Category Archives: London

Things we did during our time in London.

Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year everyone ūüôā¬† How has your first week of the year been?

I feel like I’ve been on the back foot since it started.¬† I had a to do list that was overflowing and even more things to add to it that by the time we were supposed to go out to celebrate and bring in the New Year, I actually had fallen asleep by 6pm out of exhaustion in trying to get it all done beforehand!

I failed and I’ve spent my first week of the year catching up!!

So, this post is late… Happy New Year! YAY!!¬† Better late than never I suppose?

And to catch up on things I was supposed to do and didn’t get around to doing until now….¬†here is¬†our Christmas meal which we ended up cooking over the duration of¬†a week instead of on Christmas day.

Really grateful that we didn’t actually cook it all on the same day!!¬† It was much better enjoyed and eaten fresh and there was no way we could have eaten it all on the same day, Christmas or not!!

Here it all is…

Crayfish Thermidor on salad
Crayfish Thermidor on salad

 

Confit Duck Leg with Honey Glazed Carrots and Chestnut Brussel Sprouts
Confit Duck Leg with Honey Glazed Carrots and Chestnut Brussel Sprouts

 

Vegan Eggnog
Vegan Eggnog

 

Lobster Thermidor with vegetable stuffing on salad
Lobster Thermidor with vegetable stuffing on salad

 

We also of course had all the leftovers of the Vegducken and chocolate strawberry tart to  enjoy as well.

So the intention actually was to go pescatarian this year instead of going all out with goose and trimmings as we have done in many previous years.

We had all this squid, fish, prawns and scallops ready to be salt and peppered and enjoyed at Christmas but as you can see above, we didn’t end up having them at all!¬† And we¬†opted to leave¬†those¬†for the new year and¬†eat the duck leg that was in the freezer instead.

That was, after all, the last of all the meat we had in the freezer and this was so we actually welcomed the New Year with no more dead land or air animals left in the fridge or freezer Рthe first time in years that this has happened!!

You see, when we were at the Dharma workshop in early Dec, Dharma actually said that people’s fridges and freezers were graveyards and so were our stomachs if we chose to eat meat.¬† That kind of grossed both me and Tony out and we actually didn’t feel good eating meat after that which is why we¬†changed the Christmas menu this year.¬† Ahhh so easily influenced!! hahaha

Seriously though, we felt better for it.¬† There was none of that food coma, haziness, dullness (except after the cake…. sugar high and sugar low) and our consciences felt good too ūüôā¬† So it turned out to be a pretty good Christmas!¬† We enjoyed our meals, we were full and we felt good after it!

Not much to say about New Year’s… I fell asleep at 6pm remember?¬† I did wake up at 10pm so was up to see the fireworks that the neighbours set off in the common which was nice.¬† Saw it through the window, all nice and warm inside.¬† That was it really.

Now just working through that to-do list and making it more manageable.

Advertisements

Merry Christmas 2015

And it’s here.¬† Can’t believe it.¬† Christmas 2015 is here.¬† This is the first Christmas where it hasn’t actually felt like Christmas.

We’re used to it being really hot like you get to go to the beach or…. really cold like it’s so cold you’re happy that the oven is on all day cooking the goose or turkey and roast potatoes full of fat.

Not this year.¬† Christmas is here and it feels like autumn or spring.¬† It’s too warm to be cold, it’s too cold to be hot.¬† Going to the Christmas markets felt like visiting¬†Germany at the Epcot Centre.¬† It kinda looks like¬†Germany¬†but not really¬†and it doesn’t feel like it AT ALL.

Regardless of how it feels this year, the date is 25th December 2015 which is, officially Christmas 2015 so, MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!!!

Merry Christmas Card 2015 TJ

This year we decided to change it up.  Rather than going for our regular goose, ham and 3 veg cooked in fat Christmas meal, which we usually eat on Christmas Eve, we opted instead for a Vegducken.

Check it.

Our First Attempt at Vegducken Christmas 2015
Our First Attempt at Vegducken Christmas 2015

Basically it’s vegetable stuffed inside a vegetable stuffed inside a vegetable ūüôā¬† courtesy of the turducken (chicken inside a duck inside a turkey) idea, we got the recipe from epicurious.

YUP we went vegetarian!¬† It’s shallots stuffed in a courgette stuffed in an aubergine stuffed in a butternut squash, layered with vegetable stuffing in between.¬† Not quite vegan because of the use of parmesan cheese, egg and butter but very filling.¬† Tony and I only ate one slice each!!

It was quite the effort but well worth it.  It took us over an hour to prepare and 2 hours to cook in the oven.

We also made roast potatoes on the side and this took us an hour to prepare and 2 hours in the oven as well (over cooked at¬†2 hours oops).¬† This was supposed to be vegetarian except that all my research¬†said that doing potatoes like this really needed bacon.¬† So I added a sprinkling of bacon lardons on there… and well, we realised on eating it that the bacon was totally unnecessary.¬† We definitely will make this again but will do it without the bacon next time.

Our Christmas Roasted Potatoes
Our Christmas Roasted Potatoes

Just these two dishes alone took enough time for us not to bother with everything else we were going to cook.  We decided to leave the rest to make for Christmas Day.

We did however make a vegan eggnog which seriously is better than regular eggnog.¬† It’s so creamy and fatty without the dairy or the egg!¬† Unfortunately, we guzzled it all down before taking a decent picture so I will post a picture of it up with the Christmas Day meal pictures¬†instead.¬† Tony liked it so much that I think he may just make it regularly throughout the year, just ’cause.¬† If you ever notice us getting fat, it’s because we’re drinking too much vegan eggnog.

