Thursday, July 30, 2009


Earlier today I happened upon an article in the online edition of the Telegraph newspaper which listed the top 10 misquoted phrases in Britain. You know, the ones that many people use wrongly because one of the words in the phrase sounds like another word, and the other word is more common and appears to make more sense too.

I thought I'd share the list with you - keep in mind that the phrases *in brackets* are the *correct* ones.

1) A damp squid (a damp squib)

2) On tender hooks (on tenter hooks)

3) Nip it in the butt (nip it in the bud)

4) Champing at the bit (chomping at the bit)

5) A mute point (a moot point)

6) One foul swoop (one fell swoop)

7) All that glitters is not gold (all that glisters is not gold)

8) Adverse to (averse to)

9) Batting down the hatches (batten down the hatches)

10) Find a penny pick it up (find a pin, pick it up)

I must admit, I have on occasion proclaimed that someone was on tender hooks and I had absolutely no idea that it's what glisters that may not be gold!

According to the article, the 14th century phrase "on tenter hooks" comes from a wooden frame (a tenter) that was used to hung wet clothes out to dry, whereas the phrase "all that glisters is not gold" comes for the Shakespearean Merchant of Venice.

So... which ones of these have you been getting wrong?

Monday, July 27, 2009

David Yates does it again

Tonight we saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was just as I'd expected, a very good, dark film that followed the book in the essence, but not the excruciating detail - and just as well as the book was long and tiresome, whereas the film was much easier to follow. If you've seen and liked Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, this one won't disappoint you either. David Yates, once again, comes up trumps.

These are some of my favourite quotes from the movie (compliments of writer Steve Kloves):

Harry Potter: How do I look?
Luna Lovegood: Exceptionally ordinary.

Minerva McGonagall: Mr. Davis! Mr. Davis, that is the girls' lavatory.

Minerva McGonagall: Potter, take Weasley with you. He looks far too happy over there.

Minerva McGonagall: Why is it that whenever something happens, you three are always involved?
Ron Weasley: Believe me, professor, I've been asking myself that for the last six years.

Luna Lovegood: I've never been to this part of the castle. Well, not awake. I sleepwalk, you see. That's why I wear shoes to bed.

Horace Slughorn: Exactly how did you get out of the castle, Harry?
Harry Potter: Through the front door, sir.

Ron Weasley: I'm in love with her!
Harry Potter: Alright. Fine. You're in love with her. Have you ever actually met her?
Ron Weasley: No. Can you introduce me?

Ron Weasley: So, did you and Ginny do it?

However, none of these is as good as my favourite Snape quote from the Order of the Phoenix. This one still makes me laugh today:

Unless you wish to poison Potter - and I assure you I would have the greatest sympathy with you if you did - I cannot help you.

Classic Snape. Heh.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Upside down weather

Today a friend of mine who lives in Cyprus posted a temperature update on her Facebook profile - apparently it's "45 degrees and rising" in Larnaca.

A number of her friends also did the same in response. Someone reported that it's low-20's in Sydney.

It's 23 degrees (and falling) in London, which means that we have pretty much the same weather as Sydney.

Difference is, of course, that it's the middle of winter in Australia.

At least London is still dry... I hear it's pouring with rain in Northern Ireland...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pamela's graduation

Three years ago, my friend Pamela left her job to study for a BA in Marketing full time. She took her studies as seriously as she took her career - so much so that one of her professors during her first year at university advised her to do less work! It all paid off though, as last Wednesday she graduated with a 1st class degree and got to wear her graduation gown and square cap.

My friend Lucy and I were privileged to be invited to attend Pamela's graduation ceremony, which took place at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel, in Greenwich. Greenwich is the home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich mean time (this is why London is always at GMT 0) and also has a rich maritime history. The University of Greenwich is based in the stunning Old Royal Naval College grounds. The three buildings that stand on the grounds were originally constructed to serve as the Greenwich Hospital, a refuge for retired seamen designed by Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul's Cathedral), and built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869 and the buildings later housed the Royal Navy's university and more recently, the University of Greenwich.

