Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Tube is insane

Interesting thing about my job. Casual dress code, lower pay, flexi hours, but these arts org people are just as heads down as they were at the capital investments firm with their snazzy outfits and high wages.

On the other hand, the staff at both solicitors' offices I've worked at were very chatty.


According to Doctor Who, the Daleks built the Empire State Building.


Funny things I read on the message boards on Fridaycities London (Note: I did not write these):

A discussion on the irrationality of commuters' behaviour during train delays and other annoying travel incidents.

-- I’m sat on a delayed tube train in a station, the doors are open and every now and again people go
outside and look down towards the front of the train. What are they
expecting to see? A traffic jam?

-- the moment when people are running for a train and the doors start to
close, so rather than chalk it up as a missed train they jam whatever
body part is nearest into the door to hold it open. Then follows the
moment when everyone wishes the driver would drive on with them trapped
in the door, instead of the prolonged battle by the person to lever the
door open to escape or enter

-- Once, and this is the God’s honest truth, the beeper noises started on
the Metropolitan Line train and half the Circle line train sprinted
over. I stayed where I was because I was comfortable and a bit pissed,
and suffered the glances of smugness from the M passengers. Then the
Circle Line doors beeped and shut, and off we chugged.

-- If you’re ever on a train which stops for more than a minute, you’ll
get updates every 5 – 10 minutes from the driver. Even if it’s only “We
still don’t know how to move the wildebeests from the track” it’s
calming to know that someone, somewhere is in control and feeding you

Who's had the longest delay on London transport.

-- The Silverlink is the slowest, most ponderous & life-draining form of transport known to man ... (I believe it’s called Silverlink, cos customarily that’s the colour of
your hair by the time the twatting thing’s arrived where it’s meant to
be going)

-- Not terribly spectacular, but two hours ten minutes from Stoke
Newington to Soho this morning, including the amount of time taken to
walk the last half mile, the bus having given up totally on Gower

Did you know that Tube trains have horns?

-- this evening when I was standing on the southbound Northern line
platform at Stockwell, the (delayed) train pulled in and beeped twice.
It was a quite piercing horn. Anyone heard this before?

-- They were installed after a group of mice lobbied parliament…But the thing I can’t understand are the indicators!

-- And the steering wheels.

-- The Met Line’s horn sounds really pained. Like it’s just travelled over
a nail or something. I always feel sorry for it. Poor thing.

-- From the heading of this thread, I’ve now got this picture in my head
of this new London event, “The Running of the Tube Trains”,.. locals
and drunk tourists getting gored as they run along narrow windy streets
pursued by a stampede on wheels. It would explain the indicators and
steering wheels, sort of…

Mouse sightings on the tracks, all over London.

-- I want to know which tube stations have mice running around by the
tracks that I can look at. I haven’t seen any in ages, and I do miss
watching the little loves scurrying around while I wait for TFL [Transport for London] to sort their lives out.

-- There are some at South Kensington that don’t so much scurry as swan.

-- wesbound Central Line at Oxford Circus. I once saw a mouse carrying a chip that was twice as long as its own body there.

-- They say that in London you’re never more than 1 metre away from
someone who’ll tell you that you’re never more than 1 metre away from a

-- Have you thought about getting one as a pet instead? There’s one in my shed that you can have for nothing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


On the Tube on the way to work yesterday, I stood opposite a young man who was picking his nose with great gusto, vim, and vigour. He was relishing it greatly. And this was a somewhat crowded carriage. His nostrils were capacious, so I imagine they had collected a lot of furniture. (My mother calls nose-picking "moving furniture".)

I make light of it now, but I nearly gagged then and forced myself to stare at the floor whilst I could still hear him sucking his fingers and knuckles. *shudder* As I stared at the ground, I thought to myself, I do hope he is not a parliamentary clerk...and what do you know? When I got out at Westminster, he went through the passholders' private entrance...right into the Houses of Parliament, the cheek!


So, this job I am doing. It's very involved, and I got thrown in the deep end on Monday morning. They had no idea so much needed doing within the first two hours.

But it settled down and the department director thinks I am picking it up rather quickly. Maintaining links with people who had got used to the persons I had replaced - the first moved upstairs and the second, a temp, got a job two weeks after starting. It is a huge international project that is winding down in the next couple of months, and I'll be there till then, I guess.

One thing I don't understand is my odd change in attitude. While being rather amiable before, yet hesitant with phones, I have noticed this week I have become unusually reserved face to face, but suddenly pretty good on the phone. What is that all about???

Anyway, first day on the job I took minutes at a 2-hour strategy teleconference between London and Brazil - no idea what anyone was going on about, but I wrote stuff down on 8 pages, and before I lost my hold on what they were going on about, condensed it into 3 pages of bullet points. The director checked it over today, said she had no idea how I got it down to that, and then I sent it out to everyone. A reply came back from the other London attendee: "Blimey, that was swift, thanks!"


