Sunday, July 18, 2010

Queen of the High Teas

Today, my lovely friend Michelle drove me to Sassafras so we could have lunch at Miss Marple's Tea Rooms.
For anyone who doesn't know Michelle, she is the epitome of all things classy - she's like a Disney Princess in many ways - but not at all like Princess Clara from Drawn Together.

We have a lot of things in common, but one of our strongest bonds has to be our love of a decent cuppa.

As Miss Marple's Tea Rooms is always phenomenally busy, we had to leave our reservations and return an hour later. We whiled away our time by visiting the lovely shops in the surrounding area.

Firstly, we entered another favourite place of ours, 'Tea Leaves' - a shop dedicated to tea of all varieties and the vessels which pure and serve them.

Then we tottered a little further along the road to a beautiful gourmet food shop entitled 'Cream' which is run by Leenah and Mark.
Mark is the king of the upsell and his enthusiasm is rather contagious, especially when he has found a kindred spirit when it comes to marmalade (yes, that's me)
Just look at the range of goodies on offer... drool!

I ended up taking away some Australian Harvest's Spicy Garlic Mustard, Cunliffe Waters' Hand Cut Cumquat Marmalade and some incredible lemon curd made by a woman named Leanne whose personal industry is simply making "Unforgettable Curds".

This is Mark, performing his superb salesman techniques on another customer.

After popping into a number of gorgeous antique stores and the occasional wacky-fruitcake stores (crystals, unicorns, baby sacrificial alters etc.) we returned to Miss Marple's.

We had a brief wait by the bookcases until a table came free. Here is Michelle almost fainting with anticipation...

Every year, they do a 'Christmas in July' theme and they decorate the place and carols play. As you can see, the place is packed.

One of the waitresses took our picture, much to the chagrin of the other staff who were busy trying to squeeze in and out of the tables - but we didn't care!

We had a massive pot of tea between us, some chips and garlic bread for starters, I had the vegetable pastie and Michelle had the Chicken cottage pie thing for mains and then it was time for dessert.
Michelle had the scones with jam and cream, but I opted for an old favourite of mine. Christmas pudding and custard!

We were rather stuffed afterward, but we managed to stagger back to the car and get home in one piece.

Michelle is a wonderful friend and she certainly knows how to do things in style.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Can't Stop Killing You

When I was young, the first novels I read that weren't written for children were those written by Agatha Christie. I have a vivid memory of reading Sleeping Murder, The ABC Murders, A Murder is Announced and Curtain amongst others.
It was the eighties and I was very fond of Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple on TV (which I still believe to be the best, bar none) and I was also an unashamed fan of Murder She Wrote.
Clue was aired on BBC2 for the first time ever and I watched it with my brother - we almost died laughing at the singing telegram. I have since watched it well-over a hundred times. Sad, but true.
Then, as the 1990s approached, David Suchet became the perfect Poirot and my friend William and I were, at that time, rather keen on making our own films and after three gloriously barking epic chronicling the adventures of Rupe and Ollie, we made the murder mystery classic The Butler Didn't Do It! - one can see the influence of films such as Clue and Murder By Death.

So, as you can see, there was a theme running through my life at that time. Now, although dates in my personal history tend to be a little hazy, I am reasonably sure that it was in 1989/1990, for my birthday, I had my very first Murder Party!

It was held at a house in Matlock Bath which belonged to the family of my friend Tamsin. I don't remember the entire plot, but I know that in attendance that night were a bunch of excitable young teens (Hannah, Emma, Tamsin, Gemma, Aaron, William and myself - there may have been others) all with silly names and mad motives. I played Dr. R.E. Meur (see what I did there?) and, no, I wasn't the murderer - that turned out to be Hannah.
(Gemma, Aaron, William, Hannah in this pic)

I had even made a life-size dummy to play the corpse.

From then on, I began hosting a number of Murder Parties, sometimes renting out large places like Lea Green so we had lots of rooms to run amok in.

Some parties were much bigger than others, with up to 40 people attending - and each needing a character to portray.
I'd orchestrate the evening and enter into a kind of 'zone' - I'd be so focused on making sure everyone was enjoying themselves, staying true to character, understanding the plot; that I would actually forget to enjoy myself. By the end of the evening, I would be a wreck - totally drained emotionally and physically.

