Posted in Covid-19, Current Events, fitness, Lifestyle, london

In Pursuit of Dragons

I was feeling a bit anxious and restless today, what with nearly a year of this awful pandemic, and mounting pressures at work, most of them brought about by an abundance of control issues on my part (really have to work on that lol). So I decided to go for a wee run around London in the hopes that I’d feel more calm and centred after.

It will not come as a surprise to those of you who know me well to find out that I tend to overthink things, even physical activities like running. I genuinely think that its not the lack of physical stamina that’s keeping me from running a 10k from start to finish without stopping. Its those little voices in my head telling me its too far, and oh my god I have so many more miles to cover, I’m not gonna make it. You might as well just stop now, Anj.

Yeah, its a bit tedious being inside my head sometimes.

I read somewhere that the best way to run long distances is to first, have a good playlist, preferably made up of songs with a regular tempo, because when you’re in the zone your brain will just naturally get your feet running to the beat. And you want to be in that zone. You want to be at the point where you stop thinking and putting one foot in front of the other becomes as automatic as breathing. So I’ve started filling up my running playlist with songs that have a tempo of about 160bpm, with a few fast-tempo ones added just to spice it up.

I also realised that I do better when I have a destination in mind compared to when I just run around in circles. And so I researched different routes before coming across an intriguing one that follows the boundaries of the original City of London, which used to be a lot smaller than London as I know it today. The boundaries are marked by statues of winged dragons. There are apparently thirteen scattered all over the city, and I managed to find about 11 of them during my run today (one was removed due to construction and I stupidly ran past the one in Tower Hill).

The dragon markers of the City of London

The dragon markers can be found along Victoria Embankment, where it marks the boundary between the City of London and the City of Westminster; in Temple, near St. Dunstan; Chancery Lane, near the tube station; Farringdon, Barbican, Liverpool Street, Aldersgate, which all have the dragons that are badly in need of cleaning; Tower Hill, the one I missed; London Bridge, the prettiest ones; and then finally Blackfriars.

I guess I’m writing this post after having run my fastest 10k EVER during today’s pursuit of these winged creatures because it feels like a metaphor for how to face and overcome challenges. You never get anywhere in life by staying in one place forever. The only way to learn and to grow as a person is to push yourself out of your comfort zone even if it means you might fail. I for one think it takes a special kind of courage to do something when you know that failure is all but a certainty.

Every time I passed a dragon it felt like I was silencing a little bit of my doubts and fears, not just for the run itself but in general.

People think confidence is a natural thing, that those who appear confident just wake up every morning automatically feeling sure of themselves and their abilities. But I think that confidence is an everyday battle. You have to work hard to ignore the naysayers, and by naysayers I mean YOU, because you are your own worst critic. Every day you have to dig deep to cling to that belief that you can do whatever it is you set your mind to (provided that you’re willing to do the work).

I also just started thinking about how March is the anniversary of the initial lockdown for the pandemic. This time last year we were buying toilet paper in bulk and fearing the end of times. I find myself thinking back to how I felt this time last year, when my stomach felt like a lead balloon, and I didn’t know whether the last time I saw my family would be the last time I ever see them. In keeping with the dragon theme (because heaven forbid this post becomes anymore tangential than it is, lol) it felt like the coronavirus was Drogon, raining fire down on all of us and killing people left right and centre faster than you can say “dracarys”.

We took so much for granted, didn’t we? A lot of us were arrogant enough to think that we would be spared from the worst of it all (BoJo, I’m looking at you), and the prevailing sentiment seems to be that we were failed by the inaction of the very people who were supposed to lead us. But I really don’t want to dwell anymore on that, or the fact that I have completely lost faith in all politicians. I am choosing to see this pandemic not as a story of failure but as a story of the everyday resilience of the “ordinary” people, especially my colleagues in the NHS whose collective work have been nothing short of extraordinary.

It’s been a tough year, full of an unprecedented number of challenges. I personally just feel grateful to have reached this point, where there’s an end to lockdown in sight, and a glimmer of hope for the future in the horizon. I know a lot of people continue to struggle, and there’s nothing much we can do except to offer hope, support and above all kindness. Hang in there! Things will always get better, and the brightest morning always comes after the darkest night, you just have to make it through.

