Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The way they live...or not

I was in a briefing today with a consultant who had such a bad lisp that he sounded like he'd just eaten a few crackers and really needed a drink. And my opinion was asked whether to use the word "optimum" or "optimal" in an interview question.


During dinner tonight, I numbed my brain by watching a programme about the over-demonstrative marriages of Bennifer 2, Spederline, Tom-Kat, and the like. It went on to do another episode on celeb pre-nup agreements.

Check this out for an idea:

Ivana Trump got only $2 million a year after her divorce from Donald Trump.
only two million a year

Well, I suppose she needs more because probably just her clothes, hair and makeup cost that much each year.

How would you live if you had 2 mil a year?


What's more, look at the names of Donald's wives:

Go on, who is the odd one out???


I read somewhere that there is a high suicide rate amongst employees of the Disney theme park ride "It's a Small World".

I don't blame them. I was at Disney when it was under construction in 1983, and they were already playing the tune, and even then I was annoyed by it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Long-promised photos

What I wore to the wedding:

One of the prettiest tops I have ever owned!

The general look without suitably modest coverings for Indian event.

After Sunny's sleepover, ready to shoot back to London for the wedding. Amy, Sunny, Diva, me. (phonecam)

The bride encrusted:

And I remember her when she was a wee thing.


The view from my office window:

Every time I look up, I see St Paul's Cathedral across the street. (phonecam)

I must stop myself from capturing it in all its moods!

As the rains roll in. (phonecam)

Coming up next time, the wedding videos of dancing and music.


We finish up with a drool, you know who you are:

Pizza made from very stale pitta bread drizzled with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with herbs de Provence and capers. Topped with sliced tomatoes, torn up slices of lightly smoked processed cheese, and rather oldish Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), and with a final dash of Texas chili seasoning. Hehe! Forgot to add the pickled garlic so left it on the side.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Turned away...

Last night, we remaining two house-guests were treated to dinner by our landlady and landlord in honour of the other guest (Y) returning to Japan soon. She has finished her economics PhD.

We had a sherry aperitif, lamb chops, new potatoes and petit pois, lots of wine, fresh raspberries and blueberries with sugar and cream, followed by two demi-tasses of coffee.

Coffee! --- and I still fell asleep barely two hours later.

My landlady toasted Y with good luck, and me to find a rich man who will whisk me away.
Why does everyone want that?

No one sees me doing a prestigious job, they all want me to marry millionaires...where the hell am I going to find one of those? Anyone got an extra millionaire they could send me?


My landlord said he wanted to get me "p*ssed" because I don't have to drive anywhere. In England, it means drunk, not angry :P
Unfortunately, although I am quick to get a buzz, I don't easily get silly drunk and it doesn't last long; neither do I get a headache next day. Not even with copious refills of lethal homemade mixed drinks. I seem to burn it off as quickly as I get it. Thank you, liver :)


As there was nothing to do at the office today, I was given the day off. My dad made a big deal of this and said I should talk to them about it - but say what? I am a temp, paid by the hour to perform a specific job, not annually to fill a role - and even more importantly, this is a real-time project, so why would they have me twiddling my thumbs?

And what did I do on my day off?

Well, working seems to make me tired to the core and in my bones and the like, so I slept until 11, got up and dressed to go to York - I had cancelled tea in York with some acquaintances after getting this job, but the day off came as rather a windfall so I went for it. I even got to the ticket counter, and when she said the ticket would cost 72 pounds, I said ,"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
She repeated, "Seventy-two pounds."
"Seventy-two pounds! Is it always like that???"

Apparently, in the morning it is nearly double the cost. You could take the Eurostar to Belgium for 20 quid less, and Paris for half that!!! Hello?!?!?!

If I go to York to have tea, even if it is at Betty's Tea Rooms, I would rather make it a long weekend trip rather than a 4 hour visit with a 5 hour round trip.

What's more, the group that did go have said they waited ages to get in because it was Ladies' Day at the races so there must have been a lot of fancy hats mincing about in York today.
Also, I have just learned that if I book in advance, the price is drastically reduced. Only, catch-22, I didn't know I could go until yesterday afternoon.


So what did I really end up doing?

I enriched my mind FOR FREE. As I was at King's Cross station, I decided I'd walk a litle way down the road to the British Library.
Finally, exploring the BL after having lived here all these years. It was only opened in 1998, and I am not sure what it replaced or where the BL was before...

I would love to tell you now what I saw there, but I will leave it until tomorrow because it is a whole other post, and it is past my bedtime now. I also haven't forgotten that I need to post pics of the sleepover, the wedding, and the view from my window.

Bonne Nuit!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Working girl

Woah, tired.

Nice place where I am working. I am learning all about mining, and next I will learn about Credit Suisse. I am typing up the interviews that this investor relations co holds with the investment companies in their annual audit. Yes, say you invest some money, well they might put it into copper or iron ore (the two main players) mines in Chile or South Africa, but you may never know - all you do is pay them your monthly premium and in ten years you collect money that might have been grown in mines or wind fields.

