Friday, April 29, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

dinner
dinner,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
I seem to be talking a great deal about food. Those that know me know that I have a scary collection of cookbooks and that I am a closet foodie. I'm far too lazy to be a great cook but I do make a mean eggplant manicotti and my speciality is chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes baked en papillote finished off with a lemon butter caper sauce.

Yesterday I ate very well indeed.

Had a business lunch with my boss and the European Business Director at The Red Fort which is a very classy Indian Restaurant. A bit different from my Brick Lane experience. Brick Lane you walk along and they try to talk you into going to their restaurant by giving you deals- Free drinks and half off meals, etc. You walk by the first few guys and when the third or fourth guy sees that you shook of his neighbours, he will give you a better deal.

The Red Fort is a bit more formal. Not a pappadam in sight. Amazing food. Had spicy prawns in some kind of heavenly curry sauce. I have to say however that I like Brick Lane better.

Dinner was at Rules which was established in 1798 making it the oldest restaurant in London. My boss took out the team to celebrate their making it past their probationary period. Very old school British formal dining. I had the best oysters in my entire life to start and for my main course the Fillet of Juniper Roasted Highland Venison, Jerusalem Artichoke & Chestnut Mushrooms which was OH MY GOD GOOD. Everyone that goes on and on about the British and bad food can just sod off.

They are sending me to Munich next week for a couple of days to help train the German Team which scares me shitless because the team doesn't really speak English. I will be attempting to discuss how to use the system to someone who will be translating for me. Should be rather interesting. I'll be staying at The Meridien and the office is a one minute walk away which will be nice. The next week they are sending me to Paris for two days. I won't have time to do much beyond have a glass of wine at a bistro but I am not complaining.

Tomorrow I am going to The Portobello Market with Jen, a new friend from Australia who has lived in London for six or seven years. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous. I hope so. I am a bit sick of wearing my winter coat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Smart Cars

smart car
smart car,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
These cute little cars are all over London. I would love to have one in Los Angeles especially when I am looking for parking in my neighborhood late at night. They are coming to Canada and America but they will be doing an SUV version in America which annoys me. I think if they market these cars correctly they will sell. When are Americans going to stop being such gluttons of the world's resources???

Anyway. End of rant. Sorry Mom. Go World domination, Go!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Stuff around work and Brighton

boardwalk
boardwalk,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Can I just tell you that the water in the English Channel is damn cold? I took off my shoes and got my feet wet and my toes became instantly frost bitten. I got a lot of pictures of the West Pier. It opened in 1866 but is now in complete ruins after a collapse and then a fire. The only part of the structure that isn't destroyed is the little booth that the fortune teller would work in (which appeals to my sense of humor). You can read more about the West Pier here. Some of the other pictures are things around work and the crowd at the Camden Market. I'm never going there on a Sunday again. Madness. Although I did get a Kermit the Frog tee shirt.

Friday, April 22, 2005

And in London this weekend

TonightI am off to the pub and then to a Jazz Club that is a 300 year old crypt in a church. Tomorrow I am taking the train to Brighton for the afternoon. Will post pictures Monday!

And In Los Angeles This Weekend

For those of you lucky enough to be in Los Angeles this weekend, you really should attend the LA Times Festival of Books on the UCLA campus. It's one of my favorite events. Trust me. Go. Pick out a few panels, go early to get tickets from the stand by booth and hang out with people who actually care about something more important than why Brad and Jennifer split up.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Little differences

It is really striking in London how much convenience food there is but a lot of it is actually rather good for you. Nearly every morning I run into Pret A Manger for a salad or sandwich for lunch later and a white americano. Most places if you want cream in your coffee you order it "white" the only exception that I have seen is Starbucks where you just pour what you want as you would in America. Sandwich combinations here are often a bit unusual sometimes but they make sense in their own way. . . Bacon and egg salad, Chicken and grilled asparagus, cheddar and herb mayo. There have been some I have seen that are far too bizarre for words which I can't recall at this moment. Last night I made Chicken Tikka Masala from a Marks and Spencer prepared sauce which was very tasty. Big Department stores that also sell groceries is an odd thing for me. I don't use them too much because they are really just too expensive. There are little mini grocery convenience stores like Tesco and Sainsburys everywhere where you can get nearly everything you need. A couple of weeks ago I ran into an Arabic market in my neighbourhood which was nice but I definitely got a "what are you doing in here you stupid American white girl" vibe. Don't think I will go back except they had ricotta cheese which I haven't found anywhere else yet. Eggs aren't stored in the refrigerated section but out on the shelf. The milk tastes different here- better. I don't know how to explain it but it makes my coffee taste good indeed. Tipping is another major difference. I am one of those people who always tip 20% and will do 15% if the service is bad. Here, you don't tip in pubs at all and a lot of places will think you are taking a piss if you do it. At restaurants is seems that most people feel that 10% is an acceptable tip which tweaks me out. One thing that service people do here that annoys me is they linger by you when they bring the bill while you calculate the tip on the slip or sort out the money. The money. . . I am finally able to look at a pile of change and read what it is without fingering through it like a refugee. There are £1.00, £2.00, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p 2p and 1p coins. There was a point that I felt so self conscious digging through my coins to pay for something that I had collected two, three handfuls of the damn stuff. There lot of the women that I see on the street have taken up with the unfortunate fashion style of wearing patterned or fish net stockings with short skirts and boots. I think a law should be passed preventing it. It is a public service really as they apparently have no idea it makes them look cheap and fat. A similar law would need to be enacted in America for the women who wear Uggs. The washing machine is a dual front loading washing/dryer appliance and is often found in the kitchen. It doesn't really dry your clothes as much as it makes wet clothes warm and wet. I've been warned actually to not use the dryer because it will eat my clothes. It takes something crazy like three hours to go through the cycle and then you string your clothes all over the flat along the tops of doors and the backs of chairs to air dry. There are no electrical plugs in the bathroom and the light is on a long string hanging from the ceiling. At first I thought this arrangement was unique to my flat but after seeing a few other people's places it seems that the English are rather frightened by the prospect of electricity in the loo. I like the word loo. I might keep that word when I go home.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Oxford

