Posts Tagged ‘adventures’

As a result of unexpectedly changing our plans on the weekend, the planned homemade pizza dinner on Sunday night didn’t happen. (Homemade bases, yum!). So I decided to use up the bulk of the ingredients in a pasta dish on Monday night.

Except I was tired and a bit dopey yesterday, so I kept forgetting what I wanted to put into the dish and which order to put them in.

It started out as a flavoursome oil-based sauce for some lovely tri-color spiral pasta shapes we had. Onions, pancetta, zucchini (courgette), whole basil leaves, then deglazed the pan with some left over red-wine. I was considering finishing it off with the rocquette that was in the fridge, tossing it all back into the drained pasta pot, adding a slather of good olive, mix it all together, serve.

Then I remembered that I had some creme fraiche to use up, and decided that zucchini needed tomato if I was going to make a creamier sauce. So, in went some tomato paste as well as the creme fraiche. This wasn’t the strong flavour hit I was after, and was more reminiscent of a mild nacho dish than a sauce for pasta. Then I remembered I meant to add some chopped up cherry tomoatoes with the zucchini. So they went in after the creme, as did half a tin of tomatoes to take off the dominant creme fraiche taste .

Then, I remembered the grated mozzarella and the parmesan in the fridge and decided to make it a 2 cheese-cremey-hint of tomato pasta sauce. Which thankfully tasted fine, as it was behaving more like an omlette by the time it had finished cooking. All that cheese.

The boys happily ate it up, I enjoyed it, but I would certainly have never set out to make such a strange hybrid. Oh well, the joy of experimental cooking to use up what’s in the fridge.

Edit: Maybe I should have made this Zucchini Pasta Carbonara instead.

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Afternoon teaThankfully, in direct contrast to the previous week. The loveliness included:

Afternoon Tea (aka High Tea in Sydney, although I’m told that High Tea is actually much less fancy that afternoon tea) for the lovely flickgc’s birthday on Monday afternoon. I took two hours off work, overloaded on tea and sugary things, met some lovely people and participated in a lot of interesting conversation. Much needed social interaction. I was exhausted by the end of it, as I’ve not needed to use those social muscles in a while. Felt good though, had a wonderful time.

Also, I had my best “tea” voice on, so apparently I didn’t sound at all Australian for a few of the guests. Quite chuffed by this, as it means I still have good accent mimic skills and ability to pick up a language by osmosis, including dialects/variants of languages.

An interesting urgent project at work, which meant I had to rapidly absorb planning, water conservation and biodiversity plans. Got to take on an Us v Them mentality, which often helps me to get work done. Also had fun spreading large (A1) size maps over tables and plotting out major projects in our area, like a war strategy room. No small figurines though.

I’m still working on it, and it’s now becoming a drag, unfortunately. I’ve noticed that this place is very good at inital briefings, and then very bad at ongoing support and follow-up to make sure you’re on track and not having difficulties. This frustrates me as I feel that they don’t care, or that the need has been hyped and the task is actually not ‘urgent’ and then I feel undervalued. This seems to be an ongoing challenge for me.

I was reflecting on this today, what I want is to be trading my dedication and effort for money, not just time for money. Unfortunately at the moment it is most definitely time for money. On the plus side, I’m still waiting on news of the Civil Service job I had an interview for, which should be coming through sometime in the next 2 weeks. Perhaps that will improve my work life.

View over the Thames Dinner with Mikki in Putney for lovely catch-up chatson Wednesday. Photo at right is the view out the window of the pub we randomly found, after walking in the wrong direction for the one I’d found online.

We’re going to try to do these more regularly, as I need social contact, and she’s about to move to New Zealand. I know, I move halfway around the world and end up near my best friend from University and she promptly moves to New Zealand. At least it’s not personal, as this decision had been made before I told her I was moving.

Listening to a couple of bands on Saturday night with friends at the local, tiny pub. They were billed as metal bands, which I could cope with as long as they weren’t screamy-thrash metal, and the venue has an outdoor area if needed for escape. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find instead a more grunge/metal/funk style, which was fantastic. Jed bought the album.

poached eggs on toasted muffinsMy birthday on Sunday (yay!) was just perfect. We got up early-ish and trekked into London to go to brunch at the Pavilion in Victoria park. One of the things I have sorely missed here is a good Newtown style brunch. I’m pleased to say we found it! Picture of the perfect poached eggs at left, and the remains of the coffee.

