Monday, 21 December 2015

The end of a chapter - the London edition

I am writing this sat in my very bare room, getting high on the smell of window cleaner. I didn't realise what squalor I have been living in until I cleaned my room properly....

With many bags taken to the charity shop, bits and bobs sold online, and lots of stuff in the bin, I have managed to whittle down my belongings to 6 boxes and a suitcase.  It's amazing the amount of stuff you accumulate!! 

Currently I am feeling OK. I've spent the last two weeks catching up with people and saying my goodbyes.  I thought I would feel sadder, but maybe it just hasn't hit me yet!

Last week I went climbing with my friend Iain from uni.  I've not seen him in AGES and it was so nice to catch up with him, made me wonder why we'd left it so long!! I was apprehensive about the activty choice but he was an excellent teacher and I had a really fun time and think I would go again. I forgot how much your hands hurt at the end though so we only did 30 mins or so before giving up and getting some great Vietnamese food in Kings Cross. 

Vauxhall climbing wall - really good for beginners!

Last Friday I had people round as a goodbye shindig.  I wasn't really in the mood and was feeling a bit emotional and weird, but I had a really nice time in the end.  It was nice of people to make the effort to come and hang out with me and we ate lots of food and played Masquerade which was very LOL, the image of Ben and Liz trying to impersonate eager beavers will last with me forever.

On Saturday we went to pick up Amy!!! She's home for two weeks so we picked her up from the airport and had a long overdue catch up back at Sepha's,  a nap and then food in Brixton.  It was so good to see her again!!! It's also given me reassurance about my impending trip, it's good to know I have a good friend there who'll look out for me.  AND the fact she slotted right back in after being away for nearly 2 years also made me less worried about what will happen when I come home. 

The past week has been a whirlwind of work socialising - we had our team Christmas dinner and had a hat theme, this was most amusing! As was the 'write something down that no one knows about you and we pick it out of a hat and have to guess who wrote it' game.  The things you learn about some people....turns out someone in my team has a tattoo of Elvis's face on his right buttock....

Wednesday was my final ever company Christmas do! I was dreading it (as I usually do) but I had a really nice time (as I usually do).  I didn't stay too late as the wine and dancing didn't agree with me and I started to feel sick, but I had a lot of fun at the dinner table with ex Critical crew. CEBANK4EVS.  I got a Uber Pool home back to my hotel (won a competition for a free night, get me!) which was weird but had a nice chat with the other passenger.

On Thursday my boss took me and Ellie (my predecessor) out for a good bye lunch at Searcys, which is at the top of the Gherkin.  Whilst the food wasn't amazing (everything was pureed! I felt like I was eating pretty baby food), and actually the service wasn't great either, the company was fabulous and the views and atmosphere are pretty sweet too.  I was a proper tourist and took photos of everything, even my food.....embarrassingly! 

We went for the £55 tasting menu.  For an additional £55 you could have paired wines with each course. 

This was the homemade ricotta, heritage beets, ruby chard, apple with hazelnut dressing.  Probably everyone's favourite course - it had the most textures!

The scallops and chorizo with squid ink.  I wasn't a fan - the scallops were very jelly like and the squid ink was odd - and I just had an image of someone milking a squid straight onto my plate.  I am guessing that isn't how they do it....

Foie Gras ballotine, poached quince, pain d'epices.  I would never order foie gras but as it was on the taster menu, I decided to try some.  NOT A FAN.  It was so slimy and the shape of it reminded me of the gooses neck. Poor goose.  Definitely everyone's least favourite course - just a bit meh really.  Too many smooth things on the plate.

Moving onto the main.  Venison, beetroot marmalade, sour cherries, pumpkin puree, chocolate sauce.  The venison was delicious.  It was an OK dish but I would have preferred meat and two veg.  Too much puree!!!!

Pudding was raspberry cheesecake but I swapped it out for Creme Brulee and blackcurrant sorbet. What an error!! This was most disappointing.  The best bit was the caramalised sugar - the but underneath was tasteless and more of the puree texture, and the sorbet was way too tart.  This is the third meal I have had recently where sorbet has been served instead of icecream - in my opinion sorbet just doesn't go with anything 'puddingy'.  Surely you want a nice creamy vanilla icecream with a creme brulee? 

The views are good though....

Me and Ellie

Me and my boss....I am making a weird face

We then headed to The Globe in Borough Market for my leaving drinks, which I highly recommend, it's recently re-opened after a refurb and it's beautiful.  Me and Gem headed upstairs to the dining room to check it out and were greeted by the rather attractive and rather lovely barman, who treated us to a taster of one of the starters on the menu.  If you're in the area you should check it out!

