Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Last May Bank Holiday [updated]

I started this blog two days ago on Blogger and saved it, only Blogger decided not to save it after all *sigh*

So I am here at work, and starting again - on Yahoo.


Only...what did I say?

After a glorious warm May, our second bank holiday of the month turned out to be rainy and cold, as cold as February. All I wanted to do was hibernate, but I got out and started the weekend with a cozy birthday bash with Adie and two of her uni friends.

Sunday it rained like nobody's business and I stayed in and did laundry. Monday I was supposed to go to dinner at a friend's house, but they were just back from holiday and had caught a cold. What's new?


Jojo in Australia, who has been reading my blog for over two years and seen all my ups and downs, insisted that I tell you this:
British men are all lame for not going out with Olivia.
He says, "Come to Perth, you won't be single for long."
Isn't it funny how only the people I know tell me these things, and the people I am trying to date just don't get it?

By the way, if anyone is looking for a curly-haired lad with a cheeky smile, ask for Jojo :)


And then I got a wonderful e-mail from my Dad, who rediscovers my blog every few months:


I have been wandering around your Blog.

Absolutely fascinating the way you describe simple things and events with such illumination and enthusiasm.

I know one thing about my baby: she exudes love and caring in all she does....which makes her Daddy very proud, because love is 'the essence' of the universe.

The astrophysicists are welcome to seek the 'absolute truth', 'The Theory of Everything' and 'The Grand Unification Theory', but I am convinced that the ultimate common denominator will NOT be a waveform, particle, string or worm, but an emotion called "LOVE".

It's been around so long they can't see it.

Praise from Dad is like manna from heaven and I am grinning like a fool even now.

I don't know how he found it after this length of time, but the post he is referring to is either this one from March 2006:

I can follow the Volcano post!

Or this one from March 2005:

Snow and castles and the universe

Both posts show a side of me that hasn't been seen on this blog for many months, a facet I have neglected of late, but something my father nurtured in me from an early age. When you click on the links, be brave, be brave :)



After everyone's lovely comments, I called Dad this afternoon to tell him I love him, and of course he did that wonderful laugh of his and I said I missed him and he said he'd come visit before he end of the year (Yay! To see mum and me in our apartment?) - and he said he didn't know I had blogged about those theories I mentioned. He was recalling a conversation he and I once had on the long drive between Houston and Dallas, about string theory. (I vaguely recalled it, and I don't remember when it was, but I know it was the first time I heard of it! I mean, goodness...the first time he introduced me to parallel universes, I was definitely under 10. I love how he never underestimated what I could understand.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tagging, tagging...tagged!

I. Thank you ML for tagging me. I will do my best!

7 Things that happened to me as a Teen:

1. I turned 13 on our 2nd year of US residency and went into 8th grade (when the going gets tough). The schoolwork was SO much harder than what I was used to, even at my private school in London, plus the culture shock of a co-ed school in a new country, and added to that the mess of hormones as I crept into puberty, I cried so many afternoons when my mother picked me up from school.

2. So of course I didn't understand this whole "will you go out with me?" thing. By grade 8 I was totally nonplussed, having had a juvenile hall guy mock my innocence the year before, and had no idea what to say to whom. But there was this really cute boy called Kevin in my drama, art and honors English classes (yes 3!). He was preppy, in chinos and horn-rimmed glasses (hey it was 1990), and he was trying to be my friend and was really being very nice, but I kept telling him to leave me alone, and if he didn't I would get in the plane and go back to England. Way to go Olivia for overdoing it. I still wish I could apologise to him...

3. I remember feeling suddenly terrified at the end of 9th grade, of the level of work we would begin in 10th grade. Just a moment I remember, as we were driving out of a parking lot, and I absently focused my eyes on a newspaper dispenser, and had that thought.

