manage to get my shots with no one in them - I put the shot above in for you Gary, to see the mayhem just beside me as I was taking my tranquil sea shots!

The Sunset from Fira or Imerogvilgi can be just as nice, sat in a nice cafe - its funny how you get picky when theres so many great views to choose from. Today I saw the best sunset of all when I was on my way back to Finikia on the bus and just caught one nice shot of it as I walked down into the village.

Heres a slideshow of a number of sunset and sky shots taken from a few different spots on the island - they sort of go together. I hope they dont get to boring, I tried to whittle down. The problem with the sun going down is the light changes all the time and you always feel you have to take more just in case its just that little bit better.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Hey Mister... Where You from?
Mister? .. come look my shop! No Bloody Hassel Man,
just for looking OK?
Why no look my shop, is my turn?!
very beautiful OK? perhaps you like tea
Come look my mechanical camel - best quality! you like scarabeeeee?

OH..sorry where was I, for a moment I thought I was in an Egpytian bazzar, but no! I pinched myself and I can confirm that im still in fact in luxurious boutiquey Santoriniland, far from meddling pedlars, tricksters, shcheisters and disreputable merchants. Staying at length in somewhere a bit gorgeous, usualy makes me want to unpack and look at stuff, so I thought id share some of my wares with you

Lets see...what have we got?

Ah... The Egyptian Last Judgement on papyrus, this one came as a bit of a throw in with another papyrus purchase. We found quite a reputable and cheapish store in the Khan el Khaneli markets in Cairo after having a good idea of price and quality from the rest of our Egpytian travels. This piece is fairly ordinary in quality but as I say cost hardly anything. I like the Black and Golds. Sy bought a bigger and better quality version from the same shop, and Juile from our group bought the most amazing superb quality version early on in the trip. Thats where Anubis weighs your heart against a feather and if its heavy due to all your bad deeds then its to the underword you go.

This was the larger better quality one I bought at the same place as the one above. Its a copy of one of the astronomical tomb ceiling paintings. Only trouble is now im looking at it thinking, I allready have one almost the same back in London, albeit smaller and less detailed. Ive hardly seen it in ten years mind you but its there allright - perhaps I should sell this one, how much you give? Madam? you like? how much you want... come back!! (seriously I probably would actually sell this one)

And here are my Damascan Sandles! I dumped my plastic Kmarts in favour of these and have now managed to break both them and my non-sandley feet in, so quite happy wandering about in these.

Now on the left here we have my Anubis box. Cute isnt it. Its height of tourist tack and purchased for nothing in space of 5 mins but I like it.

These are my Palmryan Man-rings fit for an Emporor! (fetch me my bowl of rose-water to wash my pinkies in). I dont really wear rings, Im paranoid of ending up looking like Elton John or Liberace - but I'ts hard to resist when you have females around you trawling trough the jewelry shops and theres bargains about. Theyve been fun to bung on to go out to dinner of an evening, will see if they get worn back home. Which reminds me - I used to have a stash of Indian rings somewhere back in UK...must hunt down.

Below is my Marquetry Treasure Box - bought in the Damascus Souk, pretty cheap. Good for keeping man-rings in.

And these are my Happy Fish Vases! So dubbed because they are bright and cheery and fishy. They are from the Christian Quarter of the old city in Damascus - hence being Fishy. You know ...Jesus and Fish and all that. Actually two of them are gifts - I wonder who the lucky fishy receipients will be...

So What you think? you like you buy?


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