Happy Birthday to Me!

Today it is my birthday. As a Monday is not generally the best day for a celebration, my other half treated me to a day out on Saturday instead.

We began with a rather lovely cooked breakfast of poached eggs on toast (which was incredibly yummy) before heading off to do the first really touristy thing since we moved to London. We went to visit ‘The Dungeons’. I had acquired a 2 for 1 ticket from the internet so off we headed. As expected, the jubilee line was closed for the third weekend in a row so we had to take an alternative route there. It only took us a little while longer and we still arrived in good time for the one o’clock tour. I have to admit, that at the end, I was sorely disappointed with the experience. It was not very scary, informative or entertaining. Had we paid full price for entry I would have been mightily annoyed. Unless you are oblivious to every major happening in London since the 1500’s then I would steer clear of ‘The Dungeons’ as it will tell you nothing new but more over, will provide very little excitement or value for money.

When we came outfrom that attraction, the effects of the cooked breakfast were waning fairly severely so we followed our noses and found the rather wonderful Borough Market. The first stop for us was to find some food. One of the first stalls to catch our eye was this fellow

He was selling several different flavours of Jamaican patties. Here’s a close up of them

I sampled the closest pattie in the picture which was a Roasted sweet potato and pumpkin one. My other half opted for the jerk chicken pattie. We were both incredibly impressed with our respective choices. My pattie was particularly good as I had never really tried sweet potato before but I shall be having it again. It was incredibly tasty so I am pleased to provide their website to my readers as www.rummanco.co.uk. It really was some very good food and should I see them at any other markets, I will be trying a different pattie. Whilst walking around we also sampled an authentic bratwurst with sauerkraut, an organic English cheesecake and some chocolate brownies. The patties were still our favorites by far. I also spotted the one and only Gok Wan of ‘How to Look Good Naked’ fame ambling around the market. He was being an absolute love and taking lots of pictures with fans so I decided I would leave the man in peace to shop so didn’t ask for one.

By about five o’clock we had eaten enough so headed down to Canary Wharf hoping to find a sunny spot by the river where I could drink some cocktails. We opted for the Via bar and restaurant just near West India Quay DLR stop. It looked promising until the barman mixed my cocktail. I ordered a twisted Mojito which is basically a standard mojito with lime added. Not too complex you would think. Apparently so. Not only did the barman overload it with lime to the extent that it was the predominant, no only, flavour in the glass, but when I returned to ask for it to be remade, he told me I was wrong and this is how it’s supposed to taste. That broke the first rule of customer service, I won’t quote the rule because you all know what it is. Needles to say I simply took a refund for the drink and we left. Now, I wouldn’t have minded the bad cocktail, that can be forgiven, but the side order of arrogance? No thank you. We shall not be going back to that bar anytime in the foreseeable future and I suggest you probably steer clear as well unless you like condescending service.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day. I feel like I have now ticked at least one box on the ‘things to see and do in London’ list. Next I think we shall do museums and such like educational things as the tourist attractions just don’t seem to be up to much.

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The Anonymous City

I enjoyed a rather good night out with work colleagues yesterday. We were drinking out a member of staff as he is off travelling before returning home to Australia. It was a jolly old time at a pub just down the road from work. A few of us decided to have a swift half in the pub next to the tube station before heading off home. The swift aspect obviously didn’t happen and I ended up missing the last southbound train. Not to worry, I though, the other half can come get me in the car. I duly called the other half who had also been boozing so driving was a no go. Bugger. To the buses it was!

I have never travelled home from north London before so I honestly had no idea what buses I needed to get. I did however remember that my usual night bus from central London basically tows the central tube line route so I grabbed a night bus for any station I knew was on the central line. The first bus to arrive was set to whisk me away to Holborn. That would of course been fine if I knew where or what Holborn station looked like. Luckily for me, I sat down next to a very rare breed of person on the bus, and it was someone who didn’t mind having a chat. So, I chatted to the positively charming Sam who very kindly told me when to get off the bus. It’s the first time in London that I have been on a bus or tube when another human being has actually acknowledged that I live, breathe and think just as much as they do.

Londoners are, for the most part, only concerned with their own business. No one smiles at one another and all sit with headphones in and/or books open. It’s easy to slip into this trend even if you don’t want to simply be another face on the tube with no voice. It’s strange that I feel I can’t be a person without interacting with someone else of my species. It’s an odd feeling to have when you’re surrounded by ordinary, probably quite intelligent, talented, funny people, but to never say a single syllable to them. As I said, it makes me feel un-human normally when I’m on public transport so to finally have some form of release from that invisible prison was wonderful. For this I would like to say thank you to the helper of the lost on the N91 bus from Caledonian Road, Sam.

I did eventually arrive home after a 2 hour confusion fest but all in all, it was a worthwhile night.

This Cyclists Gripe

This may not be as you expect everyone because my gripe is not with buses, cars, motorcycles or lorries. It’s with other cyclists and more specifically the ones who do not wear any form of high visibility clothing or a helmet.