Wednesday was a beautiful sunny day - OK it looks cloudy on the photo, but that's because of the wind. It was actually quite pleasant, and we got to enjoy the grounds before heading indoors for the ceremony.

The Chapel where the graduation ceremony took place was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Thomas Ripley, and completed in 1752, 29 years after Wren's death. It was the place of worship for the seamen of the Greenwich Hospital. I know all this because they gave us a glossy brochure with information about the grounds and the university. Before the ceremony, we were seated so that we were facing the Chapel's altar and this magnificent painting by Benjamin West, known as The Preservation of St Paul after the Shipwreck at Malta.

Above the entrance door is the Chapel's 18th-century organ, built by Samuel Green, the most celebrated organ builder of his day, in a case of Spanish mahogany. The chapel includes many clever deceptions. For example, the matching Corinthian columns at each end of the Chapel look like marble, but are actually "scagliola", a mixture of plaster and glue encasing the original stone columns.

The pastel-painted arched ceiling replaced the original flat-panelled ceiling after a fire gutted the Chapel in 1779. I loved the elaborate design and took lots of photos of the ceiling and the decoration over the windows.

The ceremony started with a welcome address by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Baroness Tessa Blackstone.

Then the Chancellor Lord Hart of Chilton and Baroness Tessa Blackstone presented the awards to the students. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of Pamela being congratulated by the Vice-Chancellor, as I was taking video at the time (and I don't know how to capture stills from my videos)!

An Honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration was presented to Mr William Allan (seen here with the university's Chancellor). Look at those colourful gowns and hats!

After the ceremony, there was a drinks reception at the Painted Hall, decorated in Baroque style by Sir James Thornhill in honour of King William and Queen Mary, between 1707 and 1726. The hall was originally built as the hospital's dining hall, but was never used by the retired seamen - they wouldn't eat there while the painter was working and once he'd finished it was considered too grand and too much of a tourist attraction to serve as a mere dining hall (I mean, look at that ceiling). It was much appreciated by all of us though, as it complimented beautifully the grandeur of the Chapel.

Congratulations, Pamela! Very well done indeed!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter weekend

Last Saturday the weather was, well let's say worse that you would expect in the middle of summer, even by English standards. As a result, we managed very little other than a quick visit to the supermarket, mainly to buy all the food I need to eat to lose weight. By Saturday evening, having given up on a last-minute respite from the wind and rain, we decided to bite the bullet and stay in with a DVD and a glass of wine.

Rather than just one DVD, we went all out and watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, followed by the rest of the Harry Potter movies. We did this two years ago, before Order of the Phoenix came out, so we thought it was time for another revision. It's always fun to watch sequels in one go, especially ones where the characters grow up with each movie and the story continues to unfold.

The only thing we hadn't thought of was that these movies are really long, well over 2 hours each, so in the end we did little else all weekend but watch Harry, Ron, Hermione and Co. get into scrapes - we drank cups of tea, cups of coffee, glasses of (very nice Merlot) wine, ate lunch, dinner and snacks, and all the time Hogwarts was there on the big screen. In the end we only managed to see four of the five films, leaving Order of the Phoenix, which is my favourite so far even though Sirius dies (sniff), to watch tonight.

Now that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fearless Fourteen

I've just finished reading Fearless Fourteen, the 14th book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. My friend Shanny introduced me to the series a long time ago, and I loved the first couple of books so much I soon got hooked. Since then I've read every single Stephanie Plum novel. There's usually a new one coming out on paperback every June and that's my summer "must read". The books are numbered, One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly and so on and they're best read in sequence as the relationships between the main characters keep evolving and there are new characters introduced in each book.

The series tells the story of Stephanie Plum, a lingerie buyer from Trenton, New Jersey, who becomes a bounty hunter to make ends meet after losing her job. Stephanie gets into all sorts of trouble and is usually assisted by her friend Lula and one or both of her love interests, Joe Morelli (yum) and Ranger (phwoar!). There are usually one or two mysteries, disappearances, murders and such like to solve in each book, but for me, the pleasure of Stephanie Plum novels is in the comedic value of the writing, which is witty and fast paced, with plenty of dialogue.

