Why you MUST see the movie THE INTOUCHABLES


It’s rare you see a movie you love so much that you want to go straight back in the cinema and see it again. But that’s exactly how I felt about The Intouchables. It’s a film that’s hard to fault on any level.  I’m just surprised we haven’t heard more HYPE about it, because since March, it became the became the highest-grossing non-English language film yet released.

The Intouchables

The Intouchables

But perhaps that’s another reason why I loved this film so much. Without being exposed to the usual fan-fare that precedes a much-touted Hollywood block-buster, I had no preconditioned expectations. When people hear the movie is French, a common reaction is ‘Oh no, I have to read sub-titles!’ But believe me, minutes into the film, you won’t even notice them.

It’s the first movie I’ve really wanted to talk about in a Blog but having decided to do that, I’ve found it’s also a difficult film to review without giving away too much of the plot. There are several surprises throughout and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Even when the movie opens, it leads you to believe you are about to see a particular genre – perhaps a cops and robbers tale – but then neatly twists into something altogether. Much of the story is told as a flash-back.

In basic terms, it’s a story about a beautiful friendship between two men. Phillipe (Francois Cluzet), is a wealthy quadriplegic, looking to hire a new carer. Along comes Driss (Omar Sy) from the ghetto who isn’t looking for a job – merely a signature on a form to show he turned up to the interview, to help ensure he receives his welfare benefits. And then the humour kicks in and the film surprises again by revealing itself as a comedy with bucket-loads of laughs.

Driss (Omar Sy) and Phillipe (Francois Cluzet)

Driss (Omar Sy) and Phillipe (Francois Cluzet)

These two main characters are endearing to the core, and because they come from complete opposites of the social spectrum, the charm of this unique bonding is given added strength. Phillipe exposes Driss to a world of culture and luxury he’d never imagined, while Driss brings light, spontaneity and feeling to Phillipe’s life. Driss has a naive appeal that brings out the best in Phillipe and forces him to acknowledge emotions he has locked away for a long time. They seem to have a natural affinity that goes beyond race and social status – a connection that translates iridescently onto the screen. It’s like they both discover something they both desperately need, but until that moment, never knew how much they needed it.

Much of what happens strikes a deeper chord because we aren’t given the usual musical or visual triggers that spell out something is about to happen! in a standard Hollywood flick. How wonderful to see a movie where these moments speak for themselves.

The Intouchables

The Intouchables

Ultimately, it’s the emotional sincerity of the story and the performances that put this movie above the rest. When the dialogue is minimal and natural, and the actors depth of emotion accurately reflects so much subtext, it makes for a more genuine experience. We are all the more richer for absorbing a film with such extraordinary layers – a film that will leave you with a lasting memory about the human condition.



Something original for the races ‘POPS UP’ at Crown

The Spring Racing Carnival is underway, so time for some fun and frivolity, hey? I’m sure that’s what thousands of Victorians are thinking. Although when you look at the statistics, the money generated by the fashion and tourism industries during this time is staggering – well into the millions of dollars – so in fact, it’s a very serious business.

I’m sure a lot of that money comes about from people (like me) who leave race-wear shopping till it’s almost too late, then splurge in a fit of panic-buying. Because really, getting any kind of an outfit organised for the Spring Racing Carnival is a bit of a nightmare. Life’s already a circus act of juggling ten balls while snow-boarding down a roller-coaster (can you book the dentist, pick up the dog food, phone your Dad, visit your sick friend, write a best-seller, do the accounts and bring in the washing – all in five minutes please?) so finding time for fashion is a bit an indulgence. Usually it’s a last minute affair with a combination of things from years past, spruced up with perhaps a new necklace, worn in the hope that no-one will recognise your recycling efforts.

This year I tried to be a bit more efficient and actually phoned a milliner two weeks ago (I thought well in advance) only to hear her practically snort with laughter and say I was waaaaaaaayyyyy too late. Seriously? Yep. She was all booked up and worked to the bone. I didn’t bother trying anyone else, thinking I’d get the same reply. So that little task went to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list and I imagined at some point, I’d madly dash into David Jones or Myer and grab anything they had left off the shelf – probably the day before Derby Day.

The LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium

The LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium at Crown


Then – JOY – an easy solution arrived in my email box. Balls had been falling off my roller-coaster ride all week, so I sighed with relief. Surely THIS was the answer to my all-important hat problem? One of Australia’s most prestigious and talented milliner’s, Richard Nylon, was to exhibit and sell his designs as part of a POP-UP shop at Crown and I was invited to a preview.

(For those of you who aren’t up to speed with the concept, a POP-UP shop is a temporary store set up for a short-term purpose in the middle of a permanent shopping establishment)




Richard’s wares would be show-cased alongside the very fancy jewellery of LK Boutique – their joint project entitled, naturally, The LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium.

The LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium

The LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium at Crown

Many a fashion expert has dubbed Richard Nylon as Australia’s best milliner so I do think the chance to wear one of his pieces to the races and actually pick one off the shelf, is a rare and wonderful opportunity. Not to mention convenient!! In fact, I think you could justify your purchase by arguing that his hats are in fact, works of art. And what price a rare work of art?


Richard Nylon and Amber Petty

Richard Nylon and Amber Petty (trying on one of Richard’s designs)


Besides his talent, I adore Richard’s innate and original sense of personal style. He stands out in a crowd with his penchant for perky caps, colourful costumes and neck-ties. Sometimes I wonder whether he would have been more comfortable living in a by-gone era, but am glad he’s in the here-and-now so we can enjoy the benefits of his creativity.




James Kennedy of LK Boutique with Ann Peacock

James Kennedy of LK Boutique with Crown General Manager, Public relations, Ann Peacock


Hosted by Crown’s endlessly elegant Ann Peacock, several other well-known faces also came along to the launch to enjoy a glass of champagne while deciding which hats suited them best.

Kim Watkins, Ginny Gibson, Toni Skaife

Kim Watkins, Ginny Gibson, Toni Skaife






Canape or fascinator?

Canape, jewels or fascinator?




Checking out the range, I voted the evening head-pieces (surely these ARE art… ) and lady-bug necklaces as first past the post when it comes to style. But enough from me. I’m going to let the photos of Richard’s stunning work, along with some LK jewellery, speak for themselves.


Crimson plumes by Richard Nylon

Crimson plumes by Richard Nylon

Pill-box Love hat by Richard Nylon

Pill-box Love hat by Richard Nylon

Blue pleats with feather fringing by Richard Nylon

Blue pleats with feather fringing by Richard Nylon










Pink and white feathers by Richard Nylon

Pink and white feathers by Richard Nylon







Evening headpiece by Richard Nylon

Evening headpiece by Richard Nylon



Neon magic by Richard Nylon

Neon magic by Richard Nylon








Diamond Butterfly by LK Boutique, $7200

Diamond Butterfly by LK Boutique, $7200

Quartz and diamond Lady-Bug necklaces $3500 each

Quartz and diamond Lady-Bug necklaces by LK Boutique, $3500 each










So what did I pick? Well, choosing something so EARLY suddenly felt a bit odd… Where else would I get that adrenalin rush from putting it all together at the last minute? So I didn’t pick anything. I’m going to live dangerously and come back next week. (plus I need to colour match with outfits!!)

As an added bonus for customers, LK Boutique is offering a 30% discount on selected items, such as the Diamond Butterfly necklace to the right which is usually $9000. The POP-UP store, LK Boutique & Richard Nylon Spring Racing Emporium, will be open until Stakes Day. Happy shopping!

Rachael’s story about genetic testing for breast cancer – a blessing or a curse?


In case you’ve been living in a hole, October is BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH. I know – you knew that, didn’t you? How could you miss it? There’s been a spike in activity among fund-raising groups and it’s fantastic to see so many people getting involved and being supportive. But a few weeks ago, I over-heard some disappointing comments from a few people who have been infected with the dreaded Charity-Fatigue-Syndrome. (CFS) Yes, it’s easy to become blasé and say, ‘Oh no, not another event…’ when those invitations land on your desk, but now is NOT the time for complacency. Whereas breast cancer used to have a strike rate of one in fourteen women in Australia, it’s now risen to one in nine. Horrifying. ONE IN NINE!!!


Rachael Joiner

Rachael Joiner


For anyone complaining about CFS, I challenge you to listen to 36-year-old Rachael Joiner and still say you’re too tired to put your hand in your pocket. Rachael’s story is particularly moving because it highlights what she had to deal with even BEFORE she discovered she had breast cancer. I heard Rachael speak at a THINK PINK fund-raising lunch at the magnificent Circa restaurant in St Kilda last week. How confronting it must be, standing up in front of a large, social crowd and talking about your traumatic experience with cancer… yet Rachael, who is still recovering from her treatments and is in what she describes as ‘chemo shock’ was keen to support the THINK PINK cause.