I took an hour's walk today, from Westminster along Millbank to Chelsea Bridge Road and then to Victoria. This room temperature weather is awesome! Lunch in the park was also pleasant, specially as it was a very neat toasted Mexican tortilla wrap stuffed with slow-cooked pork, refried beans, sour cream, cheese, and spinach, and topped with guacamole. I say it was neat because despite being a wrap, nothing fell out and it only dripped twice. I think sometimes wraps don't need to be as overstuffed as they are.


Sunday, I walked to Camden where I joined my aunt, cousins/hubby and kids at Marine Ices, a friendly family restaurant that is 75 years old this year. Pizza, pasta, and ice cream. Well, I had zabaglione. They didn't have any semi-freddo.

I like Camden. It's funny that I can say that after living in St John's Wood for the past 3 years because I hated it when I lived in Hackney. :)

Anyway, my cousin Mich said to her son Zack (he's 6), "I'm relying on you to help me with the twins." (They just turned 2.) And Zack said, "But I'm not relying on myself."
He's funny.

It was on the agenda that I would explain to Zack how trees make oxygen for us, so while I explained it, Mich wrote the chemical formulae for oxygen and carbon dioxide on a piece of paper for Zack to see. (Seriously.) He said, "Why is there a 2 after the O?" and Mich replied that it was because there are two oxygen atoms attached to the carbon atom. I love how she tells him everything! That is how I want to be with my children.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Impressions on a day...

...In Belgravia

It's nice to drive through, walk through, pop in and out of...but working there felt uncomfortable. Like Conrad's "whited sepulchres" in The Heart of Darkness, London's land of embassies is not conducive to residents. And yet, people who are not affiliated with an embassy insist on living there. Today I worked for a solicitor in a big house off Belgrave Square where she lives with her husband, and both work from home. There were attendance notes dealing with the acquisition of a holiday villa in Barbados (they've just spent 3 months there!), with related fees for golf membership, grounds maintenance, seasonal rental, housekeeping, etc. I also typed out the villa inventory.

And just when I started wondering how long they had lived in the house, she asked me to type up a letter to the Grosvenor Estates (holders of the land on which Belgravia sits) about some dispute with the required colouring of the building and joinery. They bought it in 1997 in a state of disrepair, which apparently was the case with much of the non-diplomatic property in that amazing neighbourhood. Imagine, the people living there now are sitting on fortunes.

Still, I thought they had lived there for decades because of the moth-eaten mish-mash, down to the worn corded tassel in the basement loo, the mismatched threadbare antique chairs, the old red pile carpets so thick I tottered on my heels.


Speaking of heels, I was told to dress smartly this morning, so I did. Black heels, black tights, black skirt with wraparound chain belt, and cotton paisley blouse. I don't usually wear heels with skirts for work, preferring flatter heels, though I do attempt them with trousers for some reason. Anyway, it got me groped on my way out of the Tube station this morning. Was passed by a black guy who seemed to be jogging, and before I knew it my rear end had been grasped. I was too shocked to exclaim because nothing like that has ever happened before, not even in Italy. What is the point of it???


So, what did I see today? When I went out for lunch I walked through the gigantic Belgrave Square, where behind nearly every door there sits an embassy, and the only colour against the backdrop of cream and white are the many flags above the porticos. Also, it is the only time I have ever seen a Neoclassical grocery store. I went in there for my very very yummy sandwich: malted grain bread filled with mashed onion bhaji, cucumber, fresh red onion, mango chutney, mint dressing, and fresh coriander leaf. MmmmMMMmmMMmmMMmm, do try it sometime if you live here.

Waitrose at Belgrave Square

When I was leaving, I saw a black Mercedes pull up in front. The driver got up and ran round to let out a typical casually westernised Mideastern lady, you know, with the sunglasses in her hair, tight jeans and pointy snakeskin shoes, and as she strode into the store he literally trotted behind her, leaving the car right...where he...left it... I nearly laughed out loud at the scene. I am sure she didn't carry her own basket, oh no. I imagine she is the wife of one of the ambassadors lurking in the neighbourhood and lifts a finger for nothing.

Behind that Merc was another, and then behind that was a gorgeous gunmetal grey Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, purring as it awaited an opportunity to ooze into the stream of traffic.

The 40-50 year old classic Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

I walked back to the solicitor's house, around the square rather than through it, as this is one of the London gardens reserved only for keyholding residents. No way through that wrought iron fence for me, not like at St James's Square...

Homage to Leonardo in Belgrave Square garden.

She let me sit in the garden. Let me describe this typical London space. It is a patio actually (which is probably why residents need a garden in the square). There are trellisses against the fences, overflowing with all manner of creeping vine and vegetation. There is a deck table and chairs, an outdoor heater like the ones on restaurant terraces, a koi pond, and at the very end the impression of a nymphaeum with a classical statue standing before three mirrored arches. Looking back towards the house with its doors and windows was a black painted iron staircase spiraling down from the first floor, and a juliet balcony on the third (or vice versa). All this in an area about 12 ft by 24 ft, and that's one of the larger London patios!

