Well, I did it. I ran my 5k. And you know what? It was a P.O.P. compared to my training runs. For a start, it was basically all FLAT, and all on tarmac (my training route contains a lot of inclines, trail running, and, lately, thanks to all the rain, a lot of mud).
It was a cold day at the Norfolk Showground on Sunday, but there were 3500 other walkers, joggers & runners to buoy our spirits. The atmosphere was pretty awesome, and it was fun seeing the people in silly outfits, reading their “I race for life for….” things on the back of their shirts, and sharing with their excitement.
But there were downsides to a massive group event too – the queue for the portaloos was one.
The other thing was the crush. I don’t really like being caught in crowds at the best of times, but when I’m trying to get away from the start line and get up to my optimum pace, crowds SUCK. But despite all this, I got my best overall pace for a 5k to date – 35mins clicked in just as I sprinted (would you believe it) across the finish line.
Eee, I got a medal!
So what’s next? Well, I started StrongLifts 5×5, I’ve started boxing a heavy bag in the garage and today, I ran 6.7km. GET. IN.
Yes, hopefully this habit is to stay.
OH AND MOST IMPORTANTLY.
Thank you SO SO much to everyone who sponsored and supported me in the 5k. Thanks to your generous donations, I’ve raised £301 for Cancer Research. You guys are totally awesome
I’m still here! Promise.
Just a bit hectic here (as always). I still don’t have an oven or washing machine (anyone in Waveney with a spare, working washing machine that they want to donate?) but I now have a fridge and a DOUBLE inflatable mattress.
Lots still to bring up from London, but we’re getting there, slowly. Ben has, just today, sold his big red Capri for breaking, and was only offered £500 for it. I think he is very sad, but he’s not letting on much, and it’s hard to tell when I’m 3 hours away. I feel bad for him, because I know he loved that car and, given the time, space and money, he would have reconditioned it and made it beautiful.
However, we don’t have the time, space or money for it. In some ways, this is a good thing: our time, space and money is being developed towards our future, home and (eventually) family. It’s an exciting time, but also scary, lots of change and lots of sacrifice.
My major sacrifice at the moment is probably my sanity: trying to juggle training for three jobs is starting to do my head in, with one employer giving me a bunch of night shifts for a few week’s time. But never mind – I expected this. And hopefully, it means first paycheck soon…
On Saturday, I was gifted with the opportunity to go and see Dr Brooke Magnanti (aka Belle du Jour – yes, that one) at the Wellcome Collection’s Unclean Beings. My wonderful Twitter pal, @DoktorG, generously left his two tickets at the desk for me – he couldn’t make it for the day, and didn’t want the tickets to go to waste. Ben and I couldn’t stay for the whole day, either, but were determined to at least see Dr Magnanti (and cash in on a free lunch).
It still boggles me, by the way, that Twitter can work like this – I have never met @DoktorG in “the real world”, and yet look at the generosity. Thanks, @DoktorG!
Dr Magnanti was there to speak about, yes you guessed it, prostitution. Her talk was entitled “Why is paid sex dirty?”, and was sadly less than an hour long. I say sadly because Dr Magnanti is such a wonderful speaker.
Dr Magnanti, having actually worked AS a hooker, didn’t bring the stuffiness and drama that usually surrounds a discussion about sex work – there was no “shock” factor and patronisation you would get in, say, a Channel 4 documentary. Dr Magnanti gave a brief history of “the oldest profession”, and offered some opinions as to why it is considered so taboo. She also voiced her own opinion about why this label of “dirty” is so unnecessary – it is, after all, a job. In many societies (different countries, different times), prostitutes earn more money, have more power and more protection, than most other women in “respectable” professions. Someone in the audience gave a statistic of something like 8c a week as a factory worker versus $9 a week as a hooker (somewhere in the Far East I think, but honestly, I have a memory like a sieve).
What followed was an excellent Q&A session, where there were some good questions (What about male prostitutes? Why is the stigma attached to women so much stronger?) and some terrible ones (Why did you choose to reveal your identity as Belle du Jour when you did? Do you regret it, or has it made you a stronger person?).
Long and short: if you get the opportunity to see Dr Magnanti speak, take it. She is not to be missed.
Finally, whilst we were at the Wellcome Collection, I took the opportunity to finally have a look at the temporary Dirt exhibition. Excitingly, I was actually featured in this gallery. Don’t believe me? OK, then I had to break the rules and take a surreptitious photo in this gallery (DO NOT DO THIS – IT’S NAUGHTY AND NOT ALLOWED). See number 12 -
Exciting stuff, right? Find out more about this exhibit (the Laid to Rest project) – I think they’re still taking dust donations, so if you want to see your name in a public gallery (eeee) then go ahead!
July 18, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, debate, jobs, London, money, museum, philosophy, photography, Psychology, sociable, Wellcome Collection | Tags: art, debate, excitement, fox, humans, I love, London, optimism, philosophy, psychology, rant, sociable | 1 Comment »
OK, time for some cautious optimism. We are getting closer and closer to leaving London.
