Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lingfield Melts

“Mad March” splashed across Monday’s Daily Mail as “Britain was plunged into the worst spring freeze in more than 25 years” but the sun came out the following day and as the town of Lingfield melted, I took my first ever walk in the snow, filming as I went, without a tripod unfortunately.

The snow came tumbling down in the county of Surrey on what was labelled the coldest day in March since 1986. Reported temperatures dropped as low as minus-12 celsius, but here in Lingfield, I personally saw the gauge reading a relatively balmy -3.

It was the region’s first March snow in seven years and while unofficial reports put it at 12cm, the Met Office measured 7cm at nearby Charlwood.

Only 24 miles south of London, as well as being a dormitory suburb for London commuters, it’s home to a good number of residential facilities for the elderly and, of course, Lingfield Park Racecourse.

While racing officials at Cheltenham were bravely peeling off their thermal covers this week to say their show would definitely go on, it was just as uncertain if Lingfield Park will be able to host their scheduled meet this Friday.

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A Big Day Out in London

Seeing as London is too chilly for a stroll right now, here’s my last visit, revisited…

10:20 Pulled into London Paddington

10:25 Purchased a Nero’s Americano. Got my coins confused. Told the edgy server he needed to order the chai latte for himself next time.

10:35 Asked man on tube to look out for his elbows with my coffee. His reaction implied I was trying to communicate to him in Klingon.

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10:45 Alighted at Oxford Circus

10:47 Man asked where I got my Nero’s coffee (???)

10:53 Gave a blind fiddler a quid. His box was empty. Has he been robbed? Is it clever marketing? Had he just started for the day?

11:10 Reached Primark Oxford St

11:45 Joined queue for change rooms in Primark
Numero Uno. That's just how I roll.

Numero Uno. That’s just how I roll.

11:55 Entered changeroom

12:10 Arrived at checkout. Spoke to Jujar about life in Dubai. We both agreed that my circumstances were infinitely better than his own experience of Dubai through no fault of either of us.

12:25 Coffee at Pain Quotidien to regroup (repack Primark loot) and plan attack

12:35 Set off for Macculloch & Wallis haberdashery

12:39 Saw quartet of LA porn star types soaking up British culture: looking for an Italian restaurant each carrying nothing but an enormous Victoria’s Secret bag.

IMG_242612:45 At Macculloch & Wallis can’t work out Simplicity patterns. Irony? Bought New Look. Irish cashier admired the pattern for sundresses. Talked about dress code in Dubai. She’s dressed head-to-toe in black and tartan but says not being able to bare her shoulders is the reason she wouldn’t live in the UAE.

13:43 Leaving John Lewis with nothing. Panic. Feet hurting big time. Did the embarrassing Dubai thing of waiting for the doors to open for me. With someone behind me and all!

13:50 Detour via Muji. Talked about Dubai with cashier. Yay for the soon-to-be-opening Dubai Mall store I tells her!

14:08 HMV. Sold out of both titles Robert had asked for “and we won’t be replenishing them”. Good for the creditors, I guess.

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14:15 Cloth house. Meh.

14:25 Kleins… Meh.

14:35 Liberty. Meh…

14:47 Feet hurting too much now to focus on anything else. Ow!

14:50 The Air St Cobbler’s insoles smack me in the face. He even cut the spongiest ones to my size for me. Yay! Cost me a fiver which is a ripoff I’m sure but there’s no way I could hide my desperation or relief.

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My saviour.

15:10 Waterstones. Collected pre-ordered books. Done.

15:20 Tescos chicken edamame salad eaten at a bus stop. Classy. 260cal

My saviour in form of machine

My saviour in form of machine

15:25 Faffing around looking for a meeting spot with John.

15:30 Aargh. There were onions in the salad!

15:35 Saved by the Extra dispensed by handy toilet vending machine

15:40 Subject arrives for interview.

18:00 I’m “tenacious”, he says. Wine has stopped flowing, the end must be imminent.

