Thursday, 14 February 2013

Lebanese Nights

Alas, not nights spent in the country of Lebanon, instead a rather lovely Lebanese restaurant that I visited on Friday with my mother. I’d been telling her for weeks that I’d take her out for dinner (a sort of thank you for the lifts, laundry and general mother duties that the rent doesn’t cover) so I duly gave her a choice of cuisine (Lebanese or Moroccan…sort of a choice) and off we set.
We sat at the front next to the large glass panel – a slight error given that it was about 2 degrees outside. After shifting over a seat, however, our temperature issues were all sorted. The staff were very friendly and accommodating. True, when asked what sort of wine the house wine was, we were told ‘house’ about four times before my mother had to explain she has an allergy to Chardonnay and would like to see the bottle…it was indeed a Chardonnay and not a House. But in its own way, it added to the charm.
Our waiter was keen to offer us much heeded advice on our options (we decided on a combination of hot meze and a main course). The stuffed vine leaves were delicious, the halloumi squeaked to perfection and the calamari crisp. The spicy sausages could have been a little spicier and there was a rather confusing salad with pink…stuff. The main, however. Wow. Meat Mountain. Various meats kebabed in every way kebabably possible. We were utterly full by the end of the main course, but as the set menu included dessert we couldn’t possibly say no. I adored the sweet density of the baklawa whereas my mother prefers her lighter, crumblier and less sweet. But each to their own I guess.
As we were mulling over our peppermint teas, a belly dancer appeared, gyrating and wobbling all over the place. Yes we did have warning by way of the poster in the window and she was really rather good, yet there is something a touch awkward about a woman twitching her stomach at you whilst giving you a very seductive look as you sit in that post-food state waiting to return to a comfortable size. Glancing around, the men clearly were not going to object to a young bejewelled bra clad woman dancing around them, indeed a few looked like their birthdays had all come at once much to the disdain of their female companions. We won’t talk about the loud 30 year old who decided dancing with her was the only way forward.
It might not have looked much from the outside but its colourful and atmospheric interior made up for that (although they probably should do something about the polystyrene ceiling tiles) along with the food and friendly staff.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

My First Time

There are two types of people in life; the 'hats' and the 'hat nots'. I've always admired from afar those of my friends that can happily don a hat as another may a necklace or earrings but always accepted that, past the necessary head wear on the slopes and perhaps the odd fascinator, I would never fit into that category. Until last weekend.

A few weeks ago my mother bought me a fedora. It is a thing of pure beauty; black felt with a pink band and feather. Stunning. Day by day went by, me staring at it longingly and it looking back at me from its perch, daring me to wear it. And yet...I found excuses. Impractical, outfit clash...and on it went, procrastination. I felt as though I had a puppy that I refused to walk. As everyone knows, procrastination cannot go on forever  and eventually I finally took the plunge. I arranged the hat upon my head, fully aware that I risked an embarrassing episode of hat hair, and strutted out the door. And I mean more so than usual. There was something about walking out the front door with extra inches attached to my head that did something to me. I walked taller, I liked people not being able to see my face, I enjoyed  the mystery that suddenly shrouded me (or so I imagined it to. It probably didn't). 

True, the wind hampered things slightly and I had to embark on an unsuccessful quest for a hat pin, but that's an irrelevant digression. It seemed that the mere fact that my vision of the world was so narrowed, so restricted by the almighty brim that surround by head with a halo that it seemed that I was more of a casual observer, watching the world as I walked around. Of course people could see me, but I couldn't see them seeing me, thus it didn't matter. I was barely recognisable and it seemed as though as I had achieved pure anonymity. 

That was until I arrived in Oxford and I was recognised immediately. But it felt good whilst it lasted. I have become one of the 'hats'. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Out of Order

From a young age we are taught to do so much with an orderly approach. For obvious reasons we are taught that pants must be put on before trousers (something Superman's parents clearly forgot to mention) and the alphabet must be learnt before we can read. But standard order ends in these early years. Everyone thinks that the way they do things is the correct and most effective way of going about life, of course they do or else another method would be sought, yet rarely does it happen that two people do the same thing in exactly the same manner. Even after being told precisely how to do it, techniques differ; slightly infuriating at the best of times.