“What?!” I hear you cry. Oh, you didn’t know? Well, I haven’t really made a formal announcement (because it’s been so touch and go) but basically, we’re moving to Suffolk. Various reasons, but a big one being I REALLY want a garden. Some space. Outdoors.
Southwold beach, about 15mins drive from our future house
The details are sketchy (because clearly Ben has a job in London, so won’t be upping sticks entirely. Yet) but we have just received an email from the letting agent in Suffolk saying we can have the house we want. We’ve arranged a day to collect the keys in the middle of August – not as soon as I’d've hoped, but soon enough (“that’s not soon enough!”)
But moving brings with it heartache and change. I’m really bad at change. I think that’s what’s held me back in the past – fear of change. It’s kept me in stagnant relationships, it stopped me wanting to go to grammar school (I know, I know), but slowly, gently, I’m learning to let change into my life. This is a big one (all at once) as I will be moving away from everything I know – volunteering, choir, friends, my mum (ARGH that’s the hardest one). However, I like to think that this year is a bit of a break through for me become a bit more independent – I’ve got my own car, I’ll (hopefully) be getting a job soon, and my own place (it’s in my name, people! Booyah). Scary shit, right? Right. But I repeat: garden.
Also, it’s not all 100% scary – my choir master from the English Arts Chorale lives in Suffolk too (and commutes to Surrey every week for choir – mad I know) – he runs two other choirs there, so at least I have somewhere to sing. Added to that, Ben’s parents and sister live about 15-20mins drive from where we’re going to live, which makes it feel a bit safer.
Yesterday came the first “cut off” – I said goodbye to SANE and to the EAC. I’ve been a member of each organisation for 15months and 3years respectively, but it felt a lot longer (in a good way). But Suffolk is a long way away, so I had to say goodbye. It was hard, but the cake I baked made it a bit easier. I will definitely keep in touch with the folks at the EAC (I can’t get away from them – they do joint concerts with the choirs in Suffolk!!) and I will continue to spread the news of SANE’s good works. But it’s still difficult to accept that I am no longer directly involved – both groups have meant a lot to me in different ways. Both have helped me to grow.
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough (and I’m getting sad, like when I had to leave the Horniman). More news on the move as-and-when.
Oh, and as always – sorry updates have been sparse lately, but given the above (and the dissertation) I hope you’re happy to forgive and be patient.
July 12, 2011 | Categories: Britain, car, family, holiday, London, Mental Floss, money, music, philosophy, sociable, Suffolk | Tags: debate, dissertation, excitement, family, fox, holiday, humans, I love, London, new, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 5 Comments »
Today’s post is courtesy of my good friend Angharad, from Edible Glitter. I was introduced to Angharad via her future-sister-in-law, my friend Sarah, only last year, and since then we have become good chums. I envy Angharad her stylish chic and her easy way with words – see her blog for evidence of both of these.
So without further ado, here are her thoughts on her latest ventures into the world of craftiness -
Astrid and I have many things in common. We both like cats. We both like cocktails. We both have names beginning in A and ending in D (and that’s fairly unusual, eh?). But we also have a few things that are very much not in common, and these largely relate to my various inabilities. Astrid can do the sciencey thing – I always WANT to be sciencey, but when it comes to the crunch I don’t really get it. And Astrid is blessed with the powers of a super crafter (which I suspect she gets from her lovely Mum.) Whereas when it comes to crafting my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak – I just don’t seem to have the skills necessary to put the creative ideas I have in to action.
Despair not, this post isn’t going to be a length rumination on my inadequacies. Rather it is going to be a positive affirmation of the fact that you don’t have to be a born crafter to have fun playing around with various crafts. So you might not be able to knit a jumper (damn you Astrid, I never progressed further than a garter stitch scarf) but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a different craft that suits you down to the ground.
Of course, every crafter needs good materials and some inspiration to boot. I was whinging to my fiancé’s sister Sarah only a month or so ago that I needed a creative project but couldn’t think of what. She helpfully suggested making a rag rug, something which I fully intend to try my hand at as soon as I’ve gathered together enough rags. But whilst I was wondering what the hell to do in the meantime, help arrived in the form of a brand new branch of HobbyCraft 5 minutes from my house. I’ve got to admit, I was stupidly excited. I squealed down the phone to various friends about it and as soon as an opportunity arose scuttled over for a good old browse.
HobbyCraft is heaven, and not just for established crafters. I defy you to go in there and not find something you want to make. There is such a variety of materials available that there is something for everyone, whatever your interests. I went in starved of ideas for creative projects and came out with plans to make jam, paint glass, do some decoupaging, learn how to knit again, make soap and try my hand at cross stitch.
Cross stitch is the example I really wanted to give to show that you can succeed with crafts even if you find them daunting. I’d always wanted to give cross stitch a go, and even got as far as browsing the cross stitch magazines with Astrid in WH Smith, but always chickened out at the last minute. I thought it was going to be too complex for me; that I would mess it up and feel desperately inadequate.
