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Life in E2 taught me I’m enough, and to keep icing the cake

10 Aug
The cake being my catalogue of reasons for self-love and the additional icing being love I allow in from others.
Shoreditch has been home for the last 18+ months, London’s hub of culture, art, fashion and food. You can buy errrrythang from fresh fruit and flowers to furniture, pastries and antique collectibles. Sometimes known to others as that filthy Eastend patch full of top-knot adorned dickheads…
For me, my experience of living here gave me three awesome things: 1. Lots of incredible nights I can’t remember, 2. Immunity to bullshit (although this may have been innate), and 3. A rebuilt sense of self-worth at a time when it was a little shaky – otherwise known as ‘early twenty-dom’.

Moving time shoreditch view from my room

Thought patterns I used to have before moving here:
  • What makes me happy?
  • Am I enough?
  • Am I desirable?
  • Is this as good as things are going to get?
  • I’m unhappy in my job
Thought patterns I had after having lived in Shoreditch for some time:
  • I like the way I dress
  • I’ve met and welcomed some incredible strangers in to my life, now my friends
  • I’m fun
  • I’m attractive
  • I have great friends
  • I work damn hard
Some questions I’m still figuring out the answers to:

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Borneo, Malaysia: Going it alone (kinda)

23 Nov

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2, Sunday 19 October, 2014. Oh god, this is a heavy backpack. Crane my neck up to check the board. Hugs and kisses goodbye to the family and boyfriend, and I’m off.

Heathrow Terminal 2

I’ll skip through the boring flight bits, lalala Dubai, zip, BOOM! 13hrs later, we land on the island of Borneo. Oh no wait, it was Singapore first. Right, yes, Singapore then Kuching, Borneo, BAM! I’ve landed.

Brain: “Fuck sake, there’s only a bloody Starbucks! My god it’s humid here.” *Eyes desperately scan around for a ‘Matang Wildlife Centre’ or ‘Project Orang-utan’ t-shirt*

Brain: “There she is!”

Natasha Beckerson, General Manager, Matang Wildlife Centre is there to meet me. I’m one of the last to arrive, we head to a lodge in central Kuching to meet the other 10 or so volunteers (who are also spending two weeks at the Matang Wildlife Centre) we share some drinks, get to know each other, then it’s off the next morning to the jungle (around 2,200 hectares of it.)

Skipping any other boring anecdotal observations, I’m cutting straight to my top five picks from my time there:

  1. ALL THE FOOD!
    I love soy, and in Borneo it’s a common ingredient in most dishes. There was this unrefined tofu dish that