Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Highlights Of London

Having been to London half a dozen times, there was no dire need for me to run around the tourist sights. However as I had about 6 hours to kill before I needed to turn up at Heathrow airport, I left my bags in D's office in Covent Garden, and sat down to a coffee at Nero's (which is the only coffee chain in Brighton and London which serves a decent cuppa - LP's opinion which I wholeheartedly endorsed after having to chuck a cup of coffee from the Cornish Pasty Cafe where I had lunch later that day because it was burnt and foul-tasting) and started planning what I really, REALLY wanted to see in London.

As usual, Tate Modern topped my list. Doris Salcedo, a Colombian artist was exhibiting. The installation (I suppose that is what it is) in the main Turbine Hall of the museum was huge cracks which were created in the floor of the hall. The floor had been opened up and the chasm beckoned one to go closer to take a better look. The artwork was one with the venue of the work. It was interesting but I was more curious to know how they were going to close up the void once the exhibition is over.

The only disappointment was that the works of Chris Ofili, a Turner Prize winner, who I had researched so much on and wrote about in Art School, was no longer exhibiting there. I had really wanted to see the controversial works which incorporates elephant dung especially "The Last Supper".

Having fed my soul at Tate Modern, I had time to squeeze in another museum, the Museum of London which I have never been to, all the times I've been in London. I soon realised why. It was overrun with school children and the exhibits were tailored more to the school crowd. I did a quick 20 minute run of it and took my leave. This is not a museum like Tate Modern, which I would be happy to revisit again and again.

London was its grey self the six hours I was there. Gone was the sunshine of the two weekends I had. This technicolour version of Blackfriars was taken on my way from Brighton to St Albans when the train was going through London. What a contrast. And that is one of the main reasons why London remains a great city to visit for me, but not a city where I can see myself working or living in. Winter depression would probably be too much. Give me sunshine, give me light, give me colour!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Highlights Of St Albans

1. My cousin, S and husband, D, moved out of London about a year ago, to St Albans, a 2-hour train ride from Brighton and just 25 minutes by train from Kings Cross in London, in search of a better quality of life and in preparation for a better environment to raise a child. Now a year later, they are happily settled in a great house (altho S is still agitating over which curtain should go with which room in light of the paint and the print of her sheets) with a lovely garden and waiting for baby to arrive in early January 2008.

2. The English countryside was at its best the weekend I was at St Albans. With sunshine, blue skies and a light breeze, the weather was most cooperative for our drive out to the countryside, a meander along the paths, the highlight of the walk was the wild blackberries growing on the bushes! I've never ever picked and eaten fruits off plants like that (the possibility of an e-coli infection did briefly cross my mind but because this was the wild, I figured there would be nobody spraying any pesticide so it would be relatively safe. Besides, I kinda rubbed each berry with my fingers before I scoffed them down). The novelty was an experience in itself. Yummy blackberries, plump and ripe for the picking.

3. Food. An important aspect of my life as my friends who read this blog would already know. I had a couple of nice pub lunches, value for money in great ambience, including a 300-year old pub in the country.
S, always the fabulous cook (she was set to work in the kitchen by her mum at a young age, and boy, did she learn well), served a great steamboat the first night I arrived. She followed that up with a dinner of homemade pizza and allowed me to "play" by making the pizza base. The dinner on the third night was this lovely duck l'orange as she was inspired by hearing me talk about the dish in the car the day before. Lucky, lucky me. I love S and the fabulous way she takes care of me whenever I visit!

4. Other sights include the St Albans Cathedral, a large and awesome-looking piece of architecture, the sprawling park with the huge pond ("This is a snack-free zone" signs dot the pond at various points telling people not to feed any bread or grain to the ducks. However many people have selective illiteracy when it comes to starting a feeding frenzy amongst the birds, us included) next to the Cathedral where families with children in prams and dogs on leashes, reiterate why so many families relocate from bustling London to places like St Albans where life moves at a slower and more relaxing pace.

Another lovely weekend in England spent with family whom I haven't seen in two years. Priceless.

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Highlights Of Brighton

1. LP's gorgeous Victorian terrace house, with all the original features such as the wrought iron fireplaces, beautiful wooden cupboards in the kitchen, floorboards etc. I love how she has found beautiful, old pieces of lovely furniture and reused them. So much better than the standard Ikea fare that one finds in so many houses over and over.

2. The animals who rule the house - 2 lovely fat English cats, Pippa and Teddy (they look like teddy bears) and a little dog, Bertie (formerly known as Dirty Harry to the chagrin of the little British old ladies who walk their dogs in the park, hence LP had to change his name to be less offensive) who eats everything and who is a little whorish and sleeps with all new visitors in the house.

3. The weekly car boot sale at the carpark at the Brighton station. Lots of treasures if you look carefully. Old Victorian furniture waiting to be lovingly restored, going for a song. I got my beige Boots plastic kitchen scales here for 3 pounds. LP reckons it's from the 60s, I think it's from the 70s and G thinks it's from the 80s. It was coated with grease and dirt, but after a good scrub with the scouring pad and dishwashing liquid, it was as good as new. It was a good alternative to what I really want - a metal, retail-type scales where one places little metal round weights on the counter-pan to see what the item weighs while it sits on an oval/scoop-shaped pan. But that would be crazy, carrying back half across the world, not only the heavy metal weighing scales but the pieces of weights that come with it.

4. Seeing my lovely friend, LP again after our last meeting 2.5 years ago in Bangkok. LP has always been like a sister, almost like twins at times, as our lives are played out in parallel, thousands of miles apart.

It was a great weekend, relaxing around the house with the animals, eating healthy stuff that LP cooks, strolling through the cobblestoned streets of Brighton, visiting the quaint little shops, looking for treasures in the antique stalls and weekend markets - it made the hectic work week that followed in Brighton worth it!

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Monday, October 01, 2007


A loaf of bread. That was how it started.

I wanted a loaf of bread for tomorrow's breakfast. At the supermarket, I saw the bananas and changed my mind and thought a couple of bananas would be good for brekkie. On my way home, I had a brainwave and figured out how I could use the last 2 eggs in my fridge before I went away on my trip so nothing would go to waste. I will make a banana loaf! Brilliant.

Upon arrival home, I opened the pantry and found a cup of flour left. The recipe called for 2 cups of flour. So I figured I would halve the recipe. The online conversion doesn't seem to tally, my cup of flour seems to be more than what the metric equivalent the online converter threw up. So I ended up adding in the rest of the half of the recipe. The cake batter seemed a little stiff when I spooned it into the loaf tin. That was why I was keeping a close eye on the progress in the oven and when it didn't look like it was rising like a cake should, I took the loaf out of the oven and decided to make them into cookies instead and started spooning them into little blobs on the baking sheet.

It was a good call. They turned out like rock buns. It's funny what a loaf of bread ended up as.

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