Saturday, July 26, 2008

The way to celebrate

I think it’s blatantly unfair to wait for 364 days (365 in this leap year) and then get just one day to celebrate the day of ones birth. With this in mind I declared birthday plus week. It began on my 33rd birthday on Tuesday, 15th of July 2008 and ended on Tuesday night the following week, 22nd of July 2008. I know it’s a day over a week but remember this is birthday PLUS week, not birthday week - which would have been a whole day shorter).

The day was simply marvelous. The short and long of it:
1. We fell asleep well before midnight. And anyway my mum had declared my birthday begun at midnight in India, 7.30pm in the UK.
2. Woke up to a madly beeping mobile at 5.10.
3. Tried going back to sleep. Couldn’t manage it.
4. Waited till 5.30 and managed to wake a groggy V up instead.
5. A singing boy by my side is what this girl needed. And got.
6. He went back to sleep. I went to the gym.
7. Felt like a martyr throughout my workout. Convinced myself that I deserved to eat ice cream all day. Straight from the tub.
8. Reached work at 8 to find two gifts and one gifting colleague singing at the top of her lungs.
9. Spent all morning juggling calls, answering texts and emails, facebook-ing it and trying valiantly to work.
10. Home baked cake (not from my home; again one of my lovely colleagues), tea, repetition of the birthday song and a hilarious card at 11am.
11. Went for a quick lunch to Pizza Express and treated myself to a yum pepperoni and jalapeno pizza. No dessert though.
12. Came back into meetings punctured by yet more calls and texts. Ignored colleagues with new superpowers gained as result of being ‘Birthday woman’ – she who blanks out all irritation/ irritants.
13. Changed out of my stodgy office garb and dressed to the nines in a fab new bright orange and pink top (totally not me usually), cut off black trouser, fashionable jacket, make-up, pointy heels and delicate pearls. Teetered out of work with the broadest smile.
14. An early evening glass of forbidden cold coffee and a quarter of a divine chocolate slice at Apostrophe with a friend.
15. Then gabbed with her all the way into town on the bus, bathed in the sunshine and the glow of being 33.
16. Met V at Tottenham Court Road for a divine meal at the heavily booked Hakkasan. Believe me when I say Hakkasan needs a post all its own.
17. And then the joys of a black cab ride all the way home, no tube and walk to stagger through, rolling on the weight of our stuffed stomachs, on my high heels.
18. Then the tiniest pot of chocolate mousse with a tea light perched atop it, and yet another rendition of happy birthday. Just half the pot of mousse though!
19. In the fading light of the day we took some random pictures to mark the day. Self-portraits if you will. I think we both look happy and our joy at life and each other shine clearly through. I hope they sustain me through the year. And that many years later I can look at them and remember how happy we felt.
20. I went to sleep tired but deliriously full of food and utterly happy. It was such a busy yet full birthday. I think I like things this way.

The week continued on and the celebrations never stopped. With everything I did all week I told myself it was part and parcel of my birthday celebrations.
21. Big fat meal with a friend at Tayyabs on Wednesday.
22. Repenting in the gym on Thursday.
23. Taking stock of all my birthday presents on Friday.
24. Watching the hilarious Henning Wehn at a comedy evening with friends at the Betsey Trotter on Saturday
25. Helping my friend organize and pack on her last Sunday in London
26. Cooking a big old meal for V and I to enjoy on Monday.
27. Spending a relaxed laughing evening with two girls, eating Chinese food and discussing all matters including death and ambition.

So it has indeed been birthday + week. The weather has mostly co-operated. There are things to note about this week though, things that should remain the same or change for next year:

28. I had no ice cream. Although I ate to my hearts content there was just no opportunity. Not even for a single bite. Next year I will be having an entire tub.
29. Taking self portraits on ones birthday is an excellent idea. I will do it again.
30. Some people take the day off on their birthdays. I have never given in to the idea. In spite of having to detour a lot during the day I managed to get everything on my plan done. Also everyone at work got to help me celebrate my birthday with me. And my day went by in a flash of sunny-ness.
31. Choosing a place to dine well researched well in advance meant that V had it booked ahead and that both of us lived in anticipation and hope for all that time. It was well worth it. It’s important that I remember this but also the flipside that it could all go horribly wrong.
32. I got just the best gifts. No bookshelf like last year though. Next week I shall put up the whole list. Accompanied by pictures – taken by me, not stolen off the web. I promise.
33. The sun shone all day. My bones felt nice and warm. I hope it is as benevolent every year.