We indulged a little by making a strawberry chocolate tart.¬† Don’t worry, no baking was involved.¬† I tried to add extra cream on the top to reduce the sweetness¬†(which is why the colour is the way it is rather than the chocolatey brown which is the layer underneath that cream on the top) but it was still way too sweet for my liking and of course, ended up a little runny because the chocolate to cream ratio was off.¬† Nevermind.¬† It still tasted good.¬† Chocolate and strawberries always taste good and strawberries and cream also taste good.

Christmas Dessert - Strawberry Chocolate Tart
Christmas Dessert – Strawberry Chocolate Tart

It seems like we’re onto some winners for a truly vegetarian and perhaps even vegan¬†Christmas meal next year!

Whatever it is you’re eating and drinking, we hope you¬†are enjoying your Christmas and that you’re getting to spend some time with your loved ones ‚̧

Charles Darwin is my new Motivational Coach

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to “school” and had to do “homework” or so I thought. ¬†On the Saturday that just passed, Mary Jarvis redefined for us what it was to be at a yoga studio. ¬†She said that it was not¬†a studio but a Yoga School. ¬†¬†We attend classes, there are teachers and we learn every day. ¬†Our teachers are our teachers for life. ¬†We’re constantly learning. ¬†And like it or not,¬†we have homework!

I’ve already mentioned previously that we had homework (6 camels a day) given to us by Mary over a year ago and I started doing it for maybe 2 weeks but then I stopped. ¬†Why? ¬†Because I hate back bends and as with anything I don’t like, I just procrastinate and find so many other things to occupy my time with instead and I basically tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it.

Self motivation isn’t the problem. ¬†I get stuff done all the time. ¬†It was simply¬†pain avoidance. ¬†Not being able to understand that the pain I felt doing a back bend was good for me, is what stopped me.

So, here I am over a year later, no more pain free (when it comes to back bends) than I was back then but something triggered my motivation over the weekend.  We went to Down House, home of Charles Darwin.

Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.
Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.

We learned a lot by visiting his home. ¬†We learned about his study of nature, what he did during his life, how he spent his days, his relationship with his wife and children, what interested him and sparked his curiosity, all the experiments he conducted. ¬†We even walked the path he walked¬†(he would walk on his “thinking path” 3 times a day every day for his exercise)!!

The view as you stroll along Darwin's Thinking Path.
The view as you stroll along Darwin’s Thinking Path.

As a child I was ALWAYS fascinated with biology.  It was my favourite subject.  I loved learning about how plants reproduced and dissecting plants (and rats, although smelly) was interesting to me.  I loved seeing how pregnant rats had a little pocket for each baby like peas in a pod (there was a dissected pregnant rat preserved in a jar in the lab) or how you could bust a hole in its trachea, stick a straw in and blow air into its lungs and watch the lungs expand and contract.

I even managed to germinate my own seeds in the fridge (I was trying to grow Bonsai), catch tadpoles and feed them, watch their tail reduce and their legs grow longer and witness them transform into frogs.  None of this was actually school related, I just did it at home by myself.

I always thought that slugs were just snails without shells so I would¬†try to crack the snails’ shells with a twig and see if¬†I could watch them stretch out¬†into slugs (they didn’t, instead they moved a LOT faster when you started cracking their shells and they never contracted back into their shells which one would expect them to do, they’d just try to make a mad dash, as mad a dash a snail could do). ¬†I used to also collect empty snail shells that I’d find in the garden and offer them to slugs. ¬†I’d give them different sizes to see how they picked which shell they’d use and then I’d wonder why they would never take any. ¬†I resorted to trying to balance the snail shell on the slug which resulted in a similar mad dash reaction by the slug. ¬†All of this of course, was before I grew up and learned that they were 2 completely different animals! ¬†Yes, all sorts of silly things like pushing soil or pouring water into the hole of an ant hill and watching as they all rushed around fixing the entrance, this is how I spent my days.

When I was maybe 3 years old, I’d watch my grandma¬†peel a¬†mandarin. ¬†I’d see all the “white bits” that connected it to the skin, see how the mandarin had sections. ¬†She’d take one section and give it to me to eat but instead I would look at the section and watch how those “white bits” formed patterns on the segment. ¬†I’d peel off all the white bits until the segment was pristine and then notice that the segment was surrounded by it’s own¬†“skin”. ¬†I’d peel the skin and look inside to see a million¬†little segments that looked like encased droplets of juice and how they too had their own membranes holding them together. ¬†I’d pick at each tiny little droplet¬†inside the segment and try to open them unsuccessfully, wondering if there were segments inside them and how many and how small those segments would get.

So you get a visual of what I'm talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.
So you get a visual of what I’m talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.

I’d pick one tiny droplet¬†and eat it and I would do this one at a time reveling in the tiny burst of flavour that came out of each. ¬†My grandma used to laugh at me. ¬†“Look!” She’d say, “In the time it took you to eat that dot, I’ve already eaten the whole mandarin! ¬†You’ve taken so long, I don’t have any more to share with you!” ¬†I didn’t mind, she only had 8 segments, I had a million of them! ¬†Every time she had a mandarin, she’d only ever give me one segment because I would be inspecting¬†it, dissecting it and eating it for hours!

Going to Darwin’s home was inspiring and got¬†me to remember those strange fascinations and the wonder I had about everything as a child. ¬†I realised that¬†for someone who¬†lived such a simple life, even putting himself down as a “farmer” in one census, Darwin¬†was absolutely extraordinary.

He was focused, dedicated, patient (all the things we learn in yoga) and most importantly, did things that he didn’t like¬†(eg. boiling pigeons so he could inspect their skeletal structures) in order to continue his research to formulate and solidify¬†his theories. ¬†He classified and collected barnacles for 8 years. ¬†Some of his experiments went on for 30 years!

In this day and age, how many of us do anything for more than 30 seconds let alone 30 years? ¬†And, with immediate gratification always at our doorsteps, it is rare that we’d go through any kind of pain to get a result.

