Today I braved a new challenge. The hairdressers. For some reason finding and booking somewhere to cut my hair always stresses me out. You wear your hair with everything and I’ve been to my fair share of good, bad and indifferent snippers over the years! So this time I took soundings off local friends and in the end booked myself in with Off London. I have frizzy-curly hair and people tend to think I am just being overly coy about it when I say that. I’m not. Blow-dry this bad boy wrong and I end up with some kind of kinky pompom on my head!
But the guy, Chris, at Off London was great. And I LOVE having my hair washed, brushed and fiddled with. I think my fav thing is the head massage (and here the chairs also massaged!). The cut is lovely and the blow dry done with plenty of attention to detail which always feels nice. Next time I need my colour sorting buy I think I should feel like I’m in pretty safe hands! #win
The additional bonus is that I have an important meeting this afternoon and I do at least feel like I look reasonable 🙂
Today some friends took my partner and I to Fyshwick Markets (http://www.fyshwickfreshfoodmarkets.com.au/). These markets are a kind of Canberra institution- lots of fresh, local produce. Loads of interesting food stuffs. In addition to being able to buy all different kinds of fruit and veggies (including sugar cane- because, why not?), there is a beautiful smelling bakery, a delicatessant, a wine shop: somewhat awesomely called “Plonk” (where I discovered you can buy sparkling wine that has been made in Canberra… must try! Although it is a bit more expensive than my $5-7 bottles!), a fishmongers, a couple of butchers, and a Middle Eastern food shop. It was the latter in which we spent most of our time and money. My other half bought all of the herbs and spices. And I mean all of them. (He is still mourning over the loss of his carefully collated herb and spice collection when we moved out here- my parents were the lucky recipients and I’m not sure he’s forgiven them…). I LOVE middle eastern food and enjoy making Mezes. I was super excited to find Halva (which is a strange, powdery, sweet, crumbly dessert) that I used to have at a Lebanese restaurant near my parent’s house, and Baklava (ditto local restaurant… actually everything I bought reminded me of the wonderful food I used to enjoy there!) and stuffed vine leaves, which I love to add to a lunch time salad with feta cheese 🙂
In addition to checking out the market, our lovely friends took us to some other shops in the area (its a bit of a trek to get to by bus from our place) including a shop with plants. And we bought… all of the plants. Actually that is a lie. But we did buy some- which I am really excited about. I’ve been wanting to ‘green-up’ the flat pretty much since we’ve moved in. But moving plants around without a car is a bit of challenge! So, show some love for our new additions… How long do you think they’ll survive?!
My partner and I have been enjoying watching Master Chef Australia. Actually we’ve got a bit addicted. My goodness do they know their food! And the majority of the food out here, whilst it costs an arm and a leg, tastes amazing!
The other half loves to cook, and the odder the meal (or ingredients) the better. Recently we found the Great Australian Cookbook in a sale at a department store here. But it just sat on the bookshelf until he came back from the UK.
This week we watched an episode of Master Chef which included a ‘Aussie ingredients’ section and learned about quandongs (which I swear sounded like ‘condoms’ and confused me hugely!), wattle seed, wax flowers and various other delicacies that I had no knowledge of. So, after this episode the home-chef extraordinate digs into his recipe book and finds this gem: “Kangaroo steak with quandong jus and warrigal greens”. And he. makes. it. (admittedly it was a bit of a challenge to source the quandong jam) but look, look what I was served for dinner (with the addition of sweet potato mash and sauted mushrooms of course…)… I think I may encourage further adventures in this direction…
During my time here you may have noticed the occasional reference to wine… or maybe more than occasional! I’ve been gradually trying a range of different wines- when I first got here because the majority of wines are around the $14 mark I was suspicious of the cheaper wines. Since my other half came home with a brilliant $7 bottle of prosecco I have abandoned those concerns and leapt joyfully into testing/tasting the offerings of the bottom shelf- particularly those on 40% discount at my local ‘bottle-o’!