And to you dear reader, may you always find the strength to slay your dragons, in whatever form or shape they may take.

xoxo

Posted in bloggers, family, london, Reviews

Book Review: Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell

I had a somewhat unorthodox introduction to Hamlet, arguably one of the greatest plays ever written in the English language.

I was about 11 or so when I heard that John F. Kennedy Jr., who back then was the closest thing America had to a prince, had died in a plane crash. CNN and BBC news kept flashing the image of him that had indelibly imprinted itself in the public consciousness: that of a little boy saluting his father’s coffin during the procession to its final resting place. One newspaper had stamped these words, along with his picture, on the front page:

“Goodnight sweet prince, and may flight of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

I remember sobbing my heart out though I hardly knew the guy. Even when I was younger, I always considered a life suddenly cut short, especially when it was unexpected, to be the biggest tragedy in the world. I looked up those lines and found out they were from a play by William Shakespeare called Hamlet, and I proceeded to hunt up a copy of the play so I could read what it was all about. I was prepared to be amazed and blown away.

My actual reaction was somewhat less than enthusiastic.

To be fair, I was 11 and not nearly mature enough to appreciate the plot, and of course, the various subtexts that made the play so culturally significant and the most widely discussed among all the Bard’s plays. I only knew that it was long and confusing and I would rather have been reading Romeo and Juliet instead if I’m being honest. Needless to say, this was the first and last time I would ever read the story of the Prince of Denmark.

After reading Maggie O’Farrell’s brilliant book, I think I might just crack open a copy of the play again and see whether time and maturity would give me a different perspective. Certainly the idea that Shakespeare had named the Prince of Denmark after his deceased son, and had written it both to honour him and as a way to process his grief, gives it this air of sentimentality, so much that I expect I may never look at it the same way again.

I tend to be really suspicious of any book that wins awards, be it Man Booker Prize or Waterstones’ Book of the Year or whatever. I often find that the quality of book doesn’t quite live up to the hype, at least not in the sense that I actually enjoy reading it. Like, for example, (and I’m probably going to be roasted on the internet for this) I think Hillary Mantel’s Wolfhall series is the biggest pile of (pretentious) drivel I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading.

Hamnet, though, deserves all the accolade it’s received and more.

The plot itself is really very simple. In fact, the plot is something that a simple Wikipedia search would turn up so this isn’t really a spoiler: Hamnet does not survive this book (it says so on the very first page). He dies at eleven; and while there’s very little known about the actual cause of death, Maggie O’Farrell suggests that he died as a result of the bubonic plague that was rampant around England at the time.

It’s hard not to draw parallels at this point to the current coronavirus pandemic. I think this book had a much bigger impact on me than it would have if these had been ordinary times. I just couldn’t help but compare the family’s efforts to care for the children to that of my NHS colleagues working round the clock to give extremely unwell patients a fighting chance to return home to their families. I couldn’t help but think of reports of entire families intubated in the ITU, or young men and women whom the public once thought invincible succumbing to this deadly virus.

It’s just hard, period. If I forget to say it later, I’d quite like to thank Maggie O’Farrell for writing this book and publishing it when she did. I don’t think she realised when she started how relevant it would be to the times we now live in. And speaking for myself, I thought her writing showed she really understood what it was like to see someone go through all that suffering, knowing you were helpless to stop it, that nothing you could do could stop the virus from taking a life.

This alone would have made the book a 5-star read anyway, but then there were all the other elements that made it even better.

It is a testament to how well this book was written that us already knowing how it would end doesn’t take anything away from the build-up of tension and suspense, as the timeline shifts between the present, where the family was trying to do all they can to save the children, and the past, where we get to know more of Agnes Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s mysterious wife.

In telling the story of Agnes, the author was able to inject hints of the magical and supernatural into the book: Agnes was rumoured to be some kind of witch, although I highly doubt this is true. More like these rumours were a product of ignorant minds who simply cannot fathom another explanation for an intelligent woman, apart from this being a result of a pact made with the devil. EYE. ROLL.

I liked Agnes. I liked how modern a character she is, how she took matters into her own hands, how she was strong enough to love, let go, survive loss, forgive, and love again. Taking the time to tell her story was a clever way of keeping readers waiting and at the same time ensured that when the story reached its inevitable conclusion, we’d already formed such a connection with the characters that we wept and mourned with them, Agnes most especially.

