Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Keys to the Kingdom

But before I start, do you remember my Food Tag? I have been quoted on the restaurant's website!

Cumin Indian Restaurant


And now on to yesterday's excitement. After work I went to see American Boy; I was already dressed for the evening out, but he had to get all prettied up. You know how Americans like to go smart casual in khaki pants, navy blue blazer, nice tie (yellow), loafers. OK first off, he's 27, but when we met him G and I thought he was in his early 30s because on his best behaviour he acts that way. When smart, he's a Ralph Lauren/Brooks Bros/Jermyn Street kinda guy, but proper dress down is the college uniform of frayed jeans, t-shirt or polo shirt and baseball cap with matching boyish humour. Like two totally different people looking about 10 years apart and two vastly different personalities.

By the way, a lady at House of Fraser yesterday thought I was 18 or 19. And you all know I am not. I can have this conversation with people every day, for some reason.

[Now it is YOUR turn to tell me about your dual personalities...I dare you!]

You may have noticed that the day was gloomy but it did not rain - well, the moment we stood on the kerb/curb to hail a taxi, the rain came down in sheets, and an empty taxi did not appear for at least 10 minutes. We had a big umbrella but were still damp and crinkled when we finally got into one. And then the driver would NOT shut up, he went on and on about things I need not afflict you with. R played along with a few comments which only fuelled the fire, and then after we got out he said, "Good lord, that driver would not shut the **** up."

It had taken ages to get to the Tower via the traffic diversions, and then we only had about 45 minutes to eat. We chose an old establishment that claimed to serve steaks but did not, and to top it all off it was the sort of bland English food that I thought no longer existed. Cold ham with piccalilli, grilled sea bass with nooo seasoning was quiet, wood-panelled, dreary and with the rain, quite depressing, and the other people in there were American which actually ticked off R quite a bit, as we were forced to overhear the girl at the other table tell silly stories about giant cockroaches from Texas. Not that there aren't any, but we did not appreciate hearing about them whilst eating, ugh...And then there was the older lady who came in and nasally announced that she just haad to orderrr fish and chips.

As quick as we could we hot-footed it to the Tower. How can I stop R from carrying the umbrella even when we are not using it? He wields it rather too well and I have to be quick or he'll hook me with it. We got to the gate where W (from last Friday's double date, remember) and the Yeoman warder were waiting to let us in, and then we met W's relatives on holiday here from Virginia. W's wife O had dropped out, being too tired from all the walking around they did in the day. As soon as we got in the Yeoman put all his arms around me and teased me, and R said he could have me, and I made as though to punch R, and the Yeoman predicted a little domestic at the Tower tonight.

We went to the Yeoman's club on the grounds, where I guess the Tower's residents meet to socialise. It is full of memorabilia and plaques from all the official visitors such as police departments and clubs and the like worldwide. We joined about 15 other people on the same special tour. We had a sit down and some drinks while we waited for the Yeoman of the Guards to take us out. We remained a little apart from the hoi polloi, the general public there for the same spectacle, and our group of 7 received a special welcome for some reason.

It was hard to see, but W's aunt placed me and her daughter near the front. R stood on the short wall over the water at Traitor's Gate and was motioning me over to join him, but I am not sure I wanted to stand there, though later he said he would have prevented me from falling in. Yeah right.

I am faffing about because I can't quite tell you what happened. Let's see. It was getting dark; the rain had ceased. A cadre of Royal Marines came marching in to challenge the Chief Yeoman Warder bearing the keys. Once they had shoutily established in a longish back and forth that he was indeed a friend not a foe and that they were the keys of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the marines escorted him to the outer gate which he locked, then the inner gate, also locked, then we followed them all to the steps where they did a bit of marching about, a bugle call sort of like taps, and then they marched off. And we returned to the club for a last drink and chat.