So the CFS crew is having a bad-hair day and finding it tough to get to a function? Well, think about Rachael. She’s still unwell and a frequent visitor to the Peter MacCallum Institute. She is suffering from ovarian failure and is having issues with her thyroid not functioning properly as a result of chemotherapy treatments. Yet still she came.

Rachael was introduced by two-time breast cancer survivor Irene Hendel. Also the Chair and Founder of the Think Pink Living Centre, Irene and her husband David joined the Think Pink team twelve years ago. Irene’s greatest hope – to open a Living Centre for cancer patients in Melbourne – was realised in 2010.

Irene and David Hendel

Irene and David Hendel

The Centre gives people a place to go for support – both physical and psychological. On offer, there’s a bit of much-needed pampering – facials, free make-up and massages – or, if you like, meditation advice, pilates classes and even a wig library. For others, particularly younger women, there’s social opportunities and a chance to meet others their own age.

‘I was introduced to the Living Centre when I did the Day of Indulgence,’ said Rachael, as as she spoke to the packed venue. ‘This was prior to my chemo commencing. I checked out the wig library – just in case I needed it. But then going back to the Living Centre when I was bald was very hard. But I received very gentle and respectful support from everyone there in choosing my first wig, which I called the Russian Spy because it was a stylish black bob. I hadn’t really realised at the time how much the organisation could help me on every level.’

Rachael’s hair has now grown back, although she was surprised to find her new tresses darker and curly. She explained this is quite common among chemo patients. But chemo is tough. She said that after treatments, she’d look in the mirror and see a ghost of her former self. However, it was at the beginning of her experience that the THINK PINK Living Centre really made a difference.

‘The Living Centre supported me emotionally by connecting me to other women, especially other women of my own age that were in the same situation. They also offered me counselling and mediation. This provided me with the first feeling of calmness since my diagnosis.’

After her speech, I chatted with Rachael and was surprised to learn it was the first time she had spoken publicly. What a brilliant job she did! Not a shred of nerves in sight: a moving story told with humour, warmth and dignity.

I was also intruiged to learn that Rachael had taken the brave step of under-going genetic testing at the age of twenty-five – knowing there was a history of breast-cancer in her family. Genetic testing for breast cancer has been available in Melbourne since 2000. This meant she lived with the knowledge she may be diagnosed with the life-threatening disease at any moment. Ten years on and she was diagnosed at thirty-five.

The thought of living under such a threat makes me question the value of scientific knowledge. On one hand, of course it makes sense to know, but how does this impact on the way you live your day-to-day life? What is the price of knowledge? Would Rachael now recommend such testing to other young women?

‘It’s a big decision,’ she said. ‘I think it’s a very emotional and taxing journey.’

But ultimately, it’s what has saved her?

Rachael Joiner and nurse, Kathryn Wallace

Rachael Joiner and nurse, Kathryn Wallace

‘Yes, because they were monitoring me,’ said Rachael. ‘But it is a significant psychological burden to be carrying all that time, knowing that you’re likely to have cancer in the near future. And the trauma of going in for those observations on a regular basis.’ Rachael was first contacted about the THINK PINK Living Centre by nurse Kathryn Wallace, who also came to the lunch.

She admits it was almost a relief when the diagnosis came through. ‘It’s kind of like, I can stop worrying about WHEN it’s going to arrive and just deal with it.’ Rachael had a double mastectomy and reconstruction all at the same time. ‘It’s a massive operation and I’m still healing,’ she said. Yes, she was sad to lose her breasts, but knowing they were responsible for her illness made her, in one way, be glad to be rid of them.

The most important way THINK PINK has helped, is to introudce Rachael to other young women who have become close friends.

‘Oh yes, I have some amazing friends,’ she said. ‘We have very different issues to women who have gone through menopause. A lot of women haven’t had kids so fertility is a massive issue. The treatment is very hard for us, so it’s good to have other women to talk to and not feel so isolated and alone.’

‘We’ve started a monthly young women’s morning tea and I still go along to that. It’s open to anyone who wants to come along.’

