I wish sneezing would banish mosquitoes from around me! I have sustained five bites overnight in the most aggravating way. I hate waking up to the evidence that something has taken a leisurely stroll down my leg, sucking my blood. Gross and totally uncalled for if you ask me. All I ever did was aggressively exact revenge on two of your species in the past week with my slipper *thwack*! That is no justice for the total of ten bites and counting… An average of one per day. Grrrrr!
The crazy thing is, mosquitoes are totally out of season here right now. But this year’s weather has been out of kilter all around the world it seems. I’ve seen news of more flooding in the UK. I hope everyone is ok back in good ol’Blighty?
I thought I’d post a cheerful photo to help make the lemons easier to swallow. I flew Virgin Atlantic last week and was given a mini tube of Love Hearts as we were preparing for landing. I do dislike long haul flights and would not choose to take them if I had the choice. But I do find marketing and consumer psychology interesting!
I’m not adverse to allowing myself to appreciate the quintessentially British style that Virgin employs. No milky coloured pile of mints for them on the approach to your destination. Just some playful and nostalgic (if you’re a Brit) compensation for having suffered the discomfort of embedding your knees into the passenger in front for the last eternity.
And my last Love Heart is a message for you this week. Framed by my favourite pen to travel with. My fun Muji 5-colour plus pencil contraption (also somewhat nostalgic – did I ever mention that I love stationery?) Have a very blessed week, whatever you are facing.
I desperately miss home with its cold early evenings, frosty mornings, proper dark and neon light deficiency, easy accessibility to good cheese, strong black tea that goes well with milk, slightly less unpredictable weather and hibernating bitey things.
When you are away from where you call home, what do miss the most?
I’ve been away for about a week. (Apologies again for being a bit sketchy with reading your posts. I miss them!) When I woke one morning in this other-worldly place, I met a creature I’d never seen before. It sat motionless on the window pane and did not fly away for ages. In fact, I didn’t go out until just before lunch and it was still there as I left.
When I’m back, I’ll fix up the photo and see if I can identify it on Google. But for now, here’s a silhouette… I’d not normally enjoy staring at such things, but this is one fascinating insect. Is anybody out there familiar with this fancy dress creature?
Seeing as it’s Friday… I wanted to share what I was chuckling over at the end of last week before I stumbled across this Freshly Pressed post on the subject of spam, which demonstrated that there is more than just the Internet that connects us all. Yes, I shared the exact same spammer with Nathan Badley of not-so-fleeting Freshly Pressedom fame (it appears that he’s been efFPeed more than twice). We received the same fascinating message which left us similarly flummoxed over a reference to “brussels”.
Aaaanyway, I digress. I had read that message in my spam folder briefly, sniggered and then moved on. Because there was a more intriguing and amusing message that caught my eye. Its brevity and the tone of unmistakeable incredulity drew my attention and held it there: apparently I have a devoted fan that I have been so remiss as to have overlooked a number of times, to my detriment. I really must check my spam more often…
I Google’d SCK and found no conclusive evidence as to the identity of this elusive person. But after some soul-searching and remorse I realised that the random combination of letters and numbers supplied by my mysterious visitor in the place of a name, was designed to put me off the scent. And in view of my recent obsessions that could only mean one thing: my blog had been graced by the presence of the SUPER COOL KNITTER.
SCK I am truly1 sorry, please come back and share your wisdom with all of us. It is my fault alone, please don’t hold my negligence against my readers also. Winter is approaching (or has already approached, crept up by the door and started huffing and puffing through every little tiny unprotected sliver *shiver*). Those of us whose hair Winter has already ruffled and whose cheeks she has already chafed, would really love to wrap up warm in hand knitted scarves, jumpers and throws. It would be truly cool but not cold, if we could share knitting tips… you must have quite a treasure trove of them if you have made over four million attempts at catching my attention.
Ho Ho Ho (oops, sorry, too early… and fictional) hahaha. There. What a silly lot of ramblings. But these random things entered my mind when I saw that silly piece of spam.
I wish you a light-hearted weekend, perhaps accompanied by a bubbly glass of (cue drumroll) freshly pressedlemonade. For many, it may be a slightly tart and sharp glass of the stuff… but still refreshing in some way, I hope.
1 OK, perhaps my final paragraph would suggest that I am not nearly as sincere in my sentiments towards SCK as I am trying to suggest here. But I am cheered by the ingenious spam message. Direct and to the point 😉
I find when many people write reviews about places to eat out, they seek out interesting cuisines and wonderful décor and presentation. I love ogling the resulting photos showing amazing things that I would never think of doing with food. When I eat out however, it’s usually because I have been terrible at planning and I’m too tired to cook. It’s often also a bit later than the average supper time, so I’m not really looking for adventure, it’s more a question of having a night off from cooking in a comfortable setting.