19:00 Arrived Paddington.

19:30 Guzzled a sandwich on the train…

20:00 Home. I will sleep well tonight.

My retail trek through London

My retail trek through London

Come Argue With Me!

I applied for Come Dine With Me Dubai this week. Rima didn’t know I had and suggested it separately on her Wall (great minds?). Her friend said that the number of crackpots in Dubai could fill a whole series, not just a couple of shows. Rima said she literally LOLed when I confirmed that I’d “talked up my difficult nature” in my application. Continue reading

Missing Mary’s Laksa

Laksa is my favourite meal in the whole world and Mary’s laksa is my favourite variety. Two types of noodles (rice and egg). A light broth that’s not as heavy on the coconut or chilli as it is on the savoury tang.

But it did not start with Mary, no no no! I’ve been a devoted fan of this tangy, spicy soup for years. Continue reading

Once bitten…

As unlikely as it sounds, until tonight I had never experienced a frozen meal of any kind. I caved last weekend at Carrefour when faced by a delicious looking goats cheese and spinach lasagne. Tonight, arriving home late, with a headache, it seemed like the goods. Exhibit B is why I will never be foolled again. Those contents were a gelatinous bland fraud in a cardboard tray. Bleurgh!

Travels on foot

Dubai is a notoriously unfriendly city for pedestrians. Most areas simply have no footpaths (/pavements/sidewalks). Those wanting to take to the streets are forced to do literally that, and walk along the roadway, or the dirt and rubble beside it. (Manicured verges? I don’t think so.) Yes, Dubai is very good at creating basic working infrastructure overnight, but the finishing touches often take years to complete. Temporary barriers are a permanent sight in every locale.

The opening of the Dubai Metro in September 2009 – and the subsequent roll-out of all stations on the Red Line over the next year – gave hope to wannabe pedestrians too. The stations along Dubai’s main thoroughfare, Sheikh Zayed Road, were built with footbridges, so the metro line could be accessed from either side. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) assured the city that these footbridges would be accessible to everyone (not just metro commuters) 24 hours a day, as discussed in this Gulf News article.

This exciting revelation would mean residents in Jumeirah Lake Towers could cross over SZR to eat in the Marina. Or that I could walk to work from The Greens to Media City.

I attempted this yesterday for the first time, giving myself a good hour to walk the 3km to work. There was a section of sand for about a few hundred metres, but otherwise, the walk was paved, and easy to manage. I arrived at Nakheel Station, outside the entrance to Emirates Golf Course and approached the stairs, but the automatic doors didn’t recognise my presence. I reversed and approached again, but was denied access, as was the case at each of the entrances.

Friday is the Muslim Holy Day and in Dubai, metro services don’t start until after 1pm (as opposed to 6am for the other six days a week). It would seem that the footbridges are not open to the public for general use, but are only open during metro operating hours. I returned home and grabbed my car keys, for the 7 minute drive to work.

Aside: When looking up the operating hours, I googled “Dubai Metro” and found that the RTA’s official website ranks around fourth in results, after several from a site called dubaimetro.eu. A bit of search engine optimisation needed?

Unglamorous travel

Growing up in Sydney and living as an expat for most of the past ten years, I’m quite used to the long-haul flight. I’m quietly amused when Europeans express how arduous they find a four or six hour flight. The key to surviving ten to twelve hours in the air (or five hours transiting inside an airport terminal) is not to peak too early.

As soon as I get in a plane I try to own my tiny little bubble of space (this girl is no business class traveller). Then, I assess what amusements are available: in-flight entertainment? Interactive or not? Magazines? English or not… If none of the above apply, I’m left to whatever novel and newspaper I’ve brought with me. Lucky I’m a good sleeper.

I’m not a fan of Air China. Before even taking off I had discovered grains of rice stuck to the blanket I’d been given. Then, upon opening the magazine, I realised it had become attached to me by the wad of crusty old gum stuck on the corner of it. Not impressed. It’s hard to own a space that revolts you.

