Little Outdoor Kylie

Five Reasons why you should Ditch your Handbag for a Backpack

December 18, 2014

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Photography credit: Steven Lewis via Unsplash

I work in a pretty nerdy industry. It’s mostly full of men, geeking out over render engines and the download speed of their FTP. These fellas carry their laptops and hard drives and a cacophony of cables wherever they go, so it’s no wonder the majority have long since ditched the “man bag” in favour of a good old-fashioned backpack.

But what about my fellow media ladies? It’s a bit of a different story. For the most part, I witness a lot of lasses in the centre of Soho struggling with tote bags, handbags, lunch bags and shopping bags, spilling their morning coffees whilst they run for the bus.

So today I’d like to dispel the myth that backpacks are the ultimate nerdy accessory. Here are five reasons why you should embrace this wonderful bit of kit.

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Photography credit: Kate Elliott

1. You can organise and find your stuff with ease

How many times have you delved into your handbag, knowing it’s going to need completely emptying before you’re able to locate your lip balm? Or had to rummage your Oyster card at the bus stop, muttering “I know it’s in here somewhere…!”

Backpacks are crammed full of useful pockets, hooks and zippered sections: I have a separate section for all my cosmetics and girlie bits and bobs, another for my cables and chargers, then the largest section for my laptop, book, lunch, flask etc.

And as a result, I never have to struggle to find anything!

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Photography credit: Adam D

2. Spreading the weight you carry with you keeps your back happy

We all know it’s true, and yet we still ignore it. When I last saw a physiotherapist about an ongoing neck problem, she told me if I didn’t get my posture sorted before the age of twenty-eight, I’d effectively be hunched-over for the rest of my days. Now that’s a scary thought!

A properly fitted backpack will ensure your back is looked after in the best possible way. Extra kudos if you pick the Fjällräven Kånken, which takes extra care to hug the natural curvature of your spine, alleviating any natural tendency to be lazy and throw your shoulders forward.

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Photography credit: Gioia De Antoniis

3. There’s no excuse anymore… backpacks are fashionable now

Gone are the days of groaning and complaining as your mum dragged you unwillingly through the shops before the start of term, trying desperately to meet your unreasonable demands for a cool backpack: not pink, no out-of-fashion brands, not too big, nothing that sat too high on the shoulders…

Back then it was like fighting a losing battle, but these days we’re spoilt for choice! There’s a perfect partner for everyone, and to help you get started, I’ve shortlisted six of my favourites in a range of colours and styles to pique your interest.

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Mariposa Daypack Sweat by Chums

When I arrived in Japan for a three-week holiday back in 2013, it became all too apparent all too soon that my current backpack was losing the will to live. I needed a replacement, fast, and this was the option I plumped for. Beautifully coloured, with quirky detailing and as strong as an ox, this bag fights the morning commute with me, reliably protects all my kit and still looks as bright as the day I picked it up off the rail.

Kånken Classic by Fjällräven

The bag that’s making waves in London right now, this unusually-shaped and specially-designed backpack is a fond favourite in its native Sweden, where the style was developed back in 1978 to help straighten out the backs of schoolchildren who were struggling under the weight of too many textbooks.

Little America Backpack by Herschel Supply Co.

It’s the bag that all the hipsters want, and you’ll be hard pushed to walk anywhere in the city without passing someone carrying one of these on their backs. Taking their company name from the sparsely populated town in Saskatchewan, Canada, Herschel’s range is smart, stylish and effortlessly cool. Whether you’re in need of a hard-wearing, single-colour design or something just a little bit quirky, the selection on offer is both adaptable and varied…

Heritage Backpack by Herschel Supply Co.

… which explains the reason why two of their bags are popping up in this list! I love the more traditional style of the Little America, but this slightly smaller and more feminine mid-volume offering is available in a range of gorgeous colour combinations and patterns to suit all tastes.

Back Country Pack by Drifter

If your main concern about having a backpack in place of a handbag is carrying extra unwanted weight, I’m going to squash your worries with this option from Drifter. When the company was established in 1977, it originally traded as a parachute rigging business. Their specialist technology was then developed into producing extremely lightweight and durable sport and travel bags, of which there are now a huge range to choose from.

