What the Asparamanser said

My daughter was a guest at a Hen weekend recently where they were all asked to bring stories about dating disasters. The bride to be was to guess the person the story was about. My daughter story began with the words ‘I was at my mom’s Christmas Party’ and the bride immediately shouted out my daughters name. It seems that amongst my daughters friends my house parties were legendary.

Now one could think, how cool that your daughter and her friends enjoy your parties. I would like to think that too.

130So I will tell you another story. When I was on the Whit Tour with the Jockey Men’s Morris in May 2011 I had my asparagus read at The Fleece Inn. For this you are given a bunch of asparagus and drop them randomly on the table. One stalk slipped out of my hands before I dropped the bunch and I got a knowing look (more of that in a moment). This Asparamanser told me two things. One was to get all my affairs in order as I needed to make sure all the plans were in place for a long journey. This was a bit uncanny, as I was, as readers of this blog know, going to be embarking on the round the world trip in October 2011. I had only just that week announced to my work place of my intention to take redundancy in order to travel. Nothing was booked.  A  few close friends knew I planned to travel. The asparagus reader could not have known that. Then she came back to the asparagus that had got away. This indicated, apparently that sometimes after a drink or two I may be a bit loose with my words and say things I may regret, and I needed to be mindful of that.  On the coach after lunch we all shared what the asparagus reader had told us. When I mentioned  the bit about the loose tongue at parties, all my friends burst out laughing.

So I have appear to have a reputation of giving and enjoying parties. Which is fine. Except that my parties include lots of wine. And beer. Well I have friends who are Morris men so naturally there is beer. All in the safety of my own home. Well sometimes in other peoples houses. And always lots of lovely home cooked food and samosas and music and people enjoy themselves. They must do because they keep coming back.

We scaled back on parties this year, we were recovering travellers and had lost the house party mojo. There was no decent weather for a BBQ and now no young kids around to want a firework party. At Christmas we held a poker party and a vinyl night. Close friends and family who played poker, listened to vinyl,enjoyed shared food and well yes some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, craft beer and organic cider.

IMG_7232Our round the world trip was on reflection a journey to new world wine growing regions. Paso Robles California (they keep the best); Marlborough, New Zealand and the Hunter Valley and Margaret River in Australia.  We enjoyed our wine responsibly, most of the time. We also discovered the delights of a Sunday sesh in Melbourne (thanks to What’s Dave Doing) at Riverland Bar and a post, cooling drink, after a very warm day trip to Williamstown relaxing with craft beers, food and ChloeIMG_5541This is the view from our seat in Chloe’ s Room overlooking Federation Square and the Christmas Tram.

And this is the lovely food we enjoyed.IMG_5533

In SE Asia we drank beer, as it was cheap and we were hot. In the last 11 days of travelling I lost about 12 pounds in weight, due to a combination of beautiful healthy freshly prepared food, the heat, and no wine. We did save a lot of babies but that is another story. I had already lost about the same amount of weight in Fiji for the same reasons, despite spending most of the day sleeping in a hammock.  I was slimmer and healthier than I had been for years when I returned home.

Back in the UK I soon slipped back into bad habits.  At first, because we were broke and had no jobs, and had enjoyed the cleansing diet in SE Asia,  we ate healthily and drank occasionally. A year later, and the bad habits had crept back into our lifestyles. I had the ill health of my mom to contend with, unemployment, and lots of other stuff that is life. I put on weight. I decided to start running to combat the weight and my low mood, then got ill so had to stop.

And now it is almost Lent. Traditionally people give up things. Some people give up chocolate or wine. And some people take something up for Lent. A food bank charity has suggested that people donate what they save at Lent to them. One year I read of a family who lived on the minimum wage during Lent. They wanted their children to be able to reflect on how privileged they were, so had to forgo cinema visits and ballet lessons. They didn’t eat out and cut back on grocery bills. And donated what they saved to some charity. what a good idea, I thought. Then I read  ‘this excludes our mortgage payment’ and that made me very angry indeed. The smugness of living a comfortable life and let’s pretend to be like poor people mentality infuriated me. I have lived on Income support and know what is like to have only a pound in my pocket to feed a family of four. And that same smugness creeps into Live Below the Line, which is why I blogged about that too.

However, it has made me think, could I, should I give up wine for Lent?

Oh and I have just read this blog about the Asparamanser so there seems there is a pattern in her predictions……

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A totally locally Christmas

So it’s over. That was Christmas and I think it was a good one. Just the four of us yet for some reason I thought it necessary to cook beef, turkey and a goose. As ever Queen Delia rescued me, as her Christmas book covers all three, and with two ovens and a lot of juggling and a microwave that also functions as a convection oven I got there. Of course, it’s so much easier if you have men to cook the meat on a Weber, as per last year in Melbourne.