Some that I have enjoyed sampling have included:
Yarra Burray Prosecco- the $7 dream, lightly fizzy, and hugely drinkable! (It’s now back up to $14 at Liquor Land- Boo! I did also try the sparkling rose- it was not good) One Small Step- Cab Merlot- the bottle I bought for the other half to celebrate his return home. It was a bit more expensive at $12 (I think might have been 14) but I’m not a big red wine lover and he is, and we both really liked it. Smooth and spicy. Rapaura- one that is currently half price in Liquor Land at $8 which I bought when I wanted a change from the prosecco (I know, I know, this is a sob story right?!). This was clean, light, a little fruit, a little mineral, fresh but without making your mouth turn inside out. Eagle Hawk- a $5 fizzy treat whilst it’s currently half price. Also surprisingly nice given its price. Light and more prosecco-y that I was expecting (not too yeasty or sweet or in anyway nasty!). Winners all round! I’ll keep you updated as I find more gems 🙂
Yesterday my tired and over-travelled other half arrived back in Canberra. In the last month he has been ALL over the UK (as well as 10 days in Thailand for field work) and flew back into Sydney (via Thailand again) on Sunday. Monday was a bank holiday here (for the Queen’s birthday) so he spent the morning having a well earned brunch with his brother then coached his way over here. Whilst he was doing that I got busy…
After all of that travelling I thought he deserved a nice bottle of Merlot-Cab Sav, the box of oils my Mum sent us (which we mostly for him anyways), a selection of coasters with Canberra bus shelters on (I sh*t you not!) and a home made vanilla cheesecake- because he loves it, although this was slightly over cooked! (He let me try a bit of the wine, and I highly recommend it- wine post to follow!)
I decided this week that I wanted to get to know my new home country a little better. To that end I am exploring some Australian literature. I’ve read English classics as part of my education, which also included points of focus on American classics as well. But, apart from “A Town Called Alice” I have read almost nothing about Australia (I have read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Sunburnt Country, but I’m not sure that counts as high literature!). Recently I have devoured ‘The Road from Coorain” by Jill Ker Conway who grew up on a sheep station in the West of New South Wales and which tracks her experiences of the joys and hardships of that life. As soon as I opened the book I knew we were going to get along. You have probably read my long, overly descriptive and rambling prose on the landscape around me? Well Jill described her world in similar ways:
As a ‘coming of age’ story it deals with big issues and small, with personal and social awakening, with tragedy and love, with finding your place in the world and with all kinds of other issues big and small. I think this book might stay with me for a while.
What else should I be reading? Australian friends, what else is ‘classic’ Australian literature or central to understanding the Australian or Indigenous experience?
This weekend is a bank holiday weekend. And I’ve been sleepy so I haven’t written much- sorry! It is properly autmnal/wintery here this weekend. The sun has hidden behind a blanket of grey cloud. It is as if someone has put a lid on Canberra, and I’ve lost some of that sense of space that I usually get from the vast skies and views of the mountains in the background. The light is that flat light you get in winter where it feels like the day can only just be bothered to get going for a couple of hours before falling asleep into the evening, early. I am missing the long, long British summer evenings at the moment!
Because it was a bit rubbish weather, and because most people seem to be out of town for the long weekend, I took the opportunity to go back to the National Gallery of Australia. There were a couple of exhibitions I wanted to check out, and given the naff weather it seemed like a good day to be inside. This time I didn’t get lost getting there #win, and I spent a long time going through the section of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander’s art. I know little to nothing about the ‘dreamtime’ that informs a lot of Aboriginal art and, I have to confess am not a huge fan, aesthetically, of the browns, ochres, and natural tones that I had seen on various prints. However, I was delighted to discover, of course, that there is so much more to it. The dot work which makes up the vast majority of the paintings in the gallery is set on top of other colours, giving depth as a slightly ‘trippy’ feel from some of the colour combinations. From a distance you just seen the colour of the dots because they are close together (a bit like the work of European pointillists like Seurat), but as you get nearer a ‘sense’ of the background colour begins to emerge. It is mesmerising. As someone who is occasionally obsessed by nature, the landscape, and weather (you may have noticed!) it was really interesting to see the different way the landscape was described, how the Aboriginal relationship with the land was explored, and how important points were represented. My favourite paintings were a series of large scale and brightly coloured pieces:
From this section I visited the 3rd Indigenous Triennial Art Collection: Defying Empire. This consisted of contemporary pieces of Indigenous art. And it was beautiful and deeply moving. There was (understandably) a LOT of politics involved. And some of the pieces moved me almost to tears. Right at the start there was a series which I found particularly painful to reflect upon- the artist, Blak Douglas, had created a series of well used words and phrases (LOL, No Worries) but the letters were made from old photos of enslaved/brutalised/starving black and brown people. The juxtaposition, for me, took my breath away and reminded me of the continuing power and legacy of white brutality both in Australia and across the world. There were plenty of other pieces which also served to send this message home and I came out of the exhibition in a contemplative and concerned frame of mind.
