Sunday, 28 December 2014

Reasons why I hate Christmas

I am the Grinch.  Anyone who's been anywhere near me this festive season will be more than aware of this.

Edit - reading this back, it's a bit depressing and negative - so let me start by saying as I kid I used to enjoy the excitement - especially when I believed in Santa and would try and spot him out of my bedroom window.  (I discovered Santa wasn't real when I spotted a new toy in mum's car that I then saw a couple of days later in my brother's stocking, and put two and two together).  Mum would (and still does) buy loads of goodies - turkish delight, cheese footballs (do they even exist any longer?), pringles, After Eights etc) and display them temptingly on the side board until we were allowed to open then on Christmas Eve - the restraint was tremendous.  And because of where I currently work, Christmas is pretty sweet - this year in particular has seen December fly by in a haze of booze, mince pies, creativity, and 3pm finishes topped off with a pretty opulent meat feast at Barbecoa courtesy of my fantastic boss. (on the day we went, there was a fire evacuation and we all got chucked out for half an hour.  We were the only ones who returned as everyone else legged it, so they gave us 50% off the bill which was rather nice of them).

However, as I have grown up, I have developed several aversions to Christmas:

- I feel like I HAVE to enjoy it.  Facebook's filled with family selfies with everyone in christmas onesies, statuses about people feeling 'blessed' at spending this special festive period with loved ones, movies all about happy special family time.  I feel myself constantly comparing my christmas to that of what it "should" be, and mine never measures up.   I am lucky enough to see my family fairly frequently, so spending christmas with them never feels special and I don't get that glowing, warm feeling inside my heart, that I feel like I should get.

- I don't particularly like receiving gifts.  I feel uncomfortable receiving them, especially now that I am in the very fortunate financial position where I tend to buy myself whatever I want/need.  I feel like I don't deserve anything and that the only reason I am receiving half of the stuff I get is because society dictates we should buy one another gifts for this set day.  For the same reason,  I don't particularly like buying gifts, I find it stressful as I would rather get someone a gift than means something, but for people who have everything, or for people you don't particularly know, what the hell do you get!?  And that moment someone gives you a gift, and you realise with a sinking feeling that you didn't get them something because you didn't even consider the thought they'd get you anything, ...ahh the awkwardness.

- This brings me onto my next point - going to the shops at christmas time is horrendous.  And shops shill the most awful stuff - take a look at the below, people actually buy shit like that! It is literally a packaged up plastic ball with nothing inside. What a total waste!  That £7 could have bought a homeless person steak and chips from Wetherspoons, maybe a beer too.

Thanksgiving Black Friday (we're not even American folks, in case you hadn't noticed), and Boxing day sales now invoke scenes similar to that of people running away from zombies in The Walking Dead.  People literally fighting over discounted goods they don't actually need makes me die a little inside.

- Christmas songs and decorations EVERYWHERE from the moment Halloween decorations are taken down.  The same songs every year (bar the XFactor guaranteed to be a christmas number one without fail unless there's a social media campaign single). And that horrendous, patronising BandAid song that gets wheeled out without fail - yes I am pretty sure that people in Africa know it's Christmas time, Mr Geldolf.  And they have snow in Africa. You pillock.  As an aside, I HATE the way the entire continent of Africa gets tarred with the same brush - it has 54 nations (at the time of writing) across 11.7million square miles.  You can fit Britain into Africa 120 times.  Think how different the North and South of England are and multiply that on the scale of how large Africa is - different climates, languages, cultures, economies.  It's not the large poverty, disease and drought stricken continent that Bob would like us to think it is.

Anyway, there are some of the reasons I hate Christmas.  It was a magical time when I was a kid and I loved the nativity story, but it's not even really about Jesus anymore - people get excited about the Coca Cola van and Winter Wonderland.

I think when I have a family of my own I will probably enjoy Christmas again, but as a childless and single 20 something, it's a pretty pants day.*

*This post seems a bit depressing and negative, so I would like to point out that I am of course very grateful for everything I have - I am lucky to spend Christmas with my family and fortunate to be in the financial position to buy gifts, and of course am thankful for everything I received this year.  Especially the bottle of tonic in my Christmas stocking.  Now where's my gin?

Anyway, here's some photos to brighten up an otherwise self indulgent miserable post:

feeding squirrels in St James' Park.  Yes my gloves have raccoons on them.

Rex wanted to be someone's present. Or suffocate himself. Not sure which.  Maybe he hates Christmas as much as I do

St Paul's as seen from Madison, One New Change

Got my hair did. No one even noticed. sigh. 

Christmas day walk. Sky was beautiful

Not sure he understand what camouflage is

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Tidings

Work has been a bit crazy recently.  I think we've eaten too many mince pies (we have had a pack a day since the middle of November, I'm getting good at blind tasting mince pies from different shops) and last week got a bit hyper on all the sugar.  We had a competition to see who could make the quickest/best christmas decoration for our otherwise totally bland office.  The only rule was we had to use stuff we already in the office.

Here were the entries:

My boss's attempt except he got bored half way through so I ended up doing it

Sue's attempt....toner boxes with 'snow' paper and scarf tinsel

Karena's attempt - not bad considering it's made from toilet roll

Tracey's attempt - angel complete with halo, in my opinion the best!

My attempt, a stand alone fake tree

It's probably safest to say we all won as it was the effort that counted!

