Monday, 30 May 2011

Bob Marley in the Back Yard

So it’s the eve before the day of my first exam – agreed I should probably be revising, not writing this...but I do feel I have ammunition at the ready to annihilate the paper tomorrow. Geeky as it may sound there’s supremely inimitable satisfaction in walking out of an exam hall, knowing you killed it - and that’s EXACTLY the boost I think I need at the moment. I was up until some ridiculous hour last night battling matrix algebra (yes, every bit as bad and boring as it sounds) but fortunately the Jamaican massive out back helped keep me awake. Our garden backs onto a chapel (one of the only remaining buildings of the mental hospital that used to stand where I now live - yes you heard) but it’s now used for anything but worship – parties, weddings, groups, focus groups, whatever. Lang time mi a wait but when they didn’t go I resolved to people watching (very merry, very drunk, celebrating a wedding I believe) before returning to my revision. A bit of Bob Marley can never fail to lift the spirits anyway. I reeeeeeally can’t wait to come out the other side of this*she crawls back to her stack of books*


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Blaggin' It


So my “as long as I know the basics, I’ll blag my way through” policy is not reeeeally working. See it’s okay for a politics or philosophy or even English exam where you can upholster a one-sentence point with a thick wadding of totally unnecessary, very flowery words. But maths...? Doesn’t really work that way unfortunately. It’s gotten to a point where I can do the first part of every question on the exam paper but it’s the damn part (c)’s and (d)’s that are causing me grief. Looks like I’m just going to have to go back and ‘upholster’ my own knowledge on the subject instead.

I’m quite literally turning green with envy as I see friends, co-FaceBookers and the like who’re already free. It’s frustrating because I’m still stuck in that “limbo” and until these exams aren’t done and dusted out the way there’s no breaking out either. I think my boredom is making a misery out of me too (ask my family lol) but mum always asks me why I am in such a rush. She says it’s just a phase, so stick with it, in a few weeks you’ll be free anyway. And I s’pose she’s got a point. In a way I feel that everything will fall into place by the end of the week - all the formulas and equations will suddenly make perfect sense in that ‘Eureka’ moment and we’ll all live happily ever after :D Wish for me please. I’m wishing hard for a miracle.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

I Want a Raise, Not Praise!


I feel supremely (though probably unsuitably) satisfied with myself today - mastered difference equations (don't ask, you reeeally don't want to know), had another article published on YouGov, henna-d my mummy and myself rather nicely and I just feel, in general, like less of a flake. I can’t say I feel happy exactly...but let’s say reason has finally kicked in and kicked emotion up the a**. I realise that I’m just 21 and I have everything going for me - time, prospects, (an occasionally defunct but generally in good-working order) brain, a great family... and if I don’t seize the opportunities facing me, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. So with the click of a button I’ve put my past (emails, pictures, texts) safely into storage. It’s not that I want to forget some very happy times, but just that I know it’s going to be a while before there’s enough ‘space’ between the two of us (my past, and me, so to speak) for me to think happily of it. I’m not going to lie, I’m a totally hopeless romantic – I do very unfortunately wish on shooting stars, believe in soulmates and hope for a love that lasts forever. So I’ve probably taken this break-up a lot harder than I should. But it does hurt, because I wished it to last a lifetime. And accepting that what was perfect for me was so easy for another to walk away from is very bitter medicine indeed.

Having been housebound for what seems like eternity now, I've been watching rather a lot of films, reading a lot of books, sending a lot of FB messages etc. I’ve become a bit of a couch potato (or chair spud, in my case) and I’m really not liking. But then studying does have to be interspersed with something vaguely fun and so I console myself with the thought that it’s just a few weeks more after which I’m free to be doing what I want, when I want. Now, if my choice in books (*ehem*) is anything to go by, then obviously I'd be watching a lot of chick-flick, rom-com type movies...but I don't. Not very often anyway. Only occasionally, like the odd one here and there. Or maybe two. Maybe more, y'know. Oh alright then, all the time!! But aren’t they really the best type of film? You can watch them in the company of girlfriends (and ooh and aah over the good-looking men) or your boyfriend/girlfriend (and cuddle close) or even just alone to garner inspiration, possibly as a last punt for some hope when you’re really badly demoralised. I watched this one on Cris' computer a long time back, and I absolutely loved it.