Backpack to the Future by ModCloth

And finally, if your handbag tendencies are just too strong to resist, what about this neat little number? ModCloth wins the award for sweetest and girliest handbag with this offering, which has all the practicality of a bulkier design: pockets, compartments and secure fastenings, but is stripped down to an elegant, feminine finish in a lovely pumpkin colour with chestnut accents.

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Photography credit: Eric Loeffler

4. Your shoulders, arms, wrists, elbows and hands are free!

Don’t underestimate this one! There’s nothing I hate more than trying to navigate a crowded shop whilst juggling a million things in my hands. With a backpack, everything is tucked away and you’re free to browse at your leisure.

And if you do you buy something, you earn extra brownie points for saying “no thank you” to an offer of a carrier bag and popping your new purchase straight into your backpack!

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Photography credit: Lulu Lovering

5. A good backpack encourages your inner minimalist

I wonder what my blogger pal Xandra over at Fashionably Light might have to say about this one, but I believe that ne’er a truer word was spoken than this sentiment! Whilst it might seem that you can shove much more into a backpack than you can into a diddy handbag, the solid structure of a backpack means that once you have your filing system in order (see point 1), things stay in place and therefore, easier to find.

Minimalism isn’t always about trying to exist on fewer things, it’s also about ensuring your belongings are necessary and useful. Because I know where everything in my backpack is, I quickly notice when I’ve put something in there that’s not serving a real purpose.

NB. Whilst this reads like a sponsored post, it isn’t. I really am just a big backpack nerd!

Posted in The Interesting Stuff

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You Are Not One-Dimensional

December 1, 2014

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On holiday in Devon aged seven months, apparently overjoyed by this rich tea biscuits box…!

Pinch, punch, first of the month, happy Advent and here’s to the start of the Christmas countdown… Ladies and gents, welcome to December in all its chilly, frosty loveliness!

And as it happens, today is also my birthday!

As such, I thought it was only appropriate that I shared a few pearls of wisdom (and just a few snaps from the dreaded family photo box!) as I wave goodbye to twenty-six and welcome the ripe old age of twenty-seven across the threshold.

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Rawr! Testing out the grandparents’ new cat flap! (aged one)

One morning last week, during a particularly windy and rainy commute into Central London on the District line, I started thinking about hobbies and interests.

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than five minutes, you’ll know how much of a fan of nature and birds I am. These days they form a big part of my life, but it might surprise you to know that for many years, I was actually quite a hobby-less person.

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Style icon at eighteen months (just look at that hat!)

I would pick things up, obsess over them, then drop them when I thought I wasn’t dedicating enough time to be taken seriously. I would try and adopt every aspect of that hobby and let it define me completely, even if there were some parts that didn’t really interest or excite me.

In hindsight, I see now that my approach was all wrong. It isn’t a fraudulent thing to pick and choose what you like. It’s okay to mix and match, and it’s 100% groovy to enjoy other hobbies and interests on the side as well. You’re not one-dimensional, after all.

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Wearing quite possibly the world’s greatest anorak, no question… (aged five or six)

Just because I like birds doesn’t mean I can’t like other things too.

Consider how boring it would be if you were only defined by one thing: “hello, I’m Kylie and I like birds… only birds” doesn’t have a patch on “hello, I’m Kylie and I like birds and going on long walks and eating Mexican food and attending pagan-inspired festivals and wearing patterned clothes and writing long letters and reading graphic novels and being a Richmond tour guide to all my friends and riding on public transport and spending too long in stationary shops and playing online games whilst eating custard out of the tin…”.

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Getting my gardening nerd on, aged eight or nine

And that’s okay, because that is me, and that is what I like to do.

We are all individually a sum of our own parts, and the weirder, wackier and more diverse the parts, the more beautiful and complex the end result. You don’t have to be more authentic, you just have to be authentically you.

Have yourself a wonderful day!

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Out and about in Oxford this weekend – my last few days of being twenty-six!

Posted in Just Kylie under

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A Snapshot of Australia: Week Three

November 30, 2014

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All good things come to an end, but why oh why does it always have to be so quickly? Just like my holiday in Australia, this three-part series of posts concludes today, but never fear! I mean it when I say I’ve left the best ’til last. Let’s get stuck right in, shall we?

After returning from Melbourne, Mia and I had a quiet couple of days, lounging in the house and reminiscing about my last trip. But there was no rest for the wicked come Saturday morning! The five of us were up and about in good time, bundling into the car once more and setting off for Cleland Wildlife Park, tucked away in the Adelaide Hills.