I liked that William Shakespeare himself was never once mentioned by name in this book. Of course his legacy casts a large shadow. One never quite forgets that when the author referred to the Latin Tutor, the son, the husband, or the father, that she was actually referring to England’s (and maybe the world’s) greatest playwright. But I thought Maggie O’Farrell treated him with the care and sensitivity that the story deserved, making him just another part of the tapestry being woven.

And that tapestry had Hamnet, the boy on the cusp of manhood, at its centre. This was evident in how she opened the book: him running towards an empty house desperate to find his mother so she could tell him everything was going to be alright, knowing all the while that nothing may ever be alright again. The lack of other characters in that one scene was like the moment in a play when the spotlight shines on the main actor, alone on the stage, and for that one instant we know that there is nothing else more important than this character, that he will touch the lives of those around him for better or for worse.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s death. When they died last year, the only thing people talked about more than Kobe’s legacy was the insane waste of Gigi dying so young, how she would have done so much good for basketball and for the world if her life hadn’t been so brutally cut short.

They quoted Hamlet again. May flight of angels sing thee to they rest.

It’s like the play, and now this book, has come to represent a life uninterrupted, the vacuum left by those who are no longer with us, and the empty space that those leave behind fill with what might-have-been’s.

This book ends with the creation of the play, as we knew it would, but how it was actually portrayed was one of the most heartbreaking manifestations of grief and loss that I’ve ever read in a book. Needless to say, I was sobbing my heart out. This isn’t the cheeriest of books, and I often had to take a break to read romance novels in between just to be able to get through it, but damned if this isn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read in a long long time, and I will remember it always.

Rating: 5 amazing stars.

Posted in Covid-19, london

Human beings have the memory of a goldfish…and maybe that’s okay.

I’m writing this on the eve of the easing of lockdown. Tomorrow, all non-essential establishments, including pubs, restaurants and (huzzah!) salons, are set to open. Living in central London, I foresee massive crowds and noise pollution around my neighbourhood as thousands and thousands of alcohol-deprived (yeah, right) Londoners flock like birds to the nearest Red Lion, or in my case, The Blue Post.

I’m struggling to not turn this into some kind of rant about how selfish people are being: moaning about how they haven’t had black daahl from Dishoom in 12 weeks, or that their roots are showing because their hair hasn’t been coloured in three months, or that Boris should really allow gyms to reopen because they couldn’t possible live without their Zumba class much longer.

Do not even get me started on the idiots who thought it was a good idea to trash Bournemouth beach during the heatwave last week.

I told a friend that all of this sort of makes a mockery of the sacrifices that health care workers have made during the pandemic period. I mean, you clap for us in one breath and defy social distancing and lockdown rules in the other. What was the point of it all? What was the point of the long hours in PPE, the night shifts spent huddled in anxiety because a COVID patient has just coughed all over you, or the agony of having to hold a dying patient’s hand because there was no one else but you who could do that for them?

Compared to all that, it seems kind of shallow to be moaning about missing having gin and tonic on top of your favourite rooftop bar doesn’t it?

But I’ve come to realise that human beings are simply not built to withstand so much suffering. There is only so much we can take in before we shut off. Collectively, we’ve all been overloaded by so many things these past three months, its really hard to believe we’re only halfway through the epic shitshow that is 2020. With everything that’s going on, I think something does have to give. We each will find our own ways of coping, we will find things that will enable us to carry on, and perhaps part of that is forgetting the incredibly traumatic experience of having lived though the first major pandemic since the 1912 Spanish plague.

When the shops reopened, I immediately went into the Mango website and spent 100£ on clothes that I would then return because I gained so much weight during the lockdown, that I now struggle too fit into a size 12 (more on this in a separate post lol). I spent three months only thinking about essentials, three months not spending my money on anything other than food and household supplies, but the minute lockdown started to ease, I started to think about the outfits I would wear, or that maybe I could start dating again after I finally managed to get a haircut (as if this was a major deciding factor on whether or not I could get a decent date lol).

The only thing I’d worried about during the lockdown was getting through the coronavirus pandemic with my physical, mental, and emotional health intact. I was praying the rosary everyday just asking God for me and everyone I love to still be alive after all of this. Then lockdown eased, and things started getting back to something close to resembling normal, and I started feeling anxious about getting extra shifts to earn more money, or whether or not I would ever get that dream job that feels like its so close, I can almost taste it. And of course, the ever present question of whether or not it was worth getting into dating again (am I the only one sensing a theme here?).