Work was a bit of a shocker today. Considering I didn't sleep for most of the night, I was ready-equipped with dread, grogginess and apathy for what was supposed to be a morning of queues, rush and mess. Alas, when I arrived at 6.48am the hotel was a scene of peace and tranquillity. Nobody forcing their way into the breakfast room an hour before time. Not even trying to. With a measly 50 guests for breakfast, we cruised through (in case of the slight risk my supervisor is reading this – he has complimented me on my blog before – I hasten to add that I wasn’t being lazy, just that we're so used to handling three or four times the number we've become overly-efficient). I even had the time to muse over a crossword. Score. But it wasn’t long anyway before pandemonium soon descended upon the Park Inn; today’s circus included drunken wandering, pondering guests and a rather demanding lady running a training group in the suite upstairs (Can we have water? Can we have a projector? Can you check the aircon?). As always though, it went quick and we laughed it off.

Highlights today -

My friend on reception told me that a few customers had left feedback about me during their stay here. Apparently they were most impressed by “Seema. She was pleasant and cheerful, and didn’t stop working for the entire time we were having breakfast. She deserves a promotion!” *Chest swells, with pride, she pats herself on the back*. I’m hoping the boss takes the advice and gives me a raise with the praise ;)

As per usual the news drones on in the background for as many hours as I work – I think today’s news beats all previous records of absurdity. According to some prophecy, an apocalypse is nigh, and today is the start of the end of the world. Harold Camping, a Christian Evangelist, says Jesus Christ will return to earth today and true believers will be swept up or "raptured", to heaven. He adds that biblical texts indicate a giant earthquake will mark the start of the world's destruction, and that by 21 October all non-believers will be dead. Well, isn't that bleak. Here I was worrying about what to do with myself tonight when I should really be pondering my chances of being swallowed up by Mother Earth (I'm really going to have to eat my words if something untoward does actually happen...)But seriously, it had to be an American (sorry if you’re an American and reading this), didn’t it? Didn’t they predict Armageddon at the turn of the new millennium? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I say no more.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Books, Boredom and Broken Hearts

So I’ve FINALLY made a dent in my revision following the dullest (yester)day in the history of mankind – but BOY do I feel relieved. Bored out of my wits, yes. Mind-numbed after tedious upon tedious minute of mathematics for economists, yes. But still, worth it for the slight relief of having gotten some work done! I still have a long way to go though and this lack of concentration-ness is not helping one bit – I find I stare at a page for undefined periods of time (can range from 2 minutes to 25) without taking in so much as even the title. Not good. I’ve never been through ‘heartbreak’ before, but in hindsight, why isn’t love bloody sold with a health warning on the packet?! You know, like with cigarettes. Warning: Lost Love Kills or Sleepless nights, Broken Trust, and Estranged Boyfriend Beyond: Enter at your own risk. Nah, no warning. Not even an inkling quite frankly. Friends say don’t worry, just chill, it takes time...Family say throw yourself into life, distract yourself left right and centre. Effectively, you gotta convince your brain there’s no boyfriend-shaped hole in your life anymore by filling the gap with activities, hobbies, distractions, passions and anything slash everything else, fooling your mind into forgetting. But, as another friend rather wisely pointed out I’m “emotionally vacant”, not “mentally”. Emotionally = emotions = matters relating to the heart. Yeah, my mind can be explained away, but what about the bruised, broken and slightly pathetic little heart?! It’s amidst this painstaking emotional vacancy that I come to the conclusion (and I think I speak on behalf of girls in general here) that forgetting somebody you love has to be one of the hardest things ever.