I prefer a garden ANYDAY. Although quite pretty, this entire house and garden felt like a gilded cage. I think I have been living in the garden suburb of St John's Wood for too long...! And I have never lived without a garden before.


Another reason I dressed smartly is because I was on a standby list for entry to the famed Chinawhite club, but didn't get the call, so after work I took a couple of stops west to Knightsbridge and went shopping at Harvey Nichols. The Food Hall carries an astounding "kick yo' ass hot" snack mix from Arizona. Habanero pepper, say no more. I love it, and have been meaning to go back for more.

I also needed to get my cousin (the charity director) a birthday gift. As she has everything and is quite fussy...I didn't know what to do. I settled on a lead-free pewter jam spoon that hooks onto the ledge of the jar. It very organic and not like anything I have seen recently, but I do think the Baroque metalworkers would appreciate it.

(I think I got her the shell one...)

The gift wrapping was complimentary, and I had a choice of occasional paper or classic silver and white Harvey Nicks with a silver bow. I thought that would complement the spoon nicely, so I chose that. I also had her wrap the book (signed by the authors!) I bought in the Food Hall for [someone I have just realised reads this blog]. I will send that for her [special occasion].

Right, you will hear from me after the weekend. I have a dinner on Sunday and day one at the A.C. on Monday...catch you then!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This just in

Good news, Good news!

I've just got off the phone with my consultant who has been trying to get me into the Arts Council for over a month now, and she has me starting there at the international strategy office on Monday at 10am, for an indefinite number of weeks.

I love how she goes into chatty detail about how she gets people to pick my CV over others.

Tomorrow, however, I will be busy helping a solicitor who works from home in exclusive Belgravia, next to Buckingham Palace and embassy land. Get that, her home (not office). For those of you who do not live in London, that is like living off 5th Avenue and the Upper East Side, or in the 7th and 16th arrondissements of Paris.



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Walk Emperor March

Hey, remember what I said yesterday about walking in the springtime?

Vanessa sent me a link to an article: Bored? Lonely? Take a Walk, by Garrison Keillor, he of Lake Wobegon Days fame on America's National Public Radio. Even if you are British, you will know his gently rumbling voice from the Honda ads, yes indeed!


She also sent me this hilariously wicked French Canal+ TV ad:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Week in Limbo

OK, I am bored. I have hit one of those weeks when I ... am ... waiting ... waiting ... for ... all ... sorts ... of ... things ... to ... happen ...
I can't stand weeks like this. There is a lot of clock watching, email checking, phone holding...Ugh.

However, the fact that it is spring and beautiful, and not winter and not hibernation-inducing is a great help. I don't want to curl up under the duvet, I want to walk in the park.

So this afternoon I put on a skirt, no tights, and went out. I watched the little blossom petals sliding over each other on the pavement beneath the trees on my street. I noted how the trees in the gardens and the trees on the verge were old enough to arch over the pavement the way they usually do over the road. I took a big sniff as I passed the hedge being trimmed outside the portered mansions. I listened to the blackbirds singing at all hours, not just in the evening.

I spoke to my mother in New York last weekend and she said it was freezing. At that moment, I was about to break into a sweat because it was 24C (75F). That day in London was even warmer than Houston, which was only 20C (68F).

Now, however, she is in Guyana for the first time since she left in 1971, and she will be there for 5, yes five, weeks (!). Some of you may remember the cousin I mentioned who moved back there because of her husband's business. This was my mum's very cute email to me today:

Hey Ba, I am so happy here with Andrea and the children and Ray. The
wind is so fresh and cool most times and the rain comes and wash away the dust and we get so sleepy after an hour sitting on the balcony. So we eat, sit out, sleep and go bathe. The fruits are so fresh and so is all the food. I am taking some pics of the pomegranate, pineapple, mango, psydium and everything else. I will send them in Picasa when I get back.

I am going to the market now and I want to see if I can do some fruit shopping. Andrea's maid is so sweet and so are her watchmen, they are like family. I wish you could see here for a week or so. When I go to the UK we can come to NY then come here for a while, it takes 6 1/2 hrs to fly from NY. I love you and think of you all the time I'm eating or enjoying something.

Ah bless her. I know I told her to take photos of everything but I didn't mean the things I already know, although I have never heard of psydium before...

Mum is in Skeldon, near Corriverton on the eastern coast - they grew up here on a sugar estate, but are originally from Port Mourant, near New Amsterdam further west.

Skeldon is a 4-hour drive from the capital Georgetown, the Garden City of the Caribbean.

Georgetown city hall, in front of St George's cathedral, the tallest wooden structure in the world

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Dinner

Not as big as I'd planned, but it was cosy. One day, one day, I will be able to see my friends in a group rather than individually.

Lydia and Anthony (the twins), my friends for 27 years (we don't even remember meeting), and Shiho, my friend from Christie's, came through for me at Cocoon, on Regent at Air Street. The others turned up at 11, but we had left by then! Ha. Lydia asked if I would be blogging this, and when I said yes, she said I should put all the pics up, so here they are. (Except for the scary closeup one Tony put on when we weren't looking, and it made me jump when I reviewed the pics.)