Rachael has a partner who she says has been brilliant throughout, but says her new friends at THINK PINK also find relief in sharing stories about the strain cancer puts on most relationships. ‘It’s all challenging. Your world really does turn upside down and those that are there with you really are a part of that journey, so it’s a test of character strength and loyalty. I’m still in the process of recovery.’

Employed as a town planner, Rachael is working limited hours until she regains her full strength. Again, she credits THINK PINK with helping ease the pressures. ‘They’ve given me free massages. That really did help with the stress of it all, when I was very ill. And they’re just so welcoming.’

Dr Sally Cockburn and myself thanked the sponsors!

Dr Sally Cockburn thanked the sponsors!


The lunch was appropriately hosted by a doctor – one with a good sense of humour and persistence in rallying the crowd for funds. Known as Dr Feelgood on her 3AW radio spot, Dr Sally Cockburn says this is a regular gig for her. The Melbourne Pub Group generously donated the food; the superb champagne provided by Laurent-Perrier. And yes, I’m more than happy to give them a plug in return for their generosity.


If you haven’t done anything yet for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now’s the time. You can help THINK PINK to help other cancer patients (as they do so brilliantly) – by making a donation on-line at http://www.thinkpink.org.au/how-you-can-help/make-donation

Go on – you can do it!!!

The THINK PINK Living Centre Car

The THINK PINK Living Centre Car








I’m fascinated when people make dramatic career changes in their lives. Like when my super-bright cousin David studied medicine for six years, completed his internship then gave it all away to become an airline pilot. Or when a cameraman buddy became a professional artist and another friend switched from being a motor mechanic to an IT specialist. It seems to be an increasing trend. Statistically, we’re all living a lot longer, so it’s unlikely the career you started fresh out of school will be the one you finish up with. And I’m intrigued by HOW people switch from one to another and why? Perhaps we can all learn something from those who do. As a result, I’ve prepared a series of Inspirational Life Changes stories. These are interviews with people who have done just that – switched from one career to another, or are in the process of doing so.

INTERVIEW (1) Cecilia Low – Dancer turned Remedial Massage Therapist

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but it seems everyone you talk to these days has some kind of neck or back issue. I suffered a prolapsed disc in my lower back about ten years ago and have been trying out different therapies and therapists ever since.

 (Keep reading till the end for a great self-help tip!)

When we first met, Remedial Massage Therapist Cecilia Low was a professional dancer and performer – mostly in musical theatre. Super fit and super-toned, I always admired her dedication to her craft and her trim physique. Just look at these photos and you’ll see what I mean.

Dancer Cecilia Low. Photography by Sylvi K

Dancer Cecilia Low.                           Photography by Sylvi Kreinberg

Several years later, a mutual friend told us that Cecilia (or Ci, as we call her) had completed a professional remedial massage course and asked if we’d like to visit her for a treatment. Fletch also has some niggling back issues, so we shrugged our aching shoulders and said, ‘Yeah, why not? What’s one more?’ But we didn’t have high expectations – she was a beginner, right?

Wrong. While there weren’t any miracles as such, I have to say that Ci gives the firmest and most beneficial massage I’ve ever experienced. I’m now a regular client. Ci seems to have an intuitive touch; instinctively finding the exact spots where the knots and aches lie, and then those magical hands get to work and ease out the pain.

But given her success in the theatre, with more than ten years of continuous work, I was curious to learn why she’d switched careers.

‘I’d always had a fascination with the healing arts from a young age,’ she said as we sat down to chat after I’d had a massage. We sipped fresh coconut water as we spoke. (That’s another lovely touch Ci adds to her service. After every session you are given a small glass of fresh coconut juice to help re-hydrate.)

‘Just from dancing, I’d had to visit many therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors, so I’ve always been very accustomed to it and seen how beneficial it is for the body to function. Then about half-way through my career I did try to study massage, but I was travelling around a lot, performing, and realized I couldn’t manage both.’

The pivotal moment came when Ci felt the need for change. She’d been working in musical theatre for a long time and was physically tired.

So was the constant travelling a problem for her?

‘Maybe it’s the dancer in me, but no, I didn’t mind the moving around. I think you can make any place just like home, wherever you are. That didn’t bother me.’


Dancer Cecilia Low. Photography by Sylvi K

Dancer Cecilia Low.                                      Photography by Sylvi Kreinberg


Perhaps she becoming bored with dance?