Happily, Hobbycraft offer tiny little cross stitch kits that only cost £1.99 and feature a variety of sweet little designs. The cheap price means that if you mess it up you’ve not lost much, and the small size means that on your first go you can get satisfaction fairly quickly rather than having to wait weeks for the design to gradually appear. I stitched a small picture of a steam train in an afternoon, which I intend to use as an insert for a Father’s Day card. A cross stitch addiction has been born.
I am now working on a top secret and very ambitious project (perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m willing to find out). It just goes to show that I was silly to be frightened of cross stitch, and I could have been having fun stitching away months ago.
If you are a bit wary of crafting and know that you don’t pick things up as quickly as some people (I know I certainly fall in to that category) don’t be afraid to go on YouTube and watch any helpful tutorials over a few times to get the hang of it. When I started making 1000 origami birds for my upcoming wedding (yep, 1000 – I’m a glutton for punishment) I found it really difficult, to the point that I was so frustrated I nearly gave up. But after watching a helpful YouTube tutorial several times in succession it finally clicked, and folding the birds became second nature. I’ve since turned to YouTube to learn about rag rug making, which I’ve also found lots of helpful advice on.
So make sure that if there’s a project you are interested in you kick that fear and just dive in – yes, so occasionally you may encounter failure (I suck at baking and as I mentioned earlier am not a skilled knitter) but you will also discover new hobbies that you feel passionate about (try to take my cross stitch away from me and I will bite you). Good luck, happy crafting and don’t forget to pop over to my blog for more of my thoughts.
June 5, 2011 | Categories: art, crafts, guest post, how-to, knit, London, money, sociable | Tags: art, craft, crafts, crafty, cross stitch, excitement, guest post, how to, humans, I love, London, shiny, sociable | 3 Comments »
As I mentioned yesterday, you may have notice that summer is pretty much here. Really, I should be lounging somewhere in the sun, not wearing very much. But I have this love affair with food (affair? It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had) which means I don’t suit skimpy beachwear.
But another joy of summer is that it’s cycling weather. On yer bike, and all that. I need some encouragement – London is a terrifying cycling experience, and I don’t much like leaving the house. So good news: I can fit my mountain bike in the back of my new car! Hurrah – get out to the country with the bike.
But should I want to cycle in the city, there is encouragement there too. The famous “Boris Bike” scheme makes bikes accessible to all, and whilst I have never used them myself (I have my own bike, and therefore have no need for hiring one), they seem to have been a great success with the general public.
Image from The Bike-sharing Blog
And TFL have now set up the London Cycle Challenge 2011 - you can sign up, join a team (get your workplace or school/college to set one up) or set up you own team of friends and family, then between 18th June – 18th July, you can log the miles you cycle. Miles equate to points, and of course, points mean prizes. Find out more on the TFL website.
Not a cycling commuter and want some ideas of where to cycle in London for pleasure? No problem. TFL are here to help again – they are supplying free paper maps for different areas of London, each map with many different route suggestions. Order them here.
And finally: please stay safe. They design some pretty cool helmets nowadays, and you can get neon reflective stickers in a multitude of designs (I have them in the shape of pawprints. Hurrah!) Lights at night, and try not to weave in traffic too much. Oh, and have fun!!
Now that the sun is shining, it’s time for barbecues and cocktails. Now, barbies are straight forward – heat and meat usually does the trick. But cocktails? Cocktails I’m not so good at. I wish I could make a good cocktail.
So here are some important ingredients for making cocktails -
A set of ultra pretty cocktail glasses – I love these sophisticated ones from John Lewis, priced at £50 for a set of four.
A cocktail shaker set, obviously. And this one from Heal’s is pretty swish, and comes with everything you need. Nice price at £36, too.
A cocktail recipe book! 500 Cocktails (available from Amazon) by Wendy Sweetser is fairly comprehensive (I mean…. 500!), and it helps with shaking techniques, and the fundamentals of mixing.
Argh, I want mojitos.
May 29, 2011 | Categories: Britain, cocktail, I Want Never Gets, money, philosophy, sociable | Tags: cocktail, diy, drink, excitement, food, holiday, I love, money, picnic, sociable, summer | Leave A Comment »
Those of you following me on Twitter might have seen me “fess up” yesterday. I bought a car. Hmm.
I’ve been thinking about getting my own car for a while now – with Ben’s Capri being a classic car (and recently polished to perfection), I didn’t feel comfortable driving it (should the worst happen) plus, putting me on the insurance quadrupled the price of the premium.
But now I have my own car. It’s a little baby jeep. Huzzah!
And you’ll be pleased to hear that, even after more than 3 years without being behind the wheel, I still remember how to drive. I drove it all the way home from Basingstoke, no problem. I even ate crisps.
I have way too many knitting needles now. I had to knock together something to keep them sorted. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world (I used what materials I had), but it does the job. All my straights fit in there, but I still have a mug full of dpns and now a big collection of circulars (got a whole set of them for £12 online).
