Sunday, December 24, 2006

Where do I start?

I don't know where to begin. I have had such a time of it. I am just coming out of a fever and feeling up to blogging, from bed of course.

Office Part-ay

Friday 16th was my last day at work. On the Thursday I went to the office party...and sang karaoke, something I swore I would never do, but guess what? I would do it again. I sang a duet with a colleague who sings in the choir at Lambeth cathedral - it was The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera. The Boss and several others had asked us over and over, so we just did it.

Christmas Dinner

On Saturday, I went off to Reading again for a rather fancy Christmas dinner with Diva, Nags, Amy, Pandy, and a couple of Diva's friends at a swish waterside restaurant.

As always, when we get together, Diva puts together a fantastic slide show, and I think this is her best yet, so click here to see it.

Sunday, I unwisely did not rush, and after a breakfast with Diva, Nags and Amy - Pandy left after the first course - that lasted all day and consisted of muffins, bacon, lashings of tea, then cake and doughnuts, tea, more cake and tea...they finally dropped Amy and me off at the station and I got home around 7pm.

Goodbye London

And so I stayed up all Sunday night packing, went to bed at 6.30am, and did the same on Monday night. Not only did I have to pack, but I had to make my room presentable enough for landlady's son to stay for the two days of Christmas. The rest of the family would be in the other two rooms. All of us tenants are conveniently out of the country.

I lay down for a nap at 4.30 on Tuesday morning. I set my alarm for 6.00 so I could get to Heathrow in a 9-9.30 window for my 11.50 flight. Next thing I knew, the phone was ringing and sunlight was pouring into my room and it was 9.37am. Funny enough, it was a wrong number but I may not have woken up otherwise. I have never run out of the house so fast - 10 minutes with much usage of the sh** word. And I lost my black cashmere scarf somewhere between the house and the station.

Made it to Heathrow with 15 minutes until the gate closed, but they would not let me continue, even though I had checked in online the night before. I got sent straight to the re-ticketing queue, which I stood in outdoors for an hour and a half where I noticed there was some pretty heavy fog, bear in mind I had not eaten - and I grabbed a chocolate truffle from the box of Leonidas my landlady had given me, conveniently in the front pocket of my carry-on case. Then there were only 6 cancellations, but after I arrived in Canada, there were fog cancellations for the rest of the week - I got out on the right day!

I got the last seat on the 3.40 flight to Toronto. Queued again for check-in, and then was at my leisure to find food. I had a delicious cheese omelette and fries with a pot of tea at Garfunkel's. The gate wasn't assigned until 3.30, we were boarding past 4.30pm and didn't take off till past 5!

The flight was uneventful though my seatmate was noisy and vulgar. Fortunately he only got up once and I am glad I had the aisle seat. The seatback entertainment on BA is now touchscreen! You have a whole library of old and new movies to choose from; also a CD library, as well as radio and TV. Awesome, eh?

Un-Welcome To Toronto!

Far from the usual cheery Canadian welcome...

As if the trial of getting a flight were not enough, as soon as I land in Toronto someone has it in for me. I am un-greeted at customs by a sullen young girl who asks where I live, if I have a return ticket, what my job is, whether I brought alcohol or tobacco, and where I am visiting while she writes all over my landing card. My back is up but you know it is key to remain polite at the airport or else. Forget the "or else" - thinking I am heading for the baggage claims, I am instead ushered into Immigration. I stop and asked the attendant why? She says I have a big pink stripe on my landing card. I tell her I am not immigrating, but she says I have to talk to the officer. So another queue.

8pm and I reach an immigration desk. I get a Germanic sounding man who asks how I am. I say I am confused. He says he will clear that up soon. Why am I here? On holiday to see relatives. I don't want to live in Canada. He says with all his words clipped, "That is for me to decide, not you. Your opinion means nothing to me." (At this point my spirit flags.) Can you write the name and age of a relative on this piece of paper? What town do they live in? What job do you do? How much money do you have? Do you have a return ticket? Can I see it? Do you have a credit card? Can I see it? OK.