I guess I’m just trying to illustrate how easy it is to forget about your troubles when you’re given just the slightest hope that it has gone away. It doesn’t matter how much you tell people to be cautious, to remember what these past few months have been like and that i’s not over yet: you give them an inch of rope and they’ll run a mile with it, not because they’re insensitive creatures (at least the majority aren’t) and I don’t really think humans have the memory of a goldfish. But I think people forget because they want to forget. Because they need to forget.

We want, and in some ways we need, to chalk this up as just one extremely long nightmare episode. A blip. A wrinkle in time.

We were taught about homeostasis at school. No matter what happens internally or externally, the human body will always compensate to try and achieve a sense of homeostasis or ‘steady state’. I think that’s what we’re doing now that restrictions have been lifted. Forgetting is our way of going back to that steady state, no matter how different from what was once considered normal that state may be.

As a nurse, I’m obligated to remind people that this virus really hasn’t gone away, and we’re a long way away from any sort of vaccine just yet so it would be a bad idea to start visiting the pubs in droves tomorrow, but I truly appreciate that I’m in the minority here. So I guess…let the journey to forgetting and homeostasis begin.

Posted in Health and Well-Being, london, Medical

Err on the side of caution…

I’ve been glued to Twitter and the news for any updates on the so-called ‘delay’ measures that the British government is supposedly announcing today. So far all I’ve got is a bunch of tweets criticising the Tory government (elected by the majority of the people. Just saying) and soundbites from our fearless leader that, if true, makes me really scared about how this country is going to cope when things take a turn for the worse.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, our President has shut down travel by land, air or sea to and from the capital, an unpopular decision but one that will hopefully help contain the virus. President Trump has issued a lockdown on all travel to and from Europe, except the UK. Other countries will no doubt follow suit. One can’t help but think, well what about us? Apart from the heightened paranoia there hasn’t been a drastic change in the daily lives of the British public; at least, not in London.

I made the decision today to cancel my planned trip to Greece. I’m pretty sure I’d be fine travelling, and I’d probably be able to get back into the country without being placed on quarantine. But I just feel like things are changing so much at the moment and everything is so up in the air that now really isn’t the time to be visiting instagram-worthy tourist sites. Besides, as much as visions of being stranded in Athens and eating gyros and pitas for a couple of weeks might be appealing to some, if the worst happens I’d much rather be in a familiar environment, close to my beloved NHS.

I guess the point of all of this is that I would much rather err on the side of caution rather than take unnecessary risks. I love travelling as much as the next person, and it pains me to think about all the disruptions this might potentially cause to planned family trips and get-togethers. But I’d much rather be alive to travel without worrying about the threat of severe illness next year when this would have all boiled over (fingers crossed).

I’ve also decided not to put too much stock on what they say in the news. I mean I’d keep myself updated about travel bans and government measures and whatnot, but for every expert that says we’re all doomed there’s another one that says we’re all going to be fine. I think the thing to do is focus on the things that we can control, like personal hygiene and cleaning of surfaces and taking our daily vitamins. We can try to be reasonable and sensible about social distancing, and we should definitely think about how our actions could affect others. Like I said in a previous post, a crisis is not an excuse to forget basic human decency.

I think this coronavirus outbreak has the potential to change the world forever, but I also think people have short memories. Whatever lesson we learn from this I doubt half the world’s population will remember it when the world starts to turn again and we’re all taking selfies before the Trevi fountain once more. Still, its hard to imagine what the outcome of all this will be and where we’ll stand in three months time. It keeps me up at night, wondering if the world will ever be normal again….

Posted in bloggers, Celebrities, london, Medical, Movies

A Day in The Life of a Wannabe Film Star

Lights. Camera. Action.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with the crew at BBC to do some test shots on a documentary that they’re planning to pitch to Netflix. The idea is to go into operating theatres around the world and follow surgeons around to give viewers some insight of what they see and go through on a daily basis. Needless to say, they needed the perspective of a subject matter expert, which I just happen to be.

The production team emailed us to say that call time was at 8am, far too early to be out of bed on a Saturday morning when you’ve been drinking the night before, but what do you do when the promise of fame awaits? My friend (another subject matter expert) and I arrived at the mock operating theatre to find it mostly empty because the crew were still figuring out how to get all their fancy expensive equipment into the building.