Today I observed a teleconference between London, New York and San Diego. They were talking about investment and guff, but as I have got fuzzy on just telling you what they were talking about, you can imagine what an interloper I felt.
There is a reason why I have spent years avoiding the finance sector, and it ain't just coz I hate suits.

Actually, the two I have now fit mighty well and I did, admittedly, feel smart.


St Paul's Cathedral is RIGHT outside my window. I am on the 7th (US 6th) floor so I can only imagine it is the size of St Paul's, rather than my height, that makes the people down there look tiny.

This company buys lunch in. I am not kidding. On Monday, they even reimbursed me for the lunch I had to go out and buy. In mid-afternoon, a menu from a different deli or cafe comes around and you choose what you want; it goes into a spreadsheet and then some guy comes and delivers a brown bag next day around 12.30 with your name on it to your desk.

It's odd, having to eat what you ordered the day before - meaning, so often you go out for lunch and you stand in front of the sandwich stand humming and hawing- but if on Monday you ordered a bacon and brie baguette with strawberry and banana smoothie, then that is what you just have to eat on Tuesday!

So tomorrow I am having a potato salad with chili jam, mayo, cheese, and ham.


The interviewer couldn't believe how much mumbling and obscure words I could decipher from those interviewees. Hey, my life revolves around words...

For the interviews, I must extend they're to they are, it's to it is, and so on...and I have just noticed how difficult it is for me to now use contractions as I type this blog.

I took a piccie of the view from my window this morning first thing.

Nite nite.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I was double-booked this weekend.

A 3-day Indian Sikh wedding which I had to compromise on so I could make it to a friend's post-engagement prenup girlie slumber party as well. (Not hen night.)

Day One: Friday - the evening of the mehndi (henna hand painting)

I had been working with the landlord, but was called away in the afternoon to provide some overlooked details for my bank.
While I was out I remembered I needed to buy a wedding card and some cakes for the party so made it back later than anticipated, wiped out from the errands in town and dreading the lack of rest I'd be having this weekend.

I could not go to the mehndi thingy; as it was, I was up packing (and being distracted by much-need tidying) until 5am. I took the outfit I'd wear to the wedding reception on Sunday.

Day Two: Saturday - Another wedding-related ceremony overtaken by the girlie party.

Woke up at 11.30 and faffed about forgetting what I needed, and left behind my jewellery for the reception as well as my toothbrush.

I got on the train to Reading to meet up with fellow P27/former fellow 20six bloggers Diva and Nags. Amy came down from Norwich and - after a stop off to giant Tesco to pick up cake decorating supplies - Nags dropped us off in Guildford at Sunny's place. He went back home to have a boys' night in with the dog and the bear.

Sunny's roommate and a few girl friends were there. The lights were low and the house was filled with tealights and chilled music.

We had spaghetti bolognese for dinner and then got to work like a sweet factory. Where is Willie Wonka when you need him? There were already cakes and cookies galore, and then we proceeded to make marshmallow kebabs dipped in white or milk chocolate, embellished with all the pretty sprinkles and icing flowers.

Soon the girls were gone and Diva, Amy and I were left to pump up the airbeds and arrange ourselves on Sunny's floor. All four of us. Needless to say, not much sleeping was done. We laughed so much teasing Amy about drawing on her when she fell asleep, we went hoarse. It provided for a heated debate in the morning as to who did the most throat-clearing afterwards.

I was half-asleep at this point and not joining in, but I could hear them and so I laughed too, although at this point the entire conversation is a bit surreal. It went a little like this, though:

Sunny: Amy, are you a heavy sleeper?
Amy: It depends, why?
Sunny: Diva, could you reach in that box and get a permanent marker? We can draw on her when she falls asleep.
Amy: Oh, you're so meeeeannnn...
Diva brainstorms various facial designs followed by peals of laughter.
Sunny gets up to go to the loo: While I'm up, just gonna get the marker in the kitchen...
Amy: Right that's're not on my Christmas card list anymore and I'm taking you both off my phone...
Sunny: Amy, do you sleep with your mouth open?
Amy groans.
Diva: I could take care of a couple of teeth then...[pause] Or I could paint your lips and eyes black and you could be a negative Golliwog.

(That one slayed me!)

Sunday: Wedding day

We were up at 9am, which is when the first wedding procession began.
A hearty egg, toast, sausage, and bacon breakfast provided by the matchless Sunny.

I dressed for the reception; meantime the wedding ceremony proper was taking place.
Nags came back from Reading and we all piled into the car but they dropped me off at the station so I could go straight to London.

I missed the first hour of the reception, but the starters were still out when I got there and the bride and groom were undergoing the gruelling family photography process.

I sought out the bride's father's school chum, whom I'd met at the engagement. This time he brought his wife and two boys - they live in Spain now - and we had a nice time eating, chatting, and they showed me photos from the ceremony the day before.