Here are some extracts from the latest book that will give you an idea of the style.

"Congratulations," I said to Lula. "When's the wedding?"
"I haven't decided that. June might be nice."
"That's next month."
"Yeah," Lula said. "You think it's too far away? I don't like long engagements."
"You can't go wrong with June," Connie said. "Everyone wants to get married in June."
"That's what I figure," Lula said. "I always wanted to be a June bride, but I don't want one of them schmaltzy weddings with the big white gown and all. I just want to get married real quiet." She looked at me. "What about you? Did you have a big schmaltzy wedding?"
"Yeah. And then I had an even bigger divorce."
"I remember the divorce," Connie said. "It was spectacular. It was a real accomplishment, since you'd only been married fifteen minutes."


The house was impressive but felt excessively large for one person. I guess you have a big house like that, you get used to living in it, but all I could think of was keeping toilet paper in all those bathrooms.


I looked up, and Mooner was in the doorway.
"The door was unlocked, so I figured you were open for business," Mooner said.
I had my hand over my heart. "You took me by surprise. Next time, yell when you come into the house."
"I was projecting my aura, but you might have been too distracted to catch it. Probably you were struggling with the feng shui in this room. Major bummer on that one." He looked across the hall. "Where's Zookamundo?"
"Five days a week."
"Whoa. He must be serious about it."

It's a rare book that has me laughing out loud, but Stephanie Plum novels always hit the mark. I'm on the floor right now :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I eat, therefore I am

I'm officially on a diet. It's a long time since I've tried to lose weight, but I need to cut out sugar anyway (doctor's orders) and eat more fibre (ditto) so I figured I might as well go the full hog and get into that pair of jeans that I never got to wear because it was two sizes too small. Eeek.

Last Friday I set myself up with e-diets and got my first week's plan, which so far I've been following, well, not quite to the letter, but closely all the same. All I've done since then is eat.

I guess the problem is that I've gone for a low-sugar, high-fibre diet, and meals that contain little or no sugar come in generous portions. Spreading the calorie load evenly throughout the day (doctor's orders again) means that I'm. constantly. eating.

Take yesterday for example. In the morning I had to plough through 100 gr of wholegrain cereal (3 times the single portion amount), 1 slice of wholemeal bread with butter and honey, 1 banana and a few grapes. By the time I finished eating, it was time to start thinking about my next meal. Lunch was two cheese and tomato sandwiches and a glass of juice, then I had an afternoon snack and a massive chicken and veg stir fry for dinner. I wonder if they're banking on weight loss through overuse of the jaws.

I'd better have lost some weight by Friday. I'll be very unamused if all this eating has been for nothing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

10 rules that only apply on screen

1. It's possible to have sex in the swimming pool, cry or have a cocktail thrown in your face without your make up bulging an inch.

2. If your lift breaks down, a hot, shirtless man will climb in through the roof and hand you a cold drink before rescuing you.

3. The smaller the town, the greater the number of cute men. At some point, two of them will have a fight over you in the street.

4. All weddings involve someone swooping in to halt the ceremony, one of the guests finding their soulmate and/or a punch up.

5. Even if you're a waitress on minimum wage, you go shopping mid-afternoon and can still afford a huge luxury flat.

6. It's impossible to decorate without a paint smudge on one cheek, a play fight with a sexy neighbour and an indoor picnic.

7. If you break up with a guy, you can spend weeks scoffing tubs of ice cream and huge pizzas - and still fit into your clothes.

8. Your mobile will only ever run out of battery if you happen to be kidnapped and are desperately trying to call for help.

9. Boring chores such as dusting, vacuuming, washing-up and cleaning the oven strangely don't exist.

10. The male friend you've never fancied but who's always there for you - and not gay - is really the love of your life.

This list was published in July's Cosmopolitan magazine.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Open air Wimbledon

Back in London, watching the women's doubles final on a big screen. The grass was a bit damp and there were no tables and chairs, but it was a nice exprerience nevertheless.

Serena Williams and sister Venus Williams retained their women's doubles title by beating Rennae Stubbs and Samantha Stosur 7-6 (7-4) 6-4.