4. When I was 14 we bought a silky chicken (small, black with white fluff not feathers, a powder puff on legs). She started out ugly and hairless, then sprouted stubble which eventually went poof! She was our darling and would come into the house, select the best chair to lay an egg on, with us running around behind her to lay a cloth wherever she chose to lay her bum. Anyway, one day she disappeared and I was devastated and cried buckets. I put a poster up on the fence, and a couple of afternoons later a boy whose route to school took him past the house knocked on our door. He said he had taken it because his aunt kept silkies and he thought it had strayed off. So we drove to their house over a mile away to pick up our Silky. We knew her because she was prettier than the others and she came to us when we called.

5. Only three more to go! In 11th grade French class we learned two dances: a Haitian thingummy (I don't remember what it was called) and a Bach minuet. I like the minuet, the measured steps, the graceful motions. Plus I couldn't do the Haitian one. My book bag was so heavy and being on one shoulder, it had put my lower back out of alignment and it caused the most amazingly sharp pain in certain positions. So I couldn't lift my leg to do the ragdoll-style steps of the Haitian dance. In fact, one day I sat down bouncily as you normally do on the edge of your bed to put on a sock, and it jolted my sore spine into a spasm. I couldn't dress any further and ended up sliding to the floor and crawling about for a few minutes.

6. In 7th grade I used to get student of the week/month, and then student of the year - awarded at a ceremony by the mayor of our town, who went on to the state Senate and then US Congress. In 10th grade I received a Presidential Academic Fitness award with Clinton's signature on it, and the next year, one with the elder Bush's. I was a sickeningly good student, which is why I am not an entrepreneur today and hence not a millionaire.

7. In 11th grade Calculus class, one of the boys in the baseball team passed me a note asking for my number and if could he see me after class. It was the time of year when everyone was preparing for Prom. I wrote on the other side of the note that I did not give my number to boys. I was mortified at the thought of a boy calling my house and asking to talk to me. Fool! My parents would have been thrilled but I was damned self conscious. I am no longer shy, but is it any wonder the pattern continues today? There must be a sign not visible to me written on my forehead. Of course I don't know what it says..."No trespassing" or something..."Violators will be prosecuted". Hahahah! Oh can you think of any??? This is funny! off topic there.


I've also been tagged by Um Naief (the blogger formerly known as Tooners) who seems to back on full blogging form now that her baby son has settled in.

II. 10 Simple Pleasures

1) The wafting scent of a rose garden in June.

2) Getting bunny kisses.

3) Eating homecooked food.

4) Watching hummingbirds fight over a feeder.

5) That perfect cup of tea.

6) Birdsong in the evening.

7) Contagious laughter.

8) Reaching "the view - it'll be worth it" after a long, steep hike.

9) That nice feeling you get when you are just drifting off to sleep.

10) A Big Warm Hug.


By the way, I put a deposit down for the modern luxury flat last week...

Did I miss any tags?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

House Hunter

I went to see house number two from the previous post - the cute cream stucco one. It is not a houseshare.

Most large houses in London have been split into flats but you may not see that from the outside. Sometimes there is an addition with an entrance to a part of it, like that on house 2. Sometimes instead of one large original door, there are two doors, one to the ground floor flat, and the second has stairs to the first floor. And most houses now have had the basements and lofts converted into flats too. London houses have always had steps down to the lower ground floor (basement) entrance from the days when that's where the kitchen and scullery were, and where grocery deliveries were made - tradesman's entrance I guess. When a LGF flat is called a "garden flat" it means the tenants in the basement have sole use of the back garden.

In addition, in grander neighbourhoods, there are mews conversions. Mews are the old stables and workshops from the days when wealthy families living in the houses fronting the street owned a horse and carriage and kept household staff. Mews are cobbled alley ways behind the residential streets. I find them much cuter and desirable than the overly high-ceilinged homes they once served. Mews houses feel more cottagey, or they are sometimes completely refurbished into great contemporary open spaces. You still need to put down a million to own one, though.

So, who wants to hear about the cute house on Byron Hill Road (cute name eh?)