Friday was my last ever day after nearly 8 years with my company.  I cried 4 times!!!  I held it together until my boss walked out of his office with two cards in his hand and I turned round and noticed everyone had gathered around my desk....before he even started to say anything I burst into tears. Such a cry baby....such embarrassment!! I sniffled my thanks as he gave me my goodbye cards then I quickly got back to work out of sheer embarrassment. I nearly cried again when I said bye to David - he started just before me and we have worked together for 3 years through good and bad times so we have been through a lot together - having a boss who deserted us, having no boss, having a shit boss, having no boss again, arts and crafts Fridays, silly what's app chats, LinkedIn stalking, lobster shaking fun. 

An unexpected gift left on my desk this week

Saying a final goodbye to my boss was super emosh - I've had 5 years of seeing him every day!! We have had our good and bad times and he can drive me up the wall (as I am sure I do to him!) but we have an excellent relationship, one where I can disagree with him and not get shot down, he values my opinion, lets me do my own thing, we have a lot of trust in each other which is very important - but most important, we have a lot of fun and laughs!  He's given me some amazing opportunities too and I have developed and grown both in work and outside of it since I have been under his wing.  So I sobbed as he gave me a hug then I ran out the office to get some lunch and recover! He wasn't there on my return but had left me a note which I didn't read until I got the bus home, which made me cry again, hahahahahahaah. I may have left him a super soppy letter on his desk to read on Monday....

The day finished with dinner in Peckham with Amy at the new Flaming Mangal Turkish Restaurant - the waiter seemed to like us and gave us free turkish tea and baklava.  I had pide which was MASSIVE and such a bargain at £6.95, Amy's dish looked delicious too. And they give free bread and dips as a starter (bread isn't as nice as FM Mangal in Camberwell but I don't think anything will beat them, so it's decent nonetheless).  We then headed to The Hope and met Cesca and David where we did our best to convince them to move out to NZ, we decided we were all going to put our money together and build a pub and sell craft beers named after ourselves. One can dream!

This weekend has been packing and cleaning...On Saturday I returned the second pair of walking boots I got and have finally found some I also meant I got to see the fit shop guy again.  I may have accidentally spoken to him in a high pitched squeaky voice at my excitement of seeing him again.....cringe!!!  I wrote my number on a piece of paper but chickened out actually leaving it in the shop for him...I'll just have to hope that one day we'll reconnect!  I had tea with Jen, Bex and Samer in the super cheap cafe just behind Jubilee Market in Covent Garden - it's a really good place to chill and about a million times cheaper than any of the big coffee chains nearby.  I can't remember its name but it's green. 

Tomorrow I properly move out of my house that I have lived in for the last 6 years.  It's the longest I have spent anywhere apart from the house I grew up in, so I am feeling pretty sad about it - but I have fond memories and it was time to move on.

To the next chapter - down under!

Sunday, 29 November 2015


Less than a month until I go and I am feeling sick in the pit of my stomach nearly constantly.  I don't want to be repetitive in each post and talk about the whole going away thing but the closer it gets the more I freak out, and it's quite cathartic to write it all down and hopefully I will read it back in a year's time and think - well, if I got through that I can get through anything!  I guess this is normal, especially for me - my poor mum's had to put up with my nervousness all my life and it's a shame I haven't grown out of it just yet.  I have a feeling this next month is going to be super hard and emotional so I apologise in advance to all my friends and family if I am in weird moods!! This is the month of 'lasts'!!!!

Last week we went for our annual (and last! :-( ) meal with the old UBS mobilisation team.  We went to the Big Easy in Canary Wharf which I wouldn't recommend on the basis that the service wasn't that great, we had a two hour booking and were constantly reminded of it!! I've never had lobster before so we ordered a whole one as a starter - I had great fun playing with the claws, and quite enjoyed the meat too until I freaked out a bit and got the weird shakes which made David think I was really weird.  Does anyone else get that? When you realise what you're eating is a mammal and you freak out and shudder.  That does sound weird to be fair.  I started to eat the green slimey stuff thinking it was sauce but when I screwed up my face in distaste the others decided to inform me that it's part of the lobster insides....which made me shudder more haha.

eyes closed, doh

 On Friday I saw Martha for probably the last time in a long while.  She has a brilliant knack of bringing people together - she was in town so messaged everyone she knew who lived in London to see if they wanted to meet for dinner.  We all said yes and ended up at her friend Aaron's house, who very kindly hosted a bunch of near strangers and cooked the most delicious vegetable tagine in his beautiful Old Street flat.  We had a really good time with a bunch of like minded people - you know you're a grown up when you're at a dinner party hosted by someone you don't know and you discuss politics!