IMG_1307
IMG_1307,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
I had a great weekend and only one major disappointment. On the way to Blenheim Palace, I saw a Warning Old Person Crossing Sign and I didn't get a picture of it. I guess there must be a rash of elderly folks hopping into that particular intersection. I like the idea that you have to watch out for old people in the road like you would a deer. It kind of reminds me of the warning signs you see near the US Mexican Border warning you to look for illegal aliens dashing across the freeway.

I had an Elizabeth Bennett seeing Pemberly moment (read or watch Pride and Prejudice to catch the reference) when I saw Blenheim Palace.

I was a big dork as we drove along-- "Look! Cows! Sheep! Baby Sheep! Old building! Thatch roof!" 

We don't get houses with thatch roofs in America.

Being a passenger in the seat that I would normally be driving in did freak me out. What really got me were all the roundabouts. I hate roundabouts. It is amazing to me that there are not more car accidents over here from roundabouts. Roundabouts are evil.

We didn't make it to Leeds Castle as that was a three-hour drive away over in Kent (I guess. What do I know?)

Some more firsts this weekend: Ate bangers and mash. It was yummy, potato sausage goodness. I need to start a diet otherwise I am not going to fit in my clothes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Going to Oxford

One of my friends here at work is moving to Vancouver in a few weeks and wanted to go home to visit his parents before he left. He's offered for me to drive in with him and crash on his parent’s sofa this weekend so I get to have a tour of Oxfordshire from a native! Going to see Warwick Castle, Blenheim Palace and Leeds Castle not to mention a little place that just happens to be the oldest English-speaking university in the world. I may be a bit sick of centuries old architecture. Janelle is back in America for a few weeks, so we went out last night to the oldest wine bar in London. Small and dank and crowded and fabulous. You buy your wine at the bar by the glass or the bottle and then you go over to the food counter. We bought a collection of cheese, bread and olives and because the gods smiled on us we managed to score a table. It is on my list of favorite (or should I type favourite) places ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Photos!!!

ummmm beer
ummmm beer,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Alright here are some pictures! Click on the Guinness and crisps to see the set at flickr.

said cheers to a client

They're getting me. . . I actually said cheers to a client yesterday at the end of a call, but in my defense he said it first. My bosses boss said that it is now his goal to send me back to America sounding as English as possible. Some phrases that I love: Good Stuff Brill (abbrev of brilliant) taking a piss (their version of busting balls) pissed (drunk) ta (thanks) knackered (tired) sound (it's all ok) get sorted (things put together) wicked I brought my power book in to work today so I am going to upload photos later! I pushed myself too hard last weekend and my cold is still hanging around causing me to sound like I am coughing up hairballs every few minutes. Friday it was so cold, it actually snowed for a few minutes, and then this Monday it was sunny. Crazy weather. Absolutely impossible to know. Went to Camden Market which reminded me of a mixture of the Silverlake neighborhood in LA and Seattle. Also made it to Highgate cemetery which is really beautiful. Wandered over to The British Museum to see the mummies and The Rosetta Stone which was a huge thrill. I read so much up on that stuff when I was a kid and to then actually be looking at it? Brill.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sick and Pathetic