At baggage claims, I hear not all the baggage made it on board that flight. In a minor panic I look around and with relief spot my mother's old duffel bag with the pink and purple ribbons on it, and sling it over my carry-on.

I get to the part where you hand your landing card to the officer at the podium and they send you left to the greeting hall. But no, I get sent to the right and a second customs queue, where there are scanners and tables and interview rooms and big burly guards. My heart is trying to hammer its way out of my ribcage. Oh my god they are going to strip search me. I reach an officer at a table and again I am asked why I am here. Again I have no alcohol or tobacco. No gifts? No, only myself - thinking in my head that the cost of the ticket was enough. He takes my passport and landing card, tells me to wait, and disappears into a room for about 10 minutes.

Two muscly guards come in and mill about. They point in my direction and one comes towards me. I hold my breath but he walks past me to some people sitting on a bench at the back of the room.

Really and truly feeling faint now, I sit on the table and rest my head on my suitcase. The officer comes back and tells me to put my bag on the X-ray belt. I do so and stand at the other end. He stops my carry-on and beckons seriously, so I go and look at the screen. He points to the upper left corner where I have stowed my clear zip-loc bag and says, 'Is that an ampoule of perfume?' I say yes that is my clear toiletry bag. He says OK, I can go.


I finally make it to the hall nearly 2 hours after landing. My cousin Pierre is there and I just want to cry on his shoulder, but I get a hug and we are on our way home. In the car he says, "Welcome to Canada". I say, "Thanks. At least someone wants me to be here."

My mother had cooked a special dinner of duck curry and dhal and rice, but by this time it is too late for such food and she makes me some hot cocoa and slices up a chocolate muffin for me.


Wednesday 20th - shop-o-rama

It averages 4 degrees C in the day and there is no snow.

Mum and I go shopping. I buy a few smart things with the Xmas money Dad has sent for us: a saddle leather Enzo Angiolini bag and a black velvet Ralph Lauren bag, as well as a pretty paisley and black fur scarf, and a mint green silk lined thingy to fling over my shoulder when I go out in the summer.

I buy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and my old fave Speculaas (spiced almond Christmas biscuits from the Netherlands or Belgium) to enjoy with my tea.

After dinner we go to the gym and I try spinning for the first time. It is like stationery mountain biking. The saddle bloody HURTS to sit on but it is easy for me to stand and pedal because I power walk up so many stairs at the Tube stations.

My aunt Eve takes the class too, and she says she was admiring my bum in the mirror. My aunts love my bum. She pinches it in the locker room.

After class, we go back to her house where I see my cousin Alyssa and her growing bump - she is 6 months along. And my cousin Paul, who they all say looks like my brother.

Aunty Rita's dog JJ falls in love with me when we are all watching TV in the evening. He gives me upside down puppy eyes and "bellies" to rub. Pictures to follow eventually.

Thursday 21st - girl lunch and massage

I am beginning to cough.

Mum and I ('we') swing by Aunt Eve and I say hello to Uncle Tom who tells me I am pretty. He has known me since I was two and despite having three of their own kids, I am still special to them. Alyssa has never been to One99 Broadway, Orangeville's smart restaurant where we have reservations for New Year's Eve - so we take her to lunch there, but we didn't make reservations so we have half an hour to kill before going back. We decide to go to the (smoke-free) Winchester Arms pub for a coffee. I wish I had my camera as the town's main street (Broadway) is typically Main Street USA even though it is actually in Canada...

We start with a basket of little slices of very moist tasty bread with butter. Lyss and I order mangotinis, just mango juice with sparkling water, and Mum orders an iced vanilla chai tea.

For mains, I get capellini pasta with steamed sweet plum tomatoes, a few surprises of citrus peel, and perfectly grilled scallops.

Mum gets pate de foie gras seasoned with sage and cranberries, with crostini.