All 33 points (curiously in tandem with my age!) point to the fact that one day to celebrate is just too short. I’m glad I decided to think of it and do it differently. I hereby declare that everyone should have birthday + week. Think about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I happen to like my birthday. No matter that it mainly brings full circle the fact and knowledge that I am an entire year older than the previous one. I like the idea of having a day to celebrate my age. To celebrate all the days gone by in the previous year. To take stock of where life sits at this minute in time. And of course a chance to be pampered silly by V, friends and family.

Turning 33 was way scarier than turning 32. At the 32 mark all I could think was ‘Ooh, early 30’s. It’s the new 20’s. I love my life. Yay!’. It was when the conversations in my head walked past the half year mark that I started to panic a little. 33 sounded like a wayward island – past the early 30s, not quite mid 30’s yet, an inbteween floating bit of land on which to stand stranded till arescue boat came by for those mid-thirties. 33 just did not bring the same feelings up as turning 32 at all. In the run up to July the fifteenth I had a month of angst. And this was beside the contemplation of how the year had gone by. These are two completely separate things. Reflection I can do. Its angst about turning 33 I cannot. I’m too old (haha!). And I’m too young to have a mid-life crisis just yet.

After much thought I came to the conclusion that for me 33 is a bit of a no woman’s land, a straddling between being legitimately early 30’s and mid-30’s. I think it’s the unique year in which there is the chance to evaluate how the start of the 30’s has gone and whether there are some changes I should be making or plans I should still stick to for when I go into the mid-levels at 34. 33 sounds busy.
It’s abundantly clear in my mind that when asked my age I can no longer say early thirties. Or even mid-thirties. I think this year if I am asked my age I’ll have to just face up to it and declare I’m 33. I think declaring my precise age out loud is the stone amidst the basket of rice.

Reflections of 32 were mixed. It’s been a year of halves if ever there was one. I’m not going to rehash what I wrote at the turn of the year. But I can declare that the second half of 32 outweighed the first by more than a few miles. At base I have a strong awareness that I have a good solid life, filled with so many blessings that I wake up most days thinking how lucky I am and praying it will last forever. Of course there are days when things look slightly less shiny, things one continues to want, unreasonable demands from the universe etc., but fewer and further between. I think the greatest gift the second half of being 32 brought me was the realisation that I had the ability, willpower and head space to reach a zen place and stop trying to change things which I had no real ability to control or address. And this in itself has taken all the less shiny things and made them inconsequential.

As for turning 33, I think, all said and done, the ambiguity of being in no-womans-land-33 will soon dissipate. I predict sunshine at 33.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Technology-warped birthdays

15th birthday:

Awesome cake: 1. Baked by my mother – the chocolatiest chocolate devils food cake. I not only got to lick the bowl and spoon clean, I also ate about half that cake. Nik ate the other half. The guests and parents merely gaped.

Phone calls: 6. Mainly family making expensive long distance calls. That is how much they love me.

Texts: 0. No mobile phone.

E-mails: 0. Little awareness of computers let alone what e-mail was.

Facebook massages: 0. Facebook? What Facebook? My face was always in a book. Just not of the electronic kind.

E-cards: 0. See 2 points above.

Real world cards: 102 (I beseeched every person I knew to give me a card instead of a gift. I was trying to beat some random record I had seen on a TV show. My mum gave me 15 and got Dad and Nik to sign some of them but also give me a card each on their own. My friends agreed and rejoiced at having got out of having to buy me a gift. Many got me multiple cards – Archies gallery did some great business in the week before my birthday. Everyone thought I was weird. I beat that TV record that no one else had seen or ever heard of. I was such a foolish foolish child)

33rd birthday:

Awesome cake: 1. Chocolate and vanilla marble, of which I ate only 1 very slice. Self- control is my hyphenated middle name in my 30’s. Then V bought me a tiny pot of divine chocolate mousse and put a tea light on the cover and sang to me. I've changed my middle name to uncontrolled.