I am having the full London experience. I have a terrible cold. It's kind of funny how terrible I feel and look. Boss was shocked that I came in today. Damn my perverse sense of responsibility! (I am fine mom. I am taking my vitamins. I am feeling much better today. No I am not lying) Last night I bought a Potato Leek and Cheese pie with mash and gravy at Square Pie in Selfridges and a vat of orange juice and sat on the sofa cuddled up in a blanket sneezing and sniffling. I have to say when you are sick and need comfort food, the English do know what they are doing. Can't eat too much of it because you will get enormous. Work is finally coming together as I now have all the systems available to me to do my job and I am starting to call my book of clients and already have positive action going there. One thing that you don't think about when coming to work in a UK office is small changes on the keyboard. Some things are in a different place like quotation marks and the @. I've always been a hunt and peck typist anyway so it isn't that big of a deal, but it catches me up every so often. Went to The National Gallery after work Wednesday with Stuart, a new work friend who helped get my computer sorted. When we were looking at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers he said, “I recognize that painting. I think I saw it on a Friends episode.” Love the English sense of humor. We are having a pool in the office for The Grand National For every quid you put in, you get a horse. Mine is "It Takes Time". Haven’t looked up the odds yet. Maybe I should stop at a Betting Agent on the way home. (Gambling is legal here). This weekend, (and I hear it now the way they pronounce it here which is "week end" two words not the American one word. This week end, depending on how I am feeling, I may go to Highgate Cemetery to visit Karl Marx and George Eliot. I also want to go to Camden which is a funky neighborhood near Primrose Hill that I have been told I will dig. My boss Bill lives up on Hampstead and he was showing me places I need to go. . . Yes, if I am feeling well enough I think that will be my next field trip.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New Stereotype- chav

It is always a bit fun to discover the stereotypes of other cultures. My favourite in London so far is the group called “chav.” A quick definition according to Chav World is: 'chav' (slang) - a young person, often without a high level of education, who follows a particular fashion; Chavs usually wear designer labels including the chav favourite 'Burberry', and if they’re girls, very short skirts, large hoop earrings and stilettos. Chavs see branded baseball caps as a status symbol and wear them at every opportunity. Normally found hanging around shopping centres. Also known as Townies, Kevs, Hood Rats, Charvers, Steeks, Stigs, Bazzas, Yarcos, Ratboys, Chorer, Skangers, Scutters, Janners, Kappa Slappers, Scallies, and Spides. Also known as Neds in Scotland, knackers & skangers in Ireland, and Guidos in the USA I have also always loved the way the British cuss. It is so much more fun. Fuckwit, twat (not the American pronunciation. It rhymes with bat), tosser, and wanker are so much more fun than cocksucker or asswipe. This all was actually a topic of conversation at two dinners with different people: The British and their cursing vocabulary. A new one that I never heard before last night which is “minger”. Some variations on that theme are minger, minge-box and for those who wish to add ancient racial hatred of the Irish to their cursing, ginger minger.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Got a bit pissed

I've decided that the City of London has painted "Look Right" and "Look Left" on the sidewalk in the maze of one way streets, have done so not to assist tourists from becoming road kill, but to protect drunk Londoners stumbling to the tube. Friday I had a couple of pints after work with my colleagues here and the sidewalk was teaming with people drinking. I left about seven and every pub on the way home it was the same story. Saturday I had lunch at a crepe place with Janelle on Primrose Hill. On the way to her flat, I noticed a sign saying that William Butler Yeats lived there. I felt a bit silly for feeling so thrilled. There are these lovely round blue signs on the signs of buildings if someone important had lived there. This was the first sign of someone that I am familiar with and not Earl Whoozit famous for Whatsit. For those of you in LA, Primrose Hill reminds me of Larchmont. Small restaurants and shops, everyone out with their dogs and kids. Really great spot. After helping Janelle pack up her kitchen we met her new flat mate Suzy at a pub in Battersea and then we were off to a birthday dinner for her friend Lawrence at a fabulous restaurant called Little Bay. It was like a Moroccan bordello. We were up in a little alcove where the ceiling was inches above my head and it was covered in silk veils. The bathrooms had rather pornographic yet sort of tasteful scenes painted all over the walls, but the best part, aside from the fabulous food was they had opera singers singing while you ate. Fabulous. We caught a cab to Soho and met up with some other friends (or should I say mates) of Janelle and Suzy's and we did a bit of club hopping and then a cab back to Suzy's flat in Battersea where we drank more wine. I spent all of Sunday recovering from a massive hangover. Which is sad because it was a lovely spring day and it is gloom and rain today. Janelle and I are meeting our friend Ron who is here on holiday for drinks after work and then I am home to try and do a bit of reading. I apologize to all that have been clamoring for photos that I haven't posted any yet. I don't have Internet access in my flat and I had intended to sneak into the office and plug my powerbook into the network Sunday, but it wasn't scientifically possible for me to leave my apartment. Will try and manage it tomorrow. . .

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Advice Slips

I got some money out at the ATM and it asked me if I wanted an “advice slip”. I think it would be great if they really were advice slips rather than just a receipt detailing how many pounds you took out. -Hello. Do you really think you should be taking out so much money? Cheers! -Hello. Are you aware those jeans make your ass look enormous? Cheers! -Hello. When was the last time you flossed? Cheers! It would be like a fortune cookie, except. . . you know. Different.