When I walked in I said "wow". The entrance is tiled with slate, and off to the left is a cloakroom (half bathroom). To the right is a pair of steps - one going up, and one going down. Here's the worst bit. The part that goes down is partly subterranean, a half basement, and there is damp in the wall. The estate agents are waiting for money to come through from the landlord to have it "cured" and repaired, and it will be a big job as they will need to tear out the downstairs bathroom too. (Funny enough, the landlord is moving to Houston, but lived in that house for 10 years.) So the second bedroom is downstairs and a very good sized one for an English house. The bathroom is ok and has a mixer tap.

Taking the second steps up you enter the wow space. The ceilings are so high you couldn't reach with a ladder. There's a lounge with two couches, dining area with table and six chairs, and open kitchen. Big American fridge. Very big living areas for over here, and hence the practical side of me says it will be difficult to heat in our bone-chilling winters, which are colder on the hills, mind you. All the warmth will rise to the heavenly ceiling and we will pay for it.

Off the lounge area there is a spacious master bedroom with double bed. What amazed me was the opposite wall covered with doors of all shapes and sizes, behind which are shelves and closets for storage, and then one narrow door at the end houses a ladder to reach it all! Another wow.

Were it not for the damp and the high ceilings, I would take it. Also, the long walk to the station. Yesterday, my mother said she will start driving over here and get a car, and drop me off...Oh my. I said we'd cross that bridge when we get to it. She hasn't driven here in nearly 20 years, but fortunately, Harrow on the Hill is not as manic or relentless as the rest of London. Some streets up there don't see a car in motion for 5 minutes at a time, maybe even more!

Tomorrow I am going back to Platinum House to see some larger apartments. I was comforted by the fact that water, gas and heating are included (and use of all those great facilities) in rental price except for electricity, phone, and council tax. Hopefully the slight hike in price of the places I am seeing will mean the kitchen comes out of the closet into an open plan, and gets us more floor space for the boxes we have...

I'll keep you "post"ed.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

10 Green Bottles...

...Sitting on the wall...And if one green bottle....Should accidentally fall...there'll be 9 green bottles...sitting on the wall.

Who remembers that song???


Soooo let's see what I did this week.


You get the picture.

And rather than checking blogs (you may have noticed I was not about), I have an array of constantly open Firefox tabs with properties that I plan to book for viewing.

Next week I shall put off the property viewing for a couple of days, and start the week with social activities. On Sunday I will go to see my grandmother in SW London, where I will do a dinner of duck legs, courgettes (zucchini), potato croquettes, followed by carrot cake.

Oh, and how will I spend my Saturday? Seeing a few properties of course (with an old friend who lives up there). Yes, London is so all-consuming that some estate agents stay open all week. Makes sense, as some people work 50 hour weeks. They must do all their grocery shopping, laundry, errands, and sleeping (it's true!) on weekends.

And where have I set my heart on living? Why, near where I used to go to school...An historic hill town just half an hour outside the centre of London on the tube. It still feels like a village but it's not even on the end of the line. You Londoners probably know exactly where I mean now, with all the glaring hints.

Off to peep at a couple of blogs now. Will it be yours? Who knows?


Saturday Update:

Went to see a couple of properties in Harrow with my old friend Angela. I am sorely tempted to go for the luxury block - the flat was small but it had two bedrooms and two bathrooms (a big deal in the UK), and is furnished in contemporary style. It has a designer (albeit compact) fitted kitchen with Neff appliances and granite counters, air conditioning, long balcony, solar activated blinds, roof gardens, concierge, and for residents use of a small gym, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi...It is 5 minutes walk from the station, which is important as it's further out of London, about 20 minutes into the almost-centre.

On second thought, it is more like a kitchen in a cupboard. I kid you not, my walk-in closet in our first apartment in the US (before we got back into 4-bedroom houses) was bigger than this kitchen!

It's not a bad-bad area, I've been in worse, but I didn't feel that great walking about in the shopping centre. I got stared at a lot for some reason and it does feel a bit ghetto. Surrounding this block there are some ugly 1970s office blocks that look like they are about to be converted too. Well, at least it's not an ex-local authority block - they are in depressing 1960s and 70s slabs or towers, and are still pretty dire. Even when refurbished they look sad, and are only slightly less expensive than private "purpose built" blocks.