A few years back when I had a stressful, busy, corporate life I bought all the Christmas food from Marks and Spencer, all pre prepared. Then Aldi came into my life. I now have palpitations at the prices in any of the big supermarket chains. I need to say it now, it costs so much less and I do not compromise on quality.

The turkey and the goose were free range and English. The beef was British. All the veg was from the UK too. I made pickled red cabbage and bread sauce, glazed carrots, sprouts with pancetta and without and everything was bought on my local high street. And no petrol was used to procure these items. So I reckon it’s not just been a locally bought Christmas but a green one too. We did wheel the supermarket trolley home, as that was easier than dragging heavy bags. What we need is a Melbourne Market Jeep.

We all agree to buy presents from lists, so we get what we really want and need, instead of piles of tat that clutters our lives. This means we don’t get into debt by falling into the Christmas trap of spending for spending sake. I bought three hampers of homemade goodies from Maidens Fayre, again most ingredients were locally sourced and I’m supporting a local mumpreneur. We still get little surprises, such as keyring torches courtesy of corporate rebranding, Hobbit Related goodies from our lovely friends in New Zealand and a beautiful china tea set from a new friend who I met though the Four Week Shopping Locally Challenge. And this years Christmas crackers were cracking!

So despite my brother related meltdown moment on Christmas Eve, I’m pretty sure that my nearest and dearest had a good day. All rounded off with Dr Who.

Oh, and I got twitter earrings!

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The 30 minute blog

Distracted moi?

Ok I am a procrastinator who doesn’t seem to get much done although I am busy all day.  I am a the Friends character Monica with a Phoebe rising, or the other way round, I am not sure. I want to be a better writer, so I am experimenting with the 30 minute blog.  Yesterdays blog took  up most of my day and nothing else got done. I had heard about the Pomodoro method and I thought, hey I will try that for my to do list and to blog is on that list. So in front of me is a timer set to 30 minutes and when it pings, I will publish.

Thinking smarter or faster?

So I have to think fast and not waste time looking for the perfect picture, as that sees to be what took up most of my time yesterday. Or too many links. Less typos perhaps. And not strive for perfection.

Facebook eats into my life too much

The day started with me ranting at a post on my Facebook timeline from Lorraine, queen of day time TV. I know its not her posting, but you know it really irritates me that it is all about not having bingo wings and the perfect Christmas dress. I rarely watch the programme, I think morning TV is a distraction we don’t need, and when I do I am dismayed to find that it is really all about making women feel worse about them selves. The men just watch to lech at Lorraine. Maybe I will watch it tomorrow and count how many times they say perfect. Let that eat into my time instead of my Facebook and twitter timeline.

Social Media is better than watching the news

It is, really it is. It is often on twitter before the tellybox anyhow if something major happen. Yesterday there was a big explosion and fire at a factory in Langley. A FB friend  lives close by and reported that it had happened, after calling the fire brigade. I knew more about the situyation form her and later tweets from the various news stream I follow on twitter that I would hav done from the telly box.  I also know that Larry Hagman had died before it was on the radio of TV.  And I like that it is short and headlines not subtext. If I want to find out more, I can, but hey I’m a headline person.

The explosion meant…

My husband works in Crosswells Road for the Special Library Service delivering books to the housebound. He was telephone to say they had had to evacuate the building so he went to Thimblemill Library for the rest of the day. It meant he couldn’t take the van back or bring our car home which had the coal in it for our fire. But that was a minor inconvenience.

For the people who lived nearby, the fire meant they had to spend the night in temporary accommodation, not knowing if they had a home or car to go back to. I know this because my FB friend  (another one I have also met in real life) reported this. She knows her car is a write off. She is not sure what state her house will be in. She is also a local Labour Councillor and while she was upset and afraid, what struck me was that she cancelled all her appointments, not just because she had a lot of stuff to deal with, but to support the local residents. I know her and I am sure she has personally visited everyone to see what she can do to help. That is humanity. I would have her in my corner anytime.

Seven minutes on the clock. 633 words. And that is all folks.

Still travelling

I started this blog to document my round the world trip with my husband. That was October 2011 and now we have been back in our home in Birmingham England, since February 2012.