W's relatives were tired as it was now nearly 10.30 pm, but the Yeoman once again took to attacking me, this time in an attempt at strangulation. R took a photo though we were on better behaviour then. Whilst I was talking to W's cousin, I overheard my name and asked what was going on, and R said "Nothing, just stand there and look pretty" but in the meantime I was being reserved for another double outing this weekend, and a few minutes later I overheard W ask, "Is she going?" and R looked over at me and said, "Yes, she is." I said, "To what?" Apparently, a July 4th do at a place that will be a story in itself so you will just have to come back and find out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wild Child

Thursday, though he didn't get off work as early as he'd hoped, American Boy did still take me to dinner in Chinatown. He did not like sending me home past midnight in the bus, and always pays the taxi fare.

So there I was yesterday thinking we'd meet at around 7 for dinner on Friday. However, mid afternoon he called to ask if I'd be ok getting off work at 5 or 5.30. I was fine with that. At 4.30 I got a text saying to meet him now! So, at 4.35, I walked out of the office - that was clever, giving me a double fare yesterday in anticipation of today. He was already at the restaurant - Tuttons, where we had been last week at the opera. When I asked how he had managed to get out of the office so early, he said he'd "just up and left". We sat at the bar with drinks and olives until our 5.30 table reservation came up with a nice view over the square. He doesn't really like olives and fed them to me, so when I said he should have mentioned that when the barman gave me a choice of munchies, he said it was alright because if I'm happy he's happy. How cute is that?

When we got our table, he ordered wine and a plat de charcuterie; I guess his German side rules there. W & his wife O were nearly an hour late, so I was already nicely mellow by then. R said they were lovely, and they were; very sweet, slightly shy, with an air of innocence (though R says W has a raunchy sense of humour - well, don't all military boys when they are together?); a nice couple. I had ricotta and sweet potato tortellini, R had rare tuna steak, O had grilled sea bass, and W had pork loin. They enjoyed the food and O filled out a comments card. When it came to dessert, only we girls ordered, which is the wrong way round, isn't it? I had a brownie with ice cream and she had a sticky toffee pudding and licked the plate clean, whereas I, having had a head start on the eating with the charcuterie plate, halted halfway through and remained full for hours afterwards.

Covent Garden was unusually dead for a Friday night, and that was definitely not because a few thousand people had gone off to Glastonbury...and surely not because there was a bit of rain. Where were the tourists? We were at a loss as to what to do - W was sure he would fall asleep if he sat down at a show or the cinema, so we stopped in a very pretty pub with high ceilings and amazing plaster friezes along the ceilings. O and I sat on a very high, slippery banquette and the only thing keeping us on it was the fact that we were leaning on the table. At first when we sat, a group of 3 guys oohed and aahed at us until W and R came back with their beers.

As we walked up the road with the boys holding the umbrellas, I backchatted R, and we got into a scuffle in which he lifted me up and I whacked him with my jacket. O and W, walking behind, threatened to report domestic violence. :)

Then we parted ways and R took me to a casino, the wicked boy. A nice one with no tourists, and a jazz singer. It was the first time I've ever used my Texas drivers license as ID in this country. What would I have used otherwise???

Anyway, we ordered G&Ts and found a blackjack table for about an hour and won a bit. When W called to say that Glastonbury was live on TV, R actually made me answer the phone which discombobulated both W and me for a couple of seconds! I rarely answer other people's phones. I was somewhat out of it for about an hour or so also, because I really had eaten too much and was unpleasantly stuffed and slightly queasy.

After blackjack we moved to poker. I have played blackjack before in the past at a spring formal but with no money: we were given an allotted number of free chips and I won an imaginary $40,000. By the time we got to the poker table, I was coming back to myself, but have never been able to grasp the concept of poker. So R tried to teach me with utmost patience because although I began to get it after a while, sort of, I think I am a hopeless case. He was impressed that I kept us going for a couple of hours though. It's nice winning on someone else's money. He cashed in the chips and gave me a cut, and forced me to admit that I found it "vaguely interesting" because he noticed the point at which I got this look of concentration on my face...

Good lord have mercy, the boy is just a bundle of mischief and really keeps me on my rusty old toes. And he wants to know why he gets so many dark looks shot his way?!