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Cleland was a place I was desperate to visit again. I remembered it very clearly from my previous trip, and despite the rain that had hammered down all day long, I’d still had the best time. As a visitor you’re able to walk amongst the kangaroos, wallabies, emus and other native wildlife, admire the beautiful unspoilt scenery and take in lungfuls of that wonderful fresh air I know I’ve mentioned a few times already whilst writing these recaps…!

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So it was with delight and nostalgia aplenty that I found myself entering the park for a second time, beneath a canopy of softly swaying gum trees.

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We were blessed with yet more perfect weather (thirty degrees again!), and with splodges of suncream on our noses we began our wander through the grounds.

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It didn’t take long to find someone who was keen to say hello…!

There are those out there who say I give my heart away too freely, but I challenge anyone not to fall head over heels in love with this little guy. It only took me a matter of seconds.

There’s an option to buy special feed for the animals at Cleland, which is balanced and nutritionally sound. I half-wondered whether the kangaroos and wallabies would be fed up of it as I got the bag out and offered it to this fella, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Cupboard love or not, we bonded over a bag of slightly-strange smelling food pellets, and he seemed more than happy to stick his nose right in to find more!

Would you just look at those eyelashes! No need for falsies here, oh no. My kangaroo-shaped squeeze was more than perfect already, and I think he knew it, too.

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As we walked through the park, the sun rose higher in the sky, illuminating the colours of nature in a way only “real” sunlight can manage. I marvelled at bright pops of yellow from the golden wattle bush. There’s no need to look anywhere but outside for inspiration when it comes to mixing and matching colours! Cleland’s landscapes and vistas were just stunning.

And of course, there were plenty more beautiful creatures to meet, too…

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Like Hallie here, quite possibly the most fabulous fuzzy-eared babe I’d ever seen!

With her soft grey coat, kind dark eyes and incredible furry ears, she definitely knew she was the belle of the ball, and quite happily munched her way through a never-ending supply of eucalyptus leaves as we were introduced.

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There’s something so unusual and special about Aussie animals, particularly koalas. They have a very old and majestic look about them, and I’m convinced it’s due to the fact that Australia is an island that was (and still is!) largely uninhabited and unspoilt, meaning Hallie and her friends have been roaming for years without interruption. You get the feeling that they are more-or-less identical to how they always have been.

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And the same goes for those landscapes I mentioned earlier. They’re so… real. Raw, unspoilt, and wild. Australia is such a vast place, that in comparison to somewhere like the UK where so much has been engulfed by the human footprint, there are these enormous patches of bush and scrubland that haven’t even been touched, and I like that a lot. It’s real nature, not tampered with, tidied or tarted up to make it more “accessible”. It just is the way it is.

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We spent a good three or four hours at Cleland, taking in birds, marsupials, reptiles and mammals of all shapes and sizes. Bettongs, potoroos, dingoes, bilbies, pelicans, budgies, Tasmanian devils and wombats… it was impossible to pick a favourite!

Well, almost impossible. There was someone who caught my eye.

He was a pretty unlikely choice, but there was something about him that was just so groovy. Sadly, I didn’t get many pictures because he was hiding amongst the rushes, so this photo seems a bit anticlimactic, but here we go…

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Enter Spoony. The spoonbill. Actually, he’s what’s known as a Royal Spoonbill, and in place of the ordinary yellow bill he’s rocking a jet black one instead. I’m not sure why I loved him so much, but there was something so unusual about that beak of his and the snowy white feathers that made my heart go pitter-patter.

I’m considering setting up the Royal Spoonbill Appreciation Society in his honour.

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Saying that though, the prize for most memorable bird experience of the trip has to go to this emu. I don’t think most folks realise just how big these birds are until you’re up close and they’re feeding right out of your hand. He was almost the same height as me!

I was a little sad to wave goodbye to this special wildlife park again, but glad that we’d been greeted with much dryer and warmer weather! Thank you Cleland, we had the most marvellous time, and I can’t wait for my next visit when I return to Adelaide.

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Before heading back towards the city, we took one more detour. Leaving Cleland, we drove further up into the hills. There we stopped at a small carpark and walked a short distance towards the summit of Mount Lofty. And just in time too! The entrance to the viewing plateau closed at 5pm, and we managed to sneak in at 4:55pm!