So there's that. Or a few minutes away in Harrow on the Hill proper is this 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom flat:

Which is a part of this house:

(see it's tucked into the right side there and the other photos show it has some surprisingly large spaces.)

Or just round the corner there's this 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottage:

Only downside is the two pretty places (haven't booked to see yet) are about a 20 minute walk from the station....Or the bus takes about 5 minutes, but you have to wait up to 15 minutes for it. Ha!

The whole area of Harrow on the Hill is like a village. London is made up of villages, but the ones farther out such as H-on-the-H, Hampstead and Highgate have been able to retain some of their identity and all three are on hills, raised above the grime of the city. The two latter are a bit closer to town and very exclusive as quite a few celebs live there. Harrow on the Hill's claim to fame is the renowned Harrow Boys School which is the second best public school in the UK behind Eton, of course. Old Harrovians of note include Winston Churchill, James Blunt (the singer), Cary Elwes (yes, the actor), more actors James and Edward Fox and Benedict Cumberbatch (mentioned him in a previous blog), Lord Byron and a host of other titled nobility including other former prime ministers and politicians, Jordanian princes, Earl Grey, a Rothschild and two Earls Spencer, some of the Queen's cousins, lords, marquesses, viceroys, dukes, loads of writers, Indian P.M. Nehru, adventurers, spies, industrialists, and so on...I have radar: It always turns out that the actors I find cutest are ex-public school boys (like Elwes and Cumberbatch)...!

It was quiet up there today. I think they were all down in St John's Wood at the cricket test matches.

The lettings agents say I am working with a pretty good budget for outer London, but still, I know that a few hundred more per month would get me more than I can choose from, even closer into town. As it is, I can find a very limited number of fairly decent properties at this distance. If money were no object...ah, but this is London.

So many people in their 30s live at home with their parents because they can't afford their own place, or even sometimes a houseshare. But I don't have that luxury anymore, and my mother is essentially homeless. We give up. We cannot live apart anymore. Independence is overrated, and all we have is each other - we have always been best friends. Even my cousins are disappointed in me for giving up my independence - well, they left home before 18, for many reasons. I, on the other hand, am different. And in the absence of a relationship and little prospect of one on the horizon (God knows I've tried), what else can I do? I am tired of the lonely struggle in the big city. We make each other laugh like no one else apart from my father does, and he is thousands of miles away and rarely calls. I can't have both of them that far away. Like I said, I am tired, and I know my mother is too. In my heart of hearts, I reproach him for putting us both in this very difficult position. Money was never, never, never an issue until our family split up.

Our relationship is such that we impart confidence to each other, and after all we have both been through since the divorce, we haven't lived together. I think we need to do that, so we can heal together too, at last.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday Wonders

On Sunday morning as I was waking up, I had the distinct impression that it was actually Tuesday, and that I should have finished an assignment that would be due on Wednesday. Probably because I had been sleeping facing my bookshelf with all the art books on it...

I haven't been a student for nearly 3 years now. It was a familiar feeling, but I don't know where it came from. It has just occurred to me that perhaps I anticipated an email I got on Monday for an interview on Wednesday afternoon, for something requiring a little knowledge...time for me to brush up on some terms, eh?


I have been looking at properties and it is a mighty tiring business. So many listings, so many areas, so many estate agents. So many fine lines between an area that feels good and one that doesn't...


So I was in another Porsche today, black this time. Surely a lettings agent doesn't make all his potential clients get into it to drive them from the office to the property - he nearly had to come over and get me out - and then dropped me back off at the station. It is good exercise. It's so low, he said extra low. It was like sitting on the floor grazing your bum on the road.

Also, I had to guard my facial expressions (I know, I am particularly expressive) because he read them and replied as if I had actually said something - and spent not enough time looking at the road. And then when we parted he squeezed my hand too hard. Oh yea, squeezed not shook. I think I will have a small bruise tomorrow where his thumb went.


