Monday, October 22, 2007


Many bloggers write interminable postings about exciting nights out, brushes with celebrity and travel to exotic locations. I think a deep seated need to make other people jealous must form a significant part of the psyche of these people. But I for one am above such pettiness, as I shall demonstrate by telling you about the least eventful weekend of my life.

It started on Thursday evening when I managed to concoct one of the least appetising meals of history out of a seemingly innocuous combination of ricotta, spinach, pasta and (for some reason) plum tomatoes. Usually when I'm hungry I can eat practically anything, but even I had to ditch the slop I served up on Thursday. But unfortunately I had managed to plow through a good portion of it before coming to my senses and I was made to pay early on Friday morning when the sound of my gurgling stomach woke me up and told me it was time to head to Borehamwood (the world's least inspiring office location). 7 hours of keyboard tapping later, my stomach hadn't settled down but it was time to head off for a 10 course duck and crab banquet. I (manfully, in my opinion) battled through most of the duck courses, but I didn't get very far with the crab - partly due to my rebelling stomach and partly because I'm never very good with crab - the shell:meat ratio just doesn't work for me.

I woke up late on Saturday still feeling under the weather and spent most of the day curled in a ball in bed. Somehow I forced myself to wake up long enough in the evening to watch 80 minutes of the dullest rugby ever played. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad the Springboks won, but really you shouldn't be allowed to win a World Cup without at least scoring one try in the final. Fiji would have been worthier winners.

I woke up on Sunday to a beautiful autumn day in London with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. I was feeling much better as well, until I realised that it was almost 11am and I'd just slept for roughly 22 of the last 24 hours. Thinking I could just fight my way through the stomach issues, I then proceeded to make a series of really, really bad decisions by: going swimming, eating a lunch consisting almost entirely of rice pudding (my first meal in 36 hours), playing squash (a truly terrible effort - I could barely move) and downing a pint of Kronenburg 1664. The final move was my worst and my stomach exacted swift retribution. I spent the rest of the day crawling between the bathroom and my bedroom. I went to bed at 9pm.

I woke up this morning feeling just better enough to not be able to justify a sick day. In fact, I had to get up super early and arrive at the office at 7am in order to use the printer because the one in Borehamwood doesn't work. Lucky me. 12 hours after choosing the double-sided, two to a page option, I'm lying here on the couch watching Britain's Official Top 40 (which is reminding me why I don't generally watch TV any more). Feeling jealous yet? Thought so.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keeping it real

What a weekend. I am feeling exhausted even though I got a solid 7.5 hours sleep last night. My tiredness is possibly due to the game of squash I've just played. Or possibly it could be traced back to the six bags of groceries I've just hauled up the 4 flights of stairs up to my apartment. But I think it's more likely to be the effects of a long week at work (put in perspective by having dinner with two people from Clifford Chance and hearing how hard they work) followed up with a fairly packed weekend schedule.

On Friday night I snuck out of my temporary office in Borehamwood early and took the 4.54pm commuter special from Elstree&Borehamwood into West Hampstead station. Not used to the novelty of getting home so early and with dinner reservations at 9pm, I was at a bit of a loss for things to do, so I went for a jog, had a shower, rearranged my socks into colour groups and then headed out the door in the direction of Geales in Notting Hill. Supposedly one of the best fish n chip restaurants in London, which would make it one of the best in the world, I have to admit I was underwhelmed by Geales. My softshell crab starter was delicious, but my square shaped parcel of crisp fried haddock was fairly ordinary, which basically means it wasn't anything better than what you'd get from your local chip store. So I won't be hurrying back. But, hey, it was a fun night with friends and Friday fish suppers are part of the London experience.

I got up early on Saturday to run errands, which I had to finish by midday so I could shoot off to Marylebone in time to meet the chartered train to Wembley. I managed to sneak a ticket to Bird&Bird's corporate box to watch the England v Estonia game. I have to say, I was amazed by Wembley stadium. It may make you feel like you're inside a Heathrow airport terminal, but it is massive and comfortable and like no other stadium I have ever been in. Except for Arsenal's Emirates stadium, which is almost as good. MCG, take note, you have some serious competition out there. The corporate box was pretty sweet too - all plush leather, polished wood, full fridges and magnificent views, the box is a prime example why it is worthwhile having money. The clients and workmates I was with were a stellar group of people and we had a real ball. The game wasn't too bad either, though half our party missed significant chunks of the second half because of the rule that you can't drink alcohol in view of the pitch and the rest of the stadium - solution? you have to drink in your box with the blinds closed - bizarre. And to top it off, I won 20 squid by picking the correct final score (3-nil England). Nice.