So, just like Robert Downey Jr probably does when he’s on the set for a Marvel Film, we said we were going to get coffee and breakfast and asked them to please give us a ring when they were ready for us. Only, unlike RDJ, we actually had to pay for our coffee and breakfast.

Around 9am we got back to the “set” and met the producers, our director, and the very intimidating director of photography. We also met the. man who designed and made the body we were going to pretend to be operating on for the day, a body that was an eerily accurate and anatomically correct replica I might add.

We got into our costumes. I say that as if this was a special moment but what it actually entailed was putting on scrub suits and caps, the same thing we do day in and day out for work. The other extras (production managers who got roped into playing some of the roles because they didn’t have the budget as yet for real actors) got a huge kick out of it though, and they were really chuffed at the thought of being part of the surgical team for the day. It came as no surprise to me when they admitted to being huge fans of Grey’s Anatomy.

Thank you Shonda Rhimes for single-handedly making our profession more attractive than it probably is.

We didn’t get a script so my friend and I sort of had to make things up as we went along. He had the starring role because I volunteered to be the nurse, so he ended up playing the surgeon. They took lots of shots of him walking in corridors, gazing at the horizon and scrubbing up. I spent a lot of time tweeting and facebooking the entire experience while I waited for my five minutes of screen time.

I imagined that was how Jeremy ‘Hawkeye’ Renner probably felt on the set of the Avengers movies, constantly waiting for them to finish capturing yet another shot of Captain America and his shield. Lol.

I have to say, from watching behind-the-scenes footage and documentaries, I already had the vague impression of the amount of hard work that goes into making any kind of tv episode or feature length film. I mean, the Game of Thrones crew subjected themselves to doing 55 night shifts just to give us the Battle of Winterfell.

Talk about dedication. I’ve done night shifts and at the end of three nights you almost start to lose your sense of self. I really could not imagine doing 55 of them. I don’t care if I get to work with Jon Snow or dragons, night shifts are brutal.

The cameramen, the grips, the lighting director and all the rest of the people who are basically in charge of making the actors look good really are the unsung heroes of the film industry. I’ve seen a small sliver of the precision and attention to detail that goes into making these things and I was very impressed. A bit annoyed that they were nitpicking over each and every shot so much that we overran by about an hour, but impressed nonetheless.

Every shot had to be perfect and stylised. It took about ten takes just to shoot a sequence of Russel washing his hands, and another ten of me dropping a scalpel into a kidney dish. They were using lingo that I didn’t really understand, talking about how the shot needs to be sharp and the camera needs to be slanted and they needed more than a thousand frames – they might as well have been talking Latin for all I knew.

There was also a bit of tension and drama. Artistic people have an artistic temperament. Also, put a bunch of perfectionists in the room and you will inevitably end up with an argument or two, but its the kind of professional bickering that leads to something productive.

I didn’t realise how drained I was until the director finally said “Cut!” on that lost shot and I realised we were done for the day. I wasn’t even really acting, just miming something I did and have done for so long now that I can probably do it in my sleep. Can you imagine having to shoot an emotional scene, (or a love scene! lol) over and over again because the lighting was wrong or the director didn’t get the angle he wanted? I don’t know how actors do it.

We packed up, said our goodbyes to the crew, and made our way to Leicester Square and ended our short-lived stint in the entertainment industry over Chinese food. We looked back on the day and laughed over the experience. It was a glimpse into a world that is beyond our reach, a taste of what life would have been like if we’d been blessed with the self-confidence and talent of a movie star.

We came to the conclusion that there was a reason why we weren’t Hollywood stars, and we had better stick to our day jobs.

So, that’s a wrap on Angela the actress, folks. Thank you BBC for the experience and good luck on the documentary!

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Lifestyle, london

A Moment To Reflect

This week, the sun’s finally shining over London after what felt like an endless winter. I went for a run around my favourite route near the river Thames, with no goal in mind except to enjoy the beautiful spring day. Although physically I’m not as fit as I used to be, and though I was huffing and puffing after one kilometre, it felt like the first easy breath I’ve taken in ages.