He was also very sick, suffering from boils on his skin, headaches, nausea, trembling etc and yet he managed to accomplish so much.  He worked from home and got to spend a lot of quality time with his family.  All of his work was done in his home study or in his garden.

The most important thing is, he never stopped being curious.  In his last days, he was studying earthworms!  He played music to them to see if they could hear and he cut leaves into different shapes to see if they could discern between them!  Sounds like the sorts of things I would do!!

This made me think. ¬†If he had 10 happy children (unfortunately 3 of them died of illness before adulthood), a happy wife all of whom he spent a lot of time with, an experimental garden, a worm experiment, barnacles, ¬†pigeons, bees, climbing plants that he was recording the movements of every half an hour, illness and still be able to formulate and solidify a theory of evolution that would pretty much rock the belief systems of everyone he knew including his own wife’s and change how biology is studied for the rest of time, how could I possibly moan about not having time to do 6 camels?

Where was my patience?  Dedication?  Focus?  Commitment?
Where was my curiosity?

Mary Jarvis says that “Back bends are the healer of the spine.” ¬†I have scoliosis so… if it disappears after doing years of back bends then, I will have proof for myself of whether or not it’s true. ¬† Except¬†there’s only one way for me to find out, it takes years and it takes me doing back bends for all those years! ¬†Don’t I want to know? ¬†Am I not a biological specimen that I can study? ¬†Isn’t this just another experiment?

This year, it isn’t just 6 camels for homework anymore. ¬†There is ballet bar work, handstands, lunges and so much more that it makes me wonder why I even thought 6 camels was worth complaining about!

 

I reckon if Darwin was around these days, we’d be mates. ¬†I’d be telling him all my funny animal stories¬†and studying plants with him too. ¬†Just like him I was completely fascinated with insectivorous plants and used to have a Venus Fly Trap which I’d catch flies for and put in there to see if it would eat it. ¬†I’d get all different sized insects and see what it liked. ¬†I’d notice that it didn’t like dead things so I’d use my hair to “tickle”¬†them to close. ¬†It was quite funny to hear the extent that Darwin went to, to find out how light the trigger had to be for them to close (using his wife’s hair). ¬†Oh we’d have so much fun! ¬†Darwin and David Attenborough would be a tonne of fun, they’d definitely hang out with me staring at (observing) snails and plants!

Insectivorous Plants in Darwin's Greenhouse.
Insectivorous Plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse.
Insectivorous plants in Darwin's Greenhouse
Insectivorous plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse

 

And then I’d get them to do yoga with Mary! ¬†They would love it, especially since yoga is a technology to help the human body function at its best and a life long experiment.

I love this tree
I love this tree
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin's garden.
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin’s garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma's garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma’s garden.

On the Monday I actually thought about Darwin and had no more excuses not to accomplish everything on my list of things to do while adding on my yoga homework. ¬†Afterall, I’m not an invalid and I don’t have 10 children!

So, I did one handstand (all against a wall), came down and swept the floor. ¬†Got into another handstand, got down and vacuumed. ¬†Got into one more handstand, got down and scrubbed stains off the floor, then got into another handstand, came down and loaded the washing machine. ¬†I kept going up and down until I had finished my chores and finished all the required sets of handstands that I needed to do. ¬†No more excuses , no more complaining and I even managed the 6 camels ūüôā

I think he¬†would have laughed at and commended my approach as much as he’d be proud of my¬†kefir experiment I’ve got going at the moment. ¬†I’ve made kefir and recorded it all on a spreadsheet ie what sugar I used and how much it yielded so I can figure out the best sugar combination for optimum yield. ¬†I’ve been recording it every day since¬†March so I’ve got 6 months of data so far. ¬†I did this of my own accord, my own little biological experiment already going for 6 months!! ¬†I didn’t realise just how much I had in common with Darwin, nor that I had continued what I was doing from childhood into adulthood through my kefir experiment, until I went to his house!

I certainly didn’t expect Charles Darwin to be my motivational coach but relating so much to him, thinking of what he accomplished in what looks like such a simple¬†home life, was extremely inspirational.

Afterall, I’m talking about just doing back bends and a few handstands. ¬†From his humble home and garden, he changed the world and the thinking of all future generations to come!

Thank you Charles Darwin. ¬†You’ve contributed more to my life than you or I will ever know.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ~ Charles Darwin

Tony’s Birthday Part 3 of 3

I swear this is the last blog about Tony’s¬† Birthday but it’s worth the mention because according to Tony, it’s the best meal he’s ever had in his whole life so far.¬† That’s a big call!¬† How am I going to top that next year?!¬† I’m going to have to start researching right now!

So where did Tony have the best meal of his life ever?  We went to Fera at Claridges and had the 6 course tasting menu.

We used to watch a lot of Great British Menu and¬†chef Simon Rogan was one of Tony’s favourites so I knew he’d like this treat for his birthday.

Tony¬†kept calling him “the vegetable guy” because this guy would take all sorts of plants we’d never heard of and turn them into¬†something amazing¬†and everyone would rave on about how¬†he brought out all the flavours of the plants.¬† Well it’s one thing watching other chefs commenting on his food and looking at it thinking “God I wish I could taste that” and another, sitting there actually eating one of those creations!

Let’s start with the easy stuff shall we?¬† The restaurant was really easy¬†to get to.¬† A hop, skip and a jump away from Bond¬†St Tube Station.¬† Of course, everyone else travelling there would most likely arrive by¬†Jaguar, Bentley or horse and carriage.

Fera at Claridges

It was¬†beautiful.¬† The atmosphere was great.¬† Everyone was spaced out enough to have their own personal space and yet not so sparsely so you felt like you were part of the buzz.¬† The waiters were extremely attentive and you were never served by just one, they worked flawlessly as a team.¬† You know they’re good when your plates have disappeared from the table and you didn’t even notice someone had come to take them away.¬† These guys were good!