You know you’ve found a good coffee/brunch venue when you’re told your normal style of coffee won’t work with their coffee blend and perhaps you’d like this other (little known, but actually the one you prefer but never ask for as it’s too hard to explain) style. Also, they had Bonsoy! And moorhens! And tables beside the lake! And people with dogs and children (not always together)! And wait staff who were stylish and cool, but also cared! And! And!

I was in heaven, in case you can’t tell.

Celebrations that evening in Balham with 7 unconnected friends who happened to be free to attend a very last minute drinks-and-dinner. Just the right amount of people. We found a fun Italian place, Cuitto’s, on Balham High Rd, which I’d recommend. Good food, fantastically friendly service, and a surprise piece of birthday tiramisu delivered after a whistle was blown so the entire tiny restaurant stopped and sang me Happy Birthday. Fun, thoughtful, and amusing.

Jed and I were quite gentle with each other all week. Designating quiet nights together, and more space and understanding for the other’s moods. Possibly the week before was our pent up emotions and stresses venting, and hence this week was a lot more even tempered and understanding. This included a lovely Friday evening where I made pork escalopes with elderberry sauce, made from the elderberries we picked on the common the previous Sunday. Very yummy! I’m having a great time with experimental cooking.

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I probably need to not write these on the following Tuesday afternoon as most of it escapes me, but here goes.

A better working situation

Work got better this week, possibly because we lost another contractor and so now they’re not actually overstaffed and I’m picking up her overflow of work. Or, I stopped being mildly stressed out and hibernating about life and responsibilities and actually started to drive this process. Or I realised that this place is not like my previous workplace (duh!) and that my former boss was fantastic in the way she gave feedback, I’m not going to get that here and I should just use it as a chance to practice other skills.

Reflection and growth

It was a week of reflecting on the past, the future, the current and trying to establish what has changed and what needs to change. Some of this has been, and continues to be rather difficult and exhausting. By the end of the week I was in tears while talking to Jed “just… wanting… it… to… stop.” I’ve done so much growth and change and work on myself over the past 2.5 years that I was hoping for a bit of a break. Apparently no. Assuming that it’s going to get easier when you move to an entirely different country is a rather silly assumption. Add to this that communication and working on our stuff is part of what makes Jed and I work, and we’ve both made a concious commitment to not sweep things under the carpet, then it is very silly to assume it’s not going to be exhausting at time. Worthwhile, definately, but also exhausting.

On the plus side I can feel patterns and assumptions I’ve been carrying for years starting to untangle and be voiced. Fears of failure and not being good enough and people being disappointed with me if I say what I really think and feel are slowly being addressed. Untangling a whole new ball of emotional wool, discovering a couple more issues onions that I need to get to the centre of, which I’ve done before and can do again and I know that at the end of it these particular submerged fears will be less problematic. Just the getting there is tough.

There was some cool stuff that came out of this reflection.

I drew up a timeline of the people and ideas and stages and events from the last 2.5 years, which was an interesting excercise in where I’d been and what had drastically changed.

I realised that one of my behavioural patterns developed during a very specific period in my twenties and if I could catch the first stages of that behaviour and remember that it wasn’t always like this then maybe it could change.

I’m working on convincing inner me that I am actually an adult who’s allowed to be heard and doesn’t have to be invisible anymore.

And Jed and I started to plan out a future where he gets to be the thing he’s always wanted to be and I get to practice all the things I’m really good at. That’s been quite exciting, and means that very shortly I’ll be getting out big pieces of paper and coloured pens to write and draw diagrams and plans and lists, one of my favourite things. We’re also getting closer to working out what we need to do to move to London for a year. By Christmas.

Stuff we did (or where’s the photos! and you’ve not mentioned the lego yet, for once)

What with all that reflection and growth we didn’t really do a lot of ‘things’ this week. Although I forgot my camera, so there’s no photos.

Friday night Jed got carded at the local supermarket for the alcohol he was trying to buy, but was refused as he didn’t have photo ID (32!!). I didn’t have any ID either. So we went to our local and laughed with them. Then a bat was discovered in the pub and we both had a lovely time helping to shoo it out and generally just watching it fly around. They are truly stunning. I can understand why you’d instictively be scared, but a bat is never going to hit you because of it’s sonar.

Saturday we went to Brighton for brunch, just because Redhill has not-even-close-to-Newtown-standard cafes and I was seriously craving such a venue. We eventually found a place that did crepes, with the right sort of staff, decor and music, and had a lovely breakfast. At 12.30. Then shopping. CDs, window shopping, and lego (see, told you!), which means my medical centre is almost, almost finished.