So with that in mind, my top priority for places to eat are where I know I can relax, and trust the restaurant staff to be generallyattentive and friendly. Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find the service in restaurants has not been all that great for a while? And I’m not talking about highbrow places where I could be accused of lowering the tone of the restaurant with my half asleep look. I hope you don’t think I’m asking for much – it’s just that someone who delivers the food or gives you the bill as though they were holding a grudge against you doesn’t usually do much to aid digestion. I wonder if perhaps the recent trend for restaurants to slap the 10-15% “service charge” automatically on the end of your bill doesn’t help. I’d like to think this isn’t the only reason. Perhaps diners have also become less polite in recent years.
However, the restaurant I am about to tell you about still does it the old fashioned way. In fact, you aren’t even allowed to enter a tip on the card machine. If you have no change, you can’t tip at all – much to my disappointment, the first time I visited.
This restaurant is not particularly spectacular in terms of credentials. It is not tucked away in some hidden alley, serving amazing fresh produce grown from a drainpipe. No amazing stories to tell there. In fact, it is one in a chain of six in London and I have no idea how authentic the food is because I have never been to Greece and I do not know anyone who is really clued up about real Greek food. It is in fact one of the food outlets at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, next to the now slumbering Olympic Park. Nothing at Westfield can be called a bargain, but this is one of the less expensive restaurants on that side of Stratford. I thought I would review it since it is a place I have been served well on three occasions. Incidentally, if you have a voucher for any chain store/restaurant, check before you try and use it at Westfield. You will notice that some offers are not valid there.
On this occasion, we ordered the Tabouleh Salad, Loukaniko Country Sausage and Dolmades which came on a tiered sharing platter. We also had some saffron rice and Tiropitakia because I can never pass on cheese wrapped in delicate pastry. On other occasions I have tried the Greek Flatbread with Olive Oil & Dukkah, Htipiti, Gigandes Plaki, Lahanosalata and a set basket of wraps which I cannot find in the online menu. All of the offerings were very reasonable and in good sized portions. It is impossible to take good photos in the restaurant in most of the areas, because the evening lighting is not designed to aid food photography. My apologies to the restaurant as the one half-acceptable result may not look all that appetising to all, so here’s a link to the menu so that you can better imagine what I ate. I think you will agree however, that the lamp shades are rather nice and cheerful. As with all of the Westfield shops and restaurants, the design and layout is really nice. I especially like the pretty doors to the restaurant and I must also point out that they serve tap water in lovely cobalt blue enamel jugs.
Bearing in mind the context of my requirements and limited experience of Greek cuisine, I have thrice been a happy customer. The staff have been cheerful and relaxed at all times (on this occasion, there was a rather rowdy lively birthday party going on) and I have been served in good time with tasty grub. This is one of the few restaurants where I can also leave after the meal without having to resort to performing a rain dance to attract somebody to take my money. And since my first experience, I have made sure that I have cash in my pocket before I sit down so as not to have to leave a few sad coppers languishing on the table after paying the bill.
I guess this is a post about one branch of a chain restaurant that seems to be doing things right on the service front. That does tend to go a long way to sending me home happy 🙂
Just a little photo of my 97% completed scarf #2. The colour has greyed out a little in the lighting at home.
I’ve hurt my shoulder and have been forbidden to knit until I’ve completely recovered. I need some time to decide how to finish off the ends of the scarf anyway, so I’m not complaining. I don’t like tassels too much and I’m not sure about pompoms. I’ve used a simple moss stitch along the entire scarf and it’s knitted in felted tweed, so a nice chunky wool. I’m thinking more along the lines of some sort of lacey crocheted edging. Any ideas?
If I believed in previous lives I could, without a doubt, tell you that I was an ostrich. Actually, forget about multiple reincarnations. I am an ostrich mocked up as a human being. (I just got a picture of that. It’s ridiculous.) I am an expert in living in denial, pretending like it’s never going to happen so that it will go away. At times, I have been known to completely refuse to prepare for something that is bound to happen, because I feel so overwhelmed by what I have to face. I end up panicking and doing everything last minute, or even having to wing it. Stupid, I’m telling you. If only I could bring myself to pop over for tea with Her Majesty from time to time, I’d have been the first decorated ostrich in the Kingdom a long time ago. I am so accomplished at digging holes in sand where there isn’t even any sand around!
I do not just buckle at fears. I mean, this applies to how I tackle fail at packing for travel too. I see a myriad items and pieces of clothing that I have to collect from all corners of the house, and I envisage an organised and packed suitcase. And the conclusion I invariably draw, is that I can make the one turn into the other by sheer willpower and remaining completely immobile. A procrastinating ostrich is a terrible beast. I suppose much of my inaction is related to things I desperately do not want to do, places I do not want to go. I often have a choice in these matters, but I know that I should make the choice that I do not want to. So, I try to make it all go away by sticking my head stubbornly in the sand and chewing it.