Unadventurous Alyssa orders beef and potatoes, but she doesn't like mushrooms so I get those. There are very few things she does eat, and this is why she is not coming to the $90 per head new years' dinner there...!

If the snow holds off, I think I may be able to do some driving before Christmas.

Aunty Eve wants me to shed my hard work while I am here and so she has booked me in tonight for a proper massage at the chiropractors. Not only have I worked hard, but I daresay I deserve it after my trials at the airport, and then the spinning. Every time I move, I ooh and aah.

Tomorrow I have a pedicure, but while I am at the massage I start having chills which get worse when we go home. I run a low temperature overnight.

Friday 22nd - pedicure

We find out that Dad is coming on the 6th January for the weekend!

I am woozy, but take some Advil and am still able to pretend I feel well, as the beautician is a hypochondriac. I suck on cough drops and go for my pedicure. It lasts an hour and a half, and now I have pretty, soft, massaged feet.

By lunchtime I am not well. I have to take medication and have a fever.

Saturday 23rd - burning up

Entire day lost to high fever, chills, sweating buckets, and sleeping. I have been healthy for a year but in my stress and run-down state must have picked up the first thing going on the plane. I think I am strong enough to lie on the couch and watch TV with my feet buried under JJ's tummy, but even that I give up and slink off to bed. All day in jammies, curled up and sleeping like it is going out of fashion.

Mum is an angel: between cooking, baking and running tea and snacks and meds to me in the room.

The fever breaks after dinner and Mum runs me a bath, but I still sweat again overnight.

I dream that I am befriended by a barn owl and that I have to wash it. I wonder if that means anything.

Sunday 24th - today - Christmas Eve

Tired and very floppy. I try to help out a bit in the kitchen but am too dizzy. So I am sitting up in bed blogging. I have worn myself out finding the ethernet cable and connecting my laptop to the internet. It's good to be back, though.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

I hope you enjoy your time with your family and friends

Be warm, eat well, and laugh lots

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

PA Wanted

Could someone be so good as to come round while I am at work and:

1) Buy stamps,
2) put away last month's laundry,
3) wrap presents,
4) make parcels and take them to the Post Office,
5) wash my sheets,
6) vacuum the floor,
7) do more laundry,
8) put that stuff in those boxes,
9) shred those receipts,
10) and take out the recycling?

Oh, and pack my suitcases for a) this weekend and b) Canada?


I'll give you a chocolate!
*ooh, incentive*


Went to our team lunch at the restaurant in the Tate Modern. Awesome views across London. Mediocre food, but a really good chocolate truffle torte on a crumbled amaretto biscuit base. And a good enthusiastic chat with my 3 colleagues. It was also a very invigorating walk across the Millennium Bridge in the mild and whipping wind.

It put the colour in my cheeks :)

Monday, December 11, 2006


This is a clip from the BBC 4 documentary that inspired me to write my old post on Handel and the Castrati, during that exhibition at the Handel House museum. By the time I wrote my article the only Maniaci clip on YouTube had been removed due to copyright issues, so let's hope this one stays! It was sent to me by my friend who is also a male soprano and sounds very similar.


If that doesn't work, click here.


I have the day off today. Am ostensibly wrapping gifts and making parcels for the post, but assigning Christmas cards is taking way too much time. Eee!

Also, meeting Lydia for dinner. I have known her and her family for over 25 years. Who is your oldest friend?


Saturday, December 09, 2006


Note for all to whom I am sending a parcel: Please forgive me if it arrives after Christmas!


I was "let out" of work early yesterday and I attempted to finish my Christmas shopping, but 6 hours later at 10pm I was still not finished. I DID, however, finally buy cards! And wrapping paper!

I thought I would be able to go out today - yes Saturday shopping is hell even when it's not December - so I am glad that I had a slow day.