So I have been back longer than I was away, yet my blog is still called travellingcoral and so it will continue to be. I was a traveller before my blog and I continue to travel. I may not be flying thousands of miles and living out of a back pack, yet I am still travelling. I carry my camera everywhere and look at my own country, my town, my city, as a traveller does. I have become a tourist in my own country. I see England and the UK differently now. And this is why.

When we were in Melbourne last year we met a man called Rob in Federation Square. He was in in 70’s and we got chatting as we sat on the deckchairs there. He gave us lots of tips about what to do and see in Melbourne. He told us of his work back in the 60’s and filled us in about the history of Melbourne. He was so proud of his English Heritage and of Melbourne. By coincidence we met him again the following day in the Botanic Gardens.

Now that place is huge, and the chance of bumping into someone are slim. We were meant to meet him I am sure of that. He then offered to give us a guided walk of the gardens and surrounding areas, which we were happy to do. Again his pride of Melbourne was impressive, sharing his knowledge of the history of the city and the country with us gave him joy. It was a brilliant day.

I struck me then that most Brits don’t seem proud of their heritage, are not very knowledgeable about the history of where they live, and are more likely to criticise the country rather than big it up. Rob wasn’t the first person we met who wanted to show off their city. Tim and Jo Anne who we met in Northland invited us to stay at their home in Wellington and took us to The Roxy Cinema after dinner at Coco’s. The next day they took us on the cable car to the Botanic Gardens. Tim also gave us an insiders tour of WETA.

Barb and Pete who we met in Haverstock took us to see our first Kangaroo in the suburbs of Lysterfield, Melbourne, picked us up to go to the Victoria Markets and invited us to share Christmas Day with their family.

Since I have been home I have revisited Weston, Stratford upon Avon, The Cotswolds, Winchester, Brecon and Hay on Wye. The family visited Sarehole Mill during the Tolkien weekend. I visited my daughter in London and went to a concert in Hyde Park.  I have started a list of places I have never visited in my own city including the Barber Institute. I visited the Love and Death exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which also has the Staffordshire Hoard.

English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum &...

English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Source – FlickR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever possible I big up Birmingham  I met a family at a food festival in Birmingham who were here for the World BMX Championships They were really impressed with how beautiful the city is. And it is! They admitted that they had thought Birmingham was a grey and dirty city that they bypassed on the M6 to get to Manchester or the Lake District. When I told them that Birmingham hosted the biggest Christmas Market outside of Germany the mom was immediately making plans for her friends Christmas shopping trip. To Birmingham.

So I am still travelling….. are you?

Friends. The one about Social Media

Over a year ago I blogged about how social media is a useful tool to keep in touch with friends. I was in Fowey and had hosted lunch for Cornish friends we had met in Turkey. Social media was the way we had kept in touch for a couple of years. Also at the lunch that day was a friend of my mom, then aged 77, had also met in Turkey and yes, kept in touch with via Facebook.

When I was travelling, being able to chat to my son on Christmas day via Facebook was one of the things that helped combat a rare, but extremely painful bout of homesickness. Indeed the iPad  was passed around the table and he had random conversations from our hosts family and friends.

Now back in the UK  Phil and I have stayed in contact with a few of the people we met on our travels. Through Facebook.

Barb and Pet who were brilliant hosts on Christmas day in Melbourne, who completely scuppered my Skipping Christmas plans.

Tim and Jo Ann in Wellington who we met in Northlands taking photos of this view. They casually suggested we could park on their property when were in Wellington before we crossed to the south Island. What they meant was, stay in our beautiful home and we will treat you to a slap up meal at Cocos, a film at The Roxy Cinema and a glimpse of all things Hobbiton, and a  few Oscars.  We are still pinching ourselves!

And of course the wonderfully warm and funny Sean and Kelly from the USA. Musical theatre as therapy in Thailand. Who knew? We saved a lot of babies on that trip and I did my fist duet in a karaoke bar because that Sean he is bad!

And now I am reflecting a lot on what I was doing this time last year and how my life is now.

All the friends I have made since retuning home have all been via social media. Through twitter I met people living in my neighbourhood via #BearBeers. Though Facebook I met so many lovely people on The Bearwood Page, mainly because of the bid to become a Portas Pilot.  These are not just Facebook friends. They are real friends. I have been out for meals and drinks  with them, had fabulous dinner parties in their homes. Even had one to stay at my house during renovations in her own home.

I would not have met any of these people if it were not for Facebook.

The downside is that I have encountered some trolls. They are not my Facebook friends, just keyboard cowards with narrow lives who will never be at my dinner table.  Interestingly the ones who are now in my life have all travelled further than the end of the road. Taken risks with their lives. Have a bigger picture of the world. And like good food. A bit like me really.