I followed a tutorial online for this – the writer’s version is WAY more attractive, but I did just knock mine together rather than really think it through too much. Yay!
Way, way too many needles. Take some off my hands.
Holy mother-load, Batman.
I have been charity shopping. Having been on a knitting binge, I remember that my local Trinity Hospice shop used to have a big mug full of donated needles. When I went there, the mug had gone. Sad face. So I asked the staff if they’d sold them all – no, they weren’t selling, so they had been moved to the store room. They went and got me a massive tangle of well over 200 needles. I bought the lot for a tenner – they were happy to be rid of the mismatched assortment of unsellable pointy things.
After a sort through, about 70 needles are unpaired. A shame. Unless someone wants a bundle of odd needles (I’m sure SOMEONE in the ‘verse can think of something to do with them…) they will be chucked out.
BUT. I now have a mass of knitting needles. Yay! Mainly standard straights and a mass of dpns, but I also found one circular needles, 4 crochet hooks (like I need more of those…) and three stitch counters.
Obviously, some are doubles. I have, for example, 10 sets of 3.75mm needles. So here’s my proposal: if you knit or know someone who knits (or wants to take it up), then have a look at my needle collection on Ravelry. I am happy to get rid of sets for as little as 50p (plus a nominal charge to cover p&p, if you want me to post them out to you). Please note: I’m only willing to sell on needles I have DOUBLES or more of. Please don’t ask for things I only have one of.
And if you fancy that bucket load of odd-needles, I’ll let you have the lot for a quid.
May 24, 2011 | Categories: Britain, charity, crafts, knit, London, money, photography, sociable | Tags: charity, comedy, crafts, diy, excitement, funny, I love, knit, money, needle, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 1 Comment »
On Friday, I met up with my mum and aunt, who were having a day out in London. They had already been to see Jan Gossaert’s (Flemish, like they are!) work at the National Gallery by the time I met up with them, and had a cheeky sit in at a lunch time concert at St Martin-In-The-Fields whilst they were waiting for me to arrive, so I knew they were on a culture binge. After a spot of lunch, we decided to round off the day with a visit to the Victoria & Albert museum.
After a drift through the hall of statues (the first gallery you come to after entering via the subway), we decided to avail ourselves of the temporary exhibition on the 1860-1900′s aesthetic movement, The Cult Of Beauty.
As all three of us are avid lovers of all things Art Noveau, it drew us in immediately. With a philosophy best summed up by Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”, the aesthetic movement was a celebration of beauty. Whilst I wasn’t mad on everything in the exhibition, there was an astoundingly large selection to choose from. My favourites included Pavonia (the picture used in the promotional material, as above), Proud Maisie, The Beguiling of Merlin and Louise Jopling. I was also deeply drawn in by the beautiful statue, Mors Janua Vitae (death is the gateway to life) by Harry Bates – the picture on that website does not do it justice; it is stunningly beautiful and more than a bit unnerving.
As well as being crammed full of beautiful paintings, sketches and sculpture, The Cult of Beauty also boasts some architectural drawings (including sketches for Whistler’s famous Peacock Room), Morris wallpapers, pottery, a set of wrought iron gates, some beautiful clothing and astonishing feats of carpentry. Oscar Wilde gets a mention or two, and there is a poster for a play entitled “Quite Too Utterly Utter”, which makes me grin like a loony.
The exhibition is on until the 17th of July, and is well worth the price of the ticket. We spent a good couple of hours in there, and would have taken even more time if we hadn’t started flagging after a long day.
Tickets are priced at £12 Full, £9 Seniors citizens, £7 Full time students, ES40 holders, 12-17 year olds, £31/£19 Family tickets (2 adults and 2 12-17 yrs/1 adult and 2 12-17 yrs)
Find full details on the V&A website.
May 23, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, clothes, family, jewellery, London, money, museum, philosophy, sociable | Tags: animals, art, crafts, excitement, family, humans, I love, London, me me me, mum, museum, music, optimism, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 2 Comments »
I LOVE St Martin-in-the-Field’s café in the crypt. It’s so wonderfully weird.
Yes, it’s a café in a crypt. Yes, underground. With old tombstones on the floor.
You might think it sounds a little creepy, but it really isn’t. Café in the Crypt is cosy, quirky and charming. They serve refreshments pretty much all day, with meals available at lunch and dinner. Whilst choice of food is fairly limited (one meat/fish dish or one vege dish, or a selection of cold salads etc.) it is always top notch quality, and reasonably priced.
Yesterday, as they were in the area, my mum, aunty and I went there for a lunch of fish and chips, with mushy peas and freshly made tartar sauce. Far too big a portion to finish on one’s own, and only £8 for the privilege. The menu changes daily.
It’s a buffet cart affair, so don’t go there expecting table service.
The Crypt also has a gift shop, art gallery space, brass rubbing and host live music events (notably their jazz night’s). Well worth a visit.