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At the time, I was too busy admiring the perfect views to remember to jot down some facts and figures about Mount Lofty, but upon doing a spot of post-visit research, Wikipedia tells me that it is the highest point in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges, with panoramic views of the city and the Adelaide plains to the west, and of the Piccadilly Valley to the east.

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We were blessed to enjoy golden hour and watch the sun start to set in that big Australian sky.

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After spending a good few hours exploring Cleland, and then trekking to the summit of nearby Mount Lofty, the sun was beginning to disappear altogether, so we decided we’d pick up where we left off the following morning and explore the botanic gardens.

It was already quite warm when we began, and the sky was wonderfully blue and clear again, presenting the perfect opportunity to enjoy the glorious scenery and landscapes.

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Adelaide seems to have an abundance of botanic gardens. When I think about London, it’s only ever Kew that springs to mind (which ironically is just down the road and yet, I still haven’t been since moving to Richmond…), but perhaps there are other, hidden ones that have evaded my knowledge. Still, I doubt we have the space in such a crowded city to make room for stretches of huge green like those at Mount Lofty.

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Photoception! I’ll never tire of flower close-ups. And here I am, caught in the act!

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Look at this handsome fella, isn’t he marvellous? I sincerely hope I gave him a hug after stopping to photograph those rough-and-ready textures and crazy array of branches.

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As it happens, I wan’t the only one stopping to admire all the scenery and taking time to snap away with my phone…! This lake was an ideal spot to listen to the banjo frogs play their funny little pobblebonk tune, which really does sound exactly like a banjo string being plucked!

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Another of Sylvester and Stella’s Australian cousins, who was all up for a bit of leftover food from yesterday’s Cleland trip, but less bothered about sharing his family history. I’m convinced I would have got more out of him if I’d been armed with my special swan food from back home! Still, it was marvellous to see a black swan up close, he was so glossy and shiny.

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When the sun got too warm to do anything but lie in a shady spot in the gardens, we bid them adieu and spent the afternoon in Hahndorf. This quaint little town is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, and still looks exactly as you imagine: plenty of Bavarian architecture, beer steins and sausage shops.

Bathed in beautiful sunlight with just a slight springtime breeze in the air, it felt perfectly authentic, and we spent the rest of our time there enjoying nosing in the shops and eating ice cream as we wandered the tree-lined pathways.

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The final excursion of my Adelaide trip was the famous Barossa Valley trail. This region of Adelaide, similar to McLaren Vale, is famous for its vineyards and wineries, many of which have scored international fame and have become instantly recognisable, worldwide brands.

Mia and her folks were keen to show me the boutique options though, and I was more than happy to oblige. Last time I’d visited the Valley we’d made for Jacob’s Creek, but on the list today were Saltram, Maggie Beers’ and Rockford.

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En route to the first of our stops, we made a quick detour to Springton, home of the Herbig Family Tree. This unbelievable hollow red gum tree is thought to be between 300 and 500 years old, and was actually the first home of 27 year old Friedrich Herbig who arrived in South Australia in 1855. In 1858 he married 18 year-old Caroline Rattey and took her to live in the tree too, and it’s incredible to think that the first two of their sixteen children were born there!

And with that boggling fact spinning around in my brain, it was time to head for Saltram.

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Probably the swankiest of the bunch, Saltram’s winery brimmed with style and class. It was easy to see why it’s such a popular venue choice for events and weddings!

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The wine cellar was cool and airy, backing onto a restaurant that looked to be pretty busy when we arrived. I picked up a bottle of Riesling for my mum, which was much-appreciated and enjoyed when I arrived back in the UK!

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Next stop on the tour: Maggie Beer’s.

Now, before we start, would you just look at that water? I do use filters and actions on my images, but I promise you, the lake at Maggie Beer’s really is that blue! And I can guarantee it’s not some sort of strange or dodgy chemical, because the water was teaming with little turtles, swimming about and having a lovely time. It must be Maggie’s magic touch…

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I’m really glad Mia and her folks picked this winery and farm shop out for a visit. At first glance it wasn’t as swanky as Saltram, but I liked the homely feel and little nods to nature. There were chicken coops and duck pens outside which also made it feel like an authentic country farm.

