Fly Away Home

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

My commitments (work, work, and some work) will finally permit me to head back to Australia for a little while. A week each in WA and Sydney — so Kat and I can spread our time evenly with our respective families. Our itinerary is:

  May 27th: LHR to PER: Arriving Mon 28th 14:10
  Jun 03rd: PER to SYD: Arriving Sun 03rd 16:00
  Jun 10th: SYD to LHR:  Leaving Sun 10th 16:40

I’m proposing a call-to-drinks on Monday the 4th of June, being a “school night” it’ll be an early one. If you can come along I’m sure it’d be great to see you, whoever you are :) I don’t know where it’ll be yet, but I’m thinking The Australian up in The Rocks is a good choice (but I might make it closer to Sensory for after-work convenience — or somewhere quieter just to keep it relaxed).

But wait, there’s more. I think a more lively call-to-drinks needs to be set up for Friday the 8th as well! Again, it’d be great to see anyone there who can make it. This will probably be at the James Squire Brewhouse at Darling Harbour.

I’ll also be going to the Little Creatures place (noticing a theme?) in Freo during my WA week, but I expect that’s a little out of the way for most people I know!

There’s much to celebrate: being in Australia for one (though we missed the damn summer), catching up with everyone we haven’t seen for a year, Kat and I starting out on the route to becoming Poms (we have company-independent residency visas now), Kathlene getting a job within a month of getting a visa!, not to mention various great events in the lives of our friends “back home”.

I’ve heard from a reliable source that there might be “something happening” on the 9th as well.

Aside from these tentative plans I’ll be in Sydney for that whole week (albeit based in the far and distant land of Kellyville) and on leave for most of it. Lunches (ah, Ten Buck Alley), coffees (ah, Toby’s) and the like are all open.

Mobile Media Ubiquity

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I’m sitting on the train right now watching a bunch of 9 year old boys displaying their flashy mobile phones to each other. Thinking back almost 2 decades ago, when I was 9… change is interesting. If only they didn’t make the things speakerphone capable, I’ve never liked wearing headphones in public places but the alternative these days is listening to kids playing off their favourite pop and hip-hop artists against each other (backed up by constant PSP sound effects). If nothing else, we certainly live in a noisier world now. No music sounds good coming out of these devices with added screech and crackle and truncated range, but this isn’t just about listening to the music of course.

The 9 year olds were just replaced by a bunch of 12 year old boys who’re watching South Park on their mobile phones. Will wonders never cease?

I’m not complaining, I was late to enter the mobile market (2003) but my first mobile phone was an all-bells-and-whistles, touchscreen, 3G, Motorola A920 brick (now a less bricky A1000). I was able to watch videos on my phone before most people I know (and they’re mostly geeks) — back in Sydney I often used it to check out movie trailers before heading to the cinema. It’s not the newness of the tech that’s interesting, geeks have had this stuff for years, it is the sudden ubiquity. These kids don’t even have iPods anymore, they don’t need them.

I’ve noticed more and more people in the gym without iPods too, the same trend applies: they’ve been replaced by phones (it might be a different story in a trendoid gym in a trendier area). What has higher value, the supposed sexiness of an iPod or not having to carry around an additional gadget? Phones are getting sexier anyway. Thus the iPhone? There’s so much potential for wringing money out of these kids. Media/Games/Software … the hard part is getting them to pay rather than just working out how to rip everything off (it only takes one l33t kid to knock 100+ out of the market, and it isn’t hard to be l33t). The answer must be to make paying easier than ripping off, which is easy to say but the hard part is “how?”. The music industry seems to think this can be done by making the ripping-off harder; and they just move from one DRM total-failure to the next.

Cheese & Stout

Beer and Cheese

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Well, it’s happening — through time I’m finding things in the UK that fill in some of the gaps left from Sydney. One of these gaps is beer; cheese isn’t one, England thrashes Australia on the cheese front (I guess we have to give them a chance somewhere). This Saturday we did one of our trips into Borough Market and discovered some great beer while picking up some excellent cheese.

B33R

Two Beer Girl

Two Beer Girl

After our, now traditional, “three posh bangers in a roll” from the Stoney Street Café we noted the “porter” in “Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House” for the first time. We had three great beers (two porters, one stout), at a slightly hefty price tag of 5-6 quid per 500ml bottle! Next time we’ll have to try some of the oysters and maybe the deep fried squid. There was a stand next to us, out the front of the premises, where a guy shucked oysters and generated mouth watering aromas by deep-frying squid for passers-by.

With porter on my mind (and in my belly) we wandered into the Utobeer stall in the market. Amongst their excellent range of beer was one of the porters we’d just had, along with as everything from stubbies of VB (hrm) to Chimay Bleu (mmm). We left with a small sample of beers to try, a bottle of the St Peter’s Old Style Porter we’d just had along with it’s Honey Porter and Cream Stout brethren (the oval bottles they use are very distinctive) and an Okell’s Aile Smoked Celtic Porter (because it sounded interesting). The over-the-counter prices for these beers is a rather more palatable ~2.50 each.

The St Peter’s beers, along with the nearby Brew Wharf are now on our “see, the English can make beer” tour of London. St. Peter’s also has a pub with their cask ales: the Jerusalem Tavern, in Clerkenwell (EC1). We’ll be checking it out soon!

Taking a quick detour; far out of London in Alyesbury, I’ve recently been led to Hop Pole (“Aylesbury’s permanent beer festival“). A pub with a great range of cask ales on tap, many from the local area. The Vale Pale Ale and the Grand Union Honey Porter are both excellent. Unfortunately this discovery comes near the end of the time I’ll be in Aylesbury regularly (after more than a year), a bit late! If you ever happen to be there and after a beer, the Hop Pole Inn is the place to go (it’s on Bicester Road, only about a 10 minute walk from the town centre).

CH33S3

Cheese is a different matter. The cheese situation here in the UK was clearly superior to that in Australia from the start. Even in Tesco (like Coles) you can get a great range of local and continental cheese. Sheep, buffalo, goat, even cow. Unpasteurised and pasteurised. Soft, hard, old, and mouldy. That’s just Tesco. My first unpasteurised Camembert was an education in it’s self, and after a year the lesson has only just begun.

As I’ve already covered, we get some great parmesan from Borough Market. As well as the parmesan people there are always many other stalls with great cheese; the luxurious, velvety Comté, the delicate and tasty Caerphilly (sold by authentic hairy Welsh gentlemen), the small stalls with 100s of different cheeses, and then there’s also the slicker Neal’s Yard shop on Park Street.

Cheese & Stout

Cheese & Stout

As well as our usual parmesan purchase we grabbed an exquisite unpasteurised Stilton from one of the stalls. Alas, I cannot remember it’s name, I can remember that it comes from Nottinghamshire (almost a “duh” is seems), can also be found at Neal’s Yard (but isn’t listed on their website), and tastes glorious. We just ate some of it with the St. Peter’s Cream Stout — one last thing to add: ner ner.

All the specialist cheese stalls (stalls which provide just one or two specific cheeses) have bits out for tasting, as does Neal’s Yard, so you don’t have to take my word on any of this. Get yourself to the market and eat cheese!