Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rumal(i) chaahiye

This brought tears to my eyes. I miss India so.

Thank you Deirdré Straughan!

Whats in a postcode?

Numerous discussions, different sets of people, lots of loud opinions, semi-correct information and no finality on how the postcode system that identifies each home in the UK works.

This is how it's done.

So now we know.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Smell those roses

Look at a mainline tube station between 7.30am and 10am and you will see a platform full of tense-browed commuters all of whom are packing themselves like sardines in a tin can train. Purportedly they are all rushing to get to work before their company collapses without them. If we did a one-question survey of the office-goers on that platform I can bet most of them would choose 'yes' to a slower pace of life than 'no'. I feel a wistful longing.

When I worked my hours were never too long but travel and looking after my home meant that I was a bit of a speedaholic, constantly juggling lists in my head. Now, thanks to the fast paced life of one such urbanite, I have taken the summer off work and am able to take my time looking for a new job. All summer I have remained gleefully, gainfully unemployed for the moment. Life has expanded (oh so easily) to fit in all my free time. Continuous houseguests, piles of books, coffee in the sunshine and the odd job application are just a few of the gainful (life experience, not moolah) activities that fill up my day. I have had a few months of the slower pace of life now and consider myself somewhat an authority on the vie paresseuse. With the chance to stop and smell the proverbial roses I've discovered that they smell really nice!

Having said that I'm ready to go back to work and the only change I'd make is to constantly remember that smell. I want my work life to mingle easily with a combination of summer-like laziness (want to think that thought even in dreary winter) and a flurry of social activities.

The work-life balance argument goes both ways. This is the only time in life where we have enough energy to do more, see more, read more, eat more, earn more, be more, more more more more..... By the time we have enough money to stop and smell the roses its our knees that will buckle under! Flip side, we all become slobs, rolling out of bed at noon to soak in the summer sun, doing little else but spouting how this is the time of life to smell those roses, before we're too old and mouldy. result: little or no moolah to bide our elder years by.

So whats the balance? How much should we do, how often should we stop and smell those flower, how much money is enough etc? All questions that have no correct answer or rather an unique answer for each and every individual. While you do some soul searching for your unique answer do stop and smell those roses. May they inspire you!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Nothing but a pile of sand

The brochure that the S-team picked up from somewhere promised the '4th Car free maritime Greenwich festival' at its best with 'car free events'(??) and a 'buzzing programme of free outdoor events'. Greenwich is one of my favourite London weekend destinations with its arts & crafts markets and numerous food stalls. The suggestion of more stuff happening in an already buzzing Greenwich was alluring to say the least. So come mid-day V and I legged it with much enthusiasm and the promise of being 'awash with fun performances, activities and displays'. A brochure picture (I know I know, all pictures look better than the real thing) of a sand sculpture of a horse in the middle of the road by some famous guy was another thing I was keen to see.

Never has a festival been as disappointing as today. The 'car free' was only one small road at the start of which the Dhol Academy was belting out some good stuff (ie loud stuff) to distract from the street art which was nothing like a horse but instead a pile of sand with tiny children crawling all over it. Maybe it was a horse to start with and the 'art' was to unleash 50 kids (average height 1.5 ft each) on it and see what their feet could do to enhance it. I bet some smartie festival organiser thought it would be easier (and much much cheaper) to clear the street by siphoning off the sand in the shoes, clothes and hair of all the little tykes. Let baby shampoo and tub plugholes deal with it.

The market was hardly expanded (face painting stall and unbelievably ugly overpriced art stall do not count) and was so crowded with people looking for those elsuive expansions that we got moved along by sheer sea of humanity.