And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the taste of Maggie’s burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream. How anything with the word “burnt” in can manage to taste so goddamn delicious, I don’t know, but it really, REALLY did.

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After demolishing our ice cream, we browsed in the shop for a little while, “testing” anything we could get our hands on! Chutneys, pickles, jams and sauces… all delicious.

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But if I had to choose a favourite, out of the three vineyards on the Barossa tour and the ones we’d seen previously in McLaren Vale, I don’t think it would be difficult to put Rockford at the top. It wasn’t as grand as either of the others, but there was something about its quaint size and lovely rustic, olde worlde feel that meant it won my heart easily.

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Mia and Nini were big fans too… this picture is one of my favourites from the whole trip!

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There’s just something special about this place, d’you know what I’m saying? I’m really glad we saved the best ’til last, and was grateful that I’d had the opportunity to “go off the beaten track” this time, and see a few places that not everyone would know about.

And that’s why you go touring with the locals…!

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At the time it always feels like a cringey thing to do, but these are the photos you look back on and remember in years to come… The good old family album snaps!

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I met Mia’s friend Nat the last time I visited Adelaide when the three of us were all eighteen. Back then it was games of Magic: The Gathering and ordering pizza takeaway, this time it was all grown-up and civilised with dinner out at a posh restaurant and then a drive down to the beach at Glenelg. Oh, and an ice cream too, for good measure.

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It struck me that I’d almost come to the end of this series and not included a picture of Mia’s lovely boyfriend Michael anywhere! So he’s getting his own mention for being a superstar of a chap, unfortunately waylaid by far too many hours at work during my time in Adelaide, but still always turning up with a smile on his face every time he headed round to Mia’s parents’ house in the evenings. What a stellar fella! 10/10 and three cheers for Mikey.

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During the last week of my stay, Mia unfortunately had to go back to work, so one afternoon I took a taxi round the corner to nearby Dover Gardens to visit Roy and Anna. An old schoolfriend of my granddad’s, Roy moved to Adelaide many years ago.

I was first introduced during my last visit, so it was lovely to catch up with them both again this time over a cup of tea in their gorgeous house, and hear plenty of stories about how my granddad and Roy got up to all kinds of mischief in their school years!

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Oh, this lovely bunch…! The kindest, most welcoming, generous and warm people I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying with, and also completely mad to boot, which I just adore. Give me passion and love and real-life over stupid stoicism and restraint any day. We had hugs, tears and big laughs too, and I’ll never, ever forget what an amazing time I spent with them.

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And this girlie, as she wrote in her card sent a week or so after I arrived back home, “my sister from another mister”. In many ways we’re quite different but in others so similar. I shall miss not having her in the next room when I need to tell her something, or share something hilarious, or debate the relative attractiveness of men in glossy women’s magazines.

It’s amazing to imagine we met online at the age of thirteen, and despite the unfathomable distance and ups and downs in our lives, we’ve stayed in touch ever since. And if we’ve managed so far, I can’t think that there’ll ever be a time where we don’t.

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Here’s to the next visit, I say. Adelaide Trip #3 is on, and one thing’s for certain…. I’m not leaving it eight years this time. The saving starts now! I’ll be back on Australian turf sooner than you can say “can you please stop calling them pants when they’re trousers! It’s making an awkward Brit feel mighty uncomfortable!

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Wildfire: The Best (and Rainiest) Firework Display North of the River!

November 19, 2014

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Photography credit: Paulina Sobczak

There’s something about the British “stiff upper lip” that always makes me smile.

I’m not the kind of person who barks about “making Britain great again” or marches along the high street with banners and flags, but there are times when I have to look fondly at the way we do things in this country and feel, well, sort of proud really.

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The last time I had this feeling was two weekends ago, whilst standing in a wet carpark in North London, watching a firework display and holding an umbrella over my head as the rain poured down. And the best thing about this stalwart display of “Britishness”? I wasn’t alone. I was in a crowd of a hundred or so others.

Because a little bit of rain isn’t a problem for us Brits. Umbrellas, wellies and waterproofs at the ready and we’re prepared for anything. Including wringing out our soggy pulled pork sandwiches and Norwegian waffles. But more on those in a minute.