So anyway, I have won £50. What should I do with it???

P.S. I have a headache.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Idle chatter

One week left at this job. I did a handover briefing yesterday. Now working on archiving stuff. Nevertheless I was so bored today, I felt queasy. Has that ever happened to you?

Oh, and bad news. I didn't get the coin department job. Ugh.

I have said "ugh" a lot today. This job is turning me into a neo-troglodyte.

The weekend will be great, though. I am going off to see the old gang in Reading. We haven't seen each other in months, since Diva was very (and is still quite) ill with her pregnancy and the M.E. But she will put a brave face on and do the BBQ she has been looking forward to for so many weeks.

American Boy worked very late a couple of days this week and to make up for it wanted to get us both out of the office as early as 3pm today so we could paint the town red; is currently trying, but has not succeeded so far. The demands of serving one's country...

Though tomorrow, there is a double date with his friend and wife, planned since last week.

Oh look, something popped into my Inbox...some more artists applications. That will kill some time. Must be off.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Two Works

Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, 1994 - on a hill overlooking Gateshead, Tyneside, UK

Arturo Ballester, Loor a los heroes, Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo poster response to the 1936 Spanish Revolution.

What do you think? Discuss.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Donnnn Giovaaaaaaannniiiiii

By the way, 12 June was the day we emigrated to the US 18 years ago. It's funny that my parents never remember. I always have to remind them.


So OK, I have not been blogging. No time!

On Wednesday, Capt America picked me up at work early and we reached Covent Garden in time to snag seats on a restaurant terrace with good views of the big screen. The Royal Opera House was putting on a live screening of its production of Mozart's Don Giovanni (it is CA's fave opera, and one of my preferred because I love Mozart).

Tell you what, don't ever eat smoked salmon with just lemon and black pepper again. He made a champion choice ordering a starter: to the above, add finely chopped red onion, capers, and rocket (arugula) leaves. Very yum.

A bottle of fruity chablis followed by two floral-berry rose wines kept us from being kicked out on the two hour time limit. We stayed for 5 hours and ate steak and duck breast, a brownie with ice cream, and hot chocolate.

How was the performance? I liked watching it outdoors, as I could hum along whereas in the stuffy confines of the opera house, silence is the order for the audience! The bit where Don Giovanni is consigned to hell is still my favourite part. I love the minor key, I really do.

During the last hour it started to rain and I had the umbrella gallantly held above my head. By the end though, the weather was right back to normal and as we are really good walkers, we marched from Covent Garden to Marble Arch. It is too easy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Des Mots

Hier, c'est l'histoire
Demain, c'est le mystere
Aujourd'hui, c'est un cadeau

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
Today is a gift

(I need to practise my Frensh.)

I couldn't think of anything else to blog about! I am going to have to write an educational one soon. I had a compare/contrast blog planned for months but looked for the second image tonight and can't find it. Must be on my old laptop.

Oh, the other day on the way to work I saw a woman in a delivery van and just before she pulled away, I watched her perch a young magpie on her shoulder. Imagine, a hand-reared magpie.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tightened Policy

Now on a need to know basis... :P

So. On Friday evening we went for a drink, got lost, had another drink, got lost again, had dinner, and another drink, and walked across half of London (I love how interconnected this city is) on the way home. Drink is such a silly word when you say it too often. But I have learned that a G&T is best if made with Bombay Sapphire and 3 pieces of lime, and that the London bar staff need special instructions on this...

Saturday it was a trip to Richmond for fish n chips. We walked a couple of miles along the river, chilled in the park, went to a biergarten and had a nice meat and cheese platter, travelled back into town, got lost, and then saw Ocean's 13 which was very retro-modern, sophisticated, and surprisingly funny in parts.

1) Getting lost can be fun if it's with someone you like.
2) Taxis are helpful for becoming rapidly unlost, though.
3) Especially if you've both left your maps at home.
4) Being picked up and dropped off at my door is the way it should be done. It is a particularly American habit that would never catch on here for reasons I don't need to specify.