This evening I am having the least rock n roll Friday ever. I presented my PhD research to my new colleagues at lunch time and apparently was more nervous about it than I thought. Everyone was lovely and (aside from the computer shutting down before my last two slides) it all went ok. There was a strange moment, that I think a lot of people who are knee deep in their research might get. That bit where you are half way through an explanation of something theoretically in-depth and suddenly another part of your brain goes “good luck with explaining that in 5/10 minutes!” and then you suddenly worry if you a) maybe said that out loud b) aren’t getting your point across or similar. But aside from these kinks, I was pretty happy with how it went. And mostly just pleased that I’d done it. The more I get into my new project the more I lose sight of the details of my PhD and some of those details are key to explaining the point of the entire project!
When I got back, admittedly slightly earlier than usual, I sat down with a cup of tea and a the intention of reading through some papers. I woke up to cold tea just over an hour later. It fascinates me the way the body sometimes just goes “SLEEP” and you do. I have been struggling to get to sleep a little bit recently (hence the shed loads of exercise!), and it took quite some time to persuade my brain to shut off last night. Having to get up earlier than usual for an electrician and the big scary monster of “you are presenting to all your new colleagues (what if they hate it/think its shit?!)” got me out of bed rapidly this morning so I was hoping for an easier nodding off this evening… turns out “this evening” was slightly earlier than I was expecting but hey! I was planning on going to another yoga class this evening but I’ve zzzzzzz’ed my way through it!
Having the presentation today has also helped give my mind something to do whilst the British general election votes were counted. I have a love/hate relationship with watching counts. I never stay up to watch- its just too stressful, too incremental; there is too much at stake. So I usually watch the beginnings, prophesize (sp?) negative outcomes regardless of exit or other polls and get a good night’s sleep. When I wake up, then, its just a case of a) accepting the negative outcome or b) being pleasantly surprised. I made the mistake of feeling positive about both the recent Brexit and US elections- and MAN was that a come down in the morning! Being in Australia, because of the time difference, I haven’t been able to sleep through the election count- its been buzzing away on my computer background. Had I not had a presentation to finalise and to prepare to give I think I might have actually gone insane watching each seat coming in. TBH although I have voted in this election and the outcome has been, from my perspective, more positive than expected (game plan!), I am still not sure this spells the necessary good for the British public. But hey.
Having (accidentally) napped and had a nice comforting cup of tea I think I need to get away from all of the stresses of the real world. Perhaps a film is in order.
Today I had my first work meeting. There were people I had met and people I had never met before. Always a little nerve-wracking! The meeting was pretty standard. BUT there was one guy, a colleague who I hadn’t met who spent the whole time making origami animals…
the whole time!
At first I was trying to watch surreptitiously but it was too awesome! He even curled the flower petals around his pen. None of this impaired the meeting or prevented him from occasionally interpolating salient remarks by the way. I wish I knew origami. Might stop me chewing my nails…
After the meeting I said ‘Hi’ and introduced myself. He game me all of the origami which is now chilling on my office shelf- interim decoration before I finally get around to bringing some plants in! It’s like an origami jungle!
Today I present you with a random amuse bouche of musings…
1. Pasta made from black beans really isn’t as tasty as it could be (even served with pesto and blanched green beans!). And finding it somewhat tasteless impairs the smug feeling you get from having remembered to pack yourself a healthy lunch.
2. I haven’t got lost in Canberra for quite some time now. Does this mean I’m starting to know my way around or am I just getting less adventurous? (My tablet autocorrected lost to osteoporosis… unexpected!)
3. Taking two yoga classes in two days after two weeks of no yoga makes it difficult (physically) to get out if bed in the morning. Which makes a change from existential dread causing accidental lie ins!
4. Reading dense texts is always easier, or maybe just nicer, curled up on a sofa with a blanket. Ideally a non-itchy blanket and ideally bathed in sunlight (morning or afternoon I’m not picky!)
5. It’s really embarrassing when you have three degrees and are trying to convince your work mates that you are qualified for your job and you have to ask someone how to make a file work. #notevenjoking And it was quite straight forward really… I’d tried some kind of origami to get it to work… not necessary
6. This is about the right time, I feel, to start planning a housewarming party…