Went to a coveted interview today at one of the auction houses. Ahem. I never know how well I do but I left feeling somewhat unhappy. They liked the fact that I am a bit of a perfectionist, with attention to detail, analytical, and in possession of a psychology degree, but...I didn't get to say as much as I would have liked because the director of a related department who sat in on the interview did most of the talking. The specialist who interviewed me seemed a bit shy, but studied my CV in detail whilst his older colleague waxed loquacious. They didn't even ask about my interest in the objects in question, so I got that in myself, though they did ask if I was interested in learning about them...But they also asked if I have a drivers license; as I have a US one I don't think they were too put off by it, but that could count against me despite my willingness to convert it.

Plus I was the first person they saw, is that a good or a bad thing?

I will let you know in two weeks or so what they decided...fingers and toes and eyes crossed!


OOH guess who I saw opposite the Houses of Parliament yesterday?

Laurence Llewlyn-Bowen, the style and fashion guru and interior designer (whom some of you may originally know from Changing Rooms) - and his wife Jackie. The reason I spotted them is because they were standng at the side of the road and she was tying a scarf over her hair.
He is known for his trademark visible cuffs - the pair seen in the pic above are subdued. When he was first on the scene they were very frilly, as were his neck ruffs. He was like Lord Byron leaping off a horse. But yesterday I don't think I saw any cuffs...


The other day I heard complaints that the global warming debate is just a British ploy to force the rest of the world to talk about the weather.


So yes. It's positively chilly here for May. Or maybe it's as it should be, and the past few springs have been so warm that this feels cold. Grey, drizzly, breezy. Fairly mild, but still not good enough though the sun when it does break through the clouds is surprisingly warm (ah there's the greenhouse effect). We are two and a half weeks away from June...

'Night all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Song of My Heart

Another tag from Selba:

This tag is a nostalgic one which really does bring back the old memories.

Here are the rules:
1. Go to
2. Pick the year you turned 18
3. Get yourself nostalgic over the songs of the year
4. Write something about how the song affected you
5. Pass it on to 5 more friends

I turned 18 in 1995.
Back then, I paid no attention to current music, preferring to flop on the couch on Friday after school and immerse myself in Beethoven.

However...a few years later, I heard the following song of 1995 (the only one I recognised from the list provided on the website), and thought it touchingly beautiful.

Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman - Bryan Adams

To really love a woman
To understand her - you gotta know her deep inside
Hear every thought - see every dream
And give her wings - when she wants to fly
Then when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms
You know you really love a woman

When you love a woman you tell her
that she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
that it's gonna last forever
So tell me have you ever really
- really really ever loved a woman?

To really love a woman
Let her hold you -
till you know how she needs to be touched
You've gotta breathe her - really taste her
Till you can feel her in your blood
And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
You know you really love a woman

When you love a woman
you tell her that she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
that you'll always be together
So tell me have you ever really -
really really ever loved a woman?

You got to give her some faith - hold her tight
A little tenderness - gotta treat her right
She will be there for you, taking good care of you
You really gotta love your woman...

Then when you find yourself lying helpless in her arms
You know you really love a woman
When you love a woman you tell her
that she's really wanted
When you love a woman you tell her that she's the one
Cuz she needs somebody to tell her
that it's gonna last together
So tell me have you ever really
- really really ever loved a woman?


Just tell me have you ever really,
really, really, ever loved a woman? You got to tell me
Just tell me have you ever really,
really, really, ever loved a woman?


That is really and truly a song for women, and it has a beautiful and seductive Spanish touch.
When I first heard it, the lines that really stood out for me were:

You've gotta breathe her - really taste her
Till you can feel her in your blood
And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
You know you really love a woman



I tag...
1) Anyone
2) Who
3) Has
4) The
5) Time

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Freaky Friday

Bloody hell. Have you ever posted a personals ad online? And depending on the site, got absolutely nothing except on the first day or two when you turn up at the top of the new members list, or a flood of everything the opposite of what you asked for? Including some pretty naff-looking guys, despite their well-written responses. Or one-liners like Joey's "How you doin'?". Or a reply in text-speak from someone who calls himself educated, u no wot i mn. Or barely legible English.