The whole thing became rather stressful even prior to the night because one had to deal with personal politics. Due to the nature of the parties, it was necessary to have limited numbers invited and that meant not inviting some people. There were, on occasions, times when I had to be strict. If I knew a girl who was great at dramatic improvising, I would tell her she wasn't allowed to bring her meat-head boyfriend simply because he wouldn't get into it and ruin it all.

Anyway, I could reminisce and make vague attempts at conscience-clearing regarding 'who got invited and who didn't' until my body became as tense as rigor mortis, but I shan't do that to myself. Not now anyway.

The point is, these Murder Parties were my hobby. Instead of collecting stamps or playing football or molesting badgers, I planned the murders of fictional characters.

Word did get around about these soirees and I was approached on the street by a complete stranger who introduced herself as being a part of a certain church group and she said they wanted to 'help' me and 'save' me. She said "you're on a dangerous and slippery slope". I was bewildered. So I pushed her under a bus...

The point of this post is, tonight I have another Murder Party. It's the first one I have written and attended in ten years. I did write one for some friends overseas, but a giant planet stood between me and the guests.

Today, I am more stressed about it than ever before. Mainly because I am doing this with a whole different type of people. Kids in their teens are fairly easy to please and there were low expectations. However, when we mature and become 'adult', we become more wary and we expect so much more. I want tonight's events to go smoothly, but I want everyone to enjoy it and not feel the same pressure that I am feeling.

Imagine you had to perform a sexual act in front of all of your friends.
Not only will they all see you naked, but they'll be judging you on your style and form.
That's what I feel like today! That is insane, I know. My friends are kind, lovely decent people, but there's that barmy Id Vs Ego thing playing out in my head.

OK, I ought to stop worrying about it now - I was up late last night, unable to sleep due to the madness running through my head.

Let's see how tonight goes and if I am still in one piece tomorrow, I may fill you in on the details.
Wish me luck.

Friday, July 9, 2010


As you will be thoroughly aware by now, I am not exactly successful as an adventurer in the land of love. Some people brave the wild waters of romance and machete their way through the jungles of sexual shenanigans, whereas I tend to dip my toe in the sea and declare it too cold or stay on the edge of the dark forests for fear of being bitten by killer ants.

Before I continue, I should state that one of my top ten films of all-time is Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and I have always had this strange inclination that, one day, I too would cross paths with someone whom I may enjoy a special relationship with – I don’t mean to ‘swap murders’ with. That would be crazy and illegal.
This bit of information is not merely a random comment…

This Friday morning, I was taking the train into work. I change trains at Richmond station and as I was waiting for the second leg of my journey, I spied a rather attractive fellow on platform nine. Our eyes kept catching like sticky burrs on a woollen pullover and when the train pulled up to the station, we sat relatively close to each other with only an aisle between us.
During the first five minutes of the journey, there were a couple of awkward glances between the two of us, both, I assumed, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. The train was a limited express so we bypassed most stations. When we stopped at Glenferrie to release the hordes of students, we did not set off again. The train remained stuck at the station for a further 25 minutes. What a day to have left my book at home!
Apparently, there was something amiss with the doors. I imagine they were loose and the train driver was worried we might all throw ourselves from the moving vehicle in fits of despair on this cool Friday morning. Better to be safe than sued for negligence.

After a period, the driver told us to abort our journey and wait for another train. This triggered the tall handsome devil sitting across from me to smile in my direction and raise his eyebrows in a pantomime show of acquiescence. I gave some sort of imitation to show my camaraderie and, as we stepped off the train onto the platform, I asked him if he was going to be late for work. This begun a conversation in which I discovered; his name was Hugo, where he worked and lived, and that he was Dutch (I asked if he was Canadian! I should be better at picking accents although he did confuse me by have a maple leaf emblem on his sleeve! Tricky…)

The next train eventually arrived and we both took the ride to Camberwell where he had to change for his connection. In a bold and daring move, I reached into my wallet and handed him my own personal card detailing my email address and mobile number.
Then I went off on my merry way with a spring in my step and my cheeks flushed with excitement.

Now for the reality check:

1. The Dutch people I have known before have always been friendly, polite and congenial, so he may just be his usual amicable self and not, as I presume, ‘interested’.
2. One chat does not constitute a friendship.
3. He may never attempt to get in touch, despite the contact details supplied.

But in the land of my fantastical imagination;

1. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
2. Titter.
3. Hmmmmmmmm.