Sunday we went to Kew Gardens with one of my oldest friends and her boyfriend. Wandered around lots of trees, looked at fish, had tea and cake, climbed through a very large replica badger sett (and avoided collecting any of the myriad of children that were also crawling around inside the drakish tunnels), sat in front of the Japanese garden section, and then went back to their place for a late BBQ. Lovely! The National Garden photographer of the year exhibition was on, so we also got to look at gorgeous photos. So gorgeous that Jed bought the book so we can keep looking at them.

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not yet opened

After purchasing the Cafe Corner last month, (all photos of the model as now here) and getting out the lego that was shipped over with all my belongings, I’ve re-discovered the fun of lego model building. And discovered that I’m not the only one. There’s, not-surprisingly, entire communities out there, commonly called Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL).

I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks browsing various blogs and flickr sets looking at what other people have built based on the specifications for lego buildings inspired by this particular set and getting ideas (and I accidentally found this post via a completely different blog, it amused me lots, I feel like I’m making a similar confession). I’ve also realised that I’ve previously had a much more expensive, equally creative and yet bizarre hobby, aka the SCA, so if I choose to spend money on lego there’s no real problem. Oh, and there’s a pick-and-mix option on the lego.co.uk site, and a lego designer software which allows you to design a model, price it and then request a custom shipment. My first one should arrive this week. On the wishlist for birthday and Christmas are the Greengrocer and Fire Station sets.

By Tuesday I’d worked out that I had enough pieces from medical related lego sets I received as a child to build a quite decent medical clinic based on these specs. So, most of my spare time this week has been spent doing that. It’s gone through about 3 re-builds so far, as I’ve played with decoration, placement of the stair case and internal walls. The delivery this week will get me a black tiled roof, and enough pieces to hopefully finish it off. Well, except for a basement and a small access ramp I want to build…

Wednesday Jed and I went on the first of what might become regular weeknight a’ventures. We decided on dinner in London, specifically chinese dumplings and a colleague recommended a place in the Chinatown that made their dumplings in house. It was fantastic! Exactly what we were after, to the extent I declared it was nice to have “real food” at the end of the meal. Very reminscient of beloved dumpling places in Ashfield, and sitting on metal stools around communal tables in Thailand. We had two plates of pork and bamboo shoot dumpings, steamed and fried, a small place of soy chicken, and a small plate of bok choy. With rice and bubble tea/iced pineapple drink. All for £30. Heaven!

It was a wonderfully warm evening, and the sun was still up So we then wandered around China town. I introduced Jed to durian, as the smell of it was deliciously wafting across the courtyard. We bought two fortune cookies for dessert. Mine read “your dreams will soon come true”, I’m hoping it refers to a meaningful job. We ran around inside a Korean sweet shop, and came home with random boxes of chocolate biscuit-y things, and some black sesame glutinous rice balls. Nom!

Friday was games night with friends. Introduced them to Settlers of Catan which we recently acquired. Jed bases his strategy on observations of Mat(my former flatmate)’s tactics and we’ve decided that the development card deck is now called the “Mat wins” deck. It amuses us. Unfortunately the robber piece has also been renamed “the gimp”, which seems to amuse everyone except me.

Saturday I went to a friend’s birthday party in nearby Wallington, in which I got off the bus waaaay too early and had a nice walk from one town (Purley) to the next past gardens and fields. This map should give you an idea. I got off the bus halfway up Foxley Lane/A2022. I walked to Wallington, the next town NW of there) Only two blisters to show for it. On the other hand, my friend, the lovely Dee, lives so close that we can plan regular tea or beer catch ups, I just have to get off the train 3 stops earlier. This is really cool, as it was the one thing that was really missing. Regular chats with someone who’s not Jed.

Sunday we went Blackberrying up on the Common, picking a small ice cream container’s worth to make into a dessert later this week. It was warm and sunny, perfect for picking blackberries which were warm and juicy, although probably at their best in another week or two. Also perfect for getting the requisite blackberry scratches and unobservantly standing right next to a tall stinging nettle plant and getting stung on the back of an elbow. Which I did. All of which brought back many childhood memories. Including that nettles stings are nowhere near as bad as bull ant bites, or as icky as leeches, so I could just deal with it (all three of which occurred to me on one regular family camping trip up the back of the Hawkesbury).

A really nice weekend all up.

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This weekly update is a bit late. Oh well.

Last week was spent mostly receovering from whatever illness I had the week before. Maybe swine flu, maybe just normal flu passed on from a child. Jed and our flatmate seems to have avoided it, so maybe it was just a common English variant that L and I didn’t have immunity to. Which means I am now dreading winter.