But I’ll tell you what’s probably harder - I seem to spend a lot of time in and out of the kitchens at work these days, and I was chatting to the chef, ‘C’ for a while on Sunday morning. I wouldn’t say I’m nosy exactly but I do like to know the feelings and fears behind a face. People are not subjects but walking, talking books of history and it’s with this curiosity that I asked C if he misses home (the Philippines) especially in the winter months. His answer was ‘Yes, but what choice to I have? I have two teenage sons and education back home is not free. I earn enough here to give them a good education there.’ It’s humbling because I’d always thought there’s no reason good enough for staying away from loved ones. He hasn’t set eyes on his family for over a year – and that must be bloody tough!

It’s been quite a good day today and I don’t actually feel too guilty for indulging myself because I banged out the revision with surprising efficiency yesterday – started with a lovely jog through the countryside with mum followed by coffee with a (recently returned from India) reeeeeally good friend. Bumped into numerous ex-colleagues in Watford, South-Indian lunch with mum and then a little revision when we got in. Spent some time cooking for the family (mushroom farfalle, yummy yummy yum yum ) and also submitted another article to YouGov. The best part though has to be my roses. Mum and I have spent a long time in the gardens over the years and it’s so lovely to see efforts coming to fruition.


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Blogger Is Currently Unavailable

If you’re a blogger (on blogspot) you’ll no doubt be aware of the site outage that forced the engineering team to take it offline and put it into a “read-only” mode for the better part of two days – apparently they were just carrying out routine maintenance work on the site when they experienced some data corruption blah blah blah which meant they had to restore the site to a pre-maintenance format blah blah blah, whatever that means. Now, I wouldn’t really have noticed except that when I clicked onto the site to create a new post, the response was a recurrent (and frustrating) “service unavailable”. Then when I tried to return to my blog, about two of my posts had completely vanished.

I panicked. God did I panic. (N.B. Moment of realisation, I am addicted. I am addicted?!). Typical net-savvy surfer’s reaction – Google it and see if anyone else’s had the same issue. So I did (and eventually found out all of the above information, relaxed a little albeit with bated breath, waiting for my lost posts to be restored) but when I typed “blogger” into Google news search, the first story that came up was actually something completely different. And I guess that’s what I want to make a note of today, and share with you as well –

This is what the search engine churned out:

Final Blog Touches Millions in Cyberspace.

A Canadian blogger's moving last message of love and hope published after he died from cancer last week has drawn millions of hits from people inspired by his grace.

Derek Miller, 41, ends it with a declaration to his wife of 16 years: "I don't know what we'd have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you."

Naturally I clicked onto his blog (now an archive I guess) and I don’t think I have ever read anything so candid yet so comforting. I need not say much more either because his words say it all. Despite knowing he was staring death square in the face, he describes living with cancer with moving honesty but without even a trace of self-pity. He's proud of the life he has lived, and though he wishes he could be there to watch his family grow he takes solace in the thought that what he won't know can't hurt him. In his own words,

“The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same."

His words stun [me] and his bravery is profound. His last words put perspective on life, so much perspective. Life really is very short, and there's nothing more to it than sharing it willingly with another. If you've made somebody smile and you leave the world a better place then we've lived a full life regardless of how prematurely it may end. The message is simple.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Friday the Thirteenth

So Friday The Thirteenth has come and gone with no massively inauspicious occurrence to denote it. Except that one more ominous day spent mooching around doing nothing, moodling around eating everything, has probably taken me one step closer to a meltdown of epic scales, considering I’m just about two weeks away from exams. So maybe yesterday was a little inauspicious after all. I don’t know what it is, I just can’t find the motivation to get on with it and I know that this really isn’t who I am. Or was, at least. I’ve never had a problem with exams and I actually wish I was spending every last second of my time buried in my books, working day and night to get the grades – any ideas on how to jump-start the engine?