(In the larger version of this pic, we look related!)

We ordered lots of edamame with salt. All sorts of sushi - with FRESH wasabi, which was nice. Duck rolls. Seaweed salad. Softshell crab tempura (this was my fave!). We enjoyed the food, and had cocktails. I had a Jasmine Fizz (fresh passionfruit in champagne with jasmine), and then a lychee martini (vodka, lychee juice, rosewater, and a lychee fruit in the bottom).

Nice lighting.

Then we had dessert. Lydia and Shiho got sorbets on banana leaf strips on blocks of ice in wooden trays (banana, mango and rhubarb, passionfruit, strawberry).

Tony and I ordered green tea mochi with white chocolate and green tea ice cream and warm chocolate sauce, also all set on top of ice.

I had to help Lydia with her dessert

They want to come back here...

Shiho left, then we moved on to The Pigalle, that new 40s-style jazz club that has opened on Piccadilly.

Both Lydia and Anthony enjoyed themselves and know loads of people who will like it. We thought we were showing our age by turning up at, and enjoying, a place where the average age of the guests was 40, but Lydia said we were actually showing our wisdom. She always looks on the bright side. What I love about my Twins is that they make me laugh like a maniac.

Kindred spirits forever and ever...Lyds n Liv.

My favourite twins in the whole world!

Lydia said he looked a bit drunk in that one (he wasn't), and insisted on taking another:

So he put his glasses back on. Awwwwwwww, sweet eh?


Here I opened my gifts. Shiho had given me a delicate selection of Japanese items:

A tiny mirror

A tube of incense wrapped in handmade paper with handwritten calligraphy

A tiny gold bookmark, nearly as delicate as a leaf

From Lydia:

A leather purse, coincidentally also Japanese

From Lyds & Tony & their entire family:

A special marcasite heart pendant. What is the green stone???

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Week So Far

I don't usually blog on a Friday because people don't check blogs so much on weekends. It's a break from work, more often than not. Isn't it? You lazy bunch!

But I have had a goodish week and will have a better weekend, so there is much catching up to do.

First of all, when I left the insurance co this evening, they said they hoped it had not been too boring for me - probably because I got the work done sooo fast. I made no comment because it really had been. When another secretary said she hopes to see me soon, I laughed and she said, "Unless you get a job first!" Seriously, this was the first office I most definitely could not consider working at - insurance is not half as interesting as capital markets (I never thought I would say that), and I found myself missing the audio job I had last year in the City.

Secondly, on Tuesday my dear friends Diva and Nags sent me a lavish bouquet because being nearly admitted to hospital, she tearfully informed me that she is unable to attend my party. It is such a big bunch of flowers that my landlady is happy to host them on the dining room table in a Lalique vase.

I have other parcels arriving in the post in the next few days from all over the place. Unfortunately, my guest list is so reduced that it will be a very quiet affair, rather than an all out dinner.

Secondly, I got a call two days after an email (which I had not replied to) from a publishing co - I had emailed my CV in for a job ad in their interior design section. I have never been chased up before and it's great. So I told him what writing sample I would send, and I appreciated the fact that he said I had the sort of CV they were looking for, and that even though I hadn't written about interiors, my art history skills were certainly transferrable. ABOUT TIME someone said that: transferrable.

Thirdly, Thursday was my favourite day because I got to meet up with Mr Gorgous Eyes again, you know, the one from Saturday. I must say, for a guy he keeps in touch really well. Like, every day. Awesome eh!

It was an adventure. I walked from Tower Hill to Blackfriars to kill the time until he got off work. I carried my camera with me and took photos, by the way, but the day was so hazy that I wasn't that trigger-happy.

I stopped at House of Fraser (didn't know there was one in the City) to pick up some face lotion, and 5 minutes after I left, I realised she hadn't given my debit card back. I ran like the wind; fortunately, she had used the till in a quiet corner and no one had even been there since I left, and it was still there. Whew. Well, after that little adrenaline rush, I had a huge slump and it took a lot of effort to make it to Blackfriars, especially as I was along the river and kept doubling back looking for the exit to the station. And out of 8 exits, I happened to use the exact one where he was waiting, about to text.

We chattered away like a couple of, well, chatty people, and walked to the destination I had chosen, Smithfield Market. I had been there before and enjoyed the restoration of the Victorian structure and the cool bars and restaurants inside. As soon as we got to the area, it felt wrong. We walked around and around, checked the map, asked some people, and then gave up. It must have been another market (Leadenhall, I found out later).

We decided it would be much better to head to familiar territory so we got on the Tube and went to Bond Street, only we didn't end up there (third disaster) - we both swore we ran to the southbound Jubilee train before the doors closed, but for some reason ended up in St John's Wood. So back we went, and found a tiny Turkish restaurant at St Christopher's Place. In the train he said he liked halloumi, and lo and behold there was some grilled on the starters menu. Squeaky Cypriot cheese, which I like to put in pasta - when it's hot it's really squeaky.