Main courses came around. As with the starters, bountiful platters were placed on a Lazy Susan, some underheated by a tealight.
We were entertained by traditional dancers and some bhangra drummers (?), so I took videos.

Five minutes before leaving, it suddenly hit me that Jasmine was now married, and I remember her when she was little, and I got emotional and nearly cried when I hugged her.

I went home, skipping the part of the evening when the women return to the house, and the groom and the men come to officially take the bride from her parents' house.

I needed to rest up for my first day at work tomorrow...I've just put my suit out.

Pics and videos will materialise on this page as the week progresses, and I find how my time goes in the evening.

*yawn* nite nite people...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shaking hands

Opened my own bank account today, in my OWN name.

The rep who helped me was a nice looking young man but every time he shook my hand - well, he didn't shake my hand. He placed his hand where it ought to go, and I shook it.

After I left I wanted to go back and teach him how to shake hands - he is, after all, in customer service. More importantly, didn't they cover "meeting and greeting" in training???

I was taught to shake hands by the salesman who sold my car to my Dad. Now, banish all archetypal images of "the car salesman" from your mind. Saturn is a rather indie brand, or at least it was then. Hundreds of Saturn owners drive out to the plant in Tennessee every year for a reunion, a bit like Woodstock with cars.

When the deal was done, we shook hands - he stopped short - he looked at me and said, "Now, young lady, when you shake a hand you take it firmly, look 'em in the eye, and shake vigorously. Don't take their arm off at the shoulder, just give a decent positive shake!"

I bet that man never knew how many years afterwards I would remember him.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Space City, USA

Don't you hate it when you make a cup of tea and it tastes like wet socks?

Hence proving that not every cup of tea made in England comes out perfect.


This week I have been reminiscing about Texas, brought about by various comments on quite a few blogs. A few of my readers are from or have lived there. Also, lots of my old university friends are either contacting me on MySpace or rediscovering my blog.

This morning I was reading an MSN article on the best breakfasts in 19 cities across the US. As I clicked on Houston I thought, "I bet Empire Cafe is there." And sure enough, it was. They make great omelettes.
Then I thought of the Hobbit Cafe, a totally quirky place, also established in an old house, where I once ate delicate yummy things on the back verandah with my friends.
I'm surprised Katz's Deli wasn't there (maybe coz it's a New York City import) or Biba's 24 hour breakfasts, specially the French toast (yummy but maybe yet undiscovered) or House of Pies (where the first design for the Compaq computer was sketched on a napkin)

This morning I briefly imagined going back to H-town. But it would not be right. Memories of a place are seen through rose-tinted glasses. My good memories of H-town are influenced by my blissful years at university, and my recollections of The Woodlands were made when my family was whole.

My world and I have changed since then, and going back would be a huge readjustment. Things I got used to back then as an expat Brit would never sit right with me now.
And anyway, both of my parents have moved.

Oddly, I imagined the grand avenues surrounding the University of St Thomas and the Museum District, on a somewhat warm late spring morning, with still a tinge of coolness and sea-damp in the air...the golden sunlight touching the old trees and shimmering along the curve of the road.


Some things about Houston:

1) The size of the Theater District is second only to NYC's

2) It is one of only 6 US cities with resident companies in all four performing arts: ballet, opera, theatre, symphony. There are 8 main companies.

3) The New York Times has called it the most interesting city for young artists.

4) It is Americas 4th largest city but does not make it into the top 25 dangerous cities (although Dallas does)

5) "Houston" was the first word spoken on the surface of another planet: Houston, Tranquility Base. The Eagle has landed.

6) It is the second largest centre for corporate headquarters, and the most consulates/embassies behind NYC.

7) It has the 3rd largest skyline behind NYC and Chicago.

8) The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world.

9) Houston's Memorial neighbourhood is the 4th wealthiest in the world.

10) And yet, it has the second lowest cost of living among major US cities.

11) The largest port in the US

Some sister cities: Nice, France; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Istanbul, Turkey; Chiba, Japan; Leipzig, Germany; Perth, Australia; Stavanger, Norway; Taipei, Taiwan, PRC.

Why nearly 2000 people on the site have said It's Worth It:

Philip Johnson, I M Pei

cypress, pine, palm, and oak trees; azaleas, oleanders, springtime wild flowers...big green open spaces and parks

lizards, hummingbirds, and so many things you'll only see once, like flocks of wild parrots, a flying squirrel, or a giant centipede

Shipley's Donuts

Buffalo Bayou and all the fountains

Daily practice in all sorts of languages

Two Chinatowns and street signs in Vietnamese

Two growing seasons, two mating seasons

The Art Car Parade, Greek Festival, Italian Festival, The Rodeo, the Marathon, the Grand Prix, the Houston Open Golf Tournament, Miller Outdoor Theater, The Woodlands Pavilion - world class culture and arts

There is always something to do or somewhere to go, and if not, always somewhere to chill out

Smiling and saying hello to people you don't know

Lots of people who have lived all over the world move there, leave, and come back or wish they could or call it home even though they're not from there