So what have I been doing with my time? Very good question...the answer to which will be... reading. A lot. But reading a book of the wrong sort entirely. I bought ‘After the Party’ subsequent to being stared square in the face, tube stop after tube stop, by 200” x 80” posters advertising its release. It’s been a good buy though and I’d definitely recommend a read. My mum had to prise me away from it with much difficulty on many-a-occasion because it was (cliché, I know) just too good to put down. The only other time I remember that happening was with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Mum bought it the day it released and I picked it up the minute I sat in the car after school not to put it down until I’d finished at 11pm (a bit late on a school night for an 11 year old, no?) After the Party is (again, and yes I’m a bit ashamed to admit it) another chick-flick type tale in genre, but what I love about it is that Jem, the main character, embodies something every girl can relate to. She is a little piece of every girl. Though she set out to live life with the sole purpose of enjoying every moment of it, she now finds herself trapped in a life of routines and responsibilities, baby-sick and burdens as a suburban mum of two. The passage of time has made a new woman of her, one that she and her partner no longer recognise. The beauty of the story lays with two people’s honesty though – their unchanged love for one another and their desire to work things out against all odds. It’s an engaging read and you’ll be hard-pushed to avoid a mild ache in your heart as you witness their disintegrating relationship. It’s a novel that doesn’t belittle human emotion, whittling away lost love as ‘one of those things in life’. Nor does it denigrate the emptiness in a woman’s heart when she loses a baby. Just because we all deal with all of this all the time, it doesn’t make it any easier to take. And it’s refreshing to read a novel with the time to acknowledge so. I think I’ve waffled on enough for now, and I hope Lisa Jewell will pay me a tidy little sum for dedicating so much blog space to promoting her latest novel. So I think that pretty much summed up my Friday (exciting life I lead huh?!), the highlight probably a rather well turned out potato gratin for dinner and a box of chocolates that dad bought home to cheer up “his little girl”.

I had a ridiculously early start today, 5am to be exact, and work was well... work was manic. We like it when it’s busy – busy is good, but it’s getting a little annoying to arrive at work and ten minutes later have tour group guests wander in looking for breakfast that isn’t meant to be ready for another 50 minutes yet. Only they don’t exactly talk much English so I don’t have any choice but to get some food out, FAST. Work’s good though. It’s a laugh. And the people are... well, hospitable considering they work in the hospitality industry lol. We can have a joke and it takes my mind off things that I shouldn’t really be thinking about. A rather odd story caught my ear whilst tidying up in the bar today - in what is deemed to be a literal application of the Sharia principle “an eye for an eye”, Iran is set to blind a man with acid after he was found guilty of doing the same to a woman who refused to marry him. Now, I can’t say I know an awful lot about Sharia but naturally I rushed to Google it as soon as I got home. Sharia law, or any system of justice for that matter, I don’t think can be deemed as right or wrong. A certain people’s system of justice reflects their respective, prevalent philosophical values. Many will support the view that indeed, when he suffers what he inflicted onto another, justice will be done. Speaking entirely for myself though, I don’t believe two wrongs can ever make a right. And to wrong another as they have wronged me will be to leave no difference between the two of us. Right?


Thursday, 12 May 2011

One Way Or Another

So, if you’ve scrutinised my blog a little more closely of late you’ve probably noticed the sudden appearance of random little features around the place, for example the WeHeartIt widget on the right hand side. Now, I'm not usually one to mindlessly spend hours online subscribing myself to as many free-time guzzling, social-life embezzling websites as is humanly possible, but neither can I deny that they are enjoying a newly elevated attractiveness in the face of impending exams. This particular little gem, WeHeartIt, is rather good. Effectively you go there and compile your own gallery of photos, pictures and images that inspire, amaze, capture, engage etc. (Yes, I hear you, I need to get a life). But then I am a bit of a hoarder really, there’s nothing I love more than sitting myself on my cushioned floor, sorting through and pouring over old photographs and scrapbooking or collecting quotes that articulate a moment more beautifully than I’d ever muster. So this website is really a bit of a godsend for me. All said and done, I think it’s really time I stop dragging my feet and get the hell on with “real” life.