Let's keep things very British and take making a cup of tea as an example. Everyone knows that a standard cup of tea consists of a tea bag (you use tea leaves do you? Tough, I don't), boiling water and milk. Yet what do you do first? Boil the kettle? Place the teabag in the mug? And then what? I personally boil the kettle, teabag the mug, pour boiling water into said mug, leave for 30 seconds or so, prod it around with a spoon, dispose of the teabag and add milk. So many people add the milk with the tea bag still bobbing around; fine, I guess, if you like splashing milky tea over your foot on extraction. I just don't. Some people, more disconcertingly put the milk in first before adding water...the mind boggles. Edwardian ladies would test their hostess's willingness to provide them with their finest bone china upon their afternoon visits by watering their cup first; bone china wouldn't crack when boiling water was poured into it, whereas the cheap stuff would, and obviously if milk was already in the teacup it would cool the water down on contact.

But enough of tea. This trivial instance merely highlights the lack of consistency within order, and illustrates that as times change, so does the accepted way of doing things. There was a time, less than a century ago, when young girls who'd had a little too much fun with the soldiers (or any other male for that matter), would be scurried away to homes in which they would have their babies and then returned to society after they had recovered from their 'illness'. How many unmarried girls do you know with babies? Unmarried mothers are now completely accepted by virtually all of society, totally usurping the idea that 'first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage'. Not even a murmur of the once tabooed s-word. The order of proceedings has been turned utterly on its head. But does it work? In the 1930s, the marriage rate was higher yet divorces were rarely heard of, let alone carried out with fewer than 10,000  marriages in 1930 legally breaking up. Compare this to 2010, a good year for family lawyers, with 119 589 divorces (Office of National Statistics). Is the reason for this simply because it has become more socially acceptable to walk away from a spouse or has it been a necessary change due to young couples doing things in 'the wrong order'?

It is pretty much a given now that people have sex before they are married, but, and I don't wish to sound like my Grandmother, maybe this trend has a lot to answer for. Perhaps it would be a good idea to revert to old-fashioned principles and actually get to know someone, I mean really know them, before jumping into bed with them, thus encouraging the confusion between lust and love. I might even give it a try. Maybe.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Middle Of It

Body parts have, throughout history, taken it in turns to be rude, unacceptable and positively illegal. Whilst the Victorians found ankles the height of offense, just a few years previously ball dresses were cut down to the bosom and were by no means full length. It seems each generation has its own paranoia about showing off certain parts of the anatomy; for the poor Victorians it was the entirety, the flappers of the 1920s did the utmost to conceal their breasts and legs were hidden for years. Our generation has moved on from all this; legs are celebrated, breasts a mere part of walking down the high street and bottoms revealed in the tightest body con. One thing that hasn’t quite penetrated the liberal mind of the average Brit is the stomach. The midriff, navel, abdomen. Whatever you want to call it. An inch or two will be glossed over, especially if it’s a loose fitting top, but the tight, short cropped top? Even if it were a high neck, long sleeved piece paired with a midi it would still be met with disapproving looks. Even on a night out. Even in Hull. (Ok, so the test piece was worn with a mid-thigh skirt. What’s a few inches between friends?)
What is it about this seemingly innocent area that has made it the unwitting victim of society’s disapproval? Perhaps we have become desensitised to other areas through over exposure, both in reality and in the media, which and have sought another cause for embarrassment and horror. The stomach, of course, is usually covered through sheer practicality; no one wants a chilly tummy. Perhaps, however, the reason is deeper than this. A woman’s stomach is the nest in which babies grow, essentially the future of humanity. It is vulnerable and tender. If we feel nervous, we cross our arms, creating a barrier between our abdomen and the world and according to the BBC,  40% of women who would like to change something about their body would change their stomachs. Indeed, a recent abs class at the gym had a staggering majority of women with only a couple of brave men, apparently fighting for their six packs.
Maybe we simply don’t like seeing the midriff because it reminds us of what we haven’t got. The only girls who (should) reveal theirs are the annoyingly slender, toned morsels who must have my share of will power as well as their own, incurring a deep envy in the women in their vicinity. As for those who definitely shouldn’t be showing off what they have in abundance, those looks of disgust are quite simply that. Looks of disgust.
Don’t think I’m against the idea of exposing my navel to the world, I simply don’t understand the negative result that doing so incurs. Why has wearing virtually nothing more than underwear in public become expected yet that nice, flat expanse of harmless flesh in middle is almost sinful? Try it. I dare you. It’s liberating.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Writing an Essay