Apart from 3 months of summer, perfect weather all year round

Dallasites snipe at Houstonians coz they're jealous

Going 80 mph

Some of the best and most affordable restaurants in the nation

Roaches so big you can toss a saddle on 'em

You don't have to shovel humidity, and it prevents wrinkles

Drive an hour south to the Gulf of Mexico, an hour north to the Piney Woods, an hour west to the Hill Country

Beautiful lightning storms in that big sky

Only place in the world where cowboys meet astronauts

Pink sunsets

Mosquito bites feel good when you scratch them

No longer the fattest city in America

The alternative artsy bohemian Montrose neighbourhood

NASA! And all those rocket scientists and astronauts

You only need to wear a coat for one week per year

How could y'all forget FIRE ANTS in your list? Being able to say "I been bit" is a Houston badge of honor.

Even if people hate the city, they always redeem themselves by saying the people are mighty friendly, always with open arms

Multicultural melting pot and you don't have to be afraid to be yourself

You can live in the city and still see the sky

Lots of people say: It's not Dallas.

One week in January it could be 70 degrees and sunny. The next, everything could be covered in ice. That's when you take out your coat.

Neighbours hang out on their driveways and chat, or come round with cookies for no reason other than that you are neighbours

So basically, it's the New York of the south but it's cheaper, friendlier, bigger, warmer, greener, and less pretentious

Who wants pictures?

Hermann Park

Vortex House

Saturn V rocket at Johnson Space Center

More pics:

The Museum District



Monday, August 14, 2006

Topsy Turvy Chinkie Blink

I have nothing to post about. Well, that's not true, but I didn't do anything. Went to my aunt's for dinner yesterday.

I was at a Chinese restaurant earlier this summer and I kept the chopstick sheath because it was so amusing. Printed on the front were the words exactly in this fashion:

Welcome to Chinese Restaurant.
please try your nice Chinese Food with Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history.
and cultural
Hehe. Hm, been a while since I had Chinese...


I'm still reading the Saki (H.H. Munro) volume, haven't touched the Freud in a while, and yesterday in the Tube I started on blink by Malcolm Gladwell, the newish book about following your intuition, which is often more reliable than empirical research or constant questioning - which is our modern habit.

The first example given was very appealing to me: a supposed 6th century BC Greek kouros acquired on loan by the Getty prior to purchase. Over a year of intensive testing and research is carried out. All the specialists brought in to evaluate it, within two seconds of seeing it, had an "intuitive repulsion".

The original researchers wanted the kouros to be authentic.
Further testing in Athens proved the statue to be a fake - surface oxidisation by potato mold.

In every situation, we all experience the initial two-second impression. Usually it is right, but rarely do we listen.


This next section demands a little patience, but if you want to see something you have never seen before, go to this website. Keep clicking on the red seals. Then click on the Boutique link in the drop-down menu.

Check out ALL the pics especially number 10, and try not to fall over in your seat. I nearly did! And yes, that is what it really is like.

V&R Milano

I'd love to know what you think :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The odd Saturday Post

...because this will be old news by Monday.

Friday I went to the consultants at a branch office so they could chat with me and find out if I was going to be a good fit for the audiotyping role before sending my CV to the investor relations firm.

A couple of hours later, I got the call: they would like me to start on the 21st of August, although they are a little concerned that I am looking for full-time work.

The first week is evaluatory; after that, it could turn into one month or three months.

We shall see.

Main point: it will be great to earn a regular income at a higher rate than I've earned thus far.
Second point: it will be interesting to learn about all those FTSE 100 companies.
Third point: I will be on the executive floor and may have to start out in a suit (yuk!)


I've just had a wonderful chat with my dear friend Denise in New York. We met while at university in Houston, coincidentally on a 6 week study abroad trip to England, when we stayed at the University of Reading (with our own professors).
I was in the psychology course* and she was in the literature course, but somehow we made friends, and she and I and another girl traveled together on the long weekends as well as on the mid-term holiday.
We went to Canterbury, York and Edinburgh (the other weekends I went to see my family and friends). I was always "the girl with the map" so it was my idea to see the cathedrals, and I can't remember why I came up with E'burgh for the long trip.

July 2000 - we left London in short sleeves, and arrived in Edinburgh after a snow, which had melted, but for the next two days we wore all of our clothes and were still shivering. It rained incessantly, and I bought an umbrella at Jenners (the local House of Fraser department store). So there was a fantastic deal at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, where 90-quid sweaters were on sale for 20, but if you and a friend bought one each it would be 15. Unfortunately they were down to one colour, moss green Isle of Arrans, so we looked like triplets, but we were feeling warm and fuzzy! I still have it...

I have never felt warm in Scotland. Last July I went to Glasgow for my graduation and it was the same. Not quite so cold, but we were welcomed by torrential rains. From then on it stayed overcast and I was un-warm for 3 days.

[Prerona, I don't know how you loved it up there so.]