Sea bream, calamari, wine - and check out the lamps on the ceiling. They were dense:

It was the same behind me. Fortunately, Eyes is sufficiently obscured by the darkness and he remains a mystery!

But as more wine was imbibed the company got louder and we were shouting to be heard, so we tried to go somewhere for coffee and dessert. The creperie was closing; Carluccios only had space at the bar, so we left; Pizza Express kicked us out because they don't serve only dessert when it is busy...


Shit, I really am utterly disappointed. Someone else just called to cancel. After a promising start to the week...there are only two or three people guaranteed to turn up at the dinner, and possibly three or four more for the drinks. This is after starting with a list of 17 and getting 10 to accept. Half of them are out of the country, the others are sick or have prior engagements, but those latter will try to come along at some point.

Lydia says we could ditch the restaurant, but the stragglers might turn up. We can laugh about it, she says. Hm...if anyone can make me laugh, it's her.

On a lighter note, Christopher (who also can't be there) and his mum sent me a cheque for £30. What memorable item should I purchase with it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How does it feel?

So, how does it feel to be 30?
*pinches self*
No different.
Maybe tomorrow, then...

But, everyone keeps saying how different things are going to be from now on, so I say, Bring It On!


This week I am working in an insurance co near Tower Hill. Such big names, I am surprised they haven't asked me to sign a confidentiality agreement yet.

Seriously, I am so close to the Tower of London, I might take my camera and get some late afternoon shots of it.

I can do this work with my eyes closed. I was handing the work back finished about 5 minutes before they gave it to me to do, that's how easy it was. By lunchtime, I had them all caught up on the backlog (they called that a backlog?) and by hometime I had actually run out of things to do, so I left 4 minutes early.

Come on, need a real job now...I am SO done being a secretary.


It was really strange having to spend my big birthday in a new office, unable to check my messages or answer calls. My phone was on silent vibrate, and it was going so much that by lunchtime I was running out of battery and Inbox space!

People came out of the woodwork to wish me happy birthday.

I came home to more messages, emails from people I thought didn't even know about it. I even got a card from UST, sent all the way from Houston and signed by the staff at the office of Alumni Relations.
And a huge bouquet of flowers from Diva and Nags.
My guest list is suffering casualties through illness and lack of funds. No one else had better drop out! This is how my 25th birthday never even got off the ground.


Tonight I met a long lost childhood friend who found me, guess how? She Googled me and found my blog! I had looked for her for years, but she's been married for 8 of them so I couldn't look for the name I knew.

She has the same mannerisms, the same sound - she even looks the same, only filled out because we are now women, and she is a mother.

It is so wonderful to reconnect - Angela, Lydia and I were so close when we were little, and soon we three will have a reunion.


I heard back today from a publishing co regarding an interiors writer. Only thing is now they need some relevant writing samples. You all know I can write about anything under the sun, only I checked with my brain and it told me that although I had written loads about art, antiques, sculptures, exhibitions, literature, castles, volcanoes, deep sea organisms, and quantum physics, I hadn't actually said anything much (yet) about decoration or interiors. *Panic button, where is it?*

OK, this little girl (30 or no 30) has to go to work tomorrow, so it's time for a shower and beddy bye.

Enjoy the warm weather tomorrow, it wil be 19C (68F).
Nite nite!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Oops Easter!

I went out for some lovely easter hymns, came back, called some friends in the US, fell asleep and slept through my dinner slot. I am very hungry but I cannot use the kitchen because my landlady is cooking dinner now.

Yesterday I spent the day out with a cute Australian (originally from Central America) who had the most gorgeous pair of eyes I have ever seen. Seriously. We went for a coffee and a stroll through Green and St James's parks to Westminster, then back again via Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly, where we met his friend (half Spanish, half Greek) who is an even more recent arrival from Oz. We went to a pub in Soho where we were accosted by a homeless druggie; then to dinner in Chinatown; then to another pub in Covent Garden where some "ladies of the night" asked us for directions to Maiden Lane (ah, the irony). It was a long and wonderful day.

Aussies are so cool! Now I know why the Oz guys I have talked to in the past said that if I lived there, I wouldn't be single for long. There is a freshness and sincerity in them that is totally lacking in the pretentious British male with his unrealistic expectations.
These two made me honest, comfortable (as much as you can be with people you've just met), real, and I didn't feel that they were judging me. They accepted me for who I am. After everything I've been through in this city, I needed that.


Friday, April 06, 2007

First spring walk

What a pretty day it was. Although I woke up with a migraine and some deafness (still congested), I decided to get rid of the laundry I haven't done since before I went to Dallas. In the afternoon, I went for a walk in Regent's Park. I love how it's just round the corner from my house, and every spring I take my first uplifting walk through it. The paths were packed because a lot of people get Good Friday off, even though Easter Monday is a public holiday.