On Thursday Jed and I had one of our adjustment blow-ups. Not an angry one, just a space where one of us emotionally cracks about a particular issue and then we talk, meaningfully, about why and what has triggered it, come to an understanding of the other person’s perspective and perhaps come up with a solution to the problem. Not surprisingly there’s been a number of these since March, as we sort out a relationship and living together. “Hot-housing” is the term I’ve come to use for our situation. Most relationships go through a steady build up, where each person gets to slowly learn the foibles of the other, their preferences and attitudes and there’s time-out space created through not living together. Not this situation, we have very little time-out space other than going to work. Emotional outbursts are not worrying, since our reactions are healthy, and we build from there.

Actually, in some respects this is my current lesson. Learning to identify when I am upset or when I feel that I should sacrifice myself for someone else’s (assumed) feelings, rather than speaking up and communicating what is wrong and either saying sorry if it’s my fault, or being able to say “this hurt me” if it wasn’t. I’ve spent most of my life trying to not rock the boat, trying to have as little impact as possible, avoiding conflict and subsuming problems, scared that I’d not be loved if I wasn’t nice and accommodating, or if I caused anyone any bother at all. This has been the benefit so far of this situation, learning when to state what is actually going on, and learning that I will still be loved. Lots.

The outburst was probably also caused by the 4 month crash. 4 months since I arrived and stuff is now mundane, not shiny and new. Habits and patterns have set in, as has a form of homesickness.

Bridge over the Avon
So, in order to escape from these patterns, and to give ourselves some adventure time together we booked a last minute weekend in Bath. It was lovely! We stayed in a guest house on Great Pulteney St, with a view over the cricket field. We visited the Roman Baths, lots of good history there, being able to walk through the excavations of the site was fantastic. We played River Pirates Adventure Golf (mini-golf for the Australians, the River Pirate stuff was the result of puddles on the pitch). We avoided the 30 minute talk in the Jane Austen centre, actually we avoided that entirely deciding to not jostle with die hard fans who secretly want to wed Mr Colin-Darcy-Firth, we had lunch by the weir and discussed the racist attitudes of seagulls to the lesser pigeon half-breeds (aka juvenile seagulls that had pigeon colourings) and came up with a way of talking about the root of the problem that caused the outburst on Thursday, so that should start getting better.

Just what we needed.

The photos will go up in a week or so, once the Lego ones have been processed. In the meantime, here’s one I took last time I was there in 2007.

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On Monday, I didn’t go to Windsor Races. Negotiating getting out there and back home to Surrey without a car was too much. It can take up to 1.5 hours to get home from London after peak hour on a weeknight, and I’m still not feeling proficient enough at navigating around England and organising myself and Jed to get to events on a school night.

However, I did decide to apply for a permanent position in the newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change (yes, that’s right, another DECC) as they had a general recruitment round closing on 6 July, one of which was a set of positions titled “policy adviser”. I rang their contact to see what the deal was, and it seems there are 70 positions going over 7 pay grades. I spent most of the week getting this application ready, which was sent off yesterday afternoon. Either I’m a shoe-in as I have the experience they’re after, or I completely misjudged the position description and they are after a middle manager. Doing a direct comparison of pay scales would lead me to believe the first, but there was a criterion about leading and developing a team which concerns me. Oh well, all will be revealed in time.

We had lovely tapas meal in Reigate on Wednesday night, to allow us both time to recover from a rather emotional Tuesday night. It was the predicted 3-month blow-up of reality hitting home. This has all been a bit tougher than I was letting myself acknowledge it would be before I left. This time round my move overseas is semi-permanent and I’m doing it without a support network. Dealing with my own slight panic at the lack of taken-for-granted security that comes with knowledge of a society and a wide network of people to interact with, while emotionally supporting a partner who aches for a different life but doesn’t quite see how to achieve it, nor really believes he (we) can do it, and also doesn’t ever seem to have had anyone tell him he’s doing a good job.

Work [1] has also been a bit slow of late, with many of my projects either waiting on feedback, being taken to meetings for approval without me being informed, or decisions being made without telling me so I can keep up. This was fixed later in the week, but it’s made me realise that this position is one of those that has lots of potential, but the working practices will eventually drive me batty. Perhaps I’m not cut out for local government work? The constituency is too close and too apparent, and hence upper management reacts more easily.

