Sign of the times at bookshop, Tauranga, New Zealand

Being partial to books, and knowing my readers are too, I can’t resist the humour of this signboard, spotted outside a bookshop in Tauranga, New Zealand:

Sign outside bookshop, Tauranga

A sign of the times?

That’s all for today, folks.

Insects and other low life in Sydney

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion.

Today’s travel notes

Today I’ll give you a worm’s eye view of some insects the TC and I have come across lately. And, following up on my promise of two months ago (By the light of a gibbous moon), I’ll give you another peek into the ups and downs of this worm’s life.

Traveller’s tip

Beware anyone bearing gifts.

The book I’m in

The Laments, by George Hagen.

A funny, comfortable and uncomfortable book. Highly recommended by this worm, who participates but vicariously in the viciousness, vicissitudes and victories of life.

The photos

A word of warning to all my fans: An impending coup of bookmarkian proportions looms.

The book I’m in (The Laments, remember?) deals with the petty conspiracies of daily life and how the average worm triumphs almost willy-nilly. As so often happens, real life is imitating fiction and I’ve recently felt compelled to do some uncomfortable navel gazing. My own navel is nothing to be ashamed of, mark you. But a newer, smoother and shinier one has appeared on the scene. The Rival. She was a gift to the Travelling Companion, so no intended disloyalty on the TC’s part. Still, this worm is wondering what the future may hold.

Me and The Rival:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Sure, The Rival is younger than me. Some might even says she’s better looking. Maybe she’s made of modern material. Into new technology. (She has leaden inserts, no less.)  But does she have my style and experience? What can I do to make sure I get the best place in the best books? We can’t share a book, that’s for sure. It doesn’t work for me.

Let’s move on, for now. I promised you some insects. Here’s a shot of some flies and ants on a salmon-barked tree near Manly Dam.

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Can’t see them? I guess not everyone has the advantage of a worm’s eye view. So I’ve blown them up for you. Here are the ants:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

And here’s one of the flies. They’re very small and delicate, about the same size as the ants:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Here are some bees being busy in Manly:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

This is a fungus-covered tree stump near Manly Dam, patrolled by some red beetles:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Here’s a closer view — a denizen of the bark scurrying for cover:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

This beetle probably thinks he’s camouflaged or something:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Here’s someone else hiding amongst the vegetation in Allambie:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

This moth or fly is small and moves quickly. They’re a common sight and quite attractive when they sit still long enough to be examined:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

I’ve shown you this creature before, but I’m a slave to her beauty. She’s a fly of some sort, I think, who was gadding around 40 Baskets a while ago. Like all the other creatures on this page, she’s small — less than a centimetre long:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

To round things off, here’s a rather fine specimen of a worm diving for cover:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Getting back to the attempted coup looming over me: So, what’s your stand on the Battle of the Bookmarks? You’ll notice that The Rival has decked herself out with pictures of ladybirds. Only pictures, note, whereas I am the real thing.

Just to prove I’m into the new-fangled stuff too, here’s me on the iPhone:

Insects and other low life in Sydney

Insects and other low life in Sydney

That’s all for today, dudes.

Chocolate in Sydney

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1.

Twenty-five years, and I don’t look a day older than one! Alas, I can’t say the same for my Travelling Companion. I spend most of my time inside a book (well, duh) while the TC sees the world. Read all about me and follow my blog posts to share my experiences as bookmark and travelling worm.

From time to time, I’ll say something meaningful. Like a t-shirt.

Today’s travel notes

It’s a pressing question in Sydney these days:

Where can I get a good chocolate?

The Travelling Companion and I have been scouting around to find the best chocolate shops and cafés in Sydney. As a conscientious worm, I feel it’s my civic duty to let you into some of Sydney’s chocolate secrets.

Chocolate in Sydney

Traveller’s tip

Head to the nearest Max Brenner shop forthwith. Because, as Napoleon is reported to have said when asked why he consumed so much chocolate, it is just yummy.

The book I’m in

Troy, Fall of Kings, by David & Stella Gemmell.

The photos

Guylian has just opened a spanking new chocolate café in Circular Quay. I was there last week, to check out this new addition to the Sydney chocolate scene.

Me at Guylian’s:

Chocolate in Sydney Chocolate in Sydney

The TC was not overly impressed with the chocolate at Guylian’s. She’s a bit particular about her chocolate, is our TC. Rumour has it they plan to open a second shop in The Rocks very soon. Here’s the one in Circular Quay:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

I go along with the TC and recommend Max Brenner in Manly. This chocolate café is a must for all chocolate lovers. It’s right in Manly Wharf. Just step off the Manly Ferry and straight into heaven:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

Here’s some of the fare the TC and her friends saw spread before them at Max Brenner:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

A Lindt Chocolat Café would be my second choice. There are two in central Sydney. The one in Martin Place resides in lofty elegance with Fabergé and a number of big names in the fashion world. I don’t have a photo to show you. (As you can probably guess from the attire in my picture, high fashion is not a world I frequent.) But the TC says that the dark hot chocolate drink is divine. The shop in Martin Place was the first ever Lindt Chocolat Café in the world.