And that is why I guess they are my friends.

Christmas Down Under

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A few days ago I blogged about plans to ‘skip’ Christmas. It’s our first Christmas away from home, and without the children. We’d agree not to buy presents for each other. But fate intervened. I blame Skippy! Fate started to … Continue reading

’twas the night before Christmas in Melbourne

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It is quite strange to be spending Christmas in Australia. It’s hot and sunny, so spending the afternoon listening to live music with a cold beer seemed a good way to spend Christmas Eve.

Phil and I were at Abbotsford Convent to visit the Christmas Eve Slow Food Market.

I was also keen to see Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford, as Phil and I have been volunteering at the one in St Kilda. This one is qute different as the food is buffet style, and as one of the cooks is Sri Lankan, the food slightly different and equally delicious. All vegetarian and we enjoyed dhal, beetroot korma, rice and steamed dumplings.

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The setting is beautiful yet it is just off a busy and culturally diverse high street. Enjoying the sunshine with us were families and couples, old and young, people from the UK, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia. Conversations taking place over lunch in half a dozen different languages. There were Muslims and Sikhs, Christians and those with no religious beliefs gathering as a community in the grounds of a former convent. I wonder what the nuns would have made of that?

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This is the poetry tree in Lentil as Anything.

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And this is where you make a wish and pay as you feel, there are no prices on the menu. The idea is that those who can afford to pay more do, so that everyone can afford to eat, whatever their circumstances.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Skipping Christmas

Skipping Christmas

Image via Wikipedia

Some of you may have watched the film Christmas with the Kranks, which is what the suits in Hollywood decided to call the film based on the book, by John Grisham Skipping Christmas

Because Phil and I will be in Melbourne for Christmas we are to some extent also skipping Christmas. We are not buying each other presents. We plan to go to the beach with the dogs on Christmas day and have lunch at the cafe in St Kilda we have been volunteering for, Lentil as Anything but in the evening we will have a special dinner with produce from the Slow Food market at Abbotsford Convent with sparking Shiraz, which apparently is the Aussie wine of choice at Christmas. I will also serve it slightly chilled!

Both our kids will be spending Christmas with the parents of their significant others. This has been the toughest thing for me. It will be the day I will miss them most, but I know that they will be looked after and have a great time. Next year guys, it’s back to our house, ok?

However, I haven’t gone completely Bah Humbug. Melbourne is all dressed up, and this is what I saw today from Chloe’s tapas bar. Who is Chloe? Scroll down to see!

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Even the trams are festive.

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Each evening there are projections on the State Library featuring scenes from The Nutcracker

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Meet Chloe.

So, we are not really Skipping Christmas, just doing it differently, spending less money and still having fun!

What a difference a day makes

I realise I was feeling a bit down yesterday, but hey using this medium to get it out there must be part of the cure. And some pretty cool advice came back, currently re visiting the to do list using triangles for bullet points, to be coloured in when task completed.

Also the Shambrarian in me is resurfacing, not the beer bit, yet, so all my paperwork for the trip is filed in labelled plastic folders,

Duplicates have been made, money has been moved around to spread the risk and the 4 new pin numbers for our travel money cards, which will be hell to learn, have been recorded discreetly. If I do forget, my son has been instructed as to where the paperwork is. I’ve even made copies of passports and laminated them and emailed a copy to myself, just in case.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with numbers, yet I sailed through English and the Humanities. Even now, if writing numbers, I need to get them checked because I know I have problems with numbers

Transferring money today was quite stressful as I had to use a card reader, remember a PIN, enter another number in the card reader, which then generated another number to enter on the PC. The you get verified by visa asking your pass word……. Grrrr.

To get me in the mood to do the mental work required, much of today has been spent finding the bedroom floor! All travel packing has been transferred to the spare room, what we don’t need has been put away, surfaces have been cleared and dusted. I even cleaned the windows. This, for someone who loathes housework, is a major achievement. The study has also been cleared, some filing cleared, some, ahem, put out of sight and Christmas presents put in a box to be sorted tomorrow.

New Zealand Coins

Image by yum9me via Flickr

Next job, on the list is to return my library books. On the way I’ll pop to the Post Office in the hope they have USA and NZ dollars. Worst case scenario is to get them at the airport! Not well organised, but I have lost 10 days in the count down due to putting my head in the sand.

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As I’m doing this on my iPad and still learning how, I have inserted a totally inappropriate (to the blog) photo, of my two cats Mel and Sue,  which helped cheer me up yesterday! Must add to the to do list….learn about photo library on iPad!