‘No, dancing is my passion. I sing too, but I’m a dancer first. I feel very blessed, very lucky, to have done that and that’s given me amazing strength and stamina in many other ways.’

So what WAS the reason?

‘It was more the fact that I was beginning to feel limited in my mind and the skills that I could offer to the world, to people. I was only seeing myself as a dancer. And I felt there was so much more I could offer and I wanted to use my brain more.’

The answer – Ci returned to school, attending the Australian College of Sports Therapy in Melbourne where she earned a Diploma of Remedial Massage. It took more than a year and a half of intense studying and the first few months were the toughest.

‘Ah yes,’ she sighed. ‘We went right back to the basics. Chemistry, bio-chemistry, physics, nutrition. My brain was hurting. The first three months was a massive culture shock, juggling jobs and studies. But once I got over that, I was hungry for more.’ Her face brightened. ‘Then the time passed really quickly and I couldn’t get enough. I’m sure I’ll do more studying in the future. It was great!’

It’s not surprising that Ci ended up working in two careers that focus on the human body. It’s probably in her genes. Ci’s father, Vernon Low, was the first person to introduce the Korean martial art Taekwondo to Australia in the 1960s. (www.firsttaekwondon.com.au) I asked her whether she thought her father had been an influence in her career choices.

‘Definitely, most definitely,’ she said. ‘It’s in the blood I think. Some people hear the world, others see it visually. We all have different ways we perceive life. I think I definitely feel the world through my body first. I’ve been dancing since the age of five and I know I’m a happier, more wholesome person when I’m using my body. After leaving the dance world, I didn’t do much dance for about four years and I really struggled. Mentally, I didn’t want to admit that, but I know, now, I need that. And while massage isn’t dance, it is very physical and I treat it like a gym session I guess! There’s only a certain life span a dancer can have at that level. But yes, it is in the blood and I think my Dad lives in me every day in that aspect.’

Given that Ci has also experienced many massage treatments herself over the years, I wanted to know what she thought defined a good remedial massage therapist.

Cecilia in her therapy room

Cecilia in her therapy room

‘Someone who is able to listen and have compassion, while also being very professional and enabling the client to empower themselves and to take control of their pain levels. To learn about their own bodies,’ she said.

I made a comment that I believed she had intuitive hands and wondered whether her talent was something one could learn or was it a gift?

‘I think we’re all intuitive beings,’ she said. ‘It’s really about how open you are to your intuition. But it is also a skill you can learn too. I’m all for New Age things, but I like to balance it with practicality and science as well.’




‘The main focus for me, the type of massage I do, is to use of lot of movement in the treatments as I believe movement is the key to releasing tension and keeping the body pain-free. I guess this goes back to my dance background for sure.’

So now Ci has a different passion in life. The Remedial Massage Therapy course has given her a new vocation – one she finds wholly rewarding. ‘I think every time I massage someone, I feel very honoured. Honoured that they are entrusting themselves to me. It’s quite an intimate experience – one-on-one – it’s physical and there’s a lot of trust on both sides. But I feel very honoured that someone can come to me with their problems and I might be able to help.’

And now the bit I think could really help all of us!

Ci also believes we can help relieve our OWN aches and pains with our OWN hands. That’s not to say she’ll be doing herself out of a job. More to the point, she’s establishing a series of BACK CARE WORKSHOPS so that clients might be able to find some relief in-between treatments.

‘I came up with the concept because I believe it is possible to do your own body maintenance. I believe it will also probably make my job a little bit easier. I see a lot of chronic back pain and tension – a lot of on-going pain. The course will help people maintain themselves by dealing with things like the strain you get in your neck from sitting at the computer all day, or that niggling pain between your shoulder blades.’

Ci will also show clients how to use various tools at home that could help. ‘People often ask me things like, I have a foam roller, how do I use it? We’ll also look at how you can use simple things at home, like a tennis ball, to help. It’s about  teaching people about the different kinds of pain and how to deal with it. How to use different techniques using your hands and thumbs to stave off those niggling issues.’


Back Care Workshop - Saturday, November 24th

Back Care Workshop – Saturday, November 24th


Sounds brilliant! The first of these workshops takes place in November, along with a session from a pilates instructor Wade Edewell from The Pilates Cottage  www.thepilatescottage.com.au. Ci is also planning couples’ workshops for the future.