This annoyance of mine has always been there but since cycling in London, it has manifested in much more of a rage than merely an irritation. I now have fully blown cyclist rage. My point was hammered home this evening when I saw a gentleman cyclist (who was wearing no helmet, had no lights on his bicycle and was wearing entirely dark clothing) had the audacity to slap/punch the window of a car that had pulled out in front of him. I can only presume they didn’t see him as the female driver’s face was an absolute picture of horror as I went past. Now if he had been wearing appropriate clothes for cycling at night I would have excused his outburst but, he wasn’t.

It’s cyclists like that man who irritate motor vehicle users and give the rest of us a bad name and it really upsets me. I am the type who goes no where near a bicycle without a hi-vis vest, lights, bicycle clips and helmet as I want to be damned sure that if some idiot does knock me down that it will clearly not be because I wasn’t trying to be seen. I have to say though when you cycle around trying to be a ninja on wheels at night with all your dark clothes and no lights, you are asking to get walloped by a car.

I do wish the rest of the cyclists of the world would remeber that you aren’t lit up like an airstip by default, there is no ‘glow in the dark’ aspect to any part of human anatomy. If you don’t want to get squashed then you have to take precautions and if you don’t make yourself visible then you have no right to be angry/agitated at a driver who didn’t see you.

So, that’s my little rant over and I feel much better.

Living for 2 days a week

It has recently come to my attention that I only do, or I only seem to do, anything of interest on a weekend. I began to wonder why I have gone from living for each and every day to simply living and wishing my life away so that Saturday and Sunday are nearer. Each minute I find myself thinking about how much longer until this day is done and I can take a step closer to the enjoyable section of my life.

I have decided I will have to try harder to enjoy the week or I may begin to go a little bit crackers.

Bank Holiday Glory!

Easter Bank Holiday. What a blessing. Four days of uninterrupted relaxation and fun. Well I say four days, I actually went to work on Friday morning for a few hours so more three and a half days really. However many days it was, I think we spent it well.

We had one day to ourselves to enjoy oneanothers company before we set about visiting a friend in Surrey. We hadn’t seen this friend for a while and he’s been ‘doing up’ his garden so we planned to have a BBQ if the weather held. When we arrived on Saturday evening the first port of call was the new cinema. We went to see the new Nicholas Cage film ‘Knowing‘. Both my other half and our friend saw the ending coming a mile off but I was pleasantly surprised by it. The plot line wasn’t particularly engaging but I didn’t find myself bored or fidgeting so the story basically plodded the acceptable line between gripping and sleep inducing. I wouldn’t see the film again but I’m not sorry to have sat through it for a couple of hours.

Sunday was the planned BBQ day as the weather man had promised sun. The weather man lied and I shall blame it on him. It was overcast and the overnight rain never really dried out. We ventured out to Bagshot for a cheap but cheerful Sunday roast (which I was positively desperate to eat as I haven’t had a roast dinner for several months). It did the job quite nicely and we rounded off the day with copious amounts of the activities pictured below:

We drank champagne, played SingStar on the Playstation 3, indulged in some Guitar Hero and also mixed in a little World of Warcraft. It was the center of entertainment. I also had quite an amusing time rummaging through my friends kitchen cupboards in search of condiments. Let me explain.

My friend has not lived in his house all that long, maybe 9 or 10 months, and each time we have visited we have been presented with excessive amounts sauces of the bottled variety. BBQ sauce, brown sauce, chili sauce, you name it, he had it. He never had tomato ketchup though. So, I was doing the usual rifle through the cupboard to find a sauce for my hot dog when I started to notice the ‘use before’ dates on the bottles. Now, my Mother has always said “They’re best before dates, not ‘will kill you after’ dates! Don’t be so soft.” So, for the most part, the sniff and texture test will reassure me of the non toxic nature of ‘gone off’ food. For these condiments however, I did not provide such a test as they were all ‘Best Before End’ at various stages in 2005. Ordinarily I would not find this amusing, but seeing as my friend has only lived in his new place for, well less than a year, it meant that he had packed and moved all these out of date condiments from his old flat to his new house. That is what I found the most amusing.  I wonder if it is all men or just a special breed who do things like that. In total I threw out 4 or 5 bottles of sauce, some marmite and vegemite, all years past their best.

The Sun showed it’s face on Monday morning so we ate a cooked breakfast outside on the patio which was glorious. We left shortly after that so we could catch up on the mountain of laundry and housework back in London. As it happened we didn’t get much of that done because we went to see ‘Watchmen‘ at the Vue cinema inside the O2. We did head down much earlier than the showing because the Jubilee line was off, AGAIN. On the way out from the replacement bus service, I saw this map and wondered who had designed it.

