Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

2005. What a strange year. I spent the first seven months in Hong Kong and then took a two month holiday in India, Sydney and Singapore. I've now been in London for three months.

There were some good bits. The work that I had been doing with asylum seekers became high profile and I enjoyed the unexpected fame that came along with it. Even more than that, I was so excited and relieved that a whole group of talented people was getting involved just as I left Hong Kong.

In the Indian Himalaya I found my own Narnia, and I'm dying to go there again. In Mumbai I finally made it to Bollywood, something I've talked about for years.

London hasn't been what I expected but I'm going to give it time. In the meantime, I will allow myself to start whinging again tomorrow.

Yay for 2006.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boxing Day

After all the eating, I went for a country walk with my aunt, uncle and cousins on Boxing Day. Things still look pretty autumnal in this photo, warm spring temperatures apparently delayed the plants this year. Still, it's going to be cold this week with heavy snow across eastern England. I'm going to Birmingham today to stay with my family for a few days, I hope the snow makes it there!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

I hope that everyone had a fantastic Christmas. Mine was a little different because I had Christmas dinner on Christmas eve and then went to midnight mass. I'd never been to a Catholic church before and Westminster Cathedral was an incredible place to start. I've always wanted to go to midnight mass and I loved the way that all the lights went on and bells started ringing as soon as it went midnight. I was surprised that the service was very much like an Anglican service except for a very short prayer to Mary. The service books had run out by the time we arrived but the carols and liturgy were all very familiar.

Anyway, I should talk about the food because I have my own photos to post. Dinner was good but I realised that it is possible to put too much effort into Christmas cooking. Every single accompaniment had it's own fancy flavourings and sauces and it probably would have tasted better if everything was a little more simple. I also wished that I had ignored my concern about doing too many things at the last minute and made gravy from the turkey drippings. I had bought a fancy looking turkey gravy but it didn't taste half as good as the roasting pan smelt.

After wrestling for half an hour with the turkey pre-cooking, I was sure that I wouldn't want to eat any afterwards. I bought an organic, free-range turkey and it had a weird smell. I had to pluck quite a few quills out before doing the following preparation which reveals how strongly I was influenced by all the Christmas cooking specials in newspapers and on TV:
- washing and drying with paper towel and a hair dryer
- putting an orange and cranberry stuffing into the neck cavity
- inserting orange and onion bits and bay leaves into the body cavity
- pushing orange rind butter between the breast meat and the skin
- layering the breast with bacon

I then realised how difficult it is to tie up a 3.5kg turkey that is carrying at least one extra kilogram inside. Thankfully, it cooked well and I managed to forget my squeamishness when it came time to eat.

It was a squash around the table and a couple of people had to share a chair. Still, it was fun to sit down to a meal with five other people. Dessert was trifle and a pecan pie which were really yummy. My personal highlight, however, was getting to finally use the Chinese tea set that I bought just before leaving Hong Kong.

The highlight for most of our guests was choosing their own gingerbread man. We also had a lot of fun analysing everyone's choices. Obviously, they were not decorated by me.

The meal was not without tragedy, however, as can be seen from the unfortunate creatures below, forgotten in the oven while I was doing something else.

It's now Christmas day and after all that effort I'm enjoying doing nothing. It's just as well because everything in London is shut, including public transport!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

One chicken sneezing...

In our small office today there were six cats, one dog, two hamsters, a one-eared rabbit and this little chicken which is suffering from common cold. It's lucky I'm not too worried about avian influenza because it sneezed all day. It's very cute but if you click on the photo for an enlarged version you can see the crusty stuff around its beak.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Getting festive

After feedback from various sources that I am whinging too much I have decided to banish all negativity from this blog for the remainder of the year. For the rest of 2005 I will publish cute, inoffensive photos with minimal writing. The first is a picture of gingerbread men that I baked for my students and work colleagues today...

Saturday, December 17, 2005


It was my work Christmas party last night. I can't believe I paid 25 pounds to eat very average Thai food, subsidise a lot of alcohol and breathe other people's roll-your-own cigarrete smoke!

Secret santa was painful. I could have killed the person who insisted that we reveal who had given what to who because I had recycled a dodgy gift I got in another secret santa.

This also meant that I found out who wrote the poem to go with my gift. I had to read it out in front of everyone and it was more than a little offensive.

I'm sure it sounded hilarious when someone wrote it. As I read, people sat in uncomfortable silence feeling sorry for me.