I’ve really had it though with these ominous little 'R' words (namely routine and revision) that pop up all the time so I decided to deviate slightly from my (not at all) rigorous study plan today. And off I ambled back into the arms of my very oldest lover, London of course. My brother dropped me into Watford and I took a quick wander through the Harlequin Centre on my way to the bank. Walked by my old work place, Clas Ohlson (always triggers a little something in my heart – melancholy memories of some happy times gone by crossed with a strange sense of loyalty) and also passed some very merry Hare Krishna devotees distributing 'prasad' on the high street. They were making quite the racket with their chanting and dancing - but you gotta love ‘em because it takes guts to express yourself without giving a toss that others may think you’re borderline crazy. Good stuff.

I guess you probably think I’m a little crazy myself, taking the train into the city without particular reason. Aha well you’re wrong you see, because mission there was. I had a interviewy meeting at Somerset House with a small organisation called Mindapples. I’m not going to waffle on too much because their website is a rather good one for you to have a quick look around yourself but what I can say is that I’m looking forward to getting involved (if they’ll have me that is) over summer. It surprises me that such a simple concept was born so recently because in hindsight it seems pretty obvious that a healthy mind takes some maintenance, just as a healthy body (balanced diet, exercise, 8 hours sleep) or healthy teeth (brushing twice daily, limiting intake of sugary foods, bi-annual trips to the dentist) do.

Somerset House rather took my breath away – I never really realised it was so vast, or... well, spectacular really! It reminded me a little of Kulturhuset in Stockholm that I visited with Cris. I will definitely be going back there with a little more time to check in on the various art exhibitions and cultural shows that seem to be going on. Of course once I was in London I wasn’t exactly going to rush back now was I (almost £14 to get in, makes sense to stick around for a bit!) so I took the liberty of chilling with a coffee in hand at Victoria Embankment Gardens, Temple...

Strolling across Waterloo Bridge to admire the sights along the glittering Thames...

...and totally spontaneously showing up in Sloane Square to have a nosy around the (highly unaffordable designer) boutiques before heading up to Edgware for a short while to catch up with some family. It’s been a good day in all and once again the city hasn’t failed to lift my slightly sagging spirit. Sunshine makes London glitter like no other, the mellow rays illuminating the tops of buildings like a thick layer of golden icing. It’s really a vision.

I’ve had to make some tough decisions over the past month and though we can never “plan” how life will and won’t be, it’s vitally important to have 100% faith in your own choices so as to find the courage to face the consequences somewhere down the line. It’s not easy standing up for what you genuinely believe is right for you, without at least one person questioning or accusing. But we only live once and can’t possibly please everybody all of the time. A year and a half is a long time to spend with a man – it provides enough time to revel in the excitement when things are new and wonderful, but also to assess long term compatibility. It’s been really tough to go from seeing some-one every day for a year to not seeing them for the better part of three months. But when the other person doesn’t feel the same way, I know now, that running after them is like climbing aboard a sinking ship. It just cannot bring happiness.


P.S. There’s no particular justification for the random rainbow cake at the end except that I like it really (goes to show I'd never have known what I'm missing had it not been for WeHeartIt).

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I Just Wanna Live While I'm Alive

I’m still recovering from what was probably the busiest weekend I’ve EVER had at work. 8-9 hours of dashing around the hotel at a somewhere between brisk walk and gentle jog pace (we’re talking averages here, I have been known to sprint on occasion) is probably more aerobic exercise than most people take in a year. Now that summer is nigh tourists are flocking into London in droves – and it’s always cheaper to stay just outside the city than in so we’re almost always fully booked. But then it is groups like these that keep girls like me in the job (and out of nightmarish student debt) so I can hardly complain. It’s not so bad either when people are polite and patient rather than demanding and uptight, we’re definitely more inclined to provide them with top-class service. I quite enjoyed looking after the Indian tour group that came in from Mumbai – warm, kind and redolent of India in every way possible. I didn’t realise how much I was missing it until now – it’s been two long years. Surprisingly, tickets over summer aren’t half as expensive as I’d expected so I think I might take my chances and visit in August, during the rains...