Phone calls: 24. I would say half and half friends and family. From 7.30 the previous evening when my mother declared that I was born in India and therefore midnight in India was when my birthday starts, till 36 hours later when friends were still calling to ask how much we were partying. And not to be missed in between was a wonderful rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ by two delightful friends, bang slap in the middle of a Very Important Meeting I was meant to be paying attention at. And meant to have turned my phone off at. I don’t care. I’m 33. My superpowers include smiling sweetly at team after said call and them forgetting all about the interruption because, well, I’m 33.

Texts: 12. From 5am till nearly midnight, the beeps would not stop till I looked at the phone. I am not a fan of Sony Ericson.

Blog wishes: 25. What can I say, you guys are the awesome-est!!!!!!!!

E-mails: 7. Because everyone is now on evil evil Facebook (note: including me) and can no longer even be bothered with e-mail.

Facebook wall and messages: 30. Of which friends who would have remembered without Facebook calender to remind them: 4

E-cards: 1

Real world cards: 0

See what the internet, without any offices in Delhi, did?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

33 steps between there and here

I'm 33 today. I decided to follow my intuition and birthday gift myself the balance of the vote in favour of what I would like to do. So here are all 33 bits about me me and me.

1. If I needed only one word to describe myself while growing up I would definitely not use the word lucky. I have crap luck, especially of the lottery winning kind, so clearly that person is not me. I have never ever won anything. Not drawing competitions, not tambola, not even scrabble. Now I don’t waste my time or money trying.

2. I believe that in our family luck can only belong to one person. In our family it belongs to my brother. Passed on genetically from my mum who is also fantastically lucky but less so than the Nik. He is going to hit some sort of jackpot and then I’ll have to wrangle half of him. Strangely, this makes me happy and not even an iota envious. I think my word my might be lazy.

3. I never ever cried in front of anyone all through my teens. I reserved any tears (very very rare) for the bathroom. But it was in my teens that I came to accept that I was much more sensitive than I came across.

4. I cry more often and more openly now. Mainly it’s a reaction to a sentimental movie (like Dumbo, which has made me cry many a time since I was 8 years old) or homesickness on festivals. I would say I average about twice a year.

5. As a teenager I used to get bugged by small yet seemingly significant things. Then I made up a process to deal with everything. First I learnt to quickly disguise it. Then I’d forget about it. And then suddenly it didn’t matter anymore. Water off a ducks back is my universal rule.

6. As time went on I got better, quicker, sharper at it. To the point where if it did not concern V or my family members with some level of gravity, I could go through the process in about 25 seconds. This method has so far stood me in good stead.

7. I don’t make friends easily. I would say that 90% of people I know are acquaintances. But once you are a friend you will never ever doubt my loyalty. I have learnt to sieve the important from the unimportant. Very very quickly.

8. I think my own best character trait is loyalty. I strive for it to be kindness.

9. It therefore takes a lot to rile me. But if you rile me once too often you’ll find yourself being cut out from my existence in every way. There is no forgiveness. And there is no forgetting.

10. When I was a kid I wanted to be a different thing every week. Burning choices were librarian, art historian and archeologist. I’m not sure where all these choices went.

11. But for one entire teen summer month I was a librarian, seeing off mine and my co-conspirators books to various neighbourhood homes with love and hoping they’d come back in good condition. I think we made Rs.120 in total, between 4 of us. And most of the books did come back safe and sound. But it left me with a fear of ever lending books. So don't ask.

12. I hold a degree that people look at suspiciously. Like, “Loser, you didn’t get into anything else did you?”. Actually I did get into one very prestigious college. I chose not to go for two reasons, one of which (I am ashamed to say) was the tidings of an astrologer I call Elsie brown cow. The other is too foolish to ever mention.