There’s plenty of reasons to be happy and content. This week I finally got my British citizenship approved, after six years of hard work, struggle, achievements and so much joy that I hardly know how to put it all into words. It felt like the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, and despite Brexit and the looming uncertainty surrounding the country’s future, I still find myself incredibly grateful to have made it this far.

That’s not to say its all been sunshine and roses these past couple of weeks. Parts of it were downright maddening, in fact. It’s funny how some things are magnified in your mind if you continue to dwell on them over and over, until a seemingly manageable molehill now feels like an immoveable mountain.

I am a champion dweller.

I really should rid myself of this habit of being unable to let go of things. I tend to obsess about certain issues or concerns to the point where it is the. only. thing. I. see. I get a kind of tunnel vision where I’m unable to move on until I’ve picked the problem apart in a hundred different ways trying to come up with a solution.

I need to learn to accept that there are problems that can only be solved by acceptance and compromise.

I need to learn that not everyone will see things the way I do, and that the choices we make are a product of past experiences and influences. There is no point in judging others according to the standards that you set for yourself. You will only drive yourself mad.

I think the only thing that will keep you sane is to continue to do you, and not to mind so much about what other people are getting up to, difficult as that may be for type A personalities like myself. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Towards the end of this week, whenever I felt like pulling my hair out in frustration, I reminded myself that – just like everything else – this too shall pass. Life is too short to be pissed all the time, as a wise person once said. There are far too many beautiful things in this earth to appreciate; you can’t let problems that will probably be inconsequential a year down the line get you down.

Most of all, I remembered to breathe, to stay centred, to focus on the things that are important, and to remember that even though other people may let you down, the key thing is to not let yourself down.

Happy start of the week, fellow blabbaholics and bookworms! xx

Posted in Books, london, Reviews

Book Review: The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

A couple of years ago, at my sister’s urging, I watched an episode of BBC’s Sherlock starring the one and only Benedict Cumberbitch, I mean, Cumberbatch. After the first episode, I was hooked. By the time we got to the episode where John Watson got married and Sherlock made that incredibly moving, one-of-a-kind, original, quintessentially Sherlock best man speech, I was irrevocably a fan. 

I love mysteries. From the newer crime thrillers to the classic whodunits, I love it when I’m taken through a journey of clues, signs, false alarms and red herrings. I love stacking my wits against the main character and trying to solve the mystery before he or she does. And though it rarely happens, I love it when a plot twist manages to surprise me, when the answer to the mystery completely blindsides me as it seemingly comes out of nowhere but the clues have actually been right in front of me all along.

Most of all, I love seeing people use the underrated skill of simple deduction and common sense to solve a puzzle. And this is what is the at the heart of the House of Silk. This is this month’s Waterstone’s book club selection by the way and thank goodness for that or I might never have otherwise picked it up. 

Confession time: I’ve never actually finished reading the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories of the great detective although we have a lovely hardbound copy, a gift from me to my sister. After reading this book, I may be inspired to start reading it despite my ever growing to-read list. I have read the first few pages which is why I think I have grounds for the opinion that Anthony Horowitz has kept true to the style and voice of the original without being an exact replica. 

I love how familiar the rhythm of the writing is; I recognise it because its so incredibly British. And because the British people in this book have been so fantastically written like the way they talk, its like the language and the accents I hear every day have been coalesced into one book. From the cultured tones of the upper class to the cockney accent of the East, it all leaps vibrantly from the page. I cannot say enough of the writing. It quite simply flows; its so seamless and easy to read. 

Now to the mystery. I had initial reservations that this will turn out to be some boring stalker story or that it will be about another married couple where one of the partners is the cuplrit and/or is having an extra-marital affair. But, and I have to issue a MILD SPOILER ALERT here, by the time I get to the framing of Sherlock Holmes, his imprisonment and really clever escape and then to the way he solved not one but TWO seemingly unconnected mysteries, my brain just gave up and I surrendered to being taken on the wild ride that is this story. I may have guessed some elements of it, but it managed to completely surpise me by the time I got to the ending.

Finally, I am not surprised that there have always been speculation about the true nature of Sherlock and John Watson’s relationship. The bond they share is strong and unique in its strength, so often does it supercede other bonds, even that of marriage. Watson is so loyal to Sherlock and would do anything for him, and though its not always clear or obvious, this sentiment is certainly reciprocated by the more taciturn Holmes. I think we should all stop speculating and just celebrate the fact that this special partnership and friendship exists, and leave it at that.