Anyway, we still arrived about an hour before the showing and went into Las Iguanas for some food. We sat down and about10 minutes after seating were able to order drinks and food. We opted for bread and olives to start. I went for a Chimichanga as a main and my other half the burger. I have never eaten Latin food before so I was nervous about what might turn up. Unfortunately, I shall never know what a Chimichanga is like as we left the restaurant before the food arrived. Once we had ordered, we sat patiently and waited for our cold olives and bread starter to arrive. After 20 minutes we wondered if our order had even gone through properly and decided that if this was how long it took them to put some olives out of a jar into a bowl and bring them out, then we would be there until midnight waiting for the main meals. We cut our losses, paid for the drinks and left. It’s a shame really because I was quite looking forward to trying something new.

Watchmen however was worth the mishap at the restaurant. It is the best film I have seen in some time. I am endlessly pleased that we finally made it to a cinema to see it because an awful lot of the glory will be lost in translation to the small screen. If you haven’t seen it yet, but want to, please make the effort to see it in a cinema, you won’t be disappointed.

More of that weekend type fun

Last weekend we visited a friend who lives in the Tower Hamlets area of London. We have visited before but went via public transport and it took us nigh on an hour to get to his house. This time we thought we’d attempt to drive down to him and see how the timings panned out. I think we may have found the only trip in London where it is faster to drive that get the tube/DLR/bus system to. We managed to slash 40 minutes off the efforts of Transport for London and that was including getting mildly lost. Needless to say we shall be driving there every time from now on.

We had a very pleasant time really. The weather was gorgeous so we went down to Greenwich park and sat around chatting as Frisbee’s zoomed past our heads. I was then dragged to a second hand music shop which in itself was not something I am averse to but unfortunately, they seemed to constantly play music that made my brain bleed inside the shop so I had to decamp after 10 minutes or so of rifling through cards and booklets. I waited diligently outside with a portion of chips until the boys had finished their bargain hunting. It was about 7:30 in the evening before we finally arrived back at the flat in Tower Hamlets. We decided to order pizza and watch a film. Pizza Hut received their order via the internet and we put on a Film called ‘Funny Games U.S.’. I will confess that it is one of the single most obscure films I have ever seen in my entire life. I shall not be watching it again but I am also not sorry I sat through the epic almost 2 hours of plain confusion. There really is nothing more I can say about the experience of that film, it was simply odd.

Anyway, so engrossed were with with the oddity of film that we didn’t notice the pizza we ordered before the film was not yet with us. Now we knew the buzzer to the flat was broken but we had provided Pizza Hut with a landline number to call when they were at the door. So we were quite puzzled by the fact that pizza was missing. We tried to call Pizza Hut but got an engaged tone. We tried to ring the house phone and got an engaged tone. The telephone network it seemed had gone mad and neither ours nor Pizza Hut’s telephones were working. Bugger. We hopped in the car and nipped down to the delivery shop and went in to explain our plight. We apologised for our phone, they apologised for our phone and it was all terribly amicable. They set about cooking us some new pizza’s. Lovely. When the freshly cooked pizza’s were presented to us we saw a delivery guy come round the corner with another stack of boxes. The counter guy said “Oh these are the cold ones. You want them too?”. Well my comrades and I looked at each other confused, and then checked for cameras in case we were on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ but all was legitimate. We left the shop with not our original order of 4 pizza’s but 8 pizza’s and a free side of spicy chicken wings.

We were initially very angry at British Telecom for breaking the phones but I think they can be forgiven on this occasion. Here’s a snap of the stack of boxes. I did try to take a picture of all the pizza’s open but there wasn’t enough space on the floor.

So we left Tower Hamlets with enough pizza remaining for Sunday and Monday. Marvellous!

2 locks not enough you say?

Today there was an incident. An incident involving mischief of the illegal variety. Today, two youths (aged approximately 15 years old) attempted to steal my new bicycle.

When I decided to commute to work on a bicycle I purchased £25 worth of very industrial cycle lock to go with my £10 worth of coil lock. I have always used the more industrial lock to lock the frame and back wheel to a post and the coil lock to secure the front wheel to the post. This didn’t change when I bought my new bike. However, it will form now on.

I am very lucky I work in a place with a lot of smokers, as it was a cigarette break that prevented my bicycle being stolen entirely today. One of the managers was outside on such a break when these two ‘children’ stopped next to my bike and began pulling at it. My manager just watched for a bit. They pulled and lifted my bike a little (which I had, as always, locked very securely so there was no play in the chain) which my manager kept a close eye on for about a minute. After obviously deciding the locks wouldn’t give that easily and it could not be lifted off the post, one of the youths produced a pair of pliers and started to go at my coil lock. That’s when my manager decided enough was enough and shouted at them until they left.

Now one employee has already had their bicycle stolen but it was in part a stupid mistake as she has chained it to a bollard and not a tall post but it was still removed and carried away in broad daylight. At this point now, the big boss had to concede that bicycles should be brought inside the office building. Clever cookie isn’t he?

Anyway, I am now researching better locks that will hopefully deter thieves because I don’t think the cycles inside policy will last very long. I am looking seriously at a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 lock. They have a very good reputation and I think using it in conjunction with a safety cable and my existing large chain lock that my bicycle should be secure from even the most determined thief. It’s just a shame that i have to spend an additional £45 to secure the £200 bike I just bought.

Such is life