If you’d like to know more about Ci’s BACK CARE WORKSHOP, visit her website at www.cicure.com.au

Or to book an extremely amazing remedial massage session, email her at massage@cicure.com.au or phone her on 0414 640 052.

Ci works one day a week at City Osteopathy in the city and other days at ‘Energize and Recharge Studios’ in Elwood.

I’m not the only one who believes Ci is a first-rate therapist.  Uber-cool rockstar and X-Factor host Natalie Bassingthwaighte is also happy to sing Ci’s praises. Plus you can check out other opinions at WOMO – wordofmouth.com for some great reviews.


(Disclaimer: Because the matter of ‘disclosure’ in blogging was intelligently discussed in the wonderful blog ‘Woogsworld’ by Mrs Woog today, I feel the urge to say, again, I am NOT paid for any of the interviews or products I have covered.  I have paid for all my massage treatments with Ci and will continue to do so. I will let you know if and when I ever get freebies. Basically I just want to recommend stuff I genuinely think will help you. And I DID tell you about the Goodie Bags in an earlier story – of course they were free! )







My Favourite London Cabbie


Firstly, apologies to readers who have complained that I haven’t blogged for some time. It’s lovely to know that you miss my offerings and I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t forewarn you two weeks ago that I was heading off on a holiday with Fletch. Like the last time we went away, I stupidly thought I’d still manage to find time to post blogs. Wrong. I should have learned from my first experience. Travelling is far too time consuming. Plus I think it’s best to absorb the experiences, sift through the highs and lows and leave out the dross. (that’s my excuse anyway… laziness may have had something to do with it too…)

Our first stop was London. Fletch had agreed to be spokesperson for the Blue September campaign. This meant a week jam-packed with interviews promoting men’s health, in particular, issues relating to prostate cancer. His media schedule was gruelling and on one day, I think he notched up more than twenty interviews in a row. To his credit, his enthusiasm never wavered and I’m pretty sure all requests – from even the smallest local newspapers and radio stations – were met. But by day’s end, he was exhausted.

Big Ben at dusk

Big Ben at dusk


It was a different matter for myself. I hadn’t been to the UK for about two years so there were plenty of friends to catch up with, shops to browse and sights to explore. I was also weary at day’s end, but for different reasons. Though I was only window-shopping, it’s easy to rack up the miles traipsing through Selfridges and endless tube stations. But that didn’t stop either of us from making the most of our time in London-town and socialising in the evening. Which means much eating and drinking, talking and laughing, late nights and  expresso martinis. The way I see it – if you get a two-week sabbatical from parenting (thanks to my amazing Mum and step-father Ken) then you’ve got to make the most of it.

Ed, James, Fletch, me and Max Rushden

Ed, James, Fletch, me and TV presenter Max Rushden

After his Blue September commitments came to an end, Fletch had another week off Neighbours due to a production break. This meant – wonder of wonders – a week to travel by ourselves. A rare and precious opportunity. A chance to visit somewhere we hadn’t been before – to tick another of those much-dreamt-about countries off our bucket list. We opted to visit Spain, as neither of us had been before and have always heard marvellous tales from friends – particularly about Barcelona.

But a day before leaving, I was hit by a bout of the guilts. I’d been in London for five days and hadn’t visited one art gallery, museum or historical building. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have visited London on several occasions over the years, so I’ve already seen most of the  famous landmarks, but it still didn’t sit well with me that I had done ‘zip’ culturally.


Fletch in the audience of Matilda the Musical

Fletch in the audience of Matilda the Musical

Actually, I lie. We did see the wonderful Matilda the Musical, based on Roald Dahl’s famous story with music and lyrics by the incredibly talented Tim Minchin. A big ‘THANK YOU’ to Fremantle Media for making this happen! It’s a MUST-SEE if you’re in  London. An uplifting, hilarious show with one of the most talented cast of children I’ve ever had the pleasure to see perform.  You can grab a snippet of what’s in store at: http://uk.matildathemusical.com

But back to my guilt-trip over the dearth of cultural activity in my London experience. On the LAST day I decided enough was enough – I had to do SOMETHING. I thought back to what I’d enjoyed most in the past and the lightbulb moment happened when I remembered the Tate Modern. Of course! Housing the UK’s biggest collection of modern and contemporary works, I’d always left this gallery feeling awe-struck and uplifted.. Decision made, I set off in the rare autumnal sunshine to be inspired.


