Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Time Warp

We are staying on our friend's boat in Paris for a day or two and it's quite soothing to be afloat again.  

We find it a little unnerving though when we discover that neither of us have a sense that it has been more than six months since last we were here.

We are in something of a daze really, it is as though time has simply stood still, or perhaps as though the last six months simply did not exist.  We can't blame jet lag this time either.  

But here we are, undeniably, once again walking the streets of Paris, living at Bastille, shopping in our favourite places, pinching ourselves because we can't be sure this isn't a dream.  

It's not, we are living it and we feel as cheery as one of Birdy Kid's graffiti posters amid the disappointing bleakness that seems to be the lot of Parisians this spring.

We are dancing the Time Warp again. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Help for a tired old man?
London - Paris

Last night I persuaded Jules to book a holiday in Iceland on our collective behalves.  This was a bit ingenious really, because it means I didn't make any mistakes with that process.  Once we had the date settled, I booked our Eurostar connections with the requisite amount of cursing as the stupid booking website would hang or reset itself at each step.  

I was actually so busy moaning at one stage that it had reset all the prices, that I didn't notice that it had also reset the direction of travel, so ended up with cheap non refundable (senior) seats which sadly were  in exactly the opposite direction to the one we wanted to travel.

So we went off to the station early today, hours before our departure time, with the hope of making a correction but expecting to have no success at all.  The conditions of the ticket are quite clear and we stood patiently in line watching as one by one others in front of us had their requests to make changes summarily dismissed.  The nice cashier listened politely as I confessed my mistake and then told us to phone internet support on her special red phone, but she didn't sound at all hopeful, more glad to have moved the problem along really.  

The lady on the other end of the phone was very kindly, however, and I could almost hear her thinking "oh no, you silly old thing, you really should leave the internet to the youngsters," as she started with "I'm sure we can do something dear, but I don't know if we'll be able to get senior's seats, let's have a look shall we?"

Bless!   I hadn't thought of playing the "doddery senior card" before, but if she's going to offer it, I'll take it just this once!

This sadly is not the first sign I have noticed that perhaps occasionally I have been seen as someone who is older than he feels.   Just a week or so ago I was having a pleasant chat with a delightful young lady in a shop when she ruined it all by exclaiming "yes, my dad says that too".  So it's come to that.   I am old enough to remind them of their fathers!

To make things worse though, today as we arrived in Paris, I was following the other of us as she struggled down a long set of stairs, each of us laden with our respective baggage.

A young lady offered to take my bag, not long after another gave up her seat on the Metro, (both of these offers I hasten to add I graciously passed to my beloved) and still another moved from her nice little corner so that I may wedge myself there for the duration of our journey.   Mistaking us for old people is an obvious example of the arrogance for which Parisians are famous!

With such courtesy abounding in the populace, we shall never have to ask a policeman for help.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Going Up

One of our very favourite things to do in London has surprisingly not yet made it to the list of things to do for sensible people.

It can be experienced for the price of a ticket on the Underground too.   

The Underground is called that because that is exactly where the lines are located, some of them so far underground that connections between stations and the surface are often via long flights of escalators.      The journey is so long that it is quite easy to become a little disoriented  if one tilts one's head deliberately and ever so slightly so that one's shoulders are parallel to the handrail.

In this position one can in a very short time become hypnotised into thinking that all the other travellers are actually leaning at rather odd angles, particularly those travelling in the opposite direction.    This phenomena provides mild amusement to one of us, while it has to be said the mirth experienced by the other at times is reminiscent of that she experiences while viewing home video tapes of accidents involving the potential for serious bodily harm.  

But we didn't travel on the tube today, instead we walked through Kensington with Shell and Jules, had lunch in a pub where the size of the fried chicken serving was large enough to make us believe a worldwide egg famine might be just around just around the corner, and generally set about doing absolutely nothing whenever the urge to do something appeared in an effort to ensure that we didn't waste our Sunday.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

The timing of our travels this year was set by one thing only: Matt and Kathy's wedding.   Fortunately they'd sent out a "date claimer" a few months ago, to enable us to make the requisite arrangements, and today was the day.

The event was a stupendously simple yet complex affair, beginning at their house where guests boarded a London bus for a tour of the City stopping at various places on the Monopoly Board and some that weren't, to enable photographs to be taken of the bride and groom, or even postcard London.   

The entire top deck  of the bus was occupied by expatriates all speaking with the same accent, but now living in all corners of the globe, from Tanzania to Townsville, Seattle to Sydney, from France to Finland and I could go on.    It's a strange quirk of the world in which we live that it is easier to arrange a reunion with nephews and nieces and siblings for that matter, on exactly the other side of the world than it is in the country in which we are supposed to be resident.

