Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 31 December 2009

Oh, how promptly and obediently we stuck on the coloured patches our guide gave us to wear. And oh, how the irony of it completely passed her by.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Krakow in the snow

After the first evening, as in every home exchange, of orienting myself to someone else's way of organising their home (so many keys! no teapot! have I, the invading stranger, put the cat off its food?*) and the neighbourhood (evidently the would-be trendy/arty bit of Krakow), it snowed overnight.

Even under skies that stayed leaden-grey all day, there was a certain extra charm to seeing real snow weighing down Christmas trees and street decorations alike.

As the morning wore on, though, the mixture of slush and occasional rain made this a day for indoor sightseeing. In the Czartorysky Museum, one is introduced to a dizzying succession of Polish monarchs and marshals of the 16th-18th centuries and their various portraits, acquisitions and knick-knacks (the glory days of richly-decorated armour and sumptuous carpets and tents acquired as booty from defeating the Ottomans soon give way to more domestic goods), and then a collection of paintings, which likewise rather tails off after the mediaeval, Renaissance and the Rembrandt.

I had lunch in a cellar which also offered a fortune-teller (no-one seemed to need her services, and she didn't seem bothered - no doubt it was no surprise to her).

In the Collegium Maius, the mediaeval base and current museum and ceremonial heart of the Jagiellonian University, not everything is mediaeval: it's the closest I shall ever come to an Oscar, and Olympic gold medal or a Nobel prize (this must be one of the few places where you can see them all in one cabinet, as they have been presented to the university by former students). The main impression, however, is of the solemnity with which great institutions like this present their history (all the more understandable here, given what's happened to Poland over the centuries); much is familiar to anyone who's seen an Oxford or Cambridge college chapel or library, but there are some really impressive examples of decorative art and craft:

*This is a rhetorical question. There is a cat. There is food. What - by one letter - is the most economical response?

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Euphemism corner

Spotted en route to Stansted Airport and the delights of Ryanair (no, there were some things I didn't have to pay for, I made sure I went before I got on the plane):

A truck advertising 'End of Life Vehicle Specialists' - not, I suspect, hearse suppliers, but scrap dealers.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Just to get you in the mood, here are some lovely ladies knocking out (literally) some seasonal music:

Monday 21 December 2009

Getting there..

These last few days before Christmas are eerily quiet in the office - a bare handful of people under the ever-so-slightly-overplanned ranks of our Space Invader decorations, and round the corner even fewer under our neighbours' efforts (they tried to compete, but it has to be said, Christmas spirit notwithstanding, that it looks like an explosion in a pound shop).

No more tea-point two-step, for these few days. Long years ago, some genius decided a building full of civil servants would need no more than two tiny spaces per floor, each of which might just about pass muster for a one-bedroom flat for those of modest income. As a result, gasp as one might, making a cuppa usually necessitates a polite wait while strangers from other sections exchange mysterious gossip and air incomprehensible grievances, and then a polite excuse-me and might-I-just of manoeuvres between the boiler, the sink and the fridge. Not today.

It's all the quieter because of the snow, the worst effects of which don't seem to have had any effect where I live, but to the south and east of London, people were taking three hours to get home last night, it seems. Less than ten days ago, I was still not using my winter outerwear, the encircling gloom not being that cold.

But with the snow, the Christmas season is at last (and somehow rather late, by comparison with previous years) perceptible; it seemed only appropriate to seek out the seasonal photo-opportunity I missed last year (you may attribute the camera movement to seasonal shivers):

Sunday 20 December 2009

Somebody stop me

Waitrose had a reduction on packs of Green and Black's chocolate yesterday. I thought it might be something to keep me going until Christmas. Won't last till Monday at this rate....

Friday 11 December 2009

Senior moments

I've never been particularly interested in shoes: all they need to be is comfortable and long-lasting. I usually have a couple of pairs of black and a couple of pairs of brown shoes, in different styles, and wear each pair on alternate days. I only mention this because today, on picking up the waiting pair of black shoes so neatly (for once) aligned in the corner, I realised I must have spent yesterday wearing the left of one style and the right of another.

On a seasonal note, one advantage of the colder weather is that, on a crowded tube train, people are so much better padded and less sharp-elbowed. It's like being gently (but firmly) swaddled in a constricting maze of pillows.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Santa's little stylists strike again

We do occasionally do some work as well.