I was bombarded with sounds and images and snippets of life:
Tiny green buds on the ends of branches.
Blossom petals on the ground.
Groups of geese flying over the bridge.
Pigeons doing the courtship dance.
Lady feeding the squirrels and a robin joined in after singing in a bush.
Italian greyhound arcing across the pathway at full bound.
Couples of all ages laughing, chatting, holding hands, kissing.
Mixed groups of adults and children kicking a ball around.
I saw a duck dive and not surface for over 10 seconds.
Children on bicycles have no sense of direction.
A football rolled towards me across the path so I stopped it and kicked it (perfectly directed, may I add) back to its owner.

Standing by a bush looking at some tulips and topiaries, I spotted a robbin who popped up from behind a tulip, peeping at me with his big beady eyes and little red breast, so I stayed there and next minute he'd flitted over into the hedge, and a second later he popped out right at my foot! I had my phone out, but was so excited I couldn't turn the camera on without moving. He hopped about for a bit looking cheeky and then flipped over onto a bench. Sweet!

On my way back home, still enjoying all the sensations, I started sniffling and my eyes got sore, so I decided to pick up some allergy tablets. On a rather empty bit of pathway on my way out, I passed a couple of Middle Eastern men in their late 20s-early 30s, bowling about on the pathway like they owned it. As soon as I was level with them, one of them said something that sounded like, "Hi." In the big city, people learn to ignore what other people say sometimes, so I did. Then his mustachioed companion said it louder and his friend said, "Too much". I was at least 5 steps past them by now and still going. Then I imagine they turned around a bit and the first guy said, "Scuse me!" and his companion followed with, "Hello, scuse me!"

I mean, what am I supposed to say? English guys do not do that unless totally drunk. Italians do, but they are kind of laughable. One time I was waiting at the Tube turnstiles for [the first guy I nearly dated when I came to London] when an Italian man standing near me said, "Would you like to go out for a drink?"

How do they come up with that stuff?

So yea, the only attention I get is from [you fill in the blanks] instead of the guys I am interested in. When I am interested in a guy, I only get as far as "being friends". (See rant below, yes it is happening again.) I will let you know if that ever changes.


regents canal sjw side

Thursday, April 05, 2007

banging head against brick wall

Yet again I have been disappointed. Yet again. Is there some law against me meeting anyone?

The guy who waited for me last week, who promised to be there when I came back, who kept in touch while I was away, and agreed to meeting up this week has let me down. He says his personal circumstances have changed and that he felt bad telling me, but he didn't want to mislead. At least he told me, usually they just disappear and I am left holding my breath for days.

This was the first time I gave my number voluntarily to anyone. For once I felt no intimidation because we have so much in common, are both expats, share similar tastes, and he even looks perfect for me. Have you ever read emails that made you applaud after every paragraph? We couldn't wait to meet. He was nothing like the usual types I come across.

I am so fed up, I don't even know what to think anymore. What a mood to approach my 30th birthday.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Food Tag

Selba tagged me again, which is fine with me because I am just getting over these silly allergies, and becoming very, very bored, which is why I blogged three times yesterday. I have some job applications I am working on, and next week I start a week's booking at an insurance firm in the City.

The rules:
1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you.Include the state and country you’re in.
Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)

2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states)[..and let them know they’ve been tagged]


Because I have lived in the US as well and I have favourite restaurants there, I hope Selba will forgive me for listing one or two from over there. The places on the top of my list always send me home with a happy tummy and a warm sense of well-being.

I. Yauatcha - an ultra-trendy and very popular Eastern fusion restaurant and teahouse in Soho, has earned Michelin stars and is rated as one of the top 50 restaurants in the UK. This is where I get my designer dim sum with exotic cocktails or jasmine tea, followed by orchid tea (if available) and a neat little shanghai rose cake. There are literally hundreds of teas to choose from, but orchid is my favourite and typically not always in stock. The attention to detail here is perfect, and I have never been disappointed on any visit. Linen napkins, custom one-armed chairs, fresh flowers on each table, walls lined by aquaria, ceilings dotted with stars, well-timed dishes, helpful recommendations from the staff, and a very Zen slate and granite bathroom with Molton Brown toiletries.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


II. Bhan Thai - So good, even the Thai recommend it. Small, unimposing, but neat with friendly staff who already know my voice on the phone and remember my favourite orders. I try to introduce every visitor to this place, and sometimes treat myself to a free delivery for dinner. Thai food here is perfectly aromatic and served with enthusiasm and warmth. One time, their new delivery driver got lost, so they sent out a fresh hot batch of food and the manager drove him over!

I always order the glass noodle salad, which is a heavenly mix of lemon grass, coriander leaf, fish sauce, red onion, spicy pork (other restaurants may use seafood), peanuts, mushrooms, fresh tomato, chopped chile.

I also love their tender little spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, hot and sour soup, chili and hot basil pork.


III. Cumin - a nouvelle cuisine Indian up the road from me where I also like to feed my friends. The staff here recognise me, and even my mother since every time she visits she begs me to go there. None of the food is heavy, it is fresh, fragrant, clean, simple, and a good balance of flavours.