Worst yet, I woke up at 2pm. By the time I ate breakfast, it was past 3.30. I have NEVER done this before, not even when I was recovering from the flu...! I bemoaned the fact to my mother on the phone later, and she told me, "It's ok, at least you rested. You don't have to report to anybody. You don't have to cook for anyone."

I also blubbered on about how I am nearly 30 and haven't done anything I should have by now, and how I feel I am in such a pickle, and so frustrated. She told me that when I go to the massage she has booked for me, I must learn to breathe out the negativity, etc.

I love my Mum to bits. She says the most wonderful things.


Now, you know I never talk about politics, but every now and then I feel strongly enough about something to mention it here.

Tony Blair said yesterday that if you don't like Britain, don't come here. About time. He said that the famed British tolerance can only go so far. Seriously, I have been saying this for years about the UK, the US and Canada. There is nothing wrong with keeping your cultural values alive, but if you agree to live in a new culture, try to assimilate a bit, please. Otherwise your life is hardly different to, and the quality hardly better than the one you left behind, and then what's the point?

I must say, though, that more so than in the UK, emigrants to the USA know what they are going for. They want to be there. They clutch their breasts and feel entitled to call themselves Americans, and are proud to do so. That is what America is all about, but the people who move there want to assimilate. They move to another country for a different and better life, and that is what they strive for. The American Dream is a reality; she is willing to help you on your way, and for some reason those who move there aren't interested in a free ride. They want success and they often get it. On the other hand, there is too much social exclusion in the UK, which is such a soft touch, and let's not even talk about France where there was rioting in the streets last year!


Wednesday I went to the interview at the agency but Friday found out I didn't get the job because I don't have a UK driver's licence (despite being willing to learn). But everything else was fine. I don't know what else to say other than I wonder if that was the real reason?

Afterwards, I went next door to Partridge's, somewhere I have meant to visit for ages. I liked it that the local customers know the employees by name. I got chatting with the very chatty lady who was serving samples of Calvados. Being that she was Austrian-Turkish and admitted she couldn't handle the French, I taught her how to pronounce it. I bought a few things there, and not wanting another plastic bag, I asked for the jute bag with wooden handles. It is actually a wine bag, but a perfect size for me. The bottle sections can be pushed to the side. The larger groceries bag would be dragging along the floor. And guess what? It's free. A jute bag like this for free, when even at the other shops you have to pay 10p for a strong plastic bag-for-life and at least £1 for a fabric bag at M&S.

Then I headed up to Finchley Road for dinner with the indomitable Mr B - finally free of all signs of chemo, but jumping back into life! Good stuff.

We went to the Fine Burger Co., and since I haven't eaten a real burger in many years and rarely manage beef, I went for the Fez, which was a yummy lamb burger. Nicely seasoned, with a yoghurt sauce, lettuce and topped with a yummy yummy harissa sauce - I can only liken it to Moroccan salsa.
And then we went for coffee/hot choc at Pizza Express. Not much of a cafe scene up there.


I have just submitted a review on the London Eats site for the Quality Fish Bar on King Street in Richmond. If you are within reach, please do go! You won't be sorry.
I am going there with my grandmother tomorrow. Wait, no I'm not - I've just called and they are closed on Sundays. Poo. I was craving a nice plate of chish n fips from there...

So on to Plan B, which is the yummy Christmas rack of lamb from M&S - covered in rosemary, pine nuts and dried cranberries. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

(Just a gratuitous hand shot.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday outing

I went to a Conservative party Christmas party Monday night with landlord and landlady. They are on the committee for the constituency North of Regents Park and are always hosting/planning/doing things. This event was held at one of the giant houses in St John's Wood.

Landlady and I took a taxi to go there, and she was talking, so when
she got back out to run into the house and pick up some things, the
taxi driver asked me if she was an MP. I said no. He said, "Labour or
Conservative?" He was glad to hear she was not Labour, and then went
on the usual taxi driver politics rant.

I had been invited weeks ago, did nothing about it, and then when one of the committee members dropped out with a cold, Landlady asked if I wanted to go along for free and help out. I gladly accepted, as it has been years since I took part in any sort of event organising.