*Psychology in movies: we watched a lot of films and then discussed them afterwards; and
European Cultural Influences on American Family Dynamics: how, at this point, I still remember that title, I don't know, but we had a thick book to read about various immigrant groups and their bla bla, you get the idea, and then we had to make discussion and presentations, and related it to our own heritages. It was really fun!

I really didn't mean to talk about this.


I meant to talk about my trawl through Soho yesterday afternoon after the interview. I decided to crack the maze that is Carnaby Street.

On my exploratory mission, I went into Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful, an independent cosmetics company that's a bit Baroque and even sells perfume in those old-fashioned bottles with the squeezy thingy (what are they called???)

The employees were so friendly and chatty, and helped me choose a lip tint, wrapped it up so nicely in gold paper and gave me a bath gel sample; it is not often I walk out of a shop grinning from ear to ear. AND you should know that the lip tint, which is slightly moisturising, really works because I just ate a plate of chicken wings, wiped my mouth, and it's still on.

I went into nearly every shop, then I discovered Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street.
If you live in London, you have to go there!

It's a very nifty warehouse/atelier conversion facing a cafe courtyard, consisting of boutiques, vintage shops, artsy-craftsy shops, alternative clothing shops, a yoga studio and another Walk-In Backrub place, etc.

I went into a few of them and got chatting with the proprietors. I really had a great time with two of them, and we even introduced ourselves formally and I've been encouraged to drop by again.

First I met Dina, who graduated with her fashion degree, decided to open up this little shop, Anna Dina, and hand embellishes many of the clothing and gift items on offer. She was kind enough to let me into the staff toilets. I bought a very interesting organic-looking pewter and enamel brooch there.

Next I met Onika, who has a business degree but runs a factory where she makes custom bags designed by you using the shapes, sizes, handles, swatches, and clasps at the shop, The Handbag Bar (very reasonable prices too). When I get a job, I am so going back there to order one, I've spent years searching for my perfect bag.


Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Losing pens

Yes, my pens migrate in droves, I herd them up, and off they go again.

Just a creative title I thought I ought to explain.



Well, the traditional English Weather has returned: overcast, mild, breezy with leaves eddying on the pavement and dust blowing in your eyes. My sash windows are rattling again and I've had to return the sponges to their rightful position between the panes to reduce the noise.

The glorious weeks of blazing sunshine, sandals, tank tops, giant sunglasses, hats, and fans, are over. The weatherman just said it was feeling a bit "autumnal".



Check out the outfit I wore yesterday. I do try to add funky elements to my classic wardrobe. I remember a time when I was utterly careless of fashion. Although always neat and classic, my mother called it "boring". I mean, she used to design her own dresses and wore French lingerie and Italian shoes, so I have nothing on her.

Things are changing. I was brought up in dresses so I am retraining myself into skirts.
I have so many clothes, I could make a thousand different combinations and never wear the same thing twice; sadly, when I find a new and exciting combo I rarely recreate it, so thanks to Leilouta, I have decided to continue recording my breakthroughs.

Old dress, fairly new bolero, new leggings:



Ooh, I got a call today to go in for consideration for a long temp. Audiotyping interviews. I always get called in for these niggly things, but then...I can do them...

Oh, and now the sun has come out!



Don't you hate it when suddenly, one day something you enjoy is no longer IT?
Happened the other day when I got sushi for dinner. It just didn't do anything for me, I couldn't finish it...For the first time, I threw away sushi and half of the seaweed salad.

If this should EVER happen to me and my beloved Dim Sum, I don't know what I would do!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Good turn

I went to work today :)

Got a call to go in to a venture capital company on St James's Square. I always, without fail, get sent to Mayfair/Piccadilly/St James's...Shouldn't complain eh?

They wanted me to type up a looong proposal for a turbine generator wind farm. Whenever you type long official documents, you always know you'll come across something to make you laugh. It was all I could do not to snort out loud.
Anyone want to guess?

"...when this project winds up."


I had a lovely sunny lunch on a park bench in the square, exchanging quick texts with my cousin James. These twenty-somethings. He says he has plans every night, when all he wants to do is sleep.
So why doesn't he just sleep???
He's a financial advisor, which can't be a fun job to do when you're yawning.

Finance seems to be the most accepting field. My cousin studied history and has been in finance for the past couple of years.
Even my best friend who studied medicine did his own stint in a pin-stripe suit.


So you know I showed you the bathroom at the hotel in Verona. This serviced office I was in today was lush! It felt like a resort, with nice plush chairs scattered around the lounge in small meeting configurations with Japanese screens.

It's one of those former posh townhouses that belonged to noble families with country seats. They'd come to London for the Season (winter, when there was nothing to do in the country) where their daughters would "come out" into society. The most privileged might even be presented at Court. St James's Court it was back then...Sorry, I am rambling, but this always happens when I have been in St J. Square.