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“Being prepared” is a good lead-in to the reason why I was watching fireworks in the rain at all, actually. Many of you will remember Annie from my Girls With Altitude post back in July. With her lovely wild curly hair and enviable map-reading skills she succeeded in not getting the five of us completely lost in the Welsh hills during a weekend of adventures in the Elan Valley.

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In her spare time, Annie also volunteers a huge amount of time to the Scouting Association, and along with master of ceremonies Marlon, a whole host of other volunteer leaders and of course, the explorer scouts themselves, they plan an annual fundraising celebration that easily rivals anything else in the nearby area.

Named Wildfire, Wild Wolf Explorer Scout Unit’s Bonfire Night took place at Scout Park this year, just a hop, skip and a jump from Bounds Green station on the Piccadilly line.

The rain was coming down with little or no let-up when I arrived, and despite my outdoorsy tendencies, I really hadn’t dressed for the occasion either. As I trudged my way towards the park with water sloshing around in my boots, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be the only one mad enough to brave this gloomy November weather.

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I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Even though I’d arrived early, the car park was already buzzing with activity. I could see an information tent complete with DJ equipment, two huge food stalls that were wafting some rather delicious aromas into the small crowd and in the distance, signs pointing towards a campfire and marshmallow roasting opportunities. And that was just the start!

I visited each and every stall lining the carpark and the adjacent field, and do you know what I saw? Despite the rain and the cold, a never-ending parade of smiling faces beaming at me from behind every trestle table that was sinking in the mud.

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Young people with a real sense of ownership for whatever they were doing, whether it was roasting chestnuts, selling doughnuts or hawking cupcakes by the light of their head torches because the rain had blown a fuse in the outdoor lights.

It was inspiring to see such pride and determination in the face of undeniably rotten bad luck. As the saying goes, “the show must go on”, and indeed it did.

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Once I’d spent my time ooh-ing and aah-ing at what was on offer, I slipped and slid my way towards the fire pit, still marvelling at the sheer amount of people who’d appeared out of nowhere to support this community event. Warming themselves next to the bonfire’s roaring flames were folks of all ages and backgrounds, a real cosmopolitan mix, and each and every one with a smile on their faces too.

Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps it was the cheerful nature pervading the park grounds, who knows. But what I can tell you is that nothing could dampen the Wildfire spirit, and right up until the big fireworks launch at 7:30pm, people were still flooding into the gates.

Everyone wanted to be a part of it.

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And when the first rockets finally hit the sky, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. I was never a member of the Scouts, nor do I have much in the way of involvement now. I’m not a north Londoner and hadn’t met most of young people and the whole host of volunteers helping them on this dreary Saturday evening in November.

But standing amongst them, I suddenly felt a sense of community so warming, it thawed me even more effectively than the cup of hot apple juice I had clasped between my hands.

Nice work WWESU, I’ll be booking my ticket for next year.

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If your child is interested in getting involved with WWESU, you can contact Marlon, Annie or one of the other leaders via their website for more information. The group is for 14-18 year olds and they meet once a week on a Wednesday. WWESU also have an enviably busy social events calendar: hikes, camping trips away, outdoor sports activities and fundraisers to name but a few. The explorers also have a lively Twitter, Facebook and YouTube presence!

Posted in Out and About,Seasonal under

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A Snapshot of Australia: Week Two

November 10, 2014

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Welcome to part two of my Australian holiday recap! Last week I took you to the Botanic Gardens, the beach, the city of Adelaide and the vineyards of McLaren Vale, but this time everything is stepped up a knotch with a week’s adventures in Melbourne.

Mia and I flew out on the Monday morning, leaving behind the cosiness of Adelaide and heading for the larger urban jungle of Melbourne in the state of Victoria.

I was confused at first: how was it that we were only in the air for forty-five minutes and yet crossing a time zone and entering another state…? My commute into central London takes forty-five minutes on the tube and I only travel about ten miles! Australia is such a vast country that I barely scratched the surface, but it was exciting to get as far as the next big city.

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We landed at Melbourne Tullamarine in the early afternoon, and caught a bus and then another bus to the heart of the city. Mia had booked us into Somerset Hotel on Elizabeth Street, right in the city centre (or CBD, as the locals call it). Our room was on the tenth floor, with an amazing view of the hustle and bustle happening below.

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We didn’t waste much time getting started once we arrived, dumping our bags and hitting the streets in order to scope out what was on offer. I was keen to see how Adelaide’s closest neighbour held up in comparison to the kind, warm and big-hearted South Australian capital I’d fallen in love with over the past week. I’d be a tricky one to please…!