13. It is not something I regret though. I don’t care what people think of my degree because it was such fun to get and I made some amazing enduring friendships there. It also means that I am a fairly good cook. Both V and I have waistlines to prove this.

14. My favorite color has always been purple. Any shade of it - from the palest lavender to the brightest neon purple.

15. As a child I implored my mother to wear this one particular chiffon sari a lot – bright purple and pink with silver work – for weddings, dinner parties etc. She only caved in to the request some of the times. It was a gift from my grandfather for Diwali one year (if memory serves me right) and my mother looked gorgeous in it. I, on the other hand, owned a pair of lavender coloured jeans that I wore till they could be worn no more. Did not look nearly as gorgeous but I was like an addict.

16. I have always lived in awe of my mother. She is not only one of the most beautiful woman I know (beaten in that only by my utterly gorgeous and graceful nani) but most certainly the most vivacious and positive person. She can meet anyone and be their friend in no time - from the dhobi to my colleagues, from the subji walla to my school friends, from the driver to random neighbours. It’s a gift.

17. She can take anything and make it better. She always tried to inculcate the optimistic viewpoint of the world. If you do good, you will get good, believe in the goodness of people etc. As a teen I was not having any of it and was a fairly surly pessimist just to test her every nerve. She has the patience of a saint, of this there is no doubt.

18. I think I aim everyday to be a little more like my mother - a bit more positive and lot more hopeful. Somewhere along the line my viewpoint changed. I think it was in my mid-twenties. But I can’t be sure. I now think I am a realist/ pragmatist. My glass has gone from half empty to half full between my teens and this adult me. I like the adult me a lot more.

19. In primary school, I wore glasses with a very low power. But I was so vain that for a Sanskrit recitation exam at age 6 I refused to wear them. I remember memorising that passage and the shlokas like my life depended on it.

20. I went for squint correction exercises to Dr. Wadhwa 3 days a week after school. With my mum, in an auto, dragging along a tiny Nik. I remember the journeys and the exercises so clearly that I could be 7 again, not 33.

21. I’m meant to wear some very low power specs even now to read, watch TV and work on the computer. I never do. In fact I think I threw away my only pair for no reason other than vanity. This is strange because I don’t think I am a vain person. I think with specs I have just always had some mental block. I plan to rectify this while I am 33.

22. As squabbling siblings in an 80’s childhood, with a 7 year gap between us, the Nik and I fought like the average Indian household. All trivial. A lot of petty “you touched my side of the desk” type nonsense. From what I remember my dad took my side and my mother took the Niks - almost always. I saw this as unfair then. I now see the logic. My parents were always on the same side and since someone had to take each of our sides to understand/reason/cajole I guess this was the way to even out the adult influence between us. Divide and rule.

23. In the end we turned out A-ok. Adoring siblings. He calls me fatty and I call him mote. It works. My parents are proud I think.

24. I like to think I genetically inherited my father’s wanderlust. Nobody but I listens patiently to his “When I was in London on a foggy day in 1970....” type stories. I love each and every one of them. I hope to chronicle some of the best ones either in my blog or a notebook in the next year. He is well traveled, well read and wise and I hope I can grow old with the same grace, intelligence and minimal regrets as he has.

25. Both my parents smoke - my mum cigarettes and my dad cigarettes plus a pipe. Growing up I hated this because none of my friends had cigarette smoking mothers and pipe smoking fathers. Beside the repercussions for their health I no longer care because it clearly makes them happy.

26. Growing up the Nik and I had only one rule. We wouldn’t buy matches or cigarettes from the corner shop, central market or anywhere. In fact we wouldn’t even fetch their cigarettes or lighters from the next room. It’s a rule we both follow to this day. My parents have learnt to live with it.

27. To my mind the only positive to my parents smoking habits were that Nik and I never smoked or were even ever tempted to try. This makes us sound like boring teenage nerds. We’ve never cared really. It’s a fact that makes me strangely proud.

28. My father and mother had a love marriage – he a malayali and she a UP kayastha – in a time when these cross-country alliances were frowned upon. One of my favourite bits about their love story is how my mother used to say she would never marry a dark man who wore glasses. She married a dark man with glasses. Lesson it left me with: never say never.