Olives, feta in chillies, stuffed vine leaves, sun-dried tomato foccacia, lamb megriz and cumberland sausages tucked into our bags (all this is normal fare, nothing added by the so called festival), we decided to lunch at the Coach & Horses, which is a corner pub in the undercover market. Very popular eatery and as a result very overcrowded. We had to share our bench table with two twats who went on (simultaneously) about completely different things to each other; one about diving and the other about his upcoming birthday at Edinburgh; so much so that at one point I wondered if they were part of a conversation with god or just high on something. Here's a sampler:
spiky haired guy 1: I can't believe it's only 170quid for the diving course man
spiky haired guy 2: my birthday party is going to be in Edinburgh in 3 weeks
spiky haired guy 1: I'll be able to go on all these trips before the year is out man
spiky haired guy 2: I think Alisa and Jaime will be there. The party will rock man

(Wierd hanh!?)

V & I ate scrumptuous burgers with fat (truly fat) chips. One of the S's from the S-team had a goats cheese on veggies baked (OK, he said) and the lady-S had a mushroom risotto (horrid campbells soup combined with rice and fried mushrooms).

One book purchase later (Three Junes by Julia Glass) we were home sweet home and a relaxed evening has led me here, to the end of another weekend. All with the disappointing taste of a festival gone awry. Greenwich I love, it's festival I didn't.

The Coach & Horses: 13 Greenwich Market, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HZ; Tel: 020 8293 0880

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional!

V's birthday today. I bought him a baby chocolate mousse (in lieu of a forthcoming cake) but carried it around all day and it was quite squashed and resembled chocolate mashed potatoes(if there is such a thing!) by midnight! Proper cake today and I promise you a pic....

So my V, remember that a birthday is just the first day of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the trip!

Monday, September 12, 2005

A fishy start

4am alarm screeches from my mobile. Why did I choose that utterly inane and joyous tune on my sony ericsson - because there aren't any other less zingy ones - more importantly why did I set it for a Saturday morning? Well for almost 3 years now we have lived within a fairly close proximity to Billingsgate Market. (yes that's the one in the lyrics of Mary Poppins song, Well done sister suffragettes: From kensington to billingsgate
one hears the restless cry from every corner of the land womankind arise!)
The 5am to 8am opening hours of Friday and Saturday (for retail customers in addition to the wholesale purchasers who are allowed every am) was a real stumbling block. Friday because it was always a workday and it was a rush to just get to work and Saturday, well just because it's the weekend and it defies all commonsense to wake up before the birds when you don't have to. So Billingsgate has been so close and yet so far.

Our houseguests (whom I am going to moniker the S-Team) are enthusiastic fish-eaters and were keen to check it out. So Saturday 4am alarm, a cup of tea and rubber slipper lopping along later and we were there. It was 5.05 as we entered the gates to find a stream of people coming out. Even 5 minutes after it opened we managed to be late. The market is a well-lit, bustling-at-the-seams affair. Wholesale means that they usually don't sell you less than one zillion cases (yes, I am into extremes at the moment)of the same fish; retail (as defined by the King of Billingsgate) apparently means atleast one box. One of the S-Team managed to secure two huge King Sea Bass and some smoked salmon (that was our Saturday night meal; he stuffed them with garlic, red chillies, parsley and tumeric before baking it. The salmon was added to blanched green beans as an accompaniment and a potato&scallion salad completed the meal; we polished off the meal enthusiastically before I remembered that I should have taken a picture of it!? You'll have to imagine it and take my word for it's sumptuousness)

I bought a box of cod fillets (I'm picky about skin, bones etc; I know I know whats a fish without, but hey that's just me), 24 of them to be precise, from the stall of Lobo Fisheries. Mr Lobo, if indeed that was he, assured me and the S-Team that all his fish including two incredible looking pomfret had come all the way from India (woohoo!).

Home, cod seperated, date marked and put into the freezer. Smelly box thrown out of the house, into the main bins and it was only 7.30am. Sleep long gone I set about cleaning my kitchen; scrubbed till it shone. Could not get back to sleep as hard as I tried, so read till V woke up and went for brekka to our local Saturday haunt cafe. A carefree Saturday sparkled and shone ahead of us.....relaxed and replete with the promise of a brilliant meal.

If today were a fish I'd throw it back.