CocktailsCocktails, bread, butter and a tree.¬† That tree was gorgeous and you can imagine the size of a place when they can have a tree in the middle of the restaurant ūüôā¬† I don’t know how they did it but that bread had a crispy crust and super soft and moist inside.¬† There’s something so comforting about bread and butter.¬† Thank goodness they didn’t give us any more or I would have filled myself up on it.

Appetiser

I must admit that I used to laugh every time I saw something like this.¬† Such a tiny bit of food in the middle of a dinner plate.¬† I would scoff at the crumb and how much ¬£¬£ I was¬†paying for it and then feel sorry for the person who had to wash that plate.¬† I’d always sympathise and think that his or her job would be so much easier if they just used a smaller plate.¬† Gone are those days.¬† That’s why dishwashers were created.

This¬†was¬†the appetiser.¬† It wasn’t on the menu so I can’t tell you what it was.¬† Super light, crispy, fluffy and fresh, it held together right until you took a bite and then it completely fell apart¬†in your mouth and¬†tasted delicious!

We were seated¬†next to a guy who worked for Disney.¬†¬†Tony stopped our conversation to speak to him because he thought he was a food critic.¬† Turned out he¬†was scoping out all the best places to stay (and eat) in the world (London being one of his many stops) in order to get ideas to design the new Disney resort cruise ships… What a job!

Note to self:  Create a life where eating at Michelin Star restaurants and staying at 5 star hotels (where many esteemed people of the world including Royalty stay) becomes a regular occurrence.  Yes, that will do quite nicely!

So where were we?¬† Oh yes, the meal…

Course 1
Stewed rabbit with lovage
Pea mousse, cod, calamint

Pea Rabbit

The top pictures are of the Pea Mousse, the cod was a nice little surprise at the bottom of the pot.

Rabbit, I wouldn’t normally eat.¬† I had pet rabbits so, I¬†always get anxious¬†eating one.¬† Well, those little puff balls at the bottom were rabbit and as much as I hate to say it, they tasted really good.¬† Tony described them as “the best popcorn chicken I’ve ever had.”

I can tell you now, that the outside was super crispy but not the kind of crispy that cuts your gums and the roof of your mouth and puts a few fractures in your teeth.  It was the kind of crispy that crackled in your mouth but then melted softly.  If ever there were to be the perfect popcorn chicken, this would be it.

Course 2
Mackerel tomato, sea lettuce and fennel

Tomato

Tony described it as “The best canned tomato soup I’ve ever had.”

This was like sipping tomato essence.¬† I don’t think you could taste more tomato than this and mackerel which is normally a very fatty and fishy fish tasted fresh and light.¬† It was the least fishy mackerel I’ve ever had that’s for sure!¬† Those little black dots you see were tiny globules of squid ink ūüėČ

Course 3
Cod in pine oil , salt baked turnip, leek, black truffle

Cod

Wonderful –¬†all the flavours of the leek,¬†turnip and truffle made for a really yummy creamy sauce on a perfectly cooked cod.

Course 4
55 day dry-aged pork, grilled carrots, lettuce,  blewits and nasturtium

Vegetables and Pork Pork and Vegetables

Same dish, different angles.  One showcasing the vegetables and the other showcasing the pork.

Tony described it as “the best bacon I’ve ever had”.¬† Ahh he really does sound like he’s taking the piss but to be honest, the entire dish smelled like bacon.¬†¬†It just tasted like so much more.¬† You smell it and start salivating in anticipation and it over delivers!¬† What could be better than bacon?¬† This dish most definitely!

Course 5
Blueberry, yoghurt, lemon thyme

BlueberryIcy, creamy, crunchy, sweet with a hint of yoghurt sour.

Course 6
Strawberries, sweet cicely custard, buttermilk and sorrel

Dessert 1 Dessert 1.0

Two pictures were taken of the same dessert because no matter what angle I tried, I couldn’t get it to look “pretty”.¬† The colours were there but the plating… nevermind. The taste was sensational and when it comes to food and eating, the taste and the flavour counts for way more points than presentation.¬† That white stuff was buttermilk “snow” and you couldn’t get more snowy than that.¬† It was cold and fluffy! The sweet cicely custard was really good.¬† Eating at this restaurant is an education in herbaceous plants as well as a treat for the tastebuds! Who knew you could turn a herb into a custard!¬† Brilliant!

Petit Four & Tea
Spiced perry, sunflower
Beetroot and pumpkin seed

Tea Petit Four

This was definitely a memorable and spectacular meal, ending with an even more spectacular and memorable tea experience.  We each got a flask of water at different temperatures and a minute sand timer so that we could time our tea infusions and use the correct temperature water for our chosen teas!

Tony was definitely a happy chappy!Tea for TonyWe thought that we’d actually ended our meal on a high note but we were in for a surprise.

We left the restaurant and went across to the concierge to get our coats to leave and as he was handing us our coats,¬†the man said, “Would you like a tour of the hotel?” We smiled at him, said yes but must have both looked bemused at his offer¬†so he¬†said, “You are my last guests and as I have 30 mins left on my shift, rather than standing here waiting for my shift to end, I’d like to give you a tour.”

“We’d be delighted!” we responded so as an extra and unexpected birthday treat, we got a little personal tour of Claridge’s Hotel!

He took us around the different bar areas, showed us where the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves and Maria Carey sat to have drinks.  He even walked us around to see a pretty amazing ballroom (the smallest of the lot) and told stories of royalty staying at the hotel.

Claridge's 1

Notice the same chandelier as the one in the V&A!!
Notice the same chandelier as the one in the V&A!!

Claridge's 3 Claridge's 4

Apparently this is the view that the Prince of Japan wakes up to every time he stays at Claridge's.
Apparently this is the view that the Prince of Japan wakes up to every time he stays at Claridge’s.