I seem to be getting ‘India-sick’ pretty oft of late, might offer some explanation for my recent Bollywood film binges? For a few years my attraction waned (second-rate acting, repetitive story lines and tediously long at 3 hours sometimes) but for an industry that churns out over 1000 films per year, there is of course the odd diamond among the stones, if you just care to search a little. “3 Idiots” is one such gem. It tells the tale of Rancho who wants to fight an oppressive education system that puts more emphasis on achieving grades than on imparting knowledge – it probably sounds a little bland but I assure you it is far from. Complete with a very “filmi” love story, a wedding that’s crashed and a funeral that’s trashed, I would definitely recommend a watch (I have it taped on the V+ box, probably watch it more often than I should).

Being completely confined to books, revision, work, more books and more revision, most of my thoughts are clearly tending towards escaping (India, Sweden, Bollywood) this boring routine! The whole month looks set to be a drag (except maybe Thursday & Friday this week) and I just CANT WAIT TO BE FREE from exams. Some other thoughts bobbling around this slightly bored brain...

I don’t know if it’s possible to “miss” a place having spent only a few days there so I’m going to go with the word “reminisce” instead. And reminiscing I am, about some wonderful days spent in Stockholm. The city has an allure very different from London; it’s sensuous rather than sensational, calm rather than crazy and very ‘bite-size’ with none of the sprawling busyness that resides with London. It’s compact (take a look at the size of their metro if you don’t believe me), clean(er than you can EVER imagine) and cool(the air feels as fresh as in the countryside). I’ve only seen it in the deepest winter (-15 degrees if you want precision) but I can imagine it’s just as beautiful in the summer with its open waterways and pale coral building facades. It seems unlikely I’ll be going there anytime soon but it sure made a place in my heart very, very fast. (Click on the collage below, you can zoom in pretty close.)

As my last post explained I’m acutely aware of time, that I’m not enjoying, utilising or maximising, passing before my eyes. Life has changed but rather than yearning for what I had, I have to welcome what will come. Happiness is after all, making to most of now, here. It’s mowing the lawn for mum and watching her pad around barefoot in the garden. It’s making potato gratin and watching dad demolish with delight. It’s remembering snatched moments of our childhood with my brother and gossiping with my best girls. Happiness is comfort eating with Rob,talking to my grandma on the phone and playing with my adorable little neighbour, Christian. It's cooking and travelling, shopping and working. Happiness is nothing more than being thankful for what we have. Nothing more.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Nails in the Fence

Change is an intrinsic ingredient in the human survival recipe – with every passing moment I change, you change, times change, so on and so forth. So it's odd that though we’re aware of the non-permanence of everything around us we claw for something intransient in life. When sudden changes occur we can feel misplaced, mistreated because we had no prior warning. I feel I’m speaking in riddles – my point though is actually very simple. I want to share a story with you. I’m at a place in life where everything is changing very quickly without my consent. I can’t say my initial reaction has been particularly composed either. I’ve lashed out, frustrated with my lack of control on my life and exchanged bitter words with those who've hurt me. It's taken six long months to realise though that no matter what I do, no matter how I react, things will go on changing. It’s in hindsight I know that the only option is to accept and then adapt to change.

At the tiny age of 7 years old, I recall sitting in the school sports hall, legs crossed, on the floor for morning assembly. Different classes sharing their latest art projects, singing hymns from the overhead projector and above all, listening to short stories (remember The Good Samaritan for example?) read out by the teacher. And it's one such story that was so very poignant, it remains fresh in my memory even today -

There was once a little boy with a very bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say sorry because the wound will still be there."