While the others headed out to Paddington to watch the England v France rugby match (something that no longer interests me given that the Wallabies have lost and, as a reasonably rational person, the game of rugby confuses and frustrates me - practically anything you do on the pitch results in a penalty of some sort) I raced back home for a pitstop before shooting out East in the direction of Farringdon to meet up with my b boy and b girl buddies, Dan and Vanessa. The knock-out rounds of the UK b boy championship were being held on Saturday night and Dan, Vanessa and I wanted to represent the old Collins St crew. At first, the event was a bit underwhelming, as it basically seemed to involve a crowd of teenagers fighting over the free Snoop Dogg CDs and t-shirts that the MCs were throwing from the stage. But after the formalities were over and the dancing started, everything took off. As the fat MC said, this shit was real - no bullshit. The first competition was a doubles event and I have to say, I never realised break dancing could be so camp. From the French couple dressed like Marcel Marceau and doing their best to combine breaking and miming to the Japanese boys dressed in fluoro orange headbands and crop tops, there was a fair amount of preening and posing going on in between the popping and locking. But the action was fast and furious. When the one on one b boy battles started, though things went to a whole new level and started to get personal. There was a whole lot of attitude being thrown around the room that night and not all of it was coming from Vanessa - there was a fair bit of it up on the stage as well. Overall, a great night. To top it off, I managed to resist buying a sausage at Oxford Circus on the way home, so when I woke up on Sunday morning I didn't have a stomach ache. Brilliant.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A cure for insomnia

I was going to call this blog "Seventh Level of Hell" but that really would have been doing Tuscany an injustice. I mean, I had a really good time in Tuscany last weekend. But then, I've never been a particularly harsh critic, unlike Huy who came out with the Seventh Level quote in the middle of the 14th (of around 53) hair-pin turn on the (scenic) route from Calci to Lucca.

You see, a group of 6 of us had set out on hired bikes from Pisa on Saturday morning in search of rural scenes, (gentle) adventure and gastronomic fulfillment. Only, in hindsight, we should probably not have left the navigation to the hard-core fitness freak German residents in our party. If the indolent Londoners in the group had been in charge, we probably wouldn't have chosen the longest and steepest route to Lucca. But then, if the indolent Londoners in the group had been in charge, we probably wouldn't have gotten much further than the first pizzeria in Pisa. Anyway, as things turned out, we spent a fairly large (and grim) part of Saturday struggling up a series of mountain passes trying to remember what it was like to have a sense of humour.

Needless to say, there was a fair amount of pushing mixed in with the cycling. In fairness, the conditions weren't exactly in our favour. For one thing, the bikes we hired were perfectly decent town bikes, but not exactly made for climbing up mountains. Joyce's was a particular stubborn beast that refused to change below third gear and kept on dropping it's chain at the most inopportune moments. And the paniers and front baskets may have been useful for carrying things, but they did make it a little more difficult to balance and made us look faintly ridiculous next to the multitudes of serious cyclists powering up the mountain in their fluoro-pink lycra and carbon-fibre racers. They may have been going quicker than us, but at least we were keeping it real.

Fortunately, once we'd crossed the peak and had a well-deserved picnic of bread, cheese and salami, we were able to roll all the way down to Lucca. While the cycling got a little easier, our troubles weren't quite over, as a small break-away developed near to Lucca and managed to leave the peloton far enough behind to cause some navigating confusion. Search parties were duly dispatched, tasked with locating the peloton somewhere "near a church with a green roof". Given the number of churches in Italy, this wasn't the most helpful of clues. But the combined deductive reasoning of 6 university educated minds overcame this small problem and we were soon ensconced in Lucca's oldest restaurant, admiring the copper pots and sinking Tuscan red late into the night, well, at until at least 10pm at least, at which point we were all dead on our feet. For all you insomniacs out there, a hard day in the Tuscan mountains followed by a bottle of red should fix you right up because I can't remember ever sleeping as well as I did on Saturday night.

I cleverly managed to forget my camera at home, so I didn't take any photos. But Tim had the trust SLR to hand and took some great shots, a sample of which I am pleased to present below.