We couldn’t have asked for more.¬† We left there feeling really special and having our eyes opened to a whole new world.¬† So THIS is how the other “half” (ie top 1% of¬†the world)¬†live!¬† Not bad, not bad at all ūüėČ

Happy Birthday Tony ūüôā¬† I’m glad you had an awesome day and that I was a part of it xox

 

Tony’s Birthday 2015 Part 2 – Decision (Carsten Holler)

Last week I mentioned that for Tony’s Birthday, I organised a surprise and it was to¬†take him to the Southbank Centre where¬†CARSTEN H√ĖLLER’s biggest show (in the UK to date) was on. ¬†The exhibition is called: DECISION

Carsten Holler Southbank

It’s experiential art so you get to actively participate and interact with the artwork and in so doing, you become part of the exhibition. ¬†People can either watch and contemplate the scenarios they’re put in¬†and other people’s reactions to it, or they can actively participate. ¬†In the end, ¬†it’s your decision. ūüėČ

Carsten Holler actually did a show at the Tate Modern a while back (2008) where there was a giant slide.  I missed it and so was happy to see that he had another show on with 2 slides AND a flying machine!  I was sure Tony would love it.

Although it was meant to be a surprise, the unveiling didn’t go to plan.¬†¬†He saw the slides, got excited and then as we were entering, ¬†“Guys, as it’s raining today, the flying machine won’t be working. ¬†So you can either go in now and see the whole exhibition except for the flying machine, or, you can exchange your tickets and come back another time when the flying machine will be on.”

Disappointment and more importantly, decision time.¬†¬†Couldn’t get more experiential than that.¬† We decided that even though it was Tony’s bday that day,¬† we’d go back the following week instead.

Carsten Holler Raining

Lesson 1: ¬†We make decisions based on what’s most important to us. ¬†In this case, getting the most out of our experience¬†was more important than doing this specifically on Tony’s birthday as planned. ¬†We instead enjoyed the rain.

So the following week, it was sunny and we went back to the exhibition.

Rainy Sunny London

***I WILL INSERT A SPOILER ALERT HERE. ¬†Do not read any further if you intend to go to the exhibition and experience this yourself. ¬†It is best experienced without any preconceptions. ¬†Come back here after you’ve gone and see if we had similar experiences ūüôā ***

OK, now I will start.

As soon as you enter, the halls are pitch black and it reminded me of dinner at Dans Le Noir. ¬†The only difference was that I was expecting the pitch black at Dans Le Noir and we were pretty much led into the restaurant holding onto each other, whereas this entrance to the exhibition took me completely unexpectedly. ¬†One minute you’re walking into an entrance, the next, it’s completely pitch black.

That was the point.

According to the leaflet, “Holler intends for his work to bring about ‘moments of not knowing’.” and boy did it do that!

To be honest, I freaked out and on reflection, I actually do freak out every time I am uncertain.  Stepping deeper and deeper into darkness and not knowing when it would end was pretty scary.

The freaking out didn’t last for long. ¬†Immediately my hand reached¬†out to grab Tony’s shirt. ¬†He was walking ahead of me and I started talking to him so he would talk back. ¬†Interesting how the immediate loss of sight made me find reassurance through touch and sound only seconds after. ¬†My other hand reached out to the wall so I could feel if I should walk straight and¬†when it was time to turn.

With that little bit of certainty (Tony and the wall), I was OK and started walking a bit faster.  Eventually my eyes adjusted and I could see tiny holes of light (the daylight that was filtering through the joints of the metal tube we were walking through) which showed the way.  Not all of it had specks of light and at times it seemed to never end, it was just eternal darkness.

When I was a kid, my parents took us to El Caballo Blanco and all I remember from there was a giant black water slide. ¬†Basically a water slide made of a big black cylinder twisted in different ways rather than your normal open top, half pipe, blue slides (they had them too). ¬†So everything was dark, black and you wouldn’t be able to see when the next turn or dip would be. ¬†You’d pretty much be sliding around with no visual reference. ¬†It was also the largest and steepest slide in the park, meant for the big kids. ¬†All of it was completely scary to me, after all I wasn’t yet a big kid myself. ¬†I made my brother go first even though he was smaller and told him to just yell out and let me know it was OK and then I’d count to 10 and follow him.

Me: ¬†“Are you OK?” ¬†while he was setting himself up and edging slowly forward.
Him: ¬†“Yeah, I’m O Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyy!!!!!!!!!” and then dead silence.

The first dip obviously took him by surprise but it completely freaked me out.  I was standing there staring at the black hole until he had managed to slide all the way down and climb all the way back up again with a huge grin on his face ready to go again because he had so much fun.

I refused to go down the slide. ¬†It took a lot of coercing and my dad having to go down the slide, with me on his lap and for me to come out alive¬†before I’d go again and even then I didn’t go by myself, I went in there with my brother on my lap and my dad waiting for us at the bottom and by that point, I’d had enough!

Some people like¬†high levels of fear and death-defying adrenalin rushes.¬†¬†I’m not one of those.

So there we were in that long, dark, tunnel.

The Long Dark Tunnel
The Long Dark Tunnel

Tony¬†kept bumping into people ahead of us. ¬†Either we were walking quickly or they were walking really slowly. ¬†It turned out there was a lady who was walking so slowly (she must’ve been really freaking out) that she was holding everyone up. ¬†She was clinging to the walls and not saying a thing, so¬†I assumed¬†people¬†just started walking around her. ¬†I’m sure that would’ve been me if I wasn’t holding onto Tony. ¬†We eventually saw her come out of the exit a little while after us – she looked completely dazed and confused. ¬†I was relieved for her.