Overall, I cannot wait to discuss this book at the Armchair Murder Mystery book club next Wednesday. If you fancy a good discussion with fellow book lovers – and free wine – head over to Waterstones Piccadilly and join us for an evening of literary fun. 

Cheers, bookworms! X

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Fri-Yay Food Trip: Dishoom

After a whole week of rotation to trauma and orthopaedics, an eventful Friday filled with drama and the prospect of going home to the Philippines for the first time, my sister and I decided to take our dear friend Romelyn out to Dishoom last night before her flight to Cebu today. 

I was first introduced to Dishoom by my friend Katie and I have fond memories of catching up with her and my other favourite gal pal Caterina over a bowl of black daahl and a steaming pile of nan bread. The wait can sometimes seem interminable and its not unheard of to queue for at least an hour before you can even get to the bar and then wait another half an hour to get a table. But it is surely worth it.

Before Dishoom, my sister and Romelyn have always been skeptical about indian food. I was met with dubious looks and, in Arlene’s case, a serious frown, when I first suggested trying Dishoom at the Shoreditch branch. Obviously, these two have since changed their tune and we are now frequent visitors to this place, especially since the Kingly Street branch ( near Carnaby Street) is about a 5-minute walk from the flat.

Here are a few of our favourites in one photo:

Yum, yum, yum, yum, YUM!!!

When eating at Dishoom I find its best to have some sharers rather than having individual plates. For starters, we really like the Calamari served with different kinds of sauce/dips/whatever it is you call them.

You cannot go to Dishoom and not try their nan bread. Because I am obssessed with all things cheesy (from music to food to movies! Haha), I love ordering the cheese nan whereas my sisger prefers either the garlic or plain. I think its best served with the House Black Daahl. Let me tell you, I have no idea what’s in the Daahl and I don’t want to know but it is incredibly delicious when paired with the nan bread. If you want something a bit more sweet, you can also pair with with the Chicken Ruby. 

And finally, because the Filipino in us cannot have a meal without rice we often share Dishoom’s version of the chicken biryani. Its not that big a serving, but if you’ve already had everything else, I don’t think its a good idea to expect to consume a whole one by yourself because its really filling.

Ah, Dishoom. Still one of my favourite places to go to for a pick-me-up. Its not that expensive either. If you’re not consuming the cocktails, it will cost you about 25£ each. If you do order drinks, it can go to about as high as 35£ each, so be warned, the drinks are expensive. Also, if the long queue is stopping you from visiting, you can always come before 6pm because they will still be accepting reservations before then. Plus, they serve free drinks for the people queuing, which is another reason to give them two thumbs up!

Hope you get a chance to enjoy Dishoom as much as I do. Cheers! X 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Saturday Food Trip: Koba

My sister and I did an unexpected shift at the hospital yesterday and we both ended up staying until 8pm for some reason. So because it had been a long day and it was our workmate Gianluigi’s, last official day at work, we decided to treat ourselves to some korean barbecue.

Now London is a place that won’t ever run out of   korean barbecue restaurants, and in your quest for the best bulgogi in town you’ll run a gamut of choices, from the cheap to the reasonably priced to the really pricey. I think Koba is a place you go to every once in a while when you’re craving for GOOD korean barbecue. Its not the cheapest option for barbecue in central London; I think in terms of budget Superstar Barbecue in nearby St. Giles might be a bit easier on the pocket. However, in terms of quality Koba is definitely better.

We’ve been to Koba so many times that the waitresses already know they have to help us out because we’re just hopeless with the grill. That’s the other great thing about Koba: they have excellent and efficient service. The staff are always there to help you out if you need anything and they will do the grilling for you if it looks like you’re struggling (which I usually am).

There’s plenty of other choices apart from the barbecue. We usually get korean seafood pancakes for starters. They’re so yummy I could eat them all day. My sister and my friend Romelyn are both big fans of kimchi, which is a traditional korean side dish so we tend to get that as well.

I wouldn’t recommend having a lot of starters because the meats from the barbecue are quite heavy on the tummy already. BUT. One of my ultimate favourites in Koba is their seafood and egg fried rice and I don’t care how heavy rice is, I will always order the fried rice.