The first thing that struck me was that I could only book a table for either 5 our 9:15 pm. Weird, as neither of those are traditionally times people want to eat dinner. No matter – we would hang out in the famous rum bar until our table was free at 9:15.
Cottons’ rum bar was smaller than I had imagined and very popular, leading to a bit of a cramped cocktail experience. But as the other patrons were cheerful and the cocktails were amazing, this didn’t bother us for long.
Behind the bar is a huge wall of rum (above), and the cocktail menu uses them very creatively. I started on the hard stuff with the Killer Doppo (for types of rum, below) whilst Angharad went for Cool Runnings (cucumber heavy! Very refreshing). Paul stayed on the Red Stripe all night (you can’t win them all) and Ben unimaginatively went for a Long Island Iced Tea (not even looking at the menu!)
Us girls then tried the China Breeze (with coconut rum and lychee juice) and we soon found ourselves at our table.
Our table was a cosy little booth – the ceilings were quite low, and the while set up made us feel like we were on a boat.
Starters comprised Ben and I sharing jerk pork ribs, Angharad with some black eye bean fritters and Paul had shredded sweet chilli chicken (I think). It all disappeared quickly, and then the lads and I sopped up the remaining jerk sauce with complimentary dough bread.
Whilst we were waiting for our mains, we ordered some more drinks – Angharad went back to Cool Runnings (a good film!) while I moved on to El Draque (made with mint and tea leaves). Paul was still on the Red Stripe, and Ben asked for… a whisky. Our waiter couldn’t believe it, and (rightly) refused to serve him whisky in a rum bar! To our surprise, he soon returned with half a dozen different rums for Ben to try, adamant that he would find one akin to whisky that he would like. He did, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was. This super-star treatment (and this particular waiter, in fact) made our evening not good but great.
Mains came. Angharad had barely looked at the menu before homing in on curried goat with peas an’ rrrrice. Paul went for a jerk spiced lamb shank (mm, jerk) sitting on a bed of sweet potato mash and wilted spinach, and Ben and I defied convention by sharing a main – the mixed jerk meat grill. We did bulk it up with a side of dumplings and coleslaw, but sharing a main led us to feel satisfied rather than stuffed – watch out, restaurants, we might do this more often in future. Sorry.
The food at Cottons was delicious – good portion sizes, and going beyond the barbecue, into the restaurant. Rather than just a chunk of meat with a handful of rice (my experience at Stratford’s Caribbean Scene), Cottons offered really top quality cuisine, beautifully flavoured. I particularly loved the jerk belly pork. I was also intrigued by some of the more unusual menu options, such as jerk venison. Maybe next time.
Cottons was clean, with a friendly atmosphere. The waiter service was friendly and, as I mentioned above, very helpful in guiding our choices. My only criticism would be the unusual table booking times (which led us to get home at beyond midnight – not ideal, considering we only had a meal out, not a night on the lash). Whilst I had originally considered the premises “cramped”, given the atmosphere, I would now changed that evaluation to “cosy”. Definitely recommended, even if you forego the meal – the cocktails were amazing!
Today, I want to make a special mention to Urban Threads, a magnificent resource and shop for all of you hand- and machine-embroiderers out there. I have never embroidered, but having browsed this online emporium, I really, really want to.
As well as a huge range of embroidery patterns to buy (intensely cheaply – starting at $1 each!! madness), Urban Threads also offers the occasional free pattern, as well as some awesome project tutorials.
And if you fancy giving embroidery a go (or maybe this one is really for the tried and tested embroiderers amongst you) Urban Threads is running a competition to celebrate their birthday! Click here for more details, and if you do decide to enter – good luck!!
On Sunday, after the wonderful Damnation of Faust (it was about 3 hours – 3-6pm) we wandered down to London’s vibrant Chinatown (I don’t usually use the word “vibrant”, but Chinatown deserves it).
We did some pre-dinner window-shopping, then looked for a restaurant. We had nothing specific in mind, just that we wanted something good.
We ended up outside the door of the Empress of Sichaun, and quickly decided we wanted in. They had chilli peppercorn squid – that was enough for us (also, they did that hotpot I was talking about, but we weren’t in the mood for that).
I was on menu choosing duty – so, a bottle of red (a Rioja), and some cold starters. I went for “Bang Bang Chicken” (which was like a cold chicken satay – a LOT nicer than it sounds) and thinly sliced pork in garlic and chilli sauce. Both were excellent – I could smell the garlic before it even arrived at the table. My only criticism was that there were some bits of gristle in the chicken, which were a bit gross. Nevermind.
Oh, and I was so ravenous that I forgot to take a photo of those. Oops. On to mains!
Our waitress asked if we wanted a short break before commencing mains, and I chose to take her up on that. We had ordered quite a few dishes.
I went for the chilli peppercorn squid (of course! Always a winner), as well as double cooked pork belly slices in garlic and chilli (garlic much? Oh well – cleans the blood and all that). We also had some broccoli steamed with garlic (seriously) and some steamed rice.