Writing an essay shouldn't be a chore. They always are, but they shouldn't be. They are an opportunity to craft words in order to express an opinion sharply and concisely. They can be compared to dining at a fabulous restaurant.
First is the planning phase. The restaurant needs to be chosen, the day set aside and people invited. It then needs to be booked. Like research.
On arrival at the restaurant, an apertif is the norm. This is comparable to the plan. It relaxes you, gives you chance to look at the menu and generally think about food. The plan gives guidance, explores your ideas and implements order.
Once food has been ordered, the first course comes; each course of food should have very different tastes, but not so different that they don't compliment one, and should be enjoyed thoroughly. A good wine binds it all together. This is like writing each paragraph. Delicious to write, exciting and different. With all the crumbs swept up because it's just that good. But bound together by a solid idea.
There. Essays are just like good food.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"Name the Nicest Thing Someone has Ever Said About You"

I found this question on an online quiz (procrastination is really taking its grip).
I tried answering it and found that I couldn't. Not because nobody has ever said anything nice, they have! I just can't think of any examples.
So why then can I call to mind at least three un-nice things that people have said about me? I don't really dwell on either, so is it  a confidence thing or a self improvement thing? Or are they one an the same??? Way back when cave men trotted around the country side, those who could run fast, kill well and were presumably attractive were the ones who bred. We can imagine that those who weren't naturally pre-dispositioned to be this way trained hard, learnt to use arrows and clubs and...had the equivalent of cave man botox. Whatever that may have been. They were bad at something so improved. Children do the same at schools all over the world. They don't do well in a spelling test so they (are supposed to) try harder for the nest. Is this not what negative comments constitute to? A way to make ourselves more appealing to a wider variety of people, because let's face it, the smelly, fat slob sat in the corner reading 'Take A Break' probably isn't going to be an employer's first choice. And sadly, that is generally what life has come to; the office has become the new hunting ground and where success was once measured on physical ability it now has more to do with the ability to climb and network company ladders.
If you say anything nice to me, anything at all, I will try to remember it. It just seems like evolution doesn't deem it a satisfactory use of mind space. Either that or I should re-assess this question when I have fewer exams, I'm less stressed and generally in a happy frame of mind.

Monday, 9 May 2011

My Good Friend Nigella

It's said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and although my kitchen currently looks more like a post apocalyptic refuge, this sentiment is most certainly true. Food is one of life's biggest comforts; it is necessary to eat at least once every three weeks to carry on living, a piece of chocolate or bowl of rice pudding can make the entire world seem like a better place and there really is nothing quite like a greasy £4 pizza at 3am. But before I sound like a secretly obese whale (although how I'd keep that a secret I'm not sure) let's also remember that food is what you eat with friends, where you go on dates (having said that, I've never really understood the attraction of watching a virtual stranger shovel food into a hole in his face while I frantically refrain from dripping pasta sauce all over my top and around my mouth. But each to their own) and an all round bonding experience. 

This is perhaps why celebrity chefs and cooks (Nigella does NOT like being called a chef) have such a special place in our own hearts. Many people are on apparent first name terms with Jamie, Heston and Delia. Food somehow connects us; it is something that everyone has in common no matter what nationality, class, age or gender. It is virtually impossible to dislike someone who cooks good food...which is a little damning for me when I manage to ruin scramble eggs. But practice makes perfect...Breakfast anyone?