(You may skip the trip down Memory Lane if you wish:)

At university I was very active on Program Council which planned campus-wide events and entertainment. I chaired the Coffee Cart, which offered free coffee and chocolate every Wednesday for the night students from about 7-9pm outside the class rooms. I enjoyed that, smiling, chatting, flirting, serving beverages to appreciative chilly people.

I was also the President of our chapter of Psi Chi, the national psychology honour society. We raffled a digital camera, back when not that many people owned one. We made care packages for parents to order for their kids in the dormitories to boost them up during finals. We made crafts for the children in the MD Anderson Cancer centre, etc. At the end, we held a banquet at the Marriott and installed the new officers. One of my readers here was the Secretary, weren't you Memoria???

Those were GOOD days. I am not really that outgoing anymore as sad things have happened to change me somewhat, but I try to rekindle the spark from time to time, and yesterday was another attempt.

I greeted people at the door with the name list, and as is natural with me, I couldn't stop there as I pitched in with tidying up and putting away. They were so pleased I was there.

The house was not cavernous, just spacious. The ground floor was taken up by a foyer nearly as big as my bedroom (which is large for London standards as it is the width of the house), a cloakroom the size of most English box rooms, and then a similar sized toilet, and on the other side of the hallway there was a large, L-shaped reception room.

I thought that mulled wine and cream carpets was a brave combination, but the wine stayed in the glasses and the carpets stayed cream.

Downstairs was the kitchen (surprisingly not big enough for such a house), dining room/conservatory, living room, a small spare room (looks like it should be a nanny's room) and ensuite bathroom which was actually bigger than the bedroom.

The guest speaker had cancelled due to a throat infection, so the local candidate standing for MP gave a speech. She is tall, graceful, and blonde.

I met quite a few nice people, but the two who stand out are Councillor Daniel Astaire and Rula. Daniel gave me the number of the man in charge of the electoral roll because my registration form was returned to me last year. (What would I tell him? "Take it now, please"?) He told me he represents Sothebys. After a while I realised I had seen him on TV, probably talking about parking or the congestion charge.

And Rula gave me her business card so I can get in touch and meet up sometime. She is Kuwaiti but grew up in California so she got excited when she found out I had lived in Texas.

You wouldn't believe how many people thought I was related to our hostess, Mrs Glick. I am sure I have seen her somewhere before.

Only, I felt so short amidst all those tall people. It was the first time I helped out at an event for adults. Usually it was for my own peers. Actually, perhaps the reason I remember Daniel and Rula is because I spoke to them with comfort as they were not tall. While talking to one lady, I found myself going up and down on tiptoes to emphasise my points.

At the end, when we were clearing up, my landlady said, "Oh you are being a good girl tonight." (As opposed to...?)


Everyone think good thoughts for me on Wednesday afternoon. I have an interview with an agency that wants to meet me about a job on behalf of a large and important art collection.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Excerpt from the 1898 essay Woman's Future Position in the World by Lizzie M. Holmes:

Woman has been considered too much as woman, and not enough
as a human being. The constant reference to her sex has been neither
ennobling, complimentary, nor agreeable. Either as slave, toy, pet, or
queen, this ceaseless thinking of her sex instead of herself has been
degrading. To finally arrive at her best she simply needs consideration
as a fellow member of society.


She has lost some of the charm of clinging womanhood which at
best man only heeded in his leisure moments, and has not yet gained the
poise and individuality that will draw him to her as a companion. She
is dissatisfied with the old gallantry, and has not yet attained the
spontaneous recognition and respectful love she longs for. But this
will come. There will be a time when men and women, equal human beings,
clasping hands and looking each other in the eyes on a level -- not
leaning on each other, but upright -- will feel a true fellowship; and
mutual admiration and respect will exist between them. Then will love
be sweeter, purer, more beautiful than the world has ever known.

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