I don't think they actually read my ad...Probably zero in on one phrase, one word, or just the pic.

So what happens to all the smartly turned out cuties I pass in the street?


And have you noticed I'm not averse to discussing the obstacle course of dating now? Some people dedicate their entire blog to it. I'd never do that to you. It would not be cool.


Have you also noticed how in old spy thrillers, the baddies conveniently have no peripheral vision so the goodies can get away with doing stuff in it?

Saturday Update:

So, a day after the ad posting plus a second slightly different one, these are the results:

1) foreigners with barely a smattering of English probably playing a numbers game as they send out a few terrible lines with their phone number and a photo that looks like it was taken in 1983 - either that or some overly sentimental claptrap
2) a copy and paste of their own personals ad, rather than an email to ME
3) a photo with merely the line: if u like this mail me bak
4) old guys who look old
5) English guys with barely a smattering of English
6) more guys playing the numbers game who have sent the same cut and paste reply to both my ads, probably not even realising they replied to the first one
7) one who said it's a shame he was in another country but would think of me when playing with himself
8) hate mail for anything or everything I've said


Oh, and I never hear back from the ones I am really interested in. This is not new, it has been happening for years, and it happens whether I am on my best behaviour or just being myself.

I cannot tell you how fed up I am of the world and everyone in it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not neglecting you

Very odd. Someone in France Googled these two words: gilgamesh olivia. I doubt that those two words have been placed together before.

Do you ever wonder sometimes...?
Who is out there looking for what, and did they mean to find you? And if not, then what?


Oh, and the Queen's state visit to America. Interesting that the last time she visited, G H W Bush was president, and now she has chosen to visit his son. Not the next president next year or the year after, but this one.


At work I helped run an event on Tuesday at the Royal National Theatre hosted by an artist having a conversation with a government minister's secretary about art and climate change. Hope I don't get googled for this one. Then today it was an international project board, but my attention wandered throughout, even though I had to take notes. I found myself looking at the features and accents and matching them with the names on the list that I hadn't caught at the beginning. People from the offices oop north were very different from we southerners - and everyone in the room was British, and 90% were white.

So by today I am tired. It was interested to see that of all the sandwiches made to feed 55 people at the Theatre event, not one slice of white bread was to be found. All brown. The sandwiches at the meeting today were only white flour because they were soft Italian buns.

The rest of this week ought to be quiet, but fortunately we got the two events out of the way as the rest of this week will rain. It started when I was on my way back to the national office from the meeting today at the London office. It's a good space, but something annoyed me. Every entry and exit door could only be opened by pressing a big metal plate in the wall. Disability accessibility. This org is very PC and have taken it to the max in this building, which is in a very nice modernised warehouse, so you get brick arches set at random in walls. The office I am in, the same doors just open automatically.

There was a puzzling feature in the meeting room we used. Under a skylight, painted on the white wall in big colourful letters were the words:

search all over the building
dressed as

Then followed the names of 5 notables, one of whom was Salvador Dali. I have forgotten the rest, though only one was unfamiliar.
And below each name hung a costume on a hanger, looking much like what each might have been found wearing.
Dali's was a purple silk jacket over an embroidered floral waistcoat. I could very easily see him and his little moustachio in it. I am pretty sure another was Ernest Hemingway because I remember a woollen cable fisherman's jumper under an oiled canvas coat.


Oh, what I did on Saturday, the only decent day out of the whole 3-day weekend: Went to Woodland Wonders, the country fair at Kew Gardens.

Katja blogged about it here.

Maybe I will tell you about it tomorrow...but here is a teaser:

Monday, May 07, 2007


A Thought On Nicolas Sarkozy: How did a conservative, pro-American sympathiser win the presidency of France, a nation "bitter at American dominance"? Not only that, but he has a tough anti-immigration stance, and his victory caused little stir in the banlieus.

Although, I did note the irony of France reflecting the USA again*, in the first occurrence of a female and a minority running for president in both nations.