29. From my mother’s side I got the softness of my palms (exactly like my nana’s – never done a day’s work is how they are regularly described). From my father’s I got the trademark curly hair (anybody who knows anything about India can tell in a nano second that I am at least part Malayali). The hands are getting less soft what with age, the hair is ever spring and frizzy. Oh well.

30. I think I can count all my regrets on one hand. The top 2 are: I regret I never learnt Malayalam. And that I never learnt an instrument. I think I would have liked to learn the guitar and play like my father could. Speaking Malayalam would have made me feel like less of a fraud.

31. I like to think of myself not as half malayali and half UP-ite but as a wonderful lucky cocktail. I think I have convincing ancestry.

32. My favourite bit of ‘Friends’ is the one where Pheobe talks about how lobsters mate for life. V and I are lobsters. I cannot imagine my life without him. He makes all other things in my life pale in comparison. He is top of my short list of non-negotiables.

33. I think I am leading the most interesting life I could lead. I’m not sure I would change much with either a magic wand or a winning lottery ticket. If I had one word to describe it, it just might be lucky.

This is as much as you’ll get out of me at one time. Ever. So soak it in.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The long or short of it

In order to commemorate my birthday I am planning to share more of myself on this blog. It won’t last, just for the next week or so, while I celebrate the advent of another year of joyous/ grumpy life. I want to mark 33 with something a bit more specific rather than yet more flowery-ness about growing old(er) and accepting it, (often less than) gracefully. Been there, done that. Now that I’m creeping firmly towards the mid 30’s I need to be clearer about what this decade is going be all about and what steps I need to take to make 33 outstanding. It's a process. Have no doubt that a long and boring post will follow in about a month.

But at this time I have in my draft folder something that I wrote in one sitting yesterday evening that I wanted to publish on my birthday. It’s a long diatribe of things about me – a list of random stuff about me that most of you virtual readers do not know. But more importantly the first 33 things that came to me when I decided to make a list. It goes on forever, and I mean forever, each point verbose and elaborate. I know no other way. I am trying to decide if I should post the entire lot together or in 3 parts of 11 each over the week.

My initial inclination is together, in one long marathon post. Even though I can guarantee that most people will lose the will to live in about 1 minute. On the other hand I am tempted to declare the whole of next week as my birthday week. Apart from a yet un-taken picture of one of my many beautiful birthday gifts and this post I have nothing to write. Therefore, breaking it into 3 bits of 11 points each will give me something to do and you something new to read at least 4 out of 7 days. And you complain I never blog?!

Do I care what the virtual world thinks? Yes. Vaguely. So vote now.

1. If you think I should put the whole list up at once (even if it means you will read it and never ever venture here again) – leave me a random comment which uses the number ‘33’ in it.

2. If you think 3 parts would be gentler on your eyeballs and sensibilities, leave me a random comment which uses ‘3 by 11’ in it.

The more random and unconnected the comment is to the question in hand, the more weight your vote carries.

Voting closes midnight (UK time) on Monday night/ Tuesday morning. I shall awaken on Tuesday, 33 years old and ready to post.

I might not heed the vote. But then again I just might.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


The funniness of gym town is enough to keep me going to the gym, lack of inch/weight loss notwithstanding.

At a certain time in the morning it’s only the usual suspects who rock up to the gym. It’s too early/ cold/ hot/ cuddly for the rest of the unfit world. So by the time we were crossing the year and a half mark of gym adventures each morning I pretty much knew what to expect from each shiny new day. I’d do the cross-trainer or stationary cycle, V would do either of those or the treadmill for 30 minutes. Then we’d do weights. Or not. Then we’d stretch. Or not. All dependent on how long it took us to get out of bed that particular morning. And what time's train we need to catch to get in to work on time.