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At first glance though, I really liked Melbourne’s cosmopolitan feel: its tidy lines and grid system were similar in style to Adelaide’s but with hidden twists and turns and tiny laneways that were full of life and excitement.

And whilst it wasn’t half as busy as London is when I’m fighting my way to Waterloo in the evening, the vibe in Melbourne was positively buzzing: it’s easy to see why Australians and even folks from further afield flock here and never want to leave. It has a youthful vibe.

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We returned to one of the laneways in the evening and were accosted by quite possibly the most charismatic fellow I’ve ever met: before we knew what was happening we were sat down at a little table outside a bustling Italian restaurant and were ordering pizza!

Mia and I didn’t mind so much, as we’d both been considering pizza anyway, but we watched the fella rinse and repeat the same trick to almost every bewildered couple or tourist group that walked through the laneway and couldn’t help but marvel at his technique! Think Brick Lane, but with infinitely more class.

Oh, and the pizza was pretty goddamn delicious too!

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Oh my! Our second day in Melbourne was just the best! But first, a bit of backstory.

A week or so before flying out to Australia, I’d tried to rectify the almost complete lack of novel reading in my life by picking up a Murakami to get stuck into. I’d done reasonably well for a change, getting almost halfway through, but then (as always) I got bored and switched off.

I was eventually forced to admit to myself that “normal” novels don’t really do it for me. I like pictures. It was time to return to an old faithful, the trusty graphic novel.

And where better to reacquaint myself with this long lost love than at a couple of Melbourne’s most well-known and loved comic book stores? Hello there Minotaur! G’day All Star Comics!

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These two stores couldn’t have been more different, but were equally as rewarding to explore.

Minotaur was vast and sprawling, an underground cavern filled with an exhaustive range of all things nerdy, from figurines to costumes to plushies to knick-knacks and of course, the comic books themselves. It’s a phrase that gets overused, but there really was something for everyone. Mia snapped the above picture of me heavily involved in a decision about whether to pick up the Black Widow origin story or not, but in the end I made for the alternative section and chose Black Hole, Shortcomings and Harlequin Valentine.

All Star Comics is what I would call a more “traditional” comic book store, but it has a lovely modern feel to it. It’s a smaller space, but the selection on offer is perhaps even more diverse than at Minotaur, catering for both the super-keen reader and the entry level nerd. The fellas behind the counter were unbelievably friendly and helpful, going hugely out of their way to suggest a alternative when they discovered the book I was looking for was out of print.

Much to my delight, Mia keenly jumped on the bandwagon too, and walked away from both stores with an armful of books including my all-time favourite: Blankets by Craig Thompson.

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After a quick detour back to the hotel to deposit our spoils, it was time for lunch.

Despite my unwavering loyalty to Adelaide, I have to admit that Melbourne really knows what it’s doing when it comes to good food. We ate lunch at Café Stax on Little La Trobe Street, and the delicious veggie fritters I chose scored pretty highly out of everywhere we dined that week. Topped with avocado and halloumi, a pesto dressing and salsa dip, they were so scrumptious I could easily have put away another round without too much hassle…!

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And when I say heavenly, I mean heavenly… just look at that aura!

After a cheeky afternoon nap (hey, it was supposed to be a holiday!), I found Mia in the living area of our room, nose firmly stuck in her brand new copy of Blankets. I managed to pry her away for long enough to suggest we take a walk and get a hot drink somewhere.

Unbelievably, that morning we’d been strolling around in our t-shirts with light cardigans, but as the afternoon rolled in the temperature had dropped ten degrees! I thought the UK had a changeable climate, but it’s got nothing on Australia! Mia and I wrapped up in coats and scarves and headed to a nearby coffee shop to enjoy a pair of heavenly hot chocolates (one normal, one white) and have the opportunity for a good old natter as the evening drew in.

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It was a good thing we wrapped up warm, because it was mighty windy down on the South Bank, and that was our next port of call! Walking by the river when the sun had gone down was a magical experience; what is is about cities at nighttime? A hundred times more exciting and inspiring, and Melbourne was no exception.

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It was an amazing end to our second day in the city, and we both tumbled into our beds with a cup of tea and a graphic novel each to get stuck into.

