Tag Archives: shopping

Solo in Sydney* or: Getting My Groove Back

17 Dec

candle-lit mantlepiece with shiny silver backdrop.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a pulse will not be in want of attention in a cocktail bar. I have no idea how I’d forgotten this. But I had…

Over the course of a “career” not so much chequered as positively gingham, but dominated by language and creative stuff, one of few constants has been writing about bars, cocktails, bartenders and combinations thereof.

So as the witching hour when economics moves me from travelling mama to digital nomad mama approaches (accelerated by the prices in Oz), I’ve dipped a tentative toe back into the world of paid writing.

More specifically, an old, old friend and quondam employer who has asked me to identify, write up and take the odd shot of the top bars in Sydney and Melbourne. Z? He’s frolicking in saltwater pools outside Cairns with his dad.

So here I am, in Sydney. Solo. Bouncing around cocktail bars and landmarks with a notebook and a camera as I did rather a lot from age 24 until Z arrived on the scene two years later.

And how does it feel? Continue reading

Shopping Mission — Hanoi

7 Jun

Bicycle covered in flowers parked in side street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Flowers by bike: Hanoi, Vietnam

It was S’s (the nine-year-old’s father’s) last day with us today. And we spent it in Hanoi. The bulk of it, in fact… drum roll… shopping for a… cymbal clash… pencil sharpener.

Now, when it comes to travel, I’m a great believer in the power of mooching. Sort of ambling around. Not doing very much. Gawping a little. Making friends with people you meet. Slowing way, way down. And seeing life around you as it is lived, not as it is composed for a tourist postcard.

But it’s good to have a mission. And a mundane mission, such as a quest for a pencil sharpener, a good kindergarten table spring roll joint, the perfect souvenir lighter for your pocket pyromaniac or all of the above, makes for a better walking tour of the city than any number of tour guides could provide. It brings you straight up against how alien life is, in its everyday mundanity, and takes you on a lazy tour of a great city’s back alleys and byways.

Because, believe you me, buying a pencil sharpener is a hell of a lot harder and infinitely more enlightening than scoring opium, silk dressing gowns or lacquer vases. And, yes, since you ask, I am regretting allowing Z his choice of lighter. Continue reading

Short Trousers…

26 Apr Me from behind, walking through coconut forest, Mariquit, Palawan, Philippines

Why is it that someone capable of the Wildean (or Timmy Timpson-esque) remark — “I’ve just been stung by an aquatic delicacy; I am hardly in the mood for seafood?” –- is reduced to howling, “Noooo, mum, seriously, please don’t! Please! Don’t do it!” when I attempt to buy a pair of shorts?

I’ve posted before about my spawn’s touching concern for the size of my arse. However, here in the Philippines, they use American sizes, which not only means that any shop will contain some clothes that fit you, but is particularly wonderful for Brits.

By the simple trick of switching from UK to US labels, one can, as if by magic, lose at least two sizes overnight. After my “XXL or XXXL, Madam?” trauma in Cambodia, a tense forty minutes squeezing into swimsuits in Saigon, and the horrors of knicker-shopping in Bangkok, this is all to the good.

What is less to the good, perhaps, is the preferred sizing. Continue reading

Mega-Malls

15 Apr

Yesterday we said goodbye to Granny and Grandpa, who are off to Hong Kong for a week of sybaritic luxury with an old friend, then back to sunny England.

To ease the parting, Z and I made like Manileños. That is, we spent the day at the mall, shopping, scoffing junk food and abusing the free aircon.

Though I guess if I were really going native, I’d have stocked up on diet potions — enriched with L-Carnitine to help burn fat! — too. Or perhaps a diet coffee to accompany my chocolate brownie? That is, a calorie-burning coffee. Not a coffee with low-fat milk.

The Philippines is a nation where Kraft Cheez Whiz can feature on the health pages of a major newspaper –- as a recommendation.

And where Kraft’s chief nutritionist for Asia can tell a hack, presumably with a straight face, that said product, though packed with calcium and undoubtedly beneficial, does not quite contain every single ingredient required for a healthy diet. Continue reading

I Heart Cambodia – Part 1

19 Feb

sun starting to set over angkor watZ and I are sitting in pitch blackness on the laterite stairs overlooking the lake of Banteay Kdei, Cambodia, between a sculpted Khmer lion and the light of a Chinese guy’s tripod, some unsightly period before 6am.

Tourist lore dictates that, when experiencing the grandeur of the Khmer god-kings, and the Angkor sights, one sees a sunrise. Holding to the belief that sunrises are best experienced without busloads of fellow travellers, I have picked Banteay Kdei as being less crowded than Ta Prohm.

“You wan’ buy flute?” asks a boy, who is probably in his early teens, for perhaps the fifteenth time.

“No, thank you,” I say, for probably the thirteenth time. “I do not want to buy a flute. I no want flute. Thank you.”

The per capita income in Cambodia is around $2000. When you take the elite out of the equation, it means most people earn very much less than that.

“I make you good price! One dollar!!! For your baby!” Continue reading