The bank of people working out on the cardio machines is pretty standard. So when there is a new uncle ski-ing on the cross trainer, jamming to the beat on his i-pod, I can’t help but make note. This uncle is new and very, very amusing. He wears only Lotto Apparel, T-shirt, shorts, shoes, socks and headband. He has an elaborate warm up routine. Right in front of the remaining 5 machines, our eyeballs protected only by the mini-tv screens in front of each. Lotto uncle does a small routine which includes, among many others, 15 jumping jacks and loads of arm twirling, like batons. Why he cannot do this routine on the matted floor space just below, or in the big gymnasium is beyond me. 10 minutes later, all warmed up, he climbs on the cross trainer and ski’s like his life and the life of a lot of invisible people tied with rope behind him depends on it. For 4 entire minutes. I kid you not. Then he gets off and does a whole cool down routine. From behind my curtain of sweat this looks like a slugs workout, slow and short and inactive. I feel drunkenly powerful at my own achievements.

The weights floor is Testosterone Central. If you are not a loudly grunting man you could feel wildly out of place. Or discriminated against. But I am not intimidated, just tired. From out-cross-training Lotto uncle by 41 minutes. I attempt some light weights. The heavily muscled strutting men are doing ‘sets’ on various machines. I stay out of the way but not far enough to avoid being the recipient of some scornful gazes towards the lightness of the weights. I ignore them and continue proudly on.

It’s my last exercise and I need 2 kg weights for each hand so I move to the racks where these are neatly arranged. Right in front a huge (6ft something) muscled man is beginning some serious looking weightlifting while lunging. He too has free weights, but as he holds them sideways I cannot see how heavy they are. They don’t look much bulkier than the ones I have. I retreat to a corner where I exercise as I watch him lift and lunge, doing a full set, accompanied by these loud exertion grunts. Set done he throws the weights to the matted floor. Then he grunts once. Loudly, for the kingdom loud. And clearly unnecessary now that said weights have been discarded. Every single person on the floor looks in his direction, startled and judgemental all at once. He turns to go without putting his weights back on the rack. Since I’m putting mine back I walk past his discarded weights to the racks. I can see the sides of his weights now. They are only 4 kgs each. I lift one in each hand and deposit them back on the rack, pleased with the symmetry I have reinstated. It takes not much more effort than the weights I had myself. For that giant grunting man.

Then as I go down the stairs I see him chatting in the foyer with an attractive young women dressed in designer gym gear who is fluttering her eyelashes at his every loud word. Turns out that the louder you grunt at the gym, the more eyeballs you can attract. Or rather certain eyeballs you attract. Unlike some you may or may not be grunting because you are actually doing a serious workout. That, apparently, is well beside the point.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Down, not Out

It’s official. I am the first person to fail gym. And it’s taken me nearly 2 years to come round to this. V & I, we joined in early August 2006, shortly after starting our new life in our new home and after a few funnies we got into the routine. Of packing our bags the night before, waking up pre-dawn, egging the slumber-er (usually me) to get up and go. And by that I mean go quite religiously – we charted it and we’ve been at least 3-4 times a week over this period of time. There were holidays and off days where we just rolled back into the warmth of a duvet but mostly we got up and legged it.

It is in a vaguely disheartening mood that I write this post. And that is because it is slightly disheartening to keep trying and yet LOSE NOTHING. OK, no, I am lying. I lost some weight in the first year. Not enough for anyone but me and the man who appreciates my love handles to notice. Certainly not enough to merit tossing out my tired old wardrobe to get a snazzy new one. So besides having the strongest heart and oft amazing stamina I have nothing to show for it. The hilarious people in the gym make going a bit easier but there is only so much laughing at specimens in an exercise zoo that I can manage that early in the morning. I was never fixated on the actual kilos but aimed to at least become more toned or shapely. I have lost nothing, not an ounce in the second year, not a love handle a.ka. michelin tyre. There is not a bit of more toned me to be found anywhere. I might as well have stayed home and saved some money, sweat and breath.

If you met me for the very first time today you could easily assume I was clinically obese, never ever exercised and ate double BigMac’s with a bucket of diet coke each night. Nothing could be further from the truth (ie. I am clinically obese but I do exercise and never ever go near a BigMac). We eat sensibly, mostly. I cook fresh food at home 5 times a week. All our eating out is socially or to alleviate boredom (often one and the same thing) or because we are dying to let out the foodsters within or just because we can. I think the problem lies mostly in exercising and then thinking it’s OK to eat anything and in any quantity. Although the quantities I can manage have gone down as I have aged they are a clear stumbling block if I am to ever get to a healthy weight/ shape.