Talking of Christmas decs - here's the one's we've done in our house...

we've gone for the minimalist look

On Friday it was National Christmas Jumper day.  My work were taking part and so we all wore christmas jumpers to work for the day as well as donating to Save The Children - we managed to raise just over £250.  

poor photo stitching!

my floor (i am not really that short, in my warped mind i was tall enough to block someone so i crouched a bit..)

me and Gem

After work we had team christmas drinks - we started in a local pub and ending up grabbing some food at The Breakfast Club in Borough (well the underground bar - the password is "I came here to get lucky").  To access the secret bar, you need to say the aforementioned password and you're shepherded down the fire exit, through the kitchen and into a dark cavern lit with wall to wall paper lanterns.  There's not a lot of space down there but we managed to get a booth to ourselves- the table is also a fridge, which meant the booth was pretty chilly.  We ordered 2 burgers, 2 chips, 2 wings and a mac and cheese (which was DIVINE) between us and were pretty stuffed after.

The bonus of starting drinking in the early afternoon meant that it wasn't a late one and I was home in bed for 10.30 pretty drunk, but I got enough sleep to wake up early for my train to Bournemouth the next day.

Bex randomly gets free train passes to certain destinations on the South West route, so we decided to head to Bournemouth for some fresh sea air.

It was really lovely and I want to go back next year for the weekend - I got all excited by the bike hire place and would love to spend a weekend cycling along the coast (if anyone wants to do this with me let me know!)

We wandered up and down the sea front, checked out the pier, had lunch in a very Shoreditch cafe, and did a spot of shopping before heading back home.

one of several art installations in the gardens

you can zip wire from this to the edge of the beach, looks fun!

i love winter light - so flattering for photography

we found a christmas market in the centre, this moose talked...

lunch - looks better than it tasted, a slow roasted beef sandwich with salad

On the way home I made Becky go down to the seafront with me one last time to see the sunset.  I am so glad we did - it was a cracker, so beautiful! Apart from the fact it was about 2 degrees and we were freezing our butts off, we could have been in the Canaries with a view like below. 

By the time I got home I was cream crackered so collapsed in front of the TV with Dan and watched The Wolf of Wall Street - really good but very long.  Leo DiCaprio is fit.

On Sunday I drove Bex up to Hatfield for Jen's house warming.  She'd put on a great spread of a roast beef buffet and we ate and talked until we could eat and talk no more and headed on home.

It was a really lovely weekend spent with some of my favourite people, the best kind of weekend :-)

Monday, 15 December 2014

Fine Dining in the Walkie Talkie

On Thursday Gemma called me with the offer of a meal at one of the new restaurants in the Sky Garden of 20 Fenchurch Street (aka the Walkie Talkie of death ray beam fame last summer).

It's not open to the public until January, but as a trial run to test menus and train staff, they've opened up to members of staff working in the building.  As Gem's boyfriend Colin works there, I was the lucky recipient of an invitation.  Even luckier was Marc who happened to be checking his whatsapp when I sent a message round to my housemates asking who wanted to take the last spot.   He snapped at the chance because he 'likes new buildings and being up high'.

i love a mirrored ceiling

The entrance is on the south side of the building, and you are whisked up in a lift to the 35th floor. On arrival, you are checked in and sent into the main atrium, otherwise known as The Sky Pod - a huge space encased in glass, with a light up bar in the centre where you can have snacks and drinks. There's a few tables and a terrace which sadly wasn't open when we were there, overlooking the Thames.  Dress up warm as this bit is really quite chilly - I expect it'll be very warm in the summer.

On the perimeter there's a marble staircase which leads up to the two restaurants, the Darwin Brasserie on level 36 (not to be confused with brassiere, which I have been saying my entire life - Marc pointed this out loudly on the bus) and the Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill on level 37.

The bar in the Sky Pod

We were booked into the Darwin Brasserie, so after getting snap happy we headed up the stairs to the restaurant.  As you walk up, to one side you have panoramic views across London and the other side you have thousands of plants - apparently they represent evolution as the plants at the bottom are relatively new and as you climb the stairs, the plant species are older and older.

view from the top terrace - Tower 42, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin

The restaurant itself is lovely - again encased in a giant glass box so you can appreciate the views, the muted decor is comforting and stylish.  The menu was reasonably priced - starters around £10, mains between £10-30, and puddings all at £7.50 each.

I chose the Caesar salad which I wasn't overly impressed with - it had too much mayonnaise, a bit of toast with anchovy spread which was much too salty, some kind of pork crackling type business, and the bacon was wafer thin and melted in your mouth.  Some may have enjoyed it but  I would have preferred a 'standard' Caesar!  Gemma had clam linguini which she said was delicious, and the two boys both had steak which they were very complimentary of.  The steak was around £26 and came with both sauce and chips, which I thought was very good value considering your surroundings.  I would highly recommend a trip as the views are amazing, the service was excellent and the food wasn't bad (if you avoid the salad).

good steak

appalling photo of my salad, sorry!

happy diners

I am hoping to go back during the day, so that I can get some good photos of the views as they wwere stunning.  We could see the fairground rides in Winter Wonderland, Wembley Stadium, the Olympic Park and Canary Wharf to name just a few.

The Sky Garden opens to the public on 5th January.  You can reserve a table by emailing or calling 0333 772 0020 .