Tate Modern Gallery

Tate Modern Gallery


Needless to say (and I will Blog about this further), I again had a riveting morning and cursed myself for not spending longer in galleries and less time in the shops. But it was the taxi ride back to our hotel that will stay with me for the longest time to come.




As much as I admire the efficiency of London’s Underground and pray that Melbourne’s public transport system could one day be half as good, I also love the tradition of the good old London cabs. Just the sight of them lined up at a rank is a reassuring sign that nothing much has changed since you last visited; a visual reminder of the staunchly upheld traditions that lie at the heart of UK culture. Their drivers always know where to go, plus there’s plenty of room to stretch out your legs and relax during the ride.

I’d stayed too long at the Tate Modern, entranced by masterpieces and dawdling along, when I suddenly remembered I had bags to pack and a flight to catch to Spain in just under an hour. I ran to the taxi rank outside  and breathlessly asked the cabbie to put the pedal to the metal pronto and get me to my hotel.

London cabs

London cabs

‘Not a problem, love,’ he chirped with a hint of a Cockney accent. ‘Enjoy the gallery, did you? Have you ‘ad a good day?’ He smiled warmly into the rear-view mirror, peering through rimless glasses. A middle-aged fellow with wisps of fading red hair brushed across a bald patch. The faint sound of jazz music played in the background.

‘Yes, I did. I love that gallery It’s brilliant,’ I said.

‘Ah well you look like you’ve ‘ad a good day. You look good. I mean, nice. I mean…’ At this point he appeared a flustered, as if worried I might take offence at his compliment. That I might think he was sleazy, when in fact, I knew he was just being kind. ‘I mean, I like your glasses and all…’ His voice trailed off.

‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘They’re transitional lenses, so they work for both distance and as sunglasses.’ I over-clarified the point to make him feel like I really did understand he WAS talking about my glasses.

‘So what’s the rush, then?’ he asked, keen to change the subject. I explained I needed to catch a plane.

‘Oh, so did you need a ride to the airport?’ He looked at me eagerly. ‘I could wait, you know?’

‘No, I think we’re catching the Heathrow Express.’

London Cab

London Cab


His face dropped. ‘Oh.’ There was a pause. He gripped the steering wheel more tightly, shaking his head. ‘That damned train is going to be the death of us cabbies. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had in the last week tell me they don’t need me because of that damn train. Those fares used to be our livelihood.’



I felt mean. ‘Um, well, I’m not exactly sure that’s what we’re doing. I could check when I get to the hotel and see what Fletch had in mind.’

His face brightened. ‘Oh that would be fab, love. No pressure, mind you. But look…’ He fumbled in the console and handed me a business card with his number. ‘…take this. My name’s Martin and I’ll wait for a bit and you can call if you need me. Where are you flying to?’

‘Spain,’ I replied. ‘I haven’t been before, so we’re really looking forward to it.’

At the mention of Spain, his entire being transformed.’Spain!’ he practically shouted, slapping the steering wheel with gusto and turning up the music. Which in fact wasn’t jazz. It was a Brazilian salsa. ‘Well, I’ll be. I just LOVE that place!’ he exclaimed with glee, now hitting the steering wheel and bouncing in his seat in time with the music. His pale face flushed pink as he started humming along with the tune. ‘And the dancing!’ he added, swaying his shoulders from side to side. ‘Once that dancing starts, you can’t help but get on up and join in. Ah, that’s the life!’ He turned the volume up another notch, bursting into song.

It wasn’t what I’d expected. Before Martin started his taxi-seat grooves, I’d have said he was the least likely person to be a salsa dancing expert, but his performance was joyous. The rapture in his face, as he allowed the music to take over was a sight to behold. I pictured him in a Hawaiian shirt, dancing his way through the streets at the Rio Carnivale, swinging girls around him and throwing his head back, eyes closed in pure bliss.

His enthusiasm for the Spanish culture was infectious; his stories and music amplifying my expectations for the adventures ahead.

I was sad when the taxi ride came to an end.

Even sadder when Fletch explained he’d already pre-paid for tickets on the Heathrow Express.

But I kept the business card. Next time in London, I want to hear that salsa music again. And if you’re looking for a really delightful taxi driver who will be more than happy to drive you to Heathrow Airport, call Martin on +0044 (0) 7876 622 750