I didn’t feel like I passed anyone though. ¬†At one point, I felt Tony turn left with the hand I was holding onto him with but my other hand felt the fold¬†in the wall which suggested we turn right. ¬†He was walking fast, I almost lost him ¬†(his shirt left my grip) and although I kept telling him to stop and wait, “Are you sure you’re going the right way? ¬†’cause I think we have to turn right.” ¬†He just¬†kept on walking left, “Yeah, this is the way”.

He ended up farther away than I’d hoped and I had to make a decision. ¬†I either had to let go of what I was certain of (the wall) and find and follow the voice of he who was more certain, or ignore¬†him and stick with the wall. ¬†I decided to let go of the wall and follow him. ¬†We turned left. ¬†In the end, both ways would lead to the same¬†exit but when you’re in there, you just don’t know!! ¬†That lady must have turned right.

Lesson 2:  He who has more certainty, rules the game.  This made me realise that I always question myself before I question others and I put a lot of faith in what I can see and question everything I cannot.

So, first stop out of that weirdly dark but enlightening entrance was the human turned mushrooms ie. a machine that was turning because humans were pushing it at the base and it had mushrooms all over it. ¬†I was fascinated how everyone just kept spinning it exactly the same way. ¬†I said to Tony, “You know, it’ll spin the other way too, You just have to push it the other way. ¬†I wonder why people just keep pushing it this one way (the same way as those who have pushed before them).”

He replied, “Well, you can go in there and spin it the other way if you want.”

My response was, “Nah, I can’t be bothered.” ¬†I opted instead to take pictures and move on.

Flying Mushrooms, 2015
Flying Mushrooms, 2015

Lesson 3: ¬†Inaction¬†or action¬†(for whatever your¬†reasons), are¬†both decisions and¬†both have consequences. ¬†In that moment, I didn’t want to rock the boat but in so doing, I didn’t show others who might not have seen or thought about it, that there was another way.

Next stop was the pile of pills. ¬†I’m sure everyone joked about taking the red pill or the blue pill but you couldn’t because they were all red and white pills.

“Don’t mess with the exhibit.” the guard says. ¬†I think someone was picking handfuls of pills up and swishing their hand around in the pile.

I squat down and try to take a picture of the pile of pills and notice it moving. ¬†“Why is it moving?” I ask Tony. ¬†He says, “It’s not.”

“No… I’m sure it is” I said and just as I say that,¬†tick!¬†it moves again. The ticking noise is coming from a pill falling from a hole in the ceiling.¬† Every 3 seconds¬†another pill falls,¬†hits the top of the pile,¬†making a singular noise…¬†tick! then¬†a few pills topple down from the top. ¬†This piece of art¬†was called the “Pill Clock”.

“You can take one.” the guard¬†says. ¬†I stare at him a little because I was sure he just told us not to touch it… and now he’s telling us we can not only touch it but we can take and walk away with a piece of it?¬† I stare at him some more while I contemplate whether or not he’s part of the exhibition.

Everyone that was there, picks up just one pill. ¬†There’s a bubbler (drinking fountain) near by ¬†and so Tony takes the extra step and he actually “TAKES” the pill ie he puts it into his mouth, has a¬†sip of water and swallows it. ¬†He is cheekily excited about what he just did. ¬†Grinning from ear to ear. ¬†I stare at him in disapproval and say, “I can’t believe you just did that. ¬†You don’t even know what’s in the pill. ¬†I’m sure that’s not what he meant when he said “You can take one”!”

Convinced that I’d have to look after him afterwards while he was hallucinating about mushrooms, I decided to open up the pill to see what, if anything, was inside (like I’d know what it was by looking at it!).

Pill Clock, 2011/2015
Pill Clock, 2011/2015

There was white powder, I put it to my nose, it smelled like nothing, I licked a tiny bit of the powder, it didn’t taste like much, almost like a mixture between fibre and cardboard with no taste but then I felt slightly dizzy, probably placebo but it was enough to convince me not to trust it. ¬†I threw the pill in the bin which was underneath the bubbler. ¬†Seeing so few pills in the bin, it seemed either¬†many had taken Tony’s route and swallowed it or¬†they’d put it in their pockets¬†to take¬†home as a memento?

I found it interesting how when faced with the same decision, Tony went with it with complete trust and I went into it with complete distrust.

Lesson 4: ¬†I learned something about myself and that is, I am always suspicious and do not trust easily.¬†¬†I evidently never played the trust¬†game like this clever girl…

Next came a whole bunch of other things but¬†I can’t go through each the same way as above, or we’ll be here forever. ¬†So instead, here are some pictures.

The flying machine wasn’t adrenalin-pumping type fun, it was more contemplative. ¬†How do you behave when people are watching you? ¬†What does it feel like to be hung like a sack of potatoes? ¬†What do you do when you’re completely bored waiting for an hour? ¬†You could always decide to leave the queue… or, ¬†you could decide to wait….

Two Flying Machines
Two Flying Machines

There are 2 slides, how do you decide which one you’ll go on?¬†¬†The slide made Tony really dizzy but not me (must’ve been the pill he took).

Isomeric Slides
Isomeric Slides

The upside down goggles made me feel queezy – I reckon if you get vertigo, these are not the goggles to be putting on! ¬†Seeing the world upside down not only gives you a headache because your brain keeps trying to turn it the right way up but it also affects your balance (how do you walk when the ground is up?) ¬†The weird thing is when I wanted to see the ground I still had to¬†tilt¬†my head down and when I wanted to see the sky, I still had to tilt¬†my head up just like normal, except what I saw was upside down. Everything you feel is the right way up and yet it contrasts with everything you see and because I wouldn’t or couldn’t decide which to go with (what I felt or what I saw), I was left feeling very uncomfortable indeed. ¬†There was a lesson in there somewhere I’m sure!