What I meant to say was, the crown mouldings and Georgian colour schemes were preserved on the ceilings. Overall, though the working spaces were very modern, the ceilings were totally left in the past. The office I worked in looks like it may have been the Music Room and there were even two chandeliers - the mouldings of instruments were similar to those in the same room from Norfolk House at the V&A Museum, though no gold was in sight: it was all white, yellow and Wedgwood blue. By the way, Norfolk House was only a couple of doors down, looking very rebuilt.

The bathroom was like a hotel loo, there was even a shower room next door. It was the first "public toilet" I nearly sat on. The room was wood panelled, with granite counters, Molton Brown soap and lotion, and little flannel hand towels you throw in a laundry bin.

Geez, even at my members club they give us paper towels!!! (Which by the way, I will not be rejoining as I have discovered other things to do (secret for now). I know, no more descriptions of piano recitals and opera evenings and guinea fowl and foie gras....Oh shut up I might change my mind...nope...I must be resolved.)

Rebecca and Rox, if you want to go, you have to do it before October, ok? I still want to take you.


That is all. I am typed out.

Monday, August 07, 2006

In defense of...

If only potential employers would look past their perceptions of art history graduates.

I am not sure what they think -- whether it's an easy picture-gazing degree, or whether we're lazy well-off spoilt kids or WHAT. But having already done biology and psychology, I'd say art history required the most wide-reaching thought and breadth of knowledge of all.

We have to understand the sociology, politics, economics, religion, philosophy, of every era, and the thought or belief of every artist or patron behind the paintings, objects and architecture we look at.
We have to know the names and be able to identify the dates of everything and everyone.
Not to mention the techniques and technology used in the creation of every item or building.

Our eye must be just as sharp and our writing just as critical as any scientist's. You can't make a mistake with items that are as attached to a nation's heritage as any legal manuscript, and governed by so many international guidelines.

I am quite sure that I have not exaggerated. Who else has anything to add?

Friday, August 04, 2006

All wrong [EDITED]

I feel so down, all the joy I got in Italy has been taken away from me. I vented here, but now I am just sad.

Alright, I heard from the gallery yesterday that they couldn't give me the job because they didn't think I had enough experience but if they had a junior role to give they would have.

Today I heard that Sotheby's didn't even want to invite me in for interview. The consultant asked why, and they thought the role was too junior for someone with my experience.

I feel like such a failure.

[EDIT] Friday 6.30 pm.

OK, OK I'm not a failure, but you know how it feels at the moment when you say it...

After I washed away my tears (my head still hurts and my eyes are sore), this afternoon I got busy. I was supposed to work with my landlord, but after he saw my face, he gave me the day off.

I applied to two more jobs. I was told NO very quickly for the events assistant coz they want someone who comes from a corporate events background (even though I have done events).

And I haven't yet heard back about the sales assistant in the design showroom.

Also I will be working on 3 internship applications with an orchestra (they use period instruments!). I had a very nice phone conversation with someone in the office there about it.

Ahoy for next week, then.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Successful Saturday!

It was nice to wake up and have no aim for the day, just the prospect of wandering (I feel as though I've said that somewhere on my blog before) - my bones were a bit tired from the heat of Padua the day before.

Miss S came with me after breakfast on a sandal hunt - though I told her she really didn't have to. I tried on the ones I had seen the day before and was unhappy with them, so after a couple of hours we parted ways and I took my leisure in all the shops.

With my friend gone, I was let loose. I found all sorts of fantastic deals, buying things that were 50 Euros on sale for 12, and the like.
I went to a lovely leather shoe shop were there were loads of size 35s!!!

(Note: with insoles, I am a US shoe size 5, a UK 3; these are the equivalent to 36, so 35 is even smaller.)

Got these dress sandals (been ages since I had any!) - black and silvery leather with a band of black, clear, and aurora borealis crystals along the thingummy-jig. Original price was something like 110 Euros, on sale for 79, and she gave them to me for 69 and made an extra hole in the straps to fit my tiny ankles. Even better, the soles are not slippery leather, but rather surprisingly grippy - with subtle but effective tread, kinda like the Michelin rain tires. I would not wear them to the opera here because I'd have to pick my way between the high cobblestones. I'd rather chance them on the flatter pavements of London, so I do NOT know how so many of the women wore real stilettos...

Then I went off and got a slew of pretty tops and skirts and a pair of capris. Oh, come on...oh alright, I will put them up on Flickr and you can see them there, address to follow at the end tomorrow.

I returned to the shoe shop to pick up a pair of tan sandals for 39 Euros (originally 69). The most perfect pair of sandals I've ever owned and I wore them to the opera that night with this skirt and - well you'll see the rest in a bit.

It was enjoyable to wear a pair of sandals and not worry about anything. I like to wear shoes and not have to be conscious of curling my toes to keep them on or scrunch up this toe to avoid the itchy stitch or the pinchy bit. You know? I just like to put on shoes and walk, which is what these allow me to do:

I breezed into the shop, picked up the size 35 box, gave it to the assistant and said "Questa, per favore." She was shocked, but I told her I'd tried them on earlier that day and now I want them.