Likewise, strategy is important in transit. I assess the smoking situation first, then coffee, then wi-fi capabilities as prerequisites: free? how strong? how much censorship?

Duty-free shopping rarely figures, I have to admit. Except if I’ve forgotten something, or to sniff around at local artisan-type stuff. I wasn’t going to sniff one item I discovered last night at DXB: a product packed with enough herbs and spices to make The Colonel envious. A product that goes some way to explaining why men in Dubai have the reputation of punching above their weight, perhaps.

Right now, I’m an hour into a four-and-a-half hour layover at Beijing International. It took me forty-five minutes to sign up for free wi-fi using a complicated passport scanning machine (the first one of which was broken). Then I discovered I couldn’t even get my social media fix as Facebook and Twitter are blocked. But to be fair, I did know this, and at least I was able to check-in with FourSquare.

Then to find coffee. There aren’t many airports in the world where you have to trek from one end to the other to find caffeine but there is a distinct lack of Starbucks, Costa, Pret a Manger etc at Beijing Capital. I don’t believe I even spotted a McDonalds in my marching. Lucky Lei Cafe came to my rescue, with a bitter cup of something I winced at with first mouthful. At least now I can think.

The smoking rooms here are not too bad here however, as far as those dens of iniquity go. Well-ventilated, with lighters on hand. Convenient, given that Customs managed to locate four lighters in my hand luggage and stole every one of them. Two unopened bottles of water taken too, that were purchased at the departure gate in Dubai. I don’t know what they think I could’ve done to them in the mean time to make them a threat. But then, I remember a strange instance in Shanghai a few years ago before boarding the Maglev train.

The surly guard told me if I wanted to keep the water I had to take a sip of it in front of him before proceeding. The logic is bizarre – obviously to prove to him it didn’t contain any chemicals of a poisoning nature. Not the time to crack jokes, but I do wonder what would’ve happened if I doubled over, gasping and clutching my throat.

So, this has taken up another thirty minutes. Onwards and upwards to the consideration of food. Maybe after another cigarette.

Mumbai: Life on the streets

Whizzing past life on the street

Mumbai is honest. It is cool and it is real. People are very much in touch with reality: a stark distinction, flying in from Dubai, like I did. As the plane approached the airport I saw my first glimpses of  slum-life. It’s amazing how many flimsy little boxes can be crammed into each other and how many blue tarpaulins tie the whole lot together.

My friend’s driver, Rajan, picked me up from the airport. As we wound our way back to their place in Juhu, all I could do was stare out the window at the pantomime of life going on around me:

– A man squatting atop a wall, eyes turned to the heavens, with an expression of pure contentment and bliss
– A little boy playing in a puddle
– A second-storey apartment dweller on his balcony, sitting on a metal swing
– Another man curled up on the side of the road, beside an electricity meter box, sleeping on a concrete slab
– Horns beeping constantly; signs everywhere saying “Everyday is a No Honking Day’
– A three-legged dog
– A roadside medical diagnosis clinic
– Taxis with their meters affixed to the exterior chassis outside the front passenger window
– A taxi driver waiting for his next fare, with only his two large soft feet showing, crossed, sticking out an open window
– A petrol station with a glass-fronted bookstore on the first floor

Day 2 – Kandahar

My carbon footprint

I have just calculated my ecological footprint. There has been great talk of carbon emissions in the last few months and for some reason it’s been front of mind for the past few days.

On the Victorian EPA site I calculated a footprint of 4.6 global hectares. The Earth can apparently regenerate 1.8 gha per person each year comfortably. On my account, we would need 2 and a half planets to sustain my activities. Shocking yes, but more shocking is that I’m less of a burden than average.

The Australian average is 7.7 gha – more than three times the global average of 2.2 gha,

But, the real shock came with knowing that 14.2 tonne per annum, or 83 percent of my total came from air travel…

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