Then they opened another in Darling Harbour, where the dark hot chocolate and rich cakes meet with equal approval from the TC:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

As well as the cafés, Sydney has a number of take-away chocolate shops. Here’s Haigh’s in the Strand Arcade in George Street:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

And here’s Darrell Lea also in George Street, on the corner with King:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

Earlier I mentioned the snooty neighbours of the Lindt café in Martin Place. Darrell Lea has the new Apple Store for a neighbour. Handy if you need a quick iPhone consultation while you wait for your chocolate order:

Apple in Sydney

Apple in Sydney

Choc tactics

I’ve inhabited many a health book which warns you off chocolate. It’s reputedly bad for your skin, bad for your weight, bad for your teeth and your heart… But I’ve also wormed my way through the online archives where people are saying chocolate is good for you. They say there’s no proof that chocolate causes pimples and it may even help to prevent tooth decay by killing off the bacteria.

Confusion reigns supreme. As it usually does.

Perhaps we can learn from history. Chocolate has been around a while. The Central Americans were the first to cultivate the cocoa tree, 1400 years ago. Even way back then, no-one knew what to make of the gift of the bean. Was it the curse of the Aztecs or the food of the gods? Quetzalcoatl, a god himself, was disgraced for passing the secret of chocolate down to humans. The humans, though, were suitably impressed with the gift — especially as it was a powerful aphrodisiac. So much so, that some societies forbade women to use it. Cocoa beans became a strong trading currency. One pumpkin was valued at four cocoa beans. One hundred beans could buy a slave.

Then the Spanish conquered Mexico, and took the magic bean back to Europe. But the Spaniards decided to keep it a secret. So when Dutch and English sailors found these strange dark little objects on captured Spanish ships, they mistook them for sheep droppings and turfed them overboard in disgust.

The rest of Europe finally caught on. Chocolate became the drink of royalty. Doctors recommended it as a cure for almost everything. But then, once again, people started to look askance at the stuff. It was not quite kosher — a drug from deepest, darkest America, an aphrodisiac at that, and perhaps its medicinal properties were a bit too potent for civilised mores.

Confusion was reigning supreme then too. All hail confusion.

Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, phenol, phosphorus, magnesium, theobromine, and trace levels of anandamide. Uh-huh…? Phenyl ethylamine is a mood elevator which acts directly on your central nervous system. At low levels, it makes you feel good. But it can also make you paranoid and it is addictive. Anandamide acts on the same pleasure receptors in the brain as marijuana. The other ingredients raise energy levels, increase concentration, improve your mood, and do other good things.

Me and Peg with chocolates by Jessica Walker, Belgian Chocolate Seashells and Coles Belgian mint chocolate:

Chocolate in Sydney

Chocolate in Sydney

What about the belief that chocolate is a potent love potion? Both Casanova and Sherlock Holmes downed mugs of cocoa for breakfast. So we must deduce that chocolate builds stamina in the brain cells as well as in the other bits. Elementary, my dear worm.

That’s all for today, dudes.

By the light of a gibbous moon

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1.

Twenty-five years, and I don’t look a day older than one! Alas, I can’t say the same for my Travelling Companion. I spend most of my time inside a book (well, duh) while the TC sees the world. Read all about me and follow my blog posts to share my experiences as bookmark and travelling worm.

From time to time, I’ll say something meaningful. Like a t-shirt.

Today’s travel notes

Spring has arrived in Sydney. Joy. The birds are awake at 5 a.m. And so is the TC.

Traveller’s tip

Beware of those you meet on your journey.

The book I’m in

Dakota, by Martha Grimes.

This atmosphere-laden book is all about a journey. It’s a good thing I don’t have feet, because the itch would be driving me potty.

The photos

A moody Sydney September moon:

By the light of a gibbous moon

It’s time to catch up with the brood. Drool and Hand have hit it off in a big way, sunny personalities both. Here they are in Drool’s lair.

By the light of a gibbous moon

I spied them there in the darkest hours of the night, scheming and plotting. I distinctly heard Hand say:

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow Wordsworm gives me the creeps.

Is trouble brewing amongst the brood? This worm will keep you informed of all eventualities.

That’s all for today, dudes.

Published in: on 28 September 2008 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A trip into a caffeine-head’s head

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. Today we’re going to do something different. None of this blog post is true. It’s a trip into a fictional character’s head. For the sake of the fun. And the puns. I’ve promised to make this blog “meaningful, like a t-shirt”. That’s not going to happen today. Except that, if you’ve encountered a person like Ms Java, you might find it comforting to laugh at her now.

A trip into a caffeine-head's head

8 a.m, 4 BC

At this time of day, survival depends on avoiding eye contact. I stalk into the office, staring straight ahead. It’s 8 a.m, 4 BC – four minutes Before Coffee.