Ben struggles with chopsticks.
All dishes involved were amazing – the squid, as always, stole the show. I want to know how to cook squid like that – it’s so MEATY. The pork belly slices were like the starter, in that they were cut incredibly thin, giving a bacon-like mouthfeel. No bad thing. Tonnes of garlic on the broccoli, and everything was the right level of spicy. Very clean flavours, beautifully presented, generous portion sizes.
We ate everything, except a couple of broccoli florets and a handful of rice (there is always too much rice).
Then, straining, we were presented with some deep-fried pumpkin cakes, arranged in a stack, with a candle on top. After a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” (adorable), we managed one of the scotch-pancake sized treats each, and took the other three home. I think Ben got a photo on his phone, so I’ll upload that later on.
EDIT: here you go!
I popped a hefty tip on the bill. The Empress of Sichaun comes with huge recommendations. Get ye to Chinatown.
The Empress of Sichaun is at 6 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BG, in London’s Chinatown.
tel: 020 7734 8128
Two courses, with wine and followed by Chinese tea (and we certainly didn’t go hungry), about £40 a head
Tell them I sent you.
May 10, 2011 | Categories: Britain, food, London, money, sociable, tea | Tags: Chinatown, excitement, food, fox, gluttony, humans, I love, London, optimism, oriental, shiny, sociable, tea | Leave A Comment »
Yesterday, I turned 23. I won’t dwell on my troubles accepting the passage on time, but instead dive right in with the festivities.
Last year, Ben and I were thinking about going to the opera. Ben had never been to the opera before, and I wanted to treat him to a really good production. So, a browse around revealed that Terry Gilliam would be directing a production of Berlioz’s fantastic ”The Damnation of Faust” in May 2011. OK, not strictly an opera, but I performed it a few years back (playing bass in an informal music camp production (in a barn. Ask, if you’re curious), with the wonderful (Sussex based!) Neil Jenkins singing Dr Faust) and fell deeply in love with it. Oh, and Terry Gilliam is awesome, so extra bonus.
I booked my tickets as soon as they went on sale. I was on hold a mighty long time on the morning of November the first, but I didn’t care – I was determined to get good tickets for the matinee on my birthday.
B-Day (as opposed to D-Day) came around mighty fast, and yesterday afternoon found us lurking around the London Coliseum in anticipation. Soon, we were sat with a great view from the stalls (row J, which is close enough to actually see facial expressions, but not so close as to strain your neck).
It. Was. Amazing. From the brief spoken opener from Mephisto, through Faust’s heart-wrenching soliloquies (get an idea of how beautiful the music is from the first scene), the comedy songs, Faust’s descent into hell, and Marguerite’s requiem to close.
Like most ENO productions, it was in English (as opposed to the original French) – but there were sur-titles anyway, just in case you couldn’t make out the words. Personally, I had no trouble hearing, as all of the cast had beautiful voices and clear annunciation.
The scenery was out of this world, and I think there was more than a nod to to this famous painting (The Wanderer Above the Mists, Caspar David Friedrich) in terms of the scope of the opening scene, and Faust’s mad hair (although Berlioz himself was known for his flamboyant ginger locks) -
The running Nazi-metaphor was a good choice in my opinion – without it, we could have been left with some slap-stick demon story, but instead, comparisons drawn with WWII gave us something a lot darker, and far more Real.
And a special mention MUST go to Christopher Purves, singing the part of Mephisto. He had such an easy sounding voice, and was the archetypal cool, smooth demon. He was lurking around the stage whilst the human characters got about their business, and had so many costume changes (so smoothly executed) that I couldn’t keep track. The devil is everywhere: keep your eyes peeled.
Photo from The Guardian website
DEFINITELY worth seeing, should you get the chance. There are only 8 performances left, so you’d better get a move on. Tickets are going from £21 each, available via the ENO website.
Incidentally, if you are a student, or under 30 years old, DO apply for Access All Arias. It’s free, and you get top-notch tickets for cut prices. Made my birthday a bit cheaper, and meant that I could treat myself to two restaurant meals in one day. More about that tomorrow. Cheerio!
May 9, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, debate, London, money, music, philosophy, sociable, theatre | Tags: art, debate, excitement, fox, humans, I love, London, me me me, music, optimism, philosophy, sadness, shiny, sociable | 1 Comment »
Since going out with Ben, I’ve developed a love of amber. He has family in Suffolk, and in Suffolk they have a lot of amber.
Amber is like little chunks of solidified sunshine. Well, that’s not entirely true – amber comes in a lot of different colours, including the familiar Jurassic Park orangey yellow, but also green, gold, red…
The Natural History Museum has had this necklace for sale for quite a while now, and every time I visit their museum shop, I covet it. The little cubes are beautiful, and they different colours show off amber to their full effect. Shame about the £100 price tag, but really, it deserves it -
May 1, 2011 | Categories: art, Britain, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, money, museum, Natural History Museum | Tags: excitement, fox, I love, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, me me me, museum, shiny | Leave A Comment »
Ben and I had marvellous designs to escape London before the royal wedding. We’re not big on royalty or crowds or any of that, so we thought we’d run away to the coast. There is a cave at Broadstairs that Ben has wanted to sleep in for years, and now seemed as good a time as any.