Fears, as we all know, do not have to be rational. After we have talked ourselves into being ok with something, we can still get to the point of almost getting into gear to face it, only to suddenly and completely freeze. On the other hand, I have some real, deep-seated fears that propel me into positive action. The desire to overcome them, motivates me to try to tackle them.
I do not like heights. I know in my mind that there is nothing to fear, and yet my body will tense up and it will be a mission to keep going. What really annoys me, is that my fear is tied to my lack of confidence in my own body to keep me upright. I’m not even talking about scaling a high mountain. I’m talking about the inability to walk up a tame hillside when the wind is approaching from the wrong direction. Perhaps it isn’t so much a fear of heights, as a fear of falling. And it doesn’t have to be falling from a great height either. Perhaps my fear is of a loss of control. Of stumbling into an indefinite slide and tumble…I fear…hiking. There I’ve said it. Snigger all you like. It absolutely infuriates me.
I LOVE the outdoors. I LOVE walking. When I lived in Hamburg, one of my favourite things was the German obsession with the Spaziergang. The culture of taking a leisurely walk with friends, combining with my other passion – a good ole natter. Finding a good coffee and cake or ice cream along the way never hurt either.
Alfred Wainwright is my hero, with his beautifully illustrated and fondly crafted pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells including charming stories and anecdotes from walking over some of the most beautiful terrain in good ole Blighty. And yet, I had barely touched the foot of the gentle Barrow a couple of years ago, before the incline became too much to handle. Thankfully, there were few witnesses to my display of cowardice. One day, I will respectfully set foot on a little ridge somewhere in the Fells…
However, today’s story is a little more positive. There is hope yet.
Earlier this year, as the Olympic torch was passing through Stroud, I was on my way up the beautiful Malvern Hills. I took a gentle route starting not far below St Ann’s Well, approaching from a steep little road going away from town past some lovely cottages. I made my way up towards the Beacon, the highest point along this beautiful hill range. Most of the way has well laid footpaths to make it accessible to more people, although scree does make me nervous when I am going downhill. As you approach the Worcestershire Beacon however, there is a short part of the route that requires a gentle amble up well worn but slightly more undulating paths.
The weather was beautiful – sunny, but with a good breeze. Having almost reached the hilltop, the wind was quite spectacular. In fact, that was the reason why my walking companion wanted us to go up there. And, having made it to the top of the hill, except for another ten metres or so, that’s where I buckled. With the hillside gently sloping away, I settled in a little nook just below the summit, where there was shelter from the wind. I decided, I thought, that I had made it just shy of the top and it was a good achievement.
But then, I caught sight of the toposcope at the very peak, designed by Malvern architect Arthur Troyte Griffith. To be precise, I caught sight of the words on the side of it that told me that it was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Fortunately for me, I made my first ascent of the Malvern Hills in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year, at a time when the country was in great anticipation of the Olympic Games. It gave me that extra impetus to brave the wind, and practically crawl up to the very summit. Yes indeed, Queen Vic gave me a kick up the bum and told me to do those last ten metres since I was up there already. I was not likely to get another chance to do something so momentous for another little while, so I might as well just do it.
So. I made it up to touch the toposcope. On the Worcestershire Beacon. At a mere 425 m or 1,394 ft (according to Wikipedia). I’ll have you know, I clung on for dear life while we snapped a few photos for posterity. I will not show you them. The strong winds were whipping my hair upwards giving me an extra foot in height, even though I did have it tied back. To the traumatised cyclist out there somewhere, who had just approached via the ridge to witness a crazed woman shrieking and laughing manically, I apologise sincerely. The wind was buffeting around my ears, giving me the illusion that no one could hear the racket I was making… until I took those few steps back to the nook where I hid before and realised how beautifully quiet it was if one was not exposed to the wind…
But I will share with you, a souvenir of my little adventure:
To end, I may be mostly ostrich-like, but I do have my moments of brilliance when I will kick into reverse-ostrich mode and find some grit to make me do things that continue to amaze me afterwards. These moments may mean nothing to someone like the poor cyclist or a couple who preceded us up the hill, one with a child on his back and the other pushing a buggy with another child clambering about in front of her. But for me, they are moments where I made a brave decision, and half a year later that shrieking moment still makes me smile just thinking back to it. There is no lemonade bubblier and sweeter than that.
I hope that you will join me in braving those little challenges this coming week. We all have our fears. Others may dismiss them as silly, but if it is a fear for you, it is REAL. But it is yours to confront. You may not completely overcome the fear, but that shouldn’t stop you trying for those little victories. (Woohoo! *Punches the air*.)
Maybe one day I will tell you the story of the glacier and the fjord…
If you are interested, here is a YouTube video I stumbled across whilst writing this post. Jon Bywater kindly shot some footage of their little amble up the hill and it’s lovely.
I came across the following beautiful, inspiring and uplifting post by John D Burns on 3 December. I wanted to add a link so that I would remember it: Treasure In the Hills. It just made me smile! 🙂