That’s the way it rolls when it’s #geekgirlsontour.

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Wednesday was a perfect example of best laid plans going astray…!

Having done some reading about the top ten things to see and do around the city, I spotted the quaint and quirky nearby seaside town of St Kilda with its brightly-coloured beach huts and thought it would make the ideal day trip.

So with the briefest of stops at the 7/11 to purchase and top-up Melbourne’s answer to the Oyster card – a Myki card – Mia and I located the tram stop and rode it almost all the way to the end, nestled in amongst the late morning commuters and other beach-bound tourists.

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Unfortunately, by the time we’d arrived and walked down towards the sea, I discovered that I’d managed to off-shoot the colourful beach huts by quite a significant distance. They were much further down the coast, and would take about an hour and a half’s walk to get to! It was a bit of a sad realisation, but it wasn’t the warmest day, and Mia and I thought we’d be blown away completely if we tried to make our way down the beach towards them.

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Despite my disappointment, we decided to sack off the huts and make the most of sleepy St Kilda instead, which really did feel like it was just waking up after a long winter’s nap. There was a lovely hippyish feel to its faded glamour, and the pair of us clocked a few shops we wanted to explore whilst we’d scouted out somewhere for lunch.

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Without much persuasion we chose Leroy, a café that wouldn’t have been out of place in Shoreditch, though it wasn’t even half as busy as it should have been.

I mentioned how much I enjoyed Stax Café a bit earlier on in this post, but I think its main contender during our trip would have to be Leroy. The decor was quirky and rustic and the food was beautifully presented and delicious! I chose the veggie focaccia and Mia opted for the chicken version. Both were devoured with zero complaints.

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I’m a sucker for anything a bit hippy-esque, and was delighted to discover a whole range of shops lining the main street stuffed to the brim with brightly coloured scarves, tribal jewellery, incense, candles and dreamcatchers.

Our favourite of the bunch was Eclectico, which gave my staple favourite Tribu in Camden a run for its money! The staff were super friendly and helpful, and both Mia and I loved that they wrote everything we bought down in a huge old-fashioned ledger instead of using a till.

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When we arrived back in the CBD that evening it was almost rush hour, and we had to navigate the onslaught of folks hopping on and off trams and filling the already busy streets. Now it was beginning to feel like a real city!

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Eventually we found solace in Federation Square, where I made friends with the sparrows and admired the architecture of all the buildings that surrounded this multi-purpose plot of public space. There was a huge screen showing a Japanese anime film, and plenty of people enjoying it from the comfort of multi-coloured deckchairs.

We enjoyed another lovely meal in an Italian restaurant overlooking the square (you can’t say I didn’t eat well during my travels!) and crossed the city at nighttime again to head to bed for the last time in our hotel on Elizabeth Street.

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Whilst dining the previous evening, Mia and I had spotted an exhibition on at the ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Image) in Federation Square that caught our attention… all about DreamWorks Animation studio!

We decided it would be the perfect way to fill our final morning in Melbourne, and were up in good time to take a peek before flying back to Adelaide.

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I was really impressed by the diversity of stuff on display at the exhibition. Concept art, sets, models, early animation tests, behind the scenes stuff, interactive displays; it’s no wonder it was such a popular choice with folks of all ages.

It was brilliant to get reacquainted with some old favourites too. I’d forgotten just how big DreamWorks’ back catalogue is, and there were plenty of “oh, I’d forgotten about that one!” style comments from us both as we meandered through the displays.

I made a mental note of everything I wanted to watch again as soon as we were home… Kung-Fu Panda, Shrek, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron…

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My favourite item on display at the exhibition had to be this set from Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit. The miniature veggies were works of art, especially the lettuces!

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… and these guys came a close second, just because Chicken Run is such an awesome film.

I really enjoyed my time in Melbourne, and felt luck to have visited and seen a tiny portion of what was on offer there, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit feeling happy to return “home” to Adelaide at the end of the week. I spend my life navigating a big city, and there were points when Melbourne exhibited the same characteristics as London: busy, rushed, exciting but sometimes exhausting too.

As soon as we landed back in Adelaide I felt the pace slowing again, and I was glad of it.

Next week: I’ve saved the best ’til last… this is the one where you get to see all the amazing Aussie animals, breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Lofty and a whole bunch of photos for the family album…!

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