On Saturday I headed up to Suffolk to catch up with my Aunt Hilary and Uncle Steve, who I haven't seen in ages.  We had a lovely catch up and I got a tour of her beautiful house and garden and was fed very well!!! I then headed back to London where I hosted a dinner and games night - I am so bad at cooking!!!! I started off really well with baked camembert (one honey, one garlic - nom nom) with a selection of dipping foods, beautifully laid out on a wooden board, if I do say so myself.   So far, so good.  For the main I defaulted to my go to recipe of lemon and garlic chicken - expect I haven't made it in ages and forgot that the lemons have to be in thick chunks at the bottom of the dish so that they mix with the chicken juice to create a nice sauce....silly sausage here put slices on top of the chicken so they burned and tasted of nothing, so I essentially just served roasted chicken thigh topped with burnt garlic and lemon....which was most unsatisfying.  I also forgot to put the vegetables in to roast so had to quickly stir fry them. And it all started off so well!!!! For pudding I cheated and provided two big bars of chocolate which got eaten in less than 5 minutes....We played Balderdash and drank vodka and limes until past midnight - I went to bed in a happy daze before realising I had probably drunk too much.  Spinny room and a cat insisting on sleeping on your belly when you're flat on your back trying not to vomit doesn't make for a good night's sleep, but the cats always win, right?

Today I did a charity shop run, the first of many I expect, and went to the last day of the Koestler Trust exhibition at the Southbank Centre.  I have been every year for the past five years as I love it so much and have written about it previously here.  I don't think it was as good as last year's but still worth a look -  all of the artwork is created by prisoners in UK prisons and detention centres.  A lot of it carries social messages and is really interesting.   They nearly always have models made out of matchsticks and this year didn't disappoint - someone had made a huge artic lorry (haha, I nearly wrote arctic then realised artic is short for articulated, what a dummy).

you probably can't read the caption but this one's about how derelict buildings are left to rot and only a few can see their potential- the same with prisoners.  

I then headed home to drop off my car so mum can borrow it this week, and they fed me with homemade fish pie, yummy.  I am taking all my belongings home over periods of time so hopefully they don't realise just how much stuff I am storing at their house...hahaha.

This week I had a nice surprise in my work inbox.  I work with a guy called Stuart Kelly - he's very uncouth and can be very grumpy, - I was a bit scared of him when I first started working with him.  He loves good food and expensive watches.  Once you get to know him, he's got a heart of gold, is very funny, and is really nice. (Well, if he likes you)

He is also a talented wordsmith -  when he was doing the mundane task of sending me his monthly timesheets he'd often accompany it with a little ditty about what he'd been up to in the week, which always made me giggle.  Once he wrote one in French. This continued even though we don't work in the same team any longer, and he sent me a great one just before I went to Singapore (I have a hard copy of it somewhere).

As he's bored at home with a back injury he's written me one about New Zealand, which I thought I'd record here as it made me LOL once again.  He's so good!!

Now then! Now then! It seems it's time,
For Naino's itchy feet to travel,
(one must read the first line carefully, For fear of aping Jimmy Saville).

So reasons exist for this restless pang, Who knows? It could be inherent, I'd suggest that's a distinct possibility, With Vivien as a parent.

See some of us would not look so far,
Short haul would suffice for many,
But no, Naino must raise the bar,
She's in for pound and penny.

Across the world 180 degrees,
The best part of 12000 miles,
It seems a very long way to me,
For some nights out on the tiles.

Whilst there you must do many things,
Here's one challenge for your English to have mastered, The longest place name in the world:  Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu<>,
Finding a rhyme for that's a bastard.

One island is named 'Stewart' there,
It's a homophone to boot,
It should be spelt 'Stuart' you see,
Keep an eye out on your route.

In keeping with the island theme,
One called Chatham may but worth a punt, Let's hope it's not like the one in Kent, Where everyone's a .....undesirable.

I am most jealous of your trip,
Some of my heroes may cross your path,
If Gandalf, Frodo or Aragorn appear,
Please secure me an autograph.

Some say New Zealanders are kinda cranky, One theory may float that boat, You may or may not know this, They were first to give women the vote.

Most of all it's really cool,
To see you spread your wings,
We always knew that junior admin bint,
Would go on to better things :-)

So! Enjoy the trip,
Have fun there's a whole world to see,
And so much more to experience,
Outside of CBRE.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Swansea School Trip

I just had a very bizarre, but fun, weekend away with a bunch of really random people, courtesy of

MeetUp is a brilliant concept – it’s a website/app you sign up to with your facebook account (in an attempt to make sure you’re a real person) that suggests lots of different groups you can join, based on your likes and hobbies.  You name it, you’ll probably find a group for it – there’s singles groups, music groups, comedy groups, sport groups, even an orgasmic meditation group! Definitely something to suit everyone!!! I have used it previously when I was in Singapore where I found a badminton group, but I have never really used it in the UK.