Upside Down Goggles, 1994/2009
Upside Down Goggles, 1994/2009

I actually thought that when the ticket said entrance between 11.00am-12.00pm it meant that you go in at 11 and you come out at ¬†12 but we were there for hours!! ¬†Turns out it just means enter any time between 11.00am and 12.00pm, you pretty much stay for as long as you like! ¬†Well, it was really fun, enlightening and well worth going to!¬† Especially if you’re internally contemplative like me or enjoy doing different and interactive things like Tony.

This exhibition definitely made me think about all the decisions we have to make in a day and as a result, in our lifetimes. ¬†We are making decisions ALL THE TIME!! ¬†What to eat, what to wear, what to do. ¬†Do or don’t? ¬†Now or later? ¬†If later, when? ¬†What day? What time? ¬†If you don’t decide exactly, it will be “some day” (which is the equivalent of “never”) and that too is a decision. ¬†If not now, what do we do instead? Again, if you don’t decide the alternative,¬†then you’ve decided on whatever comes your way ie, to be at the receiving end of other people’s decisions.

With or without? ¬†Before or after? ¬†Yoga or art exhibition? ūüėČ ¬†What are the consequences of our decisions? ¬†Some decisions, seemingly have no consequences but what we must remember is that our lives now are the cumulative results of all the decisions we¬†(and those before us) have made in the past! ¬†Our decisions now are forming our futures.

Lesson 5: ¬†¬†Decision making happens all the time.¬†¬† I have been told and reminded by my guides, that¬†“The world was not built on indecision.” ¬†What world do you want to build?¬†¬†What will you decide?

Tony’s Birthday Part 1 – Everything But The Plan

I had it all planned out. ¬†I was going to surprise Tony by spending the morning at Southbank at an experiential art exhibition, lunch around Southbank (maybe even try the food stalls or the food trucks around for summer) with his close friend, an afternoon of yoga and then dinner. ¬†The only bit that was going to be a surprise was the art exhibition but alas it wasn’t to be.

It was raining and when we got there, they told us that one of the sections of the exhibition was closed because of the rain. ¬†So my surprise was blown and we didn’t get to go to the exhibition that day. ¬†We instead opted to return the following week in the hopes that it would be sunny and all sections of the exhibition would be open.

So, an impromptu alternative meant we ended up at the Hotel Cafe Royal for hot chocolate.  My reasoning was that the best thing to cure any ailments caused by trudging around in the cold, windy rain was hot chocolate!

It worked.

This was my “Traditional” hot chocolate.

Jivara 40% milk chocolate
Jivara 40% milk chocolate

Birthday Boy chose “The Dark Mapbelieve”.

Guanaja 70% chocolate with toasted pecan and maple syrup
Guanaja 70% chocolate with toasted pecan
and maple syrup

We didn’t have time to try anything¬†else at the cafe because we’d changed our plans and his friend was coming to meet us within 30 mins so we could¬†have lunch together.

So, we enjoyed the hot chocolate…

Cafe Royal

… (yes, he was happy) and met up with his close friend and her partner¬†for lunch at¬†Ham Yard Hotel, one of our favourite places in London.

We ended up sitting and eating¬†in¬†the bar area. ¬†As it was impromptu, we didn’t book a table and because¬†it was raining, every table booked outdoors had to be accommodated for indoors leaving no room for us. ¬†Still, the bar food was pretty good and it allowed us a comfortable place to catch up.

We ate things like:
Chorizo sausage rolls and rapeseed mayonnaise (in picture below).
Pork belly, butter beans, onion soubise, salsa verde  (in picture below).
Hot salt beef, mustard mayo and pickles. (A sandwich with a paper thin amount of salt beef, nothing like what we had imagined.)
Ham Yard house-glazed smoked ham, Fontina and truffled mascarpone. (a posh ham and cheese sandwich)
Crisp shredded duck, hoisin sauce Sliders  (2 on a plate).

The dishes were tiny (being bar food), we cut everything up and split it between the 4 of us so we could all try a bit of everything.

HamYard BarIt was all delicious.  Just, small, minuscule, tiny portions.

We didn’t have the heart to order any more even though we were hungry because his friend’s partner who we just met had offered to pay. ¬†Instead, we enjoyed the meal and the company, said our farewells and then subsequently found out from each other that we were both still hungry.

Tones¬†decided that he didn’t want to go to yoga anymore.

So we walked all the way to and down Oxford St looking for food and finally stopped at Simit Sarayi.  We had walked past this many times before and every time it was so crowded, it really put us off going in but since it was his birthday, I encouraged him to brave the crowds and try something different.

We ended up getting a tomato and mozzarella sandwich ha ha ha. ¬†How’s that for different? ¬†Well, the bread was different to what we’re used to. ¬†It was nice. ¬†He did try this “dill and cheese ball” pastry they had which neither of us really liked (it was a bit dry) and I chose a little cake. ¬†I told him it was his “birthday cake” even though I picked it. ¬†It tasted like a¬†black forest cake but lighter (not so dense, no syrup) and the base was¬†crispy rice puffs in chocolate. ¬†It was good, not too sweet and very light. ¬†It was a nice birthday cake.

Simit Sayati Afternoon Snack
Simit Sayati Afternoon Snack

We couldn’t eat it in the restaurant because it was so full and all the seats were taken, so we got it takeaway, walked around the corner and sat at our favourite outdoor place to chill out in the middle of the city. ¬†It wasn’t the best idea. ¬†This place is beautiful when it’s sunny¬†but it’s quite difficult to get any shelter from the rain there as we soon found out.

 

I was worried that because¬†nothing had¬†gone according to plan and we’d spent so much time outside in the rain that Tony would be disappointed but he¬†was really happy with how we spent the day. ¬†Phew!

Favourite Place

Ahh London, what other city can look so beautiful when it’s dark and cloudy?

I still have to tell you about the dinner we went to for his birthday, the piste de resistance and the art exhibition, hence the “Part 1” in the title. ¬†So stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on that next week ūüôā

Until then, keep loving life!