French revolution inspired by the American one.


Yes, pigs fly, Olivia has mentioned politics in her blog. Well...I don't usually like the vehemence of the discussions, that's all. I don't mind debate, but some people really take this stuff personally.


The busy past week:

At the start of the week I discovered that another, possibly more distinguished academic organisation wants to interview me for their same department that I am in at the arts org. International Strategy - and it's from a totally different agency as the one that put me here...what a coincidence. So, interview possibly middle to late this week, as the head of the department is away.

The week at work will start off stressfuly, as there are two events, which have remained muddled in my mind for the two weeks I've been there. Friday afternoon was tough because my boss left as she always does, at 4pm, leaving me to allocate money for an event from a budget even she couldn't find on the system, and the London office had no idea. So I just went through and (carefully) PICKED ONE that looked somewhat related to the department and the purpose and had enough funds available, and emailed all concerned, including one of the budget holders...who approved it a few minutes later, to my immense relief, as it was nearly 6pm on the eve of a long weekend.


Wednesday I met up with some bloggy friends and acquaintances at the bar under the Soho Curzon cinema. Or movie theatre, just to wind some people up...

Thursday, that was a night to remember. I went on a [should I admit it?] dinner dates event at Gilgamesh in Camden. Good Lord. You've been to a palace, and you've been to a restaurant. Well, this restaurant was more of a palace. Come to think of it, no detail was overlooked, but then that was the way at the turn of the 20th century in the "pleasure palaces". That thought has only just occurred to me. Take for instance the Egyptian-themed Cafe Royal on Piccadilly. The ceiling is of gilded papyrii..sorry - off topic.

Have you read the Epic of Gilgamesh? (Wiki summary here / Online text here.) You should, it is the oldest written legend.

Ian Pengelley's Gilgamesh (the venue) leaves no surface untouched. Every wall is made up of carved and sculpted friezes of curly-bearded Mesopotamian warriors and camels and palm trees. It was like being at the Assyrian section in the British Museum. The tables are inlaid with brass foliage. The chairs, that's another story. They are like small thrones, plush, velour, damask. The arms really are arms with hands that wrap around the front legs which come up to arm level and end at a knop. Were it not for the knop, the throne would fit under the table and we girls wouldn't have to sit on the edges of our immensely comfortable seats. The DJ music was chilled and never overpowering. The only thing that disagreed with me was the LED lighting on a continual slow cycle of pink, green and indigo, which hurt my eyes.

Not a morsel of middle eastern food appeared on our set menus. We had chopsticks from beginning to end as apparently the menu is Pan-Asian (my fave!), starting with salted edamame, shrimp tempura sushi, Thai green curry chicken, and finally fruits and dessert. Every dish was truly delicious. Edamame is pretty foolproof, so I'll skip that. The sushi was delicious, and they provided pleasantly light soy sauce, rather than the usual dark salty one. I think I will buy light soy in future. I usually avoid Thai green curries as I find them too heavy on the coconut milk and too light on the fragrance, but this one was just right, and spicy too. They used pea aubergine and egg aubergine. (Both shaped like their namesakes.) Even the jasmine rice was perfectly steamed, not too sticky, and fell apart with the right pressure. The dessert was cleverly done. Large sharing bowls of totally exotic fruits sliced into finger food sizes: dragonfruit, starfruit, kiwi, pineapple, melon, passion fruit. In addition, small boats of banana and peanut butter crumble. Yes, you read right. Banana and peanut butter, and it was delicious.

Now on to the dinner guests. We had assigned seating with placecards, alternating males and females. Across from me was a very cute and pleasant young lady, who I am sure received a lot of interest the next day. At the head of the table to my left was an intellectual and talkative young man in advertising. He knew a lot about the sorts of things I can talk about, so we got on well, except he talked too much about it all. You know, he could tell me all about the history of the Persians' beards and the whole Spartan mentorship of young boys, etc. Just wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise about it, so therefore didn't realise I knew almost as much. So, intelligent, but a bit too much so and as a result a fringe-nerd.