We left London at 6:50 yesterday morning. We got to Margate around 9. It was frigging freezing. We stopped at Angela’s Cafe (no customer toilets? Hmm.) by the seafront for some breakfast, then made our way to the supermarket for supplies. We decided to buy some burgers to cook on the little camping stove for dinner, as well as getting a lot of biscuits and so forth.
We then headed on the Joss Bay. It was super cold, so on went the winter coats (cry – I thought I was done with mine until October).
We went for a wander down the beach – aside from us, the only brave souls out and about were dog walkers. There were some insane surfers at about 9pm that night, but little during the day.
A walk up to the intended cave showed us a not so promising start: the chalk roof over the entrance had caved in, leaving a massive pile of rubble and a foreboding sign. Of course, Ben pays signs no heed…
And after a hell of a lot of convincing, I am helped up to the cave, too (good photo opportunity). It was clear we weren’t the only ones that ignore notices – there were signs that someone had recently been up there for a drink and a little campfire.
We weren’t so insane as to hop into the sea at this point – the wind was quite something, and it was overcast. Instead, we thought we’d head back to Margate for a dander. A bit of shopping (including Primark – it just seemed right, in Margate), and then the all-important fish and chips at Beano’s (we were by the sea, afterall). Well, I say fish and chips. I had scampi and chips (with gravy, om nom) whilst Ben had chips and a battered sausage.
Then (because outside London, shops SHUT at unreasonably early times) we wandered down the seafront to look at the old amusement arcades (Ben loves arcades – yay for arcade games!). We shot a few things (House of the Dead 2 is good fun) and had a laugh at the lameness of the prizes available.
After this, we drove back to Joss Bay. And it started raining. And it was still cold. And we wussed out. Fine, there, you win. It was just too bloody miserable for sleeping on the beach, even in a cave (which gets tide-locked). And London (and home) was just too temptingly close. So here we are, in London, on D-day.
I have so far managed to not watch any Royal Wedding stuff on the telly (I really have no interest – I bear the lovely couple no ill will, but they are just people… I don’t know them or anything). In fact, I stayed in bed until about 10 – yay for Bank Holiday Friday.
We’re still thinking about driving out to the country side this afternoon to make those burgers.
Well, in the final of my blog posts about my mind blowing week in Dubai, I’ll tell you what we did (aside from eat and look at shops).
The answer is: not a great deal. I’ll be honest with you – you can’t go on holiday to the UAE for more than say a week, because there is simply not that much to entertain yourself with. Unless your life revolves around designer shopping (which mine doesn’t), then Dubai may be for a one off trip.
Dubai does not have much of a cultural history. There aren’t any ruins to see, or historical buildings. Even museums and galleries are in single figures (although we did see a great exhibition from the British Museum – see below).
But don’t get me wrong – Dubai is great fun. Just don’t expect to be entertained for weeks on end.
We gave the “desert safari” thing a miss – essentially dune bashing in a 4×4 followed by dinner in a bedouin tent. We did a similar thing in Qatar six years ago, and I can’t imagine it’d be much different in Dubai (just 40 mins away by plane). We also didn’t hunt down any camels – I rode one, and we saw them in racing training, also in Qatar.
But we did the water-park thing. Oh yes.
We went to Atlantis, based on the Palm Jumeirah (yes, that huge, palm-shaped island they built), and pretty much spent the entire day pratting about on inflatable tyres. Round and round the rapids we went…
Atlantis is sodding enormous, with a large range of water slides to choose from (I only actually went on two, but one of them involved going through a transparent tube THROUGH an aquarium, so I think that counts for something). There’s also a variety of restaurants, to keep you fuelled throughout the day (although the service left a LOT to be desired). And if you really want, you can relax on the man-made real-sand beach, and swim in the actual sea -
Nothing quite beats finishing the day with a Virgin Pina Colado (i.e. no alcohol) drunk our of a pineapple, though. OK, rum would have beaten it, but still…
But Atlantis was not the only swimming (ok, splashing about in water) I did during the week. Like all awesome hotels should have, our hotel boasted a roof-top pool. The joy of near 40-celsius daily? You can have a dip, and then dry off in the sun in about a minute. Mmm, toasty…
The final, major outing we did in the week was our Saturday trip to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is arguably even “newer” than Dubai, in that they are still constructing a major tourist attraction, Saadiyat city. Included in Saadiyat will be the Arabic Guggenheim, the Arabic Louvre, a marina, a nature reserve, masses of hugely expensive villas (my dad’s company are doing the telecoms set up for TDIC, so he had access to show us around a AED10m (about £1.6m) villa) and much, much more.