The guy with the weather switch was working overtime, managed to find glorious sunny weather at every photo stop, and for the ceremony as well, while in between all other conditions including hail were encountered, and saved the real wet and chill for the long evening indoors.   As we wandered in direction home  in time to catch the last train, but none the less in the rosy glow of a totally delightful day, we mused at what makes weather "feel like".  For instance, the forecast said this evening's temperature would be minus one, but that it would "feel like" minus two, but to us all it just felt as though we had just had a great time.

Matt and Kathy, if the rest of your lives unfold the way your wedding day did, you're futures are assured of being magical indeed. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

On our bike.

After four days of temperatures in double figures and blue sunny skies overhead, spring declared itself to be over, and the England of which weather legends have been made returned as suddenly as it had departed.

Because it's something of a novelty for us and we haven't had to endure it for seven or eight months on the trot, we don't mind "bleak" every now and then.  It gives us a chance to sleep in, to find a warm museum and perhaps a cosy pub only too willing to provide us with a week's worth of calories under the guise of a single meal.   

Actually sleeping-in is probably a bit of a tall ask, when one has imposed on one's children who live in a flat that is no larger than the back seat of an old VW.   While we live very comfortably sleeping on an air mattress, it would be an unfair imposition on them were we to remain recumbent, blocking their access to kitchen and bathroom when they in all fairness do have to earn a living, to say nothing of preparing our morning coffee.  

The museum of choice today turned out to offer a splendid outing; the smallest nationally owned museum, the house of Architect and collector of all things, John Soane.  Once again we found ourselves marvelling at a collection that has been intact almost since Australia was declared a British Possession.   To add to the wonder, said Mr Soane had the foresight to build his house just around the corner from the West End, a short stroll to Drury Lane where finding a pub in which we could eat all the pulled pork burgers we liked and wait for as long as it took for the weather to turn was not even a challenge.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Columbian Beans

I've been less than kindly in the past when making comment about the wares being offered on Portabello Road, and if it wasn't for the special coffee place at the bottom end where Jules sent us with instructions to buy a special breed of Columbian beans we may not have bothered to grace the markets with our presence.

Mid week of course is without the crowds, and it may have been the sunshine or perhaps I kept my prejudices in my top pocket for a bit, but it seems that there was more of the "old" Portobello than was visible last year; more door knobs and shooting sticks and postcards from another era.   Some of them were indeed reproductions, but they didn't seem to be as deeply buried under Princess Diana memorabilia as they have been in our most recent visits.

Without wanting this to turn this into a food blog, yesterday we stumbled upon Jamie Oliver's "Recipease" establishment in Notting Hill just on lunch time, and the pork belly, caramelised onion and chilli jam pizza was exquisite as was the fizzy crushed ginger drink, with prices so fair (read "cheap" to a person with a wallet full of Aussie dollars), that we cleared our diaries and manipulated our schedules just a tad so that we could arrange a little encore today, after all it was on the way.

If we were to make a tiny criticism, the name of the place seemed a bit flat to us.   Other than the obvious "recipes" phonetic it made no sense, until we asked the incredibly personable, and doubtless well trained young waitress if we could have a second plate to enable us to share our pizza.

"Easy Peasy!"  she exclaimed and ran off with a smile to arrange just that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I am convinced that electronic equipment has some sort of locator beacon which ensures that if a component is to fail it will do so in a location or a time designed to cause the greatest disruption.    Thus it came to be that when the four year old iDevice we use to carry  all our maps and navigation systems, travel itinerary and even tickets decided yesterday that it was not happy to be anything other than a phone any more, and even then it had some doubts.

This was a little disconcerting at first, even more so when we discovered that the first available appointment at the Apple store was exactly fifteen minutes after our ticketed departure time next week.   

Undeterred, we retraced our steps of yesterday in sunshine just as fierce, so warm at times that we found ourselves carrying our top jacket as the temperature approached eighteen degrees, all the way to the Regent Street Apple Store where we chanced upon a rare lull in business.    A "lull" in Apple Store speak means that of three hundred employees on duty, three of them had absolutely nothing to do but greet us on our arrival.

Even more fortunately one of these young ladies was a fully trained technician, who was clearly as concerned for the plight of our not entirely useful lump of aluminium and silicone as we were, and well versed in the company policy towards people trying to skip the queue for some repairs.    As quick as a flash she decided that the best thing for us would be to complain to her about the battery failure, that would enable her to skip all the diagnosis stuff and offer us a re-engineered exchange phone with a brand new battery at nominal cost.

Within tend minutes we we back on the street, navigation systems restored, hunting for shade, watching the red buses glint in the sunshine.

Blue skies indeed.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The red of a bus.

London has apparently had the wettest coldest snowiest and most miserable spring thus far since the last time it was wet cold snowy and miserable.

That would never do for us we thought, so we flicked the weather switch to "fine" and gaily wandered through Hyde Park in the bright morning sunshine, just as we had done on our first visit more than thirty years ago.   The sun was just as warm as it was then, although to be fair that was in late summer and just as then the deck chairs were rapidly filling with soon to be shirtless occupants eager to attempt a pinking of their torsos.