But I am nothing if not determined. With a little help from an unexpected quarter I am now in my 4th week of changing my lifestyle, exercise and diet patterns. So far so good, even though not an ounce has yet been shed. I am surprised sometimes by my own tenacity and willpower.

As I turn the corner and see 33 written on the wall (still over a week down the road) I still have to rely on something I taught myself as a youngster: A healthy self is far preferable to a beautiful self. And that, for me, will never ever change. That is official.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sounds like

It was a free Friday night. A colleague suggested an eatery in Soho for us to try out. After much time to-ing and fro-ing on the email all day – where? Why? What’s to eat? Really? What time? Who else? Should we save some money by going home to leftovers? ha ha at that last one - finally I agreed.

We met at windswept Piccadilly Circus, where we always do, between always-on-sale-Lilywhites and the statue with the steps of tourists. We elbowed our way through the teeming crowds and into the beating heart of Soho. It’s been a while since we did this. The buzz emanating from large crowds hopped up on alcohol and out to enjoy an evening of camaraderie is divine. It makes your heart beat a little quicker as you walk in the middle of the street, holding hands so you don’t get separated or lost, dodging only the odd cycle rickshaws and pedestrians trying to find their ideal evening.

The suggested café was packed to the gills. In fact beyond the gills with tables and people practically sitting on each others laps on the very cramped pavement side seating. In a wonderful case of reverse bias it was a Gay & Lesbian night only and since we are neither we had to leave. There was no chance of finding anything remotely comfortable or edible in the jam-packedness in any case. It looked prettier, shinier and quieter on the internet, as most pictures tend to do. I had clearly lost my youngness eager-to-use-elbows on the overheated tube. So vowing to return another time we continued down the street looking for somewhere slightly less full to rest our feet and fill our tummies.

We decided on Bincho (not the most promising of names – yes we too kept thinking of and giggling aloud at THAT other word it sounds suspiciously like) which merely stated Yakitori under its name, on a random whim. Anything Japanese is appealing to this foodster and as he always always indulges me (even when he doesn’t have the deep love of all food oriental that I do) V and I went in. We got a table at the wooden grill counter behind which skewers of meat, fish and vegetables were gently sizzling. The menu suggested that we order skewers of different kinds, seasoned and grilled and then slathered with generic yakitori sauce – called Yakitori for anything to do with chicken parts and Kushiyaki for any skewered stuff besides. We ordered a wide selection – sea bream, salmon, tuna, squid, tiger prawns, shitake mushrooms and spring onion. We skipped the rice in favour of multiple portions of skewered foods. The gym gods would be so proud.

And as we ate that rare meal with just each other (read: no TV) for company we talked - about life, work and our plans for the next few months, holidays we intend to take, people we need to meet, activities that will keep us busy and happy till at least Christmas. At which point we may have to go out for dinner again (just kidding!). It was rare to not be watching sports while chucking food down our throats at top speed – an every week day occurrence unless we were eating with company. Bincho’s service was attentive if a beat slow – the young Japanese ladies grasp on Endlish made for some awkward moments of repeating.things.slowly. The décor was calm and sparse, with great big Japanese characters adoring the light walls and empty giant Japanese beer bottles lining a few focal point shelves and lots of wood furniture and . It was a lovely evening, lingering and watching the sun set late on a London people’s landscape, eating perfectly cooked fresh ingredients with this delightful tang of sweet and salty yakitori sauce, each served on different individual Japanese ceramic plates. I don’t know if I’d go back in a hurry seeing as it was about £25 per head and there are hundreds of places in Soho and the wider London area for us to try out. But it was a good evening and I shouldn’t knock it.

After all, at Bincho we had found ours. The ideal evening that is.

Bincho: 16 Old Compton Street, London W10 4TL. Tel: 0207 207 9111