Friday night I cooked an experimental Japanese dinner, which was very tasty. Although, since a large plate of gyoza was the centrepiece of the meal it would have been hard to make it untasty. J

Saturday and Sunday Leylah was over after a week in France, and we mostly stayed around the house. It must be an odd space for her (and hence for us when she’s over) as she spends half her time there but I suspect it’s not really ‘home’. Partially there’s no space that is specifically hers, so at frequent intervals she will declare that she is ‘bored!’, but listening to the tone of voice I suspect that she is actually ‘lost’, not knowing what to do, and not feeling she has permission to make changes that would stop her being bored. Previously it was a house of two Bachelors where a girl child would come to visit, and mostly get waited on. Since I’ve arrived we’ve created a bit more structure, furniture and belongings have been moved around so the place is a bit nicer to be in and she can get to glasses and plates (and has been told she can use the microwave to reheat food!). It’s a work in progress, but will probably only improve in a big way when we move somewhere else, sometime in October.

Lastly, on Saturday night I saw my beloved Cat Empire in concert in London. Which made it the 7th concert of their’s I’ve been to in 2.5 years. They are that enjoyable and varied. I went with 4 of Jed’s friends (there was a last minute mix-up with Leylah so Jed stayed at home) who had not heard their music before and I’m glad to say they loved it. However, they also made me go to the Australian themed walkabout pub nearby (where I proceeded to have a rant that it wasn’t an actual Australian pub, there was no Cooper’s available, and there was no beetroot on the burgers), and then we had Australian themed meat pies afterwards. The pies were really good. The pub wasn’t.

[1] I know I’ve not actually said what I’m doing. Short story: it’s pick-up project work for a London Local Authority, initial 3 month contract, which will likely get extended unless I find permanent work.

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It’s been a rather social week.

Monday I went to a private show at Camberwell College of Arts to look at their graduating student exhibition. My friend Flick (incidentally, not her real name, as I discovered after NOT finding her work) had just finished her MA in Conservation and the Ledger books she’d repaired were on display. I really Other exhibits included some papyrus, conserved in a “less innovative way” (code for, the Museum that owns the piece wouldn’t take my advice); a navy velvet Victorian jacket; a copy of Dante; a ‘heiroglyphical’ bible, essentially a version of the bible with some nouns replaced by line drawings and the images of a Norwich fabric pattern book from the 1700s which was still in Norwich, although it is going on display in September. Sounds like a good excuse for a viist. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and hanging out with Flick, getting the insider’s description of the works and the personalities of each conservator.

Managed to get lost on the way home, by taking the bus going in the other direction. I really miss my ability to zen navigate in this country. It’s probably because of a lack of familiarity with how everything connects, and this will change in time, nevertheless, it’s frustrating. On the other hand, I did get to fill in some of my knowledge of South London between Camberwell and Lewisham, so not all bad.

Wednesday I caught up with Brendan, who was on the London leg of his extended European holiday, and Monty, who hadn’t realised I’d moved over. We went out for curry in Brick Lane. I got to watch Monty haggle with the touts in front of each restaurant to get us a 20% discount, free beers and pappadums. I’d been to Brick Lane once before, on that occasion we walked into the 1st place we saw as we were all so hungry we didn’t care. This time round I got to see how it should be done.

Had a long lunch with Brendan the next day. It was perfect weather, so we headed to Canary Wharf (near where I work) and ate by the water. With the exception of Friday last week’s weather was gorgeous, similar to the best days in October in Sydney. If this is as hot as it gets all Summer then I’ll be happy.

Saturday we caught up with Scruffy & J to do a tour of Hever Castle, which is only two valleys away from our house. This is the castle that Anne Boleyn grew up in, and where she retired while Henry VIII was getting his marriage with Catherine of Aragon annulled. It was full of Tudor portraits, most of the ones J and I were familiar with from our costuming days. We lingered in these sections of the castle while Jed and Scruffy motored on ahead and had a relaxing recline on the lawn. Hever is surrounded by fantastically landscaped gardens built in the early 19th century to house the collection of artifacts that a member of the Astor family collected while he was the British ambassador to Italy. Some of these items date back 2000 years. I took many photos (of course) which will be on my Flickr account soon.

Yesterday we re-arranged the house to make it more liveable. Very happy with the results, and we could tell it was a success from the impressed exclamations of our flatmate, Robbie, when he came home.

Otherwise I’ve not got as much done this week as I wanted to, mostly as I bought two PC games on special last week, Rollercoast Tycoon 3 and Settlers 5, and have been sucked into the vortex of gaming. There’s a reason I wasn’t allowed to purchase anything like this until after I’d secured employment. Robbie is a PC gamer as well, so now evenings at our place consist of the 3 of us in the living room with our laptops going and the TV on in the background. Quite communal in a strange sort of way.

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