We are quite conspicuous on bright sunny days in London as force of habit forces us to walk on the shady side of the street, our Australian summer tans glowing the same sort of pink that those emerging from winter are displaying on the other footpath.  They don't understand the healthy respect we have for the sun any more than we can can find any empathy for their daring it to come and fry them to a crisp.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Something smells like caramel coffee!
Singapore - London

One of the wonderful side effects of staying overnight in Singapore is that it allowed us to find a daytime flight to London.  

The other is that after that Coffee Crab, the potent caramel-coffee infusion that penetrated beneath the lower most layers of our skin was still with us, so each time we raised our hands to our mouth to eat Mr Airline's carefully prepared nutritionally balanced in-flight meals, our nostrils would fill with the delightful souvenir aroma of yesterday's lunch.   By late afternoon it was gone, but the memory will be with us for a long, long time.

When we thought about it, we had managed almost twenty hours of sleep between Brisbane and London, all of it in a bed, so we were confident that we would arrive in peak condition.  

Thirteen hours, half a dozen movies and a novel later, we found ourselves on the Heathrow Express heading for Paddington, with a familiar fog beginning to envelope our bodies.  Our condition it seems had peaked somewhat earlier than we had hoped!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A day in the tropics.

Singapore has always been one of our favourite places.  There's a sort of madness about it's orderly perfection that entirely suits our personalities I think.  I tend to identify with the fact that it's always a work in progress, always a new project beginning before the last has finished, while the other of us it must be said, has a certain affinity for it's tidiness.

After years of non-stop commuting between hemispheres, we have decided that enough is enough.  Instead of continuing on our mind numbing way, this year we would make time for two nights of fully horizontal sleep, interspersed with a day of gentle sight seeing and catching up with friends.

"Catching up" in Singapore speak, means "eating with", and if ever "doing lunch" were to become an olympic sport, I suspect Singapore and France would be vying for the gold medal, with the minor placing being fought by everyone else.

"Just a snack" turns into a dozen courses of ever more tantalising and disturbingly larger portions as each successive dish is brought to the table, culminating in the latest Singaporean gastronomic sensation.  Today, "just a snack" became exactly that with the culmination being the improbable "Coffee Crab"- whole crab steamed in a wok with a thick, sugary coffee sauce that penetrated not only the shell and flesh of the crab, but the flesh of anyone who dared to pick up each shell-morsel and suck it dry!  

After hours sheltering in the restaurant away from the downpour outside, and with pulses racing from a near overdose of crab flavoured caffeine, we  bade Phil and Serene farewell without finding a way of thanking them profusely enough for their hospitality, promising ourselves (and them) that we'd stay longer next time.

Our attraction to Singapore is such that we wondered if see it through rose coloured glasses.  On balance though we probably don't, it's most likely just the odd blue tint of the hotel windows.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What just happened?

Can someone explain what just happened?

Six months ago I wrote that I'd be taking a break for a while, and it seems like barely a night has transpired and my time is up.

Suddenly we are sitting in some sort of drab prison, waiting for yet another aeroplane.

Our time in Australia has disappeared so quickly that we feel as though we have just landed, that we are on one of those "Border Police" reality shows, and have just been turned around to be sent back from whence we came.   We are noticing for the first time just how unhappy the colours in the Brisbane International terminal are, and that does nothing to set our mind at rest as we try to review our list of things unfinished.

This sense of having done nothing is an illusion of course and we realise that even though we are not in Singapore, we are in some other branch of the Restaurant at The End of the Universe, replaying parts of our lives to stow them in neat little boxes in our mind where they can be stored safely to await our return.

This afternoon we will be back in Singapore, that place which for the past five years has been our half-way interlude en route, but we have decided not to push on.  We will wait for a night or two, hopefully gathering sleep like squirrels gather nuts, so that when we arrive on the other side of the world we will be better at remembering respectively who and where we are than perhaps we have in the past.

When we think about it, we have not been terribly idle during the past six months.  It is fair to say that our grandchildren certainly remember us between visits, that we made it to the bottom of Cape York in time to view the eclipse, we've seen fire and we've seen rain, lots of rain, managed to make a little progress on the house until the rain got really serious and we were forced to visit South Australia for a time to help us remember what dry soil looked like.  Perhaps the most disruptive of all happened as we were making plans for our absence. We had barely started to tidy up the loose ends when we received the surprising news that yours truly was perhaps in less fine condition than we had imagined.

This news thankfully turned out to be entirely without foundation, but after several weeks of observation and the best endeavours of those whose job it is to know about this stuff, I was pronounced fit and well with nought but a scar marking the spot where the probe was inserted to remind me that it was not a dream.

Or was it?  Perhaps it wasn't the lights in an operating theatre I was staring at.  Perhaps I was abducted by aliens.  That would seem to better explain the speed with which our time has passed!

Eventually our airport confinement ends, and we are back on the "bus" scanning the entertainment menu, planning our day.
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