It’s a story with a very practical message but one that’s so compelling it prevents my sometimes dark thoughts from reaching my tongue. Of course sometimes giving people a piece of your mind is essential but expressing a viewpoint doesn’t mean lashing out left right and centre to inflict as much hurt as is possible. So I thank my primary school teacher, Mrs Taylor, for these words of wisdom because truly, the spoken word can never be retrieved.


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Why Rainy Days Smell of Romance

I remember being in Stockholm a while back, pondering the leisure of waking up to sunshine beaming in through the window - one of life's greatest pleasures, I said, but I think I might have to repeal my words. One of life's little pleasures, it is, but it's just that being woken by the gentle pitter-patter of a spring shower probably comes in a marginal winner. Sunshine gives you motivation to get out of bed and get on with your day, whereas the rain and the expectant, overcast skies provide justification for cuddling back down, making yourself a coffee and watching movies in bed. There’s something so refreshing about rain, the earthy smell and cool moist breeze that comes with it. It's massively romanticised in Bollywood movies, (for those who don’t know, I post a clip for your reference – it’s from a rather quirky little movie called ‘Wake Up Sid’) so having grown up watching them I guess it’s a pretty clear explanation as to why I find the rains so evocative. It’s been a long spell of warm, dry weather and today, the rain was a revitalizing break (almost) like the Mumbai monsoons (mini-heatweave, followed by a mini-monsoon, if you catch my drift?) Ahhhh the monsoons - I think it’s time we met again.

I feel it’s been a while since I blogged about day-to-day happenings. It’s so easy to be pretentious (or 'poncy' as my friend puts it) in writing but that’s definitely not how I’d like to come across - I’ve been through a bit of rough patch in life and while break-ups, agreed, aren’t the end of the world, it can be hard to accept that someone walked away from you as though you didn't give them anything worth staying for. And that’s what my past few blog posts have been about; just trying to understand, accept, embrace and move on with some grace.

So now here’s a slightly overdue catch up :) Exams are creeping up on me pretty fast, my first being on 31st May and I wish I could say I am “revising”. In truth it’s a case of learning the entire syllabus first (otherwise known to students as "cramming"). I know many of you are probably sitting there thinking exactly the same thing – but seriously, do you think a year’s curriculum can be learnt in a few weeks??! I’m still swinging it at the hotel, and things are getting really busy now; I s’pose peak season has commenced so each week we’re inundated by tour groups from various pockets of the world – last week China and Poland, this week Germany and India. I was baffled to get to work at 6.57am and find the restaurant already filled with 100 very hungry Germans. Strictly speaking our breakfast service doesn’t begin until 8am so you can probably guess how much we were just rushed off our feet. I really enjoy my job though, especially as now that I've been there a while I feel I know what I’m doing. I can waltz in and out of the kitchen, make my own lunches, help Chef finish dishes – and I love it. It makes me very sure that I’d like to run a restaurant of my own one day. It’s a real eye-opener as well, for example, it’s pretty obvious that you’d keep pasta and sauce separately prepared in advance and then combine and heat them when you get an order – but until I didn’t see it, I didn’t really think about it, if you know what I mean?

Well, the night is nigh now and I’ve probably bored you enough for a Saturday evening already whatever it is you’re up to, whoever you're spending it with just be sure enjoy it.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Girl (or Guy)'s Guide To Getting Better

I think it’s fair to say that low self-esteem is a very common affliction (yes boys, I’m looking at you too). I know I look in the mirror and see thighs that are too fat, legs that are too short, skin that’s uneven in tone...I think you get the picture. Of course self-esteem doesn’t relate solely to what we think we look like either - that would be shallow. But after being dumped, after a failure of any sorts, or a breakdown, it’s inevitable to feel fairly…inadequate. Unattractive. Attractiveness, and your perception of your own attractiveness plays a key part in confidence - which explains the popularity of shows like Trinny and Susannah and Gok Wan. Low self esteem doesn’t only undermine your chances with the opposite sex but slowly creeps into every aspect of your life, impairing your ability to make the right choices. It’s not long before lack of confidence will make a couch potato out of a social butterfly, your insecurities making you want to hide away from the rest of the human species. Ask me, I think I’m somewhere in that place.