I joined an action adventure group and saw they were doing a weekend break in Swansea in November, for the bargain price of £149 which included 2 dinners, 2 lunches and 2 breakfasts, accommodation, 2 guided hikes and 3 yoga sessions – right up my street!  Sepha was also keen so we paid our money and drove down to The Mumbles on Friday night.

Thank God I put Sepha on the car insurance as it was a ridiculously long journey – London traffic combined with M4 diversions meant we didn’t arrive at the Swansea YHA till gone 10pm.  Misha, the tour leader, had a huge vat of warming  homemade butternut squash soup and a deli platter for us to nibble at, as well as the most delicious (and biggest!) banana cake I have ever seen. We scoffed food down then headed to bed, ready for our 7am morning yoga session.

After the morning yoga, we were given a hearty breakfast of porridge with fruit, nuts and honey, a selection of sausages, eggs and beans, and we made our packed lunches for the day ahead.

We got into the mini bus and headed out to Worm’s Head, the start and end of the day’s walk – a 20k looped hike around the coast.    Worm’s Head – historically named ‘wurm’, meaning ‘dragon’ by Viking invaders, marks the most westerly tip of the Gower coast line.  We walked along the coast line in the most whipping, cold wind I have ever experienced before heading inland, across farm land and moor land, up a hill where it started to rain and hail and the droplets stung your face, down the other side of the hill and onto Rhossili Beach – voted the world’s 9th best beach.

Rhossili Beach

The Worm's Head

Many sheep

reaching the top of the hill as the rain starts

The rain coming in across the sea


gloomy Rhossili beach

happy walkers. also my face looks like humpty dumpty here, most unflattering

The beach was littered with washed up jelly fish – huge discs of translucent blue flubbery things.  

huge jellyfish - foot for scale

huge and heavy!

Further down the beach was a piece of drift wood which was covered in the weirdest clams ever – the shells hung off the wood, connected by thick orange and brown ‘worms’ which suckered onto the wood.  Very alien like.

they look like sweets you'd get in M&S!

We finished the hike in a pub to warm up, my Karrimor boots had failed me and had been squelching about three hours  in so the warmth of the pub was greatly received!

We drove back to the YHA just in time for the next yoga session which was focussed on stretching out our legs and backs from all the walking we had just done and was very beneficial – I didn’t ache at all the next day!

We played charades with some of the members of the group before dinner was served, where we pretended to be vegetarian for the evening because a) it meant we got served first and I was super hungry and b) there was halloumi and I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE me some halloumi. Also on the menu was spinach and pomegranate salad, a normal salad, a cheese, mayo and garlic salad (a Russian dish), chicken tikka masala, rice, and vegetable ratatouille.  All the food was delicious and it was topped off by another homemade cake – this time a honey cake, equally as tasty as the banana one the day before.

queueing for dinner

the after 8 mint game

The weirdest part of the weekend then began to happen – we headed into the hall where a game cupboard was found and emptied – suddenly people of all ages, shapes, sizes and sexes were hula hooping round the room, playing giant jenga and table tennis and pool and dancing.  It was brilliant – I felt like I had gate crashed an old people’s home mixed with a youth centre.   The people on the trip were really nice – and it attracted such a range of people.  I would say the age range was between 25 and 65 with an even mix of boys and girls, and people from all walks of life.  There were a few oddbods in the group, one of which I am assuming had ADHD or something and was the token naughty boy of the school trip.  

she got the hang of it eventually
I slept through the next morning’s 7am yoga (oops) but had a delightful lie in before heading down for breakfast.  We then packed up the hostel (it’s very impressive – Misha brings along all his own cooking equipment and does a huge Tesco shop before the trips, so everything has to be loaded and unloaded and loaded up again each weekend – enough food and supplies for 45 people for 3 days) and drove to the start of our next hike in Reynoldstone, a shorter 12k hike in MUCH nicer weather, I was even walking in my t-shirt for some of it.  No jellyfish on this walk, however we did make friends with wild ponies.

Unfortunately my walking boots (don’t bother with Karrimor – 8 months I’ve had them!) decided to give up and the soles flapped open so the hike leader did a bit of DIY with some cable ties which seemed to help.  However bits of kit I would like to recommend are Decathlon  pants and sports bras – soooooo comfy and cheap! Oh and their technical fabric tops for £3.50 , bloody bargain!!


We ended up in another pub to finish, before driving home singing along to 90s tunes whilst getting stuck in more traffic…sigh….

The Gower peninsula is beautiful and I highly recommend a trip there if you’re into pretty scenery and walks and sheep.  Meet Up is also a brilliant way of getting out and about!