Sunday...take a guess? He came by for lunch and ice cream at a French cafe in my neighbourhood before reluctantly going to a work function nearby, and then texting from there to say it was boring and that he'd MUCH rather be spending time with me. That was such a lovely thing to say.

Much packing I got done this weekend! And my Americanisms are coming back. I ought to try some of 'em out on y'all sometime. ;)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Small updates

Just thought I'd slap together a blog before I leave the office, as when I go home I will be shredding shredding shredding, and filling black bin bags with rubbish/clothes to give away, and filling suitcases with things. I aim to have all things tucked away by the 13th because that is when a prospective new "guest" will come to look at my room and I want it looking its best so that she will want to move in and not run away waving her arms in the air :)


And to think, when I started this post I had no idea what to write.


Ooh, if you haven't been following the saga from the previous post, I will be texting somebody my number tonight. I have never chased anyone's number before, so...I don't know where that burst of proactivity came from.
Fingers crossed, ok?


I enjoyed a wonderful Japanese lunch again, of wakame salad, takoyaki, and shrimp tempura maki sushi. They were happy to see me again. Next time I will try a different combination. Keep up, people, I have blogged about this place before...


After lunch, I stopped in the discount bookshop and bought 4 heavy books. PLEASE make me stop buying books. Since working in this area I must have bought at least mother will kill me if we haven't enough space. You see, we might ask Dad to ship out the other half of my library...oh the horror, the horror...


Tomorrow I am going to a big dinner event at Taratai, one of those Pan Asian restaurants that was opened amidst fanfare with big names in attendance. Apparently their motif is the lotus and the menu is taken from destinations along the old Silk Trail. How romantic. I suppose I will be blogging about that next.

Monday, June 04, 2007

American Escapade

I have met so many people over the past month that the conversations are getting muddled in my head - who lived/travelled/worked where, favourite towns/foods/music, studies, stories, siblings...whew!

So anyway, Friday night housemate G and I went to the Embassy party at the Marines House and I had a wonderful time (although she is English she worked there last year). I had not been there since we applied for emigration. Somebody paid our entrance cover, which gets you a Marines stamp on your hand for the bar. I had forgotten how interesting international Americans are. I felt like...I was..."back home" BUT also that I was at all the college parties I had never been to (our university was Catholic and had no Greek system). The only difference here being that everyone was well-behaved and no one was noticeably drunk despite the drinks being free, and it was all over by 1am. No one even paid attention to the "last call"!

The bartenders were Marines and looked like grown up frat boys, but they were considerate in that they did not put too much alcohol into my drinks, they said so :) Hehe, Malibu and coke...which brings me to my next point - the loos, as I had to go quite often :)
You may laugh, but I couldn't help but notice that, after a while the M and F toilets were soon in use by both sexes, but what amazed me was that everyone without fail closed the toilet lid before leaving. I began to wonder if that had become part of basic training or something.

G and her ex-colleague J introduced me to a guy called R, highly attractive in a preppy ex-Army sort of way. (I've never met an American who served in Iraq before.) Also, I did not know I could have anything in common with a boy from Tennessee but I found that I do! Catholic uni education, Italy, art, psychology, intelligent conversation. I have to take notice of someone who compliments me for using the word "dichotomy". It's funny how when you're at a buzzing party, what people say just falls out of your head later on. He hadn't explored "downtown London" yet and mentioned that he wanted to go to the Tate Modern. Said something about the Marine formal ball, and embassy cars being fun! Argh!

All I know is, I wish I had given him my number when I thought of it. I keep learning, when you think of something, never hesitate or you will miss out. (G wouldn't stop asking me if I liked R, and observing how straight down the line he seems. Yes.)

I had also forgotten that well-educated southern boys were brought up to be such gentlemen. I would not know most of this because in Texas I was only ever friends with them. But a day after I told G, "He was like the grown up version of all the boys I knew at university" I slapped myself because I realised that they were all very lovely boys! Some of you may remember how excited I was about the Aussies. Well, now I am all excited about Americans. Ha, as if I didn't spend enough time over there. So to be finally treated like a woman worthy of notice by one....I was absolutely impressed.