Joy & Tony
xox

Another one of those days….

So what do you want to hear about? ¬†’cause if you don’t tell me, I’ll just ramble on about something you couldn’t care less about or go on a rant about some random event.

Like today. ¬†It was a beautiful day. ¬†The first day I’d gone out and not needed a jacket during the day, this year. ¬†The sun was shining, there was still a cool breeze. ¬†People were out and about. ¬†It was nice.

However, when I was walking home from the shop, some guy yells “Excuse me!” as I was crossing¬†the road.

When I got to the other side, I looked at him. ¬†He starts waving at me and gesturing me to come over (ie cross the road I’d just crossed, back over to where he was. ¬†He wanted me to go¬†over to him). ¬†I have no idea who he was, he wasn’t carrying any pamphlets, notepads and he didn’t¬†have any badges / ID’s like¬†people who collect for charity do… nothing. ¬†It was just him and his gesturing. ¬†I had no idea what he wanted, he didn’t say anything else, he just kept smiling and waving like an idiot. ¬†So I ignored him and kept on walking.

He reminded me of this guy who¬†used to sit in a pick up truck¬†and wait for me to come out of the train station on my way home from school. ¬†He used to always park his car just outside the station then look at me like he knew me, smile like crazy, wave and gesture me to get into the car. ¬†I would’ve been 13, the guy would’ve been in his 30’s – 40’s.

He used to do it every afternoon and every afternoon I’d have to ignore him and all the stares I’d get from people and I’d just keep on walking.

Every day, I’d think about how many school girls he did this to and how many were stupid enough to get in the car. ¬†One time, just because there was a crowd at the bus stop that I had to walk around, I ended up walking quite close to his car and he hurriedly got out, walked around and opened the door for me. ¬†I just walked faster so he looked like he was excitedly¬†opening the door…. for nobody. ¬†What a¬†d*ckhead. ¬†If I didn’t get into his car the first 10 times, why the hell would I do it then or any time?

A few times, I’d walk next to random adults until I got past his car. ¬†Of course the adults would look at me like “Why are you walking so close to me?” but they’d be fine once I increased the distance, after we’d passed the car. ¬† There was this one woman who, I did that to and if she ever caught the train and came out at the same time as me again, would always wait for me and walk between me and the car but she wasn’t there all the time. ¬†We never exchanged words but she understood.

This guy today, had the same f*cked up smile and the same wave as that pickup truck guy.

Because I looked at him and then kept walking, he¬†yells “Nee How!” but says it with a mocking tone. ¬†Almost like, “Oh you don’t speak English? OK, I’ll speak to you in YOUR language.”

I keep walking, don’t acknowledge him.

He then yells something else, probably another Asian country’s greeting and it is at this point that I have to stop myself from flipping him the bird. ¬†You know, the universal language for “F*ck off!” The one that transcends all language barriers?

I keep walking.  He finally stops.  Obviously whatever it was, was not that important.

The event replays in my mind and I start to get pissed off.  He totally ruined the beautiful day.

Firstly, if you have nothing to say after¬†“Excuse me”, why say anything? ¬†Secondly, when a person ignores you, why keep trying to get their attention? ¬†Especially when you have nothing else to say?

Secondly, why assume that because I’m Asian that I come from China and start speaking to me in Mandarin? ¬†You dumb racist f*ck. ¬†I don’t go around speaking Punjabi to every single brown person I see!

Yes, he was brown (but that’s not enough to make me assume he’s Indian) with a black turban on his head, probably to cover the giant penis growing off it. ¬†D*ckhead.

I know now¬†why I have a deep wrinkle/crease on my forehead. ¬†It’s from my permanent scowl, the one I wear when I go outside into the big bad world by myself so all those¬†d*ckheads will think I’m ugly (in attitude and looks) enough to leave me alone.

It actually annoys me that I have to do this. ¬†It annoys me that this only happens when I’m by myself. ¬†I must’ve been enjoying the day so much, the scowl had come off. ¬†It annoys me that this is the result of my slip up. ¬†It ain’t easy keeping a scowl on your face when the sun is shining brightly and you’re actually happy!

It annoys me that I have to go everywhere with Tony or deal with what happened today (It’s obviously been happening since I was a kid). ¬†It annoys me that men choose to¬†harass little Asian women (or any women for that matter). ¬†It annoys me that every time I go out by myself I run the risk of meeting some idiot who blurts out Chinese and Japanese greetings as if¬†they were a sonnet.

I was wearing brown full length trousers, lace up shoes, a 3/4 sleeve top and a full length sleeve cardigan over it.  I was fully covered is my point and I look like a kid most of the time.

It actually reminded me of this video.

I don’t know. ¬†Guys would probably say women should be happy they’re getting acknowledged and looked at by men.

Mate, I totally get it. ¬†I’ve crossed the road and had the car horn beeped at me multiple times and guys yelling “Aawwwwooooo! Yeah!” and waving out of the car. ¬†That actually was flattering. ¬†Not only did it make me laugh, it made my day.

It’s the prolonged attention¬†that irks.

If that car of howling young men had stopped and those men approached me or if that car had slowed down and driven at the pace I was walking, I would’ve been completely freaked out and running as fast as possible to the nearest Police station.

So I say, to keep everyone in public happy, please let everyone walk outside and enjoy their days, by themselves should they choose, hassle free.  If you feel compelled to give a compliment then give one, smile  and move on.

Unless it’s your job to randomly talk to strangers for prolonged periods of time, don’t hover around someone on the street and if they show no interest in whatever you’re selling, please leave them¬†alone.

And if there’s anything else to be learned from this rant… please please please stop shouting out “nee how” and “konichiwa” to every Asian you see unless you want to look like a racist D*ckhead.

Thank you.