Incase I'm still working there in a year's time I'm already thinking up excuses for not attending...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Inner city life

Unlike Hong Kong, inner city London isn't designed to be lived in. It's a place that people people visit to work, shop or see a show. It is also the hottest location for the celebrated British pastime of pavement vomiting. I try not to go out late at night - particularly on weekends.

But my biggest gripe is the difficulty of shopping for essentials. I must not fit the inner city demographic cos what they sellin I ain't buyin...

When I wanted gelatine a couple of weeks ago I had to search for days before I found a supermarket that stocked it. Every other supermarket stocked a vegetarian gelatine alternative.

Likewise when I wanted a hair cut. Salons were everywhere but it was hard to find a salon that didn't have a sign saying 'as seen in Vogue etc.'. Everything was either too pricey (thirty pounds and way upwards) or too freaky ('we also specialise in ALL types of piercings and wet body shaving').

I've decided to start doing some of my grocery shopping near my work where things are half the price. Oh, for a wet market!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Race riots were not something I expected from Sydney.

Reading about the violence that started in Cronulla made me realise how sheltered my life was in Australia.

When I was 16 I changed from a comprehensive to a selective high school. That was pretty much the end of my exposure to any racist or violent behaviour. Attending one of the most multicultural universities in the country (world?) probably gave me the false impression that Australia had moved past all that.

The events of the weekend were a shock to the way that I remember Sydney. I hope that the subsequent response gives Australian people something to be proud of.

Friday, December 09, 2005


When someone asked where I live a while ago they remarked, 'wow! you could go and watch all the film premieres in Leicester Square!'. It's not really my thing, but I stopped on the way to the supermarket yesterday to join the crowd at the premiere of King Kong.

Somehow, I managed to see all the stars arrive. I was within touching distance of Jack Black and Andy Serkis (Kong, Gollum) who stopped to sign autographs for people right in front of me. I would have been much more excited had they been Naomi Watts and Adrian Brody, who I only spotted from afar.

My personal highlight was listening to the conversations of a couple behind me. They seemed to be work colleagues with an as yet unspoken thing for each other:

Dorky Australian guy: Oh, I think that's Adrian Brody!

Giggly British girl: Oh really?

DAG: Yes, you know, he starred in that film, 'The Pianist'

GBG: Oh yes, I saw that, what did he play again?
(ooh! a classical music enthusiast?)

DAG: What do you mean?

GBG: What was his role in the film?

DAG: Um, the pianist...

Opening to less glowing reviews today was my Bollywood debut, Kalyug. I would like to make it clear at this point that the film is an expose on the porn industry and not a porn film. Having said that, I don't believe that it is a 'social issues' film as some of the promotional material is making out. It reminds me of the ridiculous spin that was put on the revolting 'Girlfriend'. Yes, of course a soft porn film about a psychotic murderess is helping the plight of Indian lesbians!

Actually, I was surprised that the review was not worse. On set, the film looked 'c' grade at best.

It will be interesting to see if the careers of my co-stars take off. Kunal (I can't believe we sat on the same sofa!) Khemu might have a chance but I'm not so sure about Deepal Shaw. It's a shame that her look in the film is so sleazy because she was gorgeous in real life.

I'm dying to see if my tiny scene made it through the editing room. If not, I'll have to head off to Mumbai again and loiter around the tourist ghetto hoping to get scouted...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fields of gold

After getting 'from your blog it seems that you don't like England very much' comments from a couple of people I feel obliged to write something positive. Luckily one thing has come to mind. I will write others as they become apparent.

As the winter solstice approaches, the sun struggles up about nine and creeps 90 degrees around the horizon before going down in the mid-afternoon. It helps if you can forget what real sunshine is like and enjoy the day as a six hour sunset/sunrise. Unfortunately, clouds or buildings (they don't have to be high) usually keep the sun out of view.

On the train to Birmingham on Saturday I had a moment. It reminded me of the first time I looked up at the mountains behind our village in Lantau Island and realised that they were incredibly beautiful. It had taken me months to appreciate nature that wasn't Australian.

I looked up from 'Middlemarch' (almost finished it again) and saw that the sun was shining through a small sliver of a gap in the cloud. The sky above was a dark grey-blue. Fields and trees were glowing golden in the sun. I put the book down and put Missy Higgins in my discman. I only wished it was an Indian train where I could hang out the door. Then I remembered the temperature.