Billingsgate Market: Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST; Tel 020 7987 1118

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day out, pictures in

Trudged to Ikea today (the one that's in Neasden) and got away fairly lightly. Is it that it's not as enamouring as before or just that I have no more place to keep a 5 piece set of bamboo baskets, 3 trillion tea lights and 1500 hundred types of paper napkins????

I think its the space because I thoroughly enjoyed myself, just looking at the set-up rooms had me wanting to move permanently to a showroom. Perhaps for the first time ever I listened to the little voice whispering into my ear that keeps saying "it's only things you want not what you need!". Oops sorry that's not my voice or my conscience, it's the voice of my cuz 40in2006 all the way from the US of A!! How thrilled V will be that I have not spent my meagre fortune on an oversized futon, sets of filing racks, 200 glasses and 13 spotlights (I was soooo tempted, just the packaging and economical price bowl me over and make me into an Ikea-hungry maniac)

I have to go now. My cousin A has sent me 4 gazillion photographs to trawl through - all of his wedding in Patna, reception in Madras and my aunt's birthday. All my cousins and spouses and aunts and uncles and nieces and parents and brother and grandfather and family friends from before I was a tinytot.......when will we be together again I wonder.....

It's time to feel nostalgic and homesick all in eyes are geared for the feast of colour and laughter and my heart is geared for the feast of memories.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Music and laughter

It's a combination of a terrible cold and sheer laziness that kept me away from posting till just now. An endlessly runny nose is not a great farewell to a great city, but nonethelss it was the gift that sunny Prague left me with. A days worth of fever when I came back and then just the general run down feeling till about 2 days ago.

A day after we returned we welcomed a couple into our home, friends who have just moved to London from Frankfurt, and so they are staying with us while they househunt. It's like deja vu - remember we had globe-trotting pals stay in Feb-March - the lovely long dinners and general excitement of having more friends in London combine to give a heady feel to things.

Saturday night we went to the Jazz Cafe in Camden (on the advice of another friend) to help celebrate the 20th year anniversary of the release of Snowboy's first album. Now for those of you not familiar with the Afro-cuban Jazz scene, it is quite apparently Snowboy's forte. Yumptuous dinner at Raavi Kebab in Drummond Street before the show set the scene and lined our stomachs for the drinks to come. Jam packed house at the Jazz Cafe and the music was brilliant with everybody swaying/ shuffling to the music. Supported by the Latin Section and with a whole host of guest stars from the Jazz and R&B world, the stage/ music kept our attentions till fairly late on.

The next interesting thing we did was go for the Canary Wharf Comedy club on Tuesday the 6th. This Comdey Club convenes about once a month in the rather grand Cabot Hall in Canary Wharf and each time a whole host of stand-up comics turn up to regale the crowd. At £7.50 a person the 2.5 hours of laughs was well worth the time and effort.
Compered by a rather funny guy himself, John Moloney (endless gags, mainly picking on some poor guy from New York named Alex), the line-up included the wonderful Simon Evans (dry wit), Terry Alderton (brilliant mime) and one not-so-wonderful substitute for Papa CJ (whose name in itself had me curious enough) whose name I have conveniently forgotten! This was a brilliant evening and V & I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are quite keen to become regulars at this monthly event.

Music and laughter has been my medicine....

Raavi Kebab: 125 Drummond Street, London NW1 2LH. Tel: 020 7388 1780

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Letting our pictures do the talking

The mighty Powder Tower - once used to store gunpowder

Staromestska Square - the Old Square, huge and its periphery made up of unimaginably beautiful buildings. Completely swamped by the endless tourists .

The Strahov Monastry (near the Pohorelec Tram stop) atop the hills near the Prague Castle; the ringing bells in our memories make this our most magical picture.

Picture postcard from the Strahov Monastry - that's the famous Vlatava flowing under the Charles Bridge.

The magnificant Rudolfinum - where we spent a wonderful evening listening to the Bohemia Saxophone Quartet - music to our ears!

Tyn Church - partially hidden by some newer buildings, this church nonetheless dominates the Staromestska Square skyline. And what a clear blue sky we got....

Looking down the stair well of our very very grand hotel !!! Art Deco at it's very best.