Here I enjoy the tal tala jhinga (prawns battered in sesame and chili and lightly fried), and other starters, followed by the salmon tikka with their melt in the mouth garlic naan bread. Apple juice blended with a hint of lime is great for cleansing the palate throughout, and finally I like to finish with a cup of steaming fresh chai tea and a bowl of kala jaman (warm sweet dumplings in rose syrup with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of pistachio nuts).

Also known as gulab jamun


IV. Los Cucos - founded in Houston and now spread all over the state, you can sit in here and get full on just the free warm tortilla chips, with red chipotle salsa and green tomatillo coriander salsa - which they never stop refilling - and then just take all your dinner home to eat for the next two days! Specially as the menu is like 7 pages long. No special decor, just murals of Mexico and music to match. It's a real family venue.

Whatever you order comes with saffron rice and refried beans on the side, and is nearly always topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream. It's hearty, homemade, honest food and always tastes great. I love their enchiladas, beef fajita flautas, shrimp poblano (sauteed in cream sauce with poblano peppers, onions cilantro, mushrooms and parmesan), stuffed deep fried avocadoes, and more. The best thing is you can order a mixed grilled platter which includes a bit of everything you like. When I was being lazy, I would order El Chaparro, which is 1 ground beef crispy taco, 1 cheese enchilada and 1 puff tostada with chile con queso.

It was always nice to round it off with a sopapilla. It seems every culture has its own form of doughnut/pancake in syrup or honey.


V. Saltgrass Steakhouse - although I don't eat steak, I was always stealing bites off my Dad's plate! It is most succulent and perfectly grilled Angus. I chose this over our usual seafood haunts because you can get seafood here, too. The walls are painted with ranching cowboy cattle trail murals and lots of rustic wood, yes you know you are in Texas here. When you sit down they bring you a neat little loaf of Shiner Bock Beer Bread on a board, with a ramekin of honey butter.

I would always order a delicious Caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons. Most American restaurants I used to visit would make a yummy Caesar. Then we might share a few starters, like Range Rattlers (jumbo jalapenos stuffed with whole shrimp, monterey jack cheese, battered and fried. For a main I might order a chicken fried steak with garlic mashed potato, or a platter of grilled jumbo shrimps, or a Texas Cheesesteak Sandwich (a twist on the Philly original using poblano peppers, jack cheese, and smoky chipotle sauce. (Any pepper when roasted becomes chipotle.)

When we ate out in the States we were usually too full for dessert, so we would go home, and an hour or two later have our usual post-dinner treat of tea and cookies. :)


I now tag...(this is hard because everyone is busy or travelling right now...)

1. Lunaliar because she's creative with recipes and lives in Texas too
2. Matt because he claims to be a good cook despite being Welsh
3. Panda-Eyed because she has family in Hong Kong and also experiments in the kitchen
4. Beenzzz
5. ML because they are Guyanese, live in America, and I wonder what they like to eat.

P.S. Oops, Pete and Katja, I tagged you on P27 by mistake!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Real Age

You know how people underestimate my age, and everything I said about my family in the last post? Check out what I got in my email just now!


"When You Were Just a Baby . . ."

Does your child ever ask what happened the day she was born, how Mom and Dad met, or about other family events from the past?

Take the time to tell her all the details. New research shows that the more a child learns about her family -- and her place in it -- the greater her sense of self-confidence and competence.

RealAge Projection: Kids who have close connections with family and friends generally struggle less with emotional issues. And as adults, these social ties can help them look and feel almost 4 years younger than their calendar age. Imagine that . . . your child, 40 years old but feeling 36.

The whole article can be found here. Tell your children everything.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend and Guyana Story

Rather than staying at home doing laundry and resetting my body clock this weekend, I went to the long-planned surprise birthday party for my friend Nags. Diva had arranged it with us all about 6 weeks ago. Amy and I arrived in quite a panic, as the trains were running late, she had come down to London late from Norwich without the cake, so I left the house early and ran up to the Marble Arch M&S and then over to Paddington. Nags and Diva ended up arriving at the restaurant an hour after, with Diva all out of excuses. Nags was truly surprised, as we had all let on that we had other plans or were broke. The waitress looked like she was leading them to another table, but we were there with our menus hiding our faces, and then we all shouted "Surprise!"

There were about 9 of us plus one empty seat, as Adie had to take a trip to Hong Kong a day early. And she didn't after all, as it took them two days on standby to get a flight!

It was a nice restaurant on the Reading riverside called Santa Fe, with some delicious southwestern/Mexican fare. I ate a chile relleno (filled with seasoned mushrooms, jalapenos and Monterey Jack cheese, breaded with corn meal, and covered in a delicious spicy Asado sauce). With turmeric and coriander rice, and black beans (which I don't like). Along with some of the Pimms in the pitchers at our table, I drank two cocktails: a Metropolitan, which is the same as the Cosmopolitan but with Absolut Kurrant instead of Absolut Citron; and an Apple Bison (apple schnapps, vodka, lime sugar, apple juice, and a mint leaf). It all gave me a good buzz, I just get sparkly eyes and laugh a bit more. None of us were tipsy at all when we left. Anyway, Diva has to steer clear of the drinks now, as she is a few weeks pregnant!