At the moment, Saadiyat is very much a work in progress – some of the villas are there, but otherwise there is a “Story of Saadiyat” exhibition (which tells you about the work they’re doing), a restaurant, The Splendour of Mesopotamia exhibition (courtesy of British Museum) and… that’s about it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but maybe I’ll check in on it in a few years (especially as the recession has hit works HARD – I’m telling you people, if you were thinking of investing in Arabic property, NOW IS NOT THE TIME!! There, I think I’ve done a public service…)
Then, it was onwards to Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque -
One of the only (if not the only? I have no idea) mosques in the world that is open for non-Muslims to visit. And what a one to visit! It was bloody huge. Four minarets and countless domes, everything was marble inlay and gaudy chandeliers.
Understandably, you couldn’t waltz in wearing your summer dress – the staff provided abayas for women to throw on (I will reserve my opinions on cultural attitudes towards women) and men have to wear long trousers. You are asked to remove your shoes before entering the mosque itself.
And here, just a handful of pictures from the mosque itself. Wow, right?
Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
And so ends my stories of the Middle East! Obviously, I can’t relate every single thing we did in these short blog posts, but I hope I have given you a taster of what Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) have to offer. I had a whale of a time, best aspect of course being the time spent with my dad, who pretty much lives out there now – boo
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and definitely save your pennies up before heading out there. But most certainly worth a look in.
April 27, 2011 | Categories: art, clothes, debate, family, holiday, money, museum, photography, sociable | Tags: Abu Dhabi, art, dad, debate, Dubai, excitement, family, humans, I love, Middle East, mum, philosophy, shiny, sociable | 5 Comments »
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve just gotten back from a week’s holiday in Dubai with my parents.
It was hot, but more than that, it was obscenely decadent. If you’ve been to Dubai in recent years, you’ll know what I mean. I simply couldn’t believe the scale, the scope and the extent of the wealth scattered everywhere.
I’ve worked out that the only things that you can’t get in Dubai are strippers and Primark. Anything else (yes, even pork) is available. Even well known brands like M&S, Claire’s Accessories and New Look were around. Oh, and they had a Hello Kitty shop.
OK, something a bit more typically Dubai now (let’s face it – if I want Hello Kitty, I have to wait until Tokyo recovers from natural disaster).
The Middle East is a bit infamous for splattering money over everything. They need to have the biggest, the most expensive, the most exclusive, the most diamond encrusted, solid gold eye-sores available. It was quite a spectacle to see for real, and, as I kept saying all week, it was Something Else.
Let me give you some examples -
The Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest tower -
An indoor ski slope (bearing in mind this is a country that suffers the high 40s (Celsius) in high summer) -
And the world’s most expensive piano (an ugly monster if you ask me. But who cares? It’s 24-carat gold plated.)
I’m sure one day, some very brave person will write an exposé on the Psychology of the Middle East, and explain why rich Emarities feel the need to show off their wealth in such an outrageous fashion.
Oh, I have sooooo much more to share with you (such as actual stories of stuff we did, and a LOT of photos of food) but I think this so far is enough to blow your mind. Oh, and it’s a Bank Holiday, and outside it is sunny. Rowing at Ham on Thames awaits!
More tales of Arabic extravagance await. Stay tuned!
April 25, 2011 | Categories: art, debate, family, jewellery, money, music, photography, sociable | Tags: dad, debate, Dubai, excitement, family, Hello Kitty, holiday, humans, Middle East, money, mum, sociable | Leave A Comment »
I love magpies. In fact, I love most corvids – they’re pretty, in a not-so-obvious way. But magpies are best, because, like me, they like shinies.
I took my mum to the Tatty Divine shop at the very end of Brick Lane. She loved it. And why wouldn’t she? Tatty Divine is… Well, divine.
I want this. £57. Arrrrrrgh.
April 22, 2011 | Categories: art, clothes, crafts, family, I Want Never Gets, jewellery, London, money, sociable | Tags: art, crafts, excitement, family, humans, I love, I Want Never Gets, London, me me me, mum, shiny, sociable | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, I saw Fiddler on the Roof for the first time. Twice in one day in fact. And I just so happened to be playing bass in the pit.
Lewes Operatic Society were, as usual, fantastic. They all have such great voices and presence in that company, especially the lead playing Tevye (our narrator, and head of the family).
It’s a bit of a miserable story, but it’s littered with jokes and romping tunes, so no worries there. The famous “If I Were A Rich Man” takes centre stage, but I preferred the more sombre “Sabbath Prayer” and “Sunrise, Sunset”.
Definitely worth a look. Lewes Operatic Society put on great shows.
Oh my. They’re here.
After a fight with my local sorting office (don’t ask) I now have my grubby mitts on four sets of trial frames. I decided which ones I wanted pretty quickly, and with one pair free, I got straight on the phone and placed an order for these beauties (please excuse my attempts to “sex them up” – there do exist photos of me looking very dour with these on) -
I saw someone wearing the above in a bus this morning.
The question is: where are my monopoly shoes??