Also I didn’t have the chance to take a photo of it but the crab salad is also really good for a starter. The perfect combination of the saltiness of the crab and the vinegrette/dressing that they used was incredibly delicious. Gian went so far as to ask the waiter if they had bread because like the true Italian that he is, he wanted to mop up the remaining juice with a focaccia or something. Obviously a korean restaurant would not have bread of any sort, more’s the pity. 

Anyway, like I said, the korean barbecue selection are the true highlights of the restaurant. Depending on you hungry your party is and how many people are actually in your party, you might want to order a couple of plates. Usually, if its just my sister, Romelyn and I we can be satisfied with one. But Gianluigi was apparently really hungry so we ended up ordering both the Koba and Seafood platter.

Koba’s marinade is definitely better than Superstar’s and I also find that they have better-quality meats as well.  I remember Gian, who is a true coinousseur of all things culinary, being disappointed about the food when we last ate at Superstar but he gave this one his stamp of approval. Tutti bene as they say. I’m glad I’m finally able to return the favour after he made me taste one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life.

Koba usually gets busy around 7 to 8pm. Unless you’ve made reservations, you stand a better chance of having a table if you go a bit early or a bit late, like closer to 9. Its located near Charlotte Street, its more like Rathbone Street to be precise. 

Cheers to more food trips. Happy weekend everyone! 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, london

Friday Food Trip: The Roti King

Ah, the joys of de-stressing over food on a Friday night. After a really long day, I went to dinner with my sister and a couple of friends to an unknown (unknown to me anyway!) place near Euston called The Roti King.

I have to admit to being a bit skeptical at first. I’ve never really been fond of Malaysian food, apart from nasi goreng. But I am also the kind of person that is easily swayed by good advertising and believe me, the really long queue outside the restaurant was as good an ad campaign as any.

We must have waited about 90 minutes just to get into the restaurant. They had a really small space, I don’t think they could have sat more than 30 people at any given time. So top tips if you want to try this restaurant?

  1. Be prepared to queue 
  2. The chances of getting a table earlier depends on how many there are in your party. There were people who had only been queuing 5 minutes but a table for two was available so they were able to jump the queue. Whereas because we were a party of four, we waited a while.
  3. They do takeaway as well so that might be an option to consider.
  4. Its cash only guys. The nearest cashpoint is in Euston station so be prepared with some G’s.

Anyway, we finally got in around 8:30 and by this point the savoury smell was really getting to my stomach. I was so so hungry (so what else is new) that I just rattled off appetizers straight away. Roti to me is like a softer version of nan bread, or the malaysian equivalent of crepe. We ordered roti with spinach and cheese, roti special (this comes with either chicken, fish or lamb curry sauce) and the chicken murtabak which is roti with chicken and egg filling.

The first two were awesome. The last one was a bit bland and really filling, especially since we still ordered mains. I think if we ever go back there again, I’d order more of the roti with chicken curry. It was just so so good, my mouth is watering at the memory.

So, with the mains I would recommend sharing. We didn’t anticipate the portions to be as big as they were. I also didn’t anticipate how spicy the dishes would be which was stupid of me seeing as the dish I ordered had a big red S (for spicy) beside it. I am not known for my tolerance for spicy food so for the life of me, I have no idea why I ordered the sambal fried rice. Sambal literally means chilli-based. We are talking about rice that was probably cooked in chilli! It was so spicy that the first spoonful had me reaching almost immediately for my glass of diet coke.

Tip: My friend Angelica recommenda getting the soya milk to counteract the effect of the spiciness. I never knew that. Unfortunately, the only thing I tolerate less than spiciness is soya milk. Ugh. 

It was incredibly delicious despite that though. I didn’t finish the dish because there’s only so much spice I could take so my sister swapped plates with me and I was able to try her flat rice noodles instead, called char kuey teow, also really really good. I forgot to take a photo of it but its almost similar to the one below except that they used flat rice noodles intead of canton and I’ve always loved flat rice noodles, or ho fun as the Chinese call it. 

All in all, I give this restaurant a 4 out of 5 rating. It was good and it was cheap. With the amount of food we had we only paid about 14£ each and we would have paid less if we thought about sharing instead of ordering one dish each. As it was, we ended up asking them for a box for our leftover.

I would definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for authentic food and like us, you’ve spent a little too much this month and payday seems ages away.
Cheers! x