Neither shoe my absolute first choice, but beggars can't be choosers, still better than anything in my size I could find in London.

Probably my limited choice of clothing size has encouraged me to try expanding on my style this year, and rather than refuse an item of clothing at first glance, if it fits and suits me, despite my own taste, then I'll take it.
That applied to yesterday's sundress - it would be a style I admire, in fact I went into the shop because I saw it on a mannequin in the window and loved it. Still, it would never have been a dress I'd have bought because I don't technically have enough up top to keep it on and plan to sew on some straps. But I love that retro 60s print and I thought after trying it on, "I'll keep it on somehow." (It did take a bit of hoisting up throughout the day, though it fit me very well elsewhere.)

Anyway, I've digressed more than yesterday. Sorry if it's too much detail, but hey, we're all friends here, right?

Where was I...?

I dropped my numerous purchases off at the hotel, and there was still much time to go until dinner, so I returned to the piazza next to the hotel and browsed through the murano glass things in the stalls, looking for gifts small enough to pack. While I was out there, dark clouds rolled in and by the time I got back to the room, it was pouring down with plenty of thunder and lightning. Miss S was back, we dressed for dinner, and provided with nice umbrellas from the hotel, we picked our way between the puddles.

We were at the Trattoria Al Pompiere (firemen), just like in 2004. They specialise in plates of prosciutto and salamis, but I decided after all I wasn't in the mood for that much of it.

Antipasto: paper-thin ravioli (yes really) stuffed with basil pesto, and topped with olive oil, toasted pignoli (pine nuts), sundried tomato and black olive pesto, which added just the right touch of saltiness to the sweetness of the basil and pine nuts.

Primo: Sea-fish tartare on lemon drizzled leaves. Sorry, I read the German title which called it Seefisch so am not sure what the English title was though Miss S thought it was Lakefish. The tartare was flavoured with that leaf that tastes like aniseed, the name escapes me...

Dolce: THE BEST so far. Semifreddo of honey and poppy seeds with a lavender sauce. I mean really, how can I tell you what that was like?
The people at the table opposite kept staring at the look of bliss on my face and ordered it when their dessert menu came round.

Finally on to the opera - you thought I'd never get there, didn't you? I took so many pictures of this set that I will have a challenge choosing the ones to post.

The rain had stopped, but the breeze was a bit too fresh, so I was wearing my bolero and later on also a stole.

Some of the candles when the lights were first lowered:

The procession:

The piece de resistance, when the top of the set opened to reveal all the bishops standing in what we had thought was just a wall:

Our seatmate offered to take a pic of us during an intermission, and I forgot to change the setting from Night Landscape to Portrait with Flash, hence the weirdness:

Imprisoned (in the little box of light) before facing the firing squad. I do enjoy the more sculptural sets:

It is a very melodramatic opera, set in the 17th or 18 century. Tosca herself was quite the diva. An opera singer playing an opera singer!

Tomorrow, last impressions of Verona town.

And now I post this before my laptop freezes!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Friday in Padua

On Friday, we went to Padua. After a nice breakfast (at this place, they really lay on the flans and quiches, and hot egg n bacon open sandwiches, cereal, yogurt, cakes, rolls, croissants of all sorts, fruit salads, hams and sausages, etc.), we caught the Eurostar to Padova.

We got there about 11ish and had a few hours to while away before our timed ticket gave us entry to the Scrovegni chapel.
Included in the price was a visit to the Museo degli Eremiti - all on the site of a former convent, you see. These Italian civic museums are stuffed full of treasures. There were ancient Greco-Roman archeological finds, mostly from excavations in the grounds; endless medieval and Renaissance paintings, church artefacts and sculptures to the 17th century...oh it was the sculptures that captivated me most!

We were not allowed to take photos, and the thing I REALLY wanted to capture for you was within a few steps of the docent. They were two lifelike painted wooden sculptures or mourners - wringing their hands, howling and crying. It was a real "wow" moment.

However, round a quiet corner I was able to get a pic of Holofernes' head after he'd been beheaded by Judith.

Sneaky, thankfully my phone fit in my money purse (we had to check in our bags).

Oh poo! I have just realised we didn't go into the Church itself where we could have seen frescoes by Andrea Mantegna. I like his control of perspective and foreshortening.

This is the publicity pic for the upcoming Mantegna exhibition, on giant posters all over Padua. I forgot to take the photo, but I fortunately found it online:

After the museum, we left the grounds and searched for lunch. Found ourselves at a real local, where the regular customers and serving staff were chatty, and there was no menu. We got what I call a proper peasant salad, but you know what, it will go down in my books as one of the best salads I've ever had, I enjoyed it that much. It was something I would never choose, and here it is: chopped lettuce, finely shredded cabbage and carrot, cherry tomato halves, tuna, prawns, fresh mozzarella balls - and all we had to dress it with was olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Truly deelish, I tell you!

(Phone pic)

While we were there, businessmen came to eat and we couldn't understand how they wore nice dress shirts without breaking a sweat - carried their jackets with them too.