On the other side of me was a fellow with whom I had only one exchange after shaking hands, and that was when he ID'd my surname as being Greek. Other than that, he was a sap with a terrible lisp, and he talked mainly to the other side of the table. Across from me next to the other girl was the guy I had chatted with during the drinks reception, something to do with telecommunications and living in Kensington.

The guys make the swap before the dessert course. Name cards are flipped over, but unfortunately someone messed with ours whilst we girls were on loo break. I was disappointed that the guy who was assigned to my left had been moved opposite but one because I found that he emanated so much kindness - I don't believe in auras but am sure he had one. I don't think I have ever said that about anyone. He was Serbian, born and educated here, tall and fair, and really easygoing and just really nice.
I was stuck instead with a calm guy who made no impression on me whatsoever (unfortunately he was interested in getting my number the next day), and then on my right a fit and compact type-A high-powered banker who was a bit drunk (obviously buying beer apart from the half-bottle wine allotted to each guest) and kept hitting on me. He asked me three times in the space of 15 minutes: a) what's a beautiful girl like you doing at an event like this? I said I wanted to expand my social network; b) why haven't you got a boyfriend? I said I could not answer that; c) Why don't guys chat you up? He answered that one himself. He said guys don't chat up girls like me because they're cowards.

After a while he realised we were not on the same wavelength, what with him being drunk and all, and started apologising profusely for offending me or having any other unsettling effect on my sensibilities. Not his words, but that's what he meant in a roundabout way. The calm guy on my other side took him - hehe - very calmly - even did his cufflinks up for him on his giant cuffs that came below his cashmere jumper sleeves (get the idea?). Apparently many of the guys know each other from previous events, and go skiing together and the like.

The reason I said earlier that the dessert was cleverly done was because we had to share 3 small banana crumbles between 5 people. Somehow the Serb offered to split with me. I dished out a bit at first, and he did that comfy thing that nice people do where he winked and wrinkled his nose and nodded in that kind way, whilst indicating I should take more. So I did, and we joked about the shape of the little boat being suitable for sliding the dessert out like an oyster, to which he replied he had had oysters the day before. Oh la.

When first introduced, the drunken banker had started off on the wrong tack with the Serb, with a reference to the old Yugoslav conflict, and the poor guy had to rebuff with nearly the exact thing I would have said, that basically that is so passe and that the new baddies are [from another part of the world]. I agreed and said that bringing that up was such a 90s thing anyway.

So, the 4 hours passed quickly, and I made my getaway at midnight, after everyone had moved to the bar and drunken banker had come over to me again and said we were being "continually thrust together". Sheesh.

Would you believe that to sit at the bar tables there is a minimum spend of £250? And all the tables were full. AND this is not Mayfair or Chelsea, it is Camden.

When I got outside there was a young homeless fellow ending a passing comment with two men who had left the restaurant about sinking and rising and heaven and hell...then attempting to bring me into it, he said how can you sink lower if you're already in hell/rise if you're not in heaven (I forget which). Walking slightly ahead of me as I went at a purposeful pace, he asked if anyone was bothering me (yes, him); I said no. He said, Would you like me to walk with you? I said no thanks. He said, If anyone tries to bother you just holler and I'll come. As he departed he said, "Homeless people can be nice you know." I would have liked to say that I didn't doubt him, but that I didn't need protection from anyone - as he was the only person on the street directing attention towards me - and that I had just spent the last 4 hours talking non-stop and didn't need another person to deal with...

Anyway, I have booked the next event at Taratai (where I nearly booked my birthday!).


TWTWTW = that was the week that was. Did you guess?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ding Dong

On the way from work - Big Ben chimes, just for you London lovers out there:

And then I went to the bar at the Curzon Soho cinema where I met up with a few bloggy peeps I know.


Speaking of which, Pandy and I met up for dinner in London - with Reading nowhere in sight. We ate lots of yummy dim sum and sushi at Ikkyusan (recommended) - in fact, Pandy had her first sushi, helped by the fact that salmon is not as fishy as some others.