Before dessert, the kitchen sent up the birthday cake with some candles Diva had brought, and then a few of us ordered banana flautas with vanilla ice cream. Flautas (flutes) are just deep fried tortillas with various fillings. In Texas, I used to like beef flautas.


*yawn* more pictures - I know, y'all have seen ever so many lately!

As we do at every night out, we all turned on our phones' Bluetooth to see the names of the other devices in the restaurant. At first Diva, Amy and I got excited that the same guy (nicknamed Manwell Hung) who was at the restaurant during our Christmas dinner was also at Santa Fe, but it turns out that Nags did it this time just to wind us up!

Diva is quite likely going to put together another of her award-winning photostories, so I will link to it when she does.

She did have us take some scary closeups. My phone's flash is absolutely blinding, and it took a few tries not to squint...but, you don't need to see my lifesize eyes!


Now for the story about how so many of my relatives ended up in Texas. Don't read this if you don't like long international stories, you have been warned!

When the former British Guiana (the only English-speaking country in South America) gained independence from Britain in 1964, my family was against it. They lost half their friends when the European companies and their employees were kicked out, and soon after the old society began to disintegrate. Over the next few years, they emigrated to England, Canada and the USA. Coming from a more privileged background with private schooling, it was only logical since they were more Europeanised and had been Christian for generations. My mother preferred to date English guys as she never understood the men of her own culture. Where the Guyanese once intermarried and mixed with friends outside of their own religion or nationality, today the various racial groups have grown closer to their ethnic roots. Guyana was eventually closed to outside influences, and for a short time in the 70s, under the communist government, they received rations from the Soviet Union! Today, however, free trade is returning. Still, government legislation has banned development of the resource-rich interior of Guyana, making it one of the poorest countries in South America.

My uncles Charles and Allan went to Boston, Massachussetts in the late 60s. In the early 80s, uncle Charlie's company transferred him, his wife Rose and 3 kids (Eddie, Evadney and Charlene) to a Dallas suburb. Soon after, when my grandfather had passed away, he sponsored my Gran to join them there. My parents and I spent many holidays with her, and as my Dad already worked in the oil business (and I begged him) he figured it would be a good idea to move out to Texas too. Incidentally, he worked for a financial branch of the US Government for the first four years, but pretty soon his contacts in Houston started to come through, and that is why we spent the last 10 years down there and enjoyed it immensely.

In the early 90s, not long after we arrived, Uncle Allan and his 3 kids (Charlie, Nerissa and Amber) also moved to Dallas. None of the Boston-born cousins have retained any of the northeastern accent - they all sound really, really Texan!

In the mid 90s, my aunt who lives in the south of England also applied for residency. She sponsored her teenage son Nick, who lived in the north of England with his father, but she opted to remain in the UK. He lived with us for the first year or so, and nearly joined us when we moved to the Houston area too. Nick has now developed half a Texas drawl which I find quite funny!

Who else? In the mid 80s, the only aunt, Rohoni, who remained in Guyana through the hard times, came over with her husband. Their six kids (Neil, Marlon, Ryan, Mandy, Andrea, and Fiona) dispersed themselves between Canada and NYC, but one of them (Andrea) moved back to Guyana some years later because of her husband's shipping business, after Guyana was reopened to Western redevelopment. She is now the only remaining relative in the home country. After my uncle died, Aunty Roh moved to Fiona's house in Canada.

In the late 90s, the only uncle remaining in Guyana came over with his wife and their son and two adopted children.

At one point, Gran, Aunty Roh, Uncle Arvo, Uncle Allan and their families all lived on the same block! When we moved there, though, it drove us crazy. It took us a couple of weeks to get out and find our own place in a fantastic town (for Dallas). As I had been in a private school in London, my mother was going to send me to boarding school in town, but when we found out that we were in the best school district in Texas, she decided to send me to middle school down the road. I am so glad she did. I had better schooling there for free than I did for a lot of money in England! When we moved to The Woodlands, we were in the second best school district. I count my American education, including a degree at Houston's most expensive university, as some of the best years of my life. Dad now has thousands of oil and gas contacts in his directory, and for a short time even worked with his old British boss who had also moved to Houston with his family!

Our family is a regular United Nations. Gran's 10 children have married Chinese-, Portuguese-, Muslim-, Hindu-, and Amerindian- Guyanese; two Puerto Rican Americans (the Bostonians) and then a remarriage with a Filipina; two Brits, and one Canadian. I have noticed that of Gran's 24 grandchildren, only four (of Aunty Roh's kids, with a Guyanese father) have married fellow Guyanese. Most second generation Guyanese all over the world intermarry with their new culture. This is why so many of my cousins and their kids are even more mixed than their parents or grandparents.

I am the only cousin to have met everyone in the family because we travelled the most, and I am also the only one to have figured out everyone's relation to each other. I can draw a family tree from scratch, and have done so numerous times for those cousins who have asked, but they still can't remember everything!

Is this all very confusing? Yes, it was heck to write and I hope you're not cross-eyed.