Also, proving it is truly a university town (2nd oldest in Europe behind Bologna), while we were eating a group of men dressed like computers with CPUs on their backs and monitors on their heads came by offering a free mouse. "Mouse? Mouse?"

Also, everyone was on a bicycle.

After that refreshing lunch, we returned to the museum and awaited entry into the Chapel.

Check out my sundress, haven't worn one since I was a girlie. Behind is the 13th century Scrovegni Chapel.

In order to preserve the frescoes, there is a new tinted glass antechamber added to the entry of the chapel - what used to be the family's private entrance. It's like those airlocks on space stations. We were put into an air-conditioned room with air exchange, while we cooled down, dried off, and watched a 15 minute video on the museums of Padua.

Meantime, the next group began to gather outside. Afterwards, an inner door was opened and we were ushered into the chapel. This Italian woman insisted in talking to me, so she agreed to speak "in francese" when I told her I was not Italian. She pointed out many amazing details I will not go into here, boring unless you've seen it. There is so much staring upwards I had a crick in my neck.

The chapel was built next to the fine townhouse of Enrico Scrovegni, for the soul of his father Reginaldo the usurer. You may have encountered him in Dante's Inferno.

And seeing this in real life - not in a book, not on a slide - made me want to cry:

The Deposition of Christ from the cross. Once again, the pure grief all over this scene cannot come through here, not even if it does make you go "wow".

We left the chapel through the air locks after our timed 15 minute visit, and Miss S and I were picked up by a Mercedes she had arranged when she bought the tickets however many months ago...she is very good at arranging things, perhaps she has one of those personal concierges (you can even get one at Selfridges now). It was an hour's drive back to Verona and we fell asleep.

While Miss S went to her dressmaker for measuring, I went scouting around again for some sandals, without success. I had only brought along my tan moccassins in the hope I'd find something before the last night! I have skinny feet that get sore and blistered in anything slightly uncomfortable. One wrong stitch or pinch will spoil an entire pair. Plus sandals without straps do not stay on. So it's like the princess and the pea, really.

Then Miss S and I met up at the Tre Marchetti restaurant, where we had gone in 2004.
It's a tiny place holding no more than 20 diners very close together but like all Italian restaurants, the front wall disappears in summer, putting us all close to the outdoors. This street was so narrow, the maitre d' had to move his podium to allow a big car to pass.
The decor was typical of the traditional better class of establishment: a very busy baroque as you can see:

Miss S with her dessert. (phone pic) She owns two of the blue chargers and just bought the new red one.

Antipasto: swordfish carpaccio on a bed of rocket with little curls of divine Italian butter.
Primo piatto: linguine with prawns, garlic, chilli and parsley. I "mmmmm-ed" through the first 5 or 6 mouthfuls.
Dolce: a dense, hot chocolate souffle on creme anglaise. Could only manage half, and as my Daddy loves sticky chocolatey desserts, I wish he were there.

On the house was a dish of little sweet biscuits that go well with coffee. To prevent myself desperately wanting sleep like the day before, I ordered an espresso that came in a delectable Venetian gilt and enamelled red glass cup and saucer:

On the red charger, as you see. A pastiche of Verdi operas traditionally shown at the arena.

The Maitre d' is crazy, and probably a local celebrity - stuff of legends after he's gone, I bet. He stops by each table every now and then to tease and wink and sing. He used to wear encrusted brooches of all designs all over the front of his white jacket, but this year he makes do with one. The young waiter wore a bejewelled spider on his tie!

Someone somewhere was playing "Nights in White Satin" so of course he picked up on it and for the next hour would hum the first bar from time to time: Da dee-da da deeeeee...
And I'd think, Come on, next line - but ended up singing it myself "Nights in white satin....never reaching the end...."
Coz he never reached the second bar...

I digress badly today.

At the opera, once again on our two each 3 euro per night hired cushions (kept forgetting our own blow up ones), we sat beside a chatty old French gentleman who said he's been coming to the opera here for 48 years! I think that's when they started doing it, anyway!

We saw Bizet's Carmen, set design and direction by the legendary Franco Zeffirelli.

It had tried to rain during dinner, but failed and was replaced by a rather refreshing breeze that had us putting on our little cardigans halfway through.

I wore a white corset-like top and a black skirt with contrast white stitching.

One gust, about 5 minutes into the first act, brought down a top section of village scenery, exposing the mountain scenery behind. But all of the operas give about three 20-minute intermissions. This opera needed it because Zeffirelli's sets were very elaborate and needed lots of work to change.

Oh, and as with any outdoor Italian opera, they trotted out a few donkeys in the market scene, and horses with the military patrols.

My camera is awesome. I couldn't understand why people kept using their flash - the pic never comes out and it was forbidden anyway but what can the staff do? I have such a large lens I don't need flash, and I was able to steady the camera using the bar in front - we sat in the best seats, in the stalls near the emperor's box - and the bars are useful for resting the feet and catching the breeze :)