After the party, the four of us went back to J's flat - gosh, the embassy puts its people into some lush properties - in our neighbourhood there are lots of Americans because of the American school, so you can imagine how nice it is. This place was impeccably decorated, with original artworks and sculptures. Couldn't see too much as it was dark and I only found the bathroom light switch after I left, hehe! But even in the bathroom there was a ship in a bottle on the window sill. All so picturesque.

We collapsed on the comfy sofas and fell asleep watching Seinfeld on DVD (I hadn't remembered it was SO funny, I thought I was going to turn inside out). R was out like a light as he'd been up since 5am the day before. G and I snuck out at 2am and walked the few minutes back to our house. :))

Next day my mother (yes I tell her all the gossip) in short, said, "Why didn't you do all that when you were at university?!?!?"

Friday, June 01, 2007

Silly exchange

This sort of exchange irritates and frustrates me. The essence of it trickles down into every facet of the organisation. Despite the early rant, I am in a good mood today :))

(Boss - 5pm Wednesday)
Hi there, just checking if IT responded to the email you sent? I know A**** is away until next week and really don't want to leave it switched on until then! So if you could make sure someone has a look at it that would be great...

(Me - a few minutes later)
I asked, they logged it, I asked again, and then they called, but they haven't been up yet...
I will ask again tomorrow though.

(Boss - 8.38pm Wednesday night)
Thanks, if you could pursue that would be helpful

(Boss - 8.39pm Wednesday night)
sorry, just thought that it would probably be worth having a look at it in the morning before getting in touch with them again in case its turned itself off! (though they might still need to check it anyway I guess).

[Turns out it was a general network problem and everyone else had the same issue.]

Now why is it a gay guy can shower me with compliments an hour after meeting me the way no straight man ever has? (I was at a going-home party for a gay Aussie friend of mine.) If he were straight I would think he wanted to marry me right there. Should have seen his face when I said I was single. Scandalised, it was. Said the men were blind. :) He is Spanish. He said, "Go to Spain, they will loooove you there."

We texted today, he said he would love to get to know me better - keeps saying I have a lovely soul (so does he) - so we may meet up again soon for a drink or a meal.


My lunch today was wonderful. Have you ever eaten food that made you feel like you had been blessed? There is a tiny Japanese sushi bar nearby on a modest market street full of cafes and sandwich bars and the like. You would totally miss it if you didn't spot the menu just inside the doorway because the restaurant itself is downstairs. The staff are adorable in their Japanese way, always smiling and sweet.

The last time I was there, I had been feeling down but after my miso soup, mixed sushi (maki and nigiri) platter, and a delicate hot sweet mochi (daifuku), my tum was happyyyyyy. And so was I.

Today I was already pretty chipper, owing to my growing collection of good experiences, which is why after I ate there I felt not merely happy but blessed.
I ate the yummiest wakame salad ever, a plate of warm octopus doughballs (takoyaki), and a plate of tasty softshell crab maki (rolled) sushi. The flavours are all so distinct, the ingredients so fresh and perfect. I am never going to a chain sushi restaurant again!

The wakame salad, with seaweed, cucumber and beansprouts was in the most sublime dressing, just the right sweet and tart because the vinegar was balanced by sprinkled sesame and sesame puree (yum!) which lent a fine toasty-nutty flavour to the mix. I wanted to drink it afterwards.

The takoyaki, well, you have to like octopus because it is a warm ball of fried seasoned loose dough and there is a piece of octopus in the centre. The next to last ball contained a nice row of tentacles. These balls are sprinkled with takoyaki sauce and shredded bonito (smoky flying fish flakes). Very comfy food that and I am amazed I managed all 6.

Finally, my 4 softshell crab maki sushi were most delicious, with the texture and flavour making a harmonious blend. I love the way the fish roe rolled on the outside pops in the mouth.

I was too full for mochi :(


And tonight, I am off to a BBQ at the US Embassy, yep yep!