But, enough wallowing now. Enough bridge-dwelling troll imagery every time we look in the mirror. It’s high time we shimmy back up the ropeladder of self-confidence, and if you need some help doing the same, here are a few Miss Raj tried-and-tested techniques for how to go about it.


1. Book hour long aromatherapy session to alleviate tension.

2. Realise you could buy two pairs of jeans and a new summer dress for the money, and promptly cancel appointment.

3. Ask mum for advice.

4. Now take her advice, make a trip to TK Maxx and invest in some aromatherapy bath oils (£3.99 for a set of 3).

5. Enact aromatherapy relaxation session in the privacy of your own bathtub.


1. ...or atleast plan one if your schedule doesn't permit an instant get away. Even the thought of breaking gruelling routines will brighten your day.

2. Leaf through shiny Thomas Cook(/not so shiny Easy Jet, if you’re a broke student, like me) brochures during your lunch break (and in your aromatherapy bath too of course, though I’d advise snapping out of your reverie before your skin wrinkles).

3. Select destination, making sure it won’t break the bank and force you to live on pot noodle and toast for the rest of the year - I guarantee that won't help your self esteem.

4. Ensnare one willing (or not, doesn’t really matter) volunteer into going with you, preferably your best friend or your mum - always willing to hear you wallow about the woes.

5. Book and then bask.


1. I feel sorry for the poor souls who cross my path the day after a sleepless night. Trust me, I will eat you alive. Doesn’t help being told that you look tired either – code for “you don’t look great”.

2. So just sleep it off! Problems look so much smaller, so much more manageable. Plus, there’s no better face lift than a full 8 hours of sleep.


1. During the first stages of depression, mum will no doubt nurture you and smother you with food fit for a queen. Let her. Enjoy it. Mum has a magic wand that will never fail to remedy her child.

2. When you feel a little better (i.e. you don’t burst hysterically into tears if you burn your toast at breakfast), get cooking yourself. Creativity banishes despondency in a jiffy. Mushroom risotto is a good starting place. Comfort on a plate, truly.

3. If all else fails, just reach for the stash of Easter eggs under your bed.

NB - Outlandishly difficult
1. Take time to curl your hair, a la Shakira. There’s no harm in turning a few heads, every girl has some va va voom in her.

2. Step out into the glorious British sunshine with a spring in your step and some heels on your feet, only for it to start p***ing it down with rain on you.

3. Arrive at the office with poker straight (albeit a little damp) hair and scowl fiercely at your colleague for complimenting you (“You’re so lucky to have straight hair, mine just curls right up in the rain!”).Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


1. Start learning how to knit.

2. Decide not to learn how to knit as not 80.

3. Instead, buy a top-notch Nikon camera. What better way to remind yourself that life is full of beauty, perhaps you just stopped taking the time to notice?


It’s true that some people look down their noses at blogging. It’s not a respected craft. But in my world, if you can make yourself laugh, you’re already scuttling back up that ladder of self-esteem. Better still, if you can make other people laugh (even very slightly) they might be too distracted by your stories to notice that you smell of lavender oil (‘cause you fell asleep in the bath, dreaming of swinging in a hammock on some far away beach.....). And that, my friends, is no small talent itself.


There are many reasons people take a blow in life. Unsuccessful relationships, broken marriages, or losing a job. It can be health problems or financial difficulties – maybe you’ve lost some-one close, or some-one is taking you for granted. Don’t let them. It’s about time you learn to be proud of yourself. Take ownership for your decisions and stand by them because they make you the person you are, and frankly, you’re pretty darn fantastic... ;)



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