The office is, as usual, in crisis mode. Jilly has a pile of faxes and a desperate expression. Mike is shouting at the printer, because it has sprayed black gunge over the proofs which we need at the 9 a.m. meeting. Ellen stands on a desk, waving three phones at me while she tries to pick up a fourth with her toes. (Why does she paint her toe nails that dippy puce?) More frantic faces spew out of offices all down the passage which leads to my room.

Every day it’s the same. Haven’t they figured it out yet? Don’t they know that I can’t cope with the daily grind until I’ve drunk my first coffee down to the grounds? Let them swap irritated looks, let them mutter under their breaths as I sweep past. Let trouble brew until I’ve had my first dark, rich roast. Will it be arabica or robusta today, or perhaps modest liberica? Don’t bother me with any decisions except that one.

My door opens to a cloud of warm, fragrant steam. My very own espresso machine gleams fire-engine red, hissing and spitting on its table, set to one side of the finest view in the office. The finest view in the building, to tell it straight. I’m that good.

Outside my window, and far far below, is the most treacherous slice of motorway in the city. I watch the toy cars dicing with death as I gently blow away a puff of steam. The hiss of milk frothing onto hot coffee announces the most perfect cup of the day. Without a word, Dan hands it to me and leaves the room. He, at least, knows how the day should start. If only his good sense would filter through the others’ thick skins and percolate down through the organogram.

Two cappuccinos later, it’s time to give an underling a roasting. Underlings are like the sludge at the bottom of a good Greek coffee: necessary but tiresome.
“Send Ellen in.”
“Yes, Ms Java.” The intercom responds immediately to my murmured order. Thirty seconds later, there’s a tap at the door.
“Come.”
Ellen’s head appears. Her gaze goes instantly to my chrome-topped coffee table. I see her eyes counting the empty cups. She’s not too bright, but she can count to two. She decides that two cups mean it’s safe to enter. Wrong!
“Ellen.”
That one word is enough. I got the tone just right. With some satisfaction, I watch her face whiten until she has just one pink spot in the middle of each cheek.
“Dan says you fell asleep over your PC yesterday evening.”
“Yes, Ms Java. Sorry, Ms Java. It was late, and…”
“Quiet! No excuses. There’s plenty of caffeine around to keep you on your toes.”
“I can’t drink coffee, Ms Java. It makes me all hyped up and shivery.”
“Then you don’t belong here, Ellen.”
“Oh, but…”
“And I hate your nail polish.”
“Yes, Ms Java.”
“Very well. On your way, Ellen.”
“Yes, Ms Java.” She scurries out of the door, freshly ground and roasted to perfection.

Time for the management meeting. Dan fixes me a good strong arabica. He knows I can’t even begin to express myself without a double espresso. My points carry the meeting. The others just sit there, hissing and sputtering like a row of sub-standard coffee machines.

The day wears on. The coffee beans are beginning to lose their potency. It’s time to sit in front of my computer screen and let the rest of the day pass me by. My head is buzzing, my mouth tastes like nothing on earth, my heart is trying to burst out of my rib cage. It’s seriously time to leave me alone. The staffers should know that. But still they keep coming.

I have cultivated a knack for dealing with them.

In comes Jilly, who considers herself my confidante. The others use her to gauge my mood. She’s wearing some sort of ghastly cap and yellow chino trousers. There’s a blouse there somewhere, but it fades into insignificance. So does her face, and everything else about her except the head gear and chinos. Watch how I deal with her.
“How do ya like my cap ‘n chinos?” she tweets, twirling round and round for my benefit.
“Yes, thanks, but make mine an espresso instead,” is my quick reply.

See? Once you’ve done it a few times, it’s a snap. Jilly looks puzzled – she doesn’t get it. She’s slow, to put it politely. She and Ellen fell out of the same tree. But she does understand the word “espresso”, so she wafts over to the coffee table.

I watch her with faint amusement. Her clothes are unspeakable. Glancing down at my own trim outfit, I congratulate myself on its style. Like coffee, people lose their unique identity unless properly packaged. I go for the hermetically sealed vacuum-pack look myself. Sleek, synthetic, tightly zipped from neckline to knee.

Jilly leaves my office, not quite sure what happened in here, but happy enough. I laugh out loud. There’s a knock at the door, and Mike appears in time to catch the dregs of my chuckle.
“You’re full of beans,” he says.
“Not yet,” is my zippy answer. “But if you bring me a coffee, it’ll top me up.”
See, there’s that knack again. Mike looks a bit freeze-dried, but brings the coffee. They all know how to do that. He’s forgotten what he wanted, so he leaves too.

There you have it, my technique for getting through the day. It’s an exclusive blend of strength and bitterness, in a zip-sealed package. The product of expert roastings, based on years of tradition. Keep refrigerated.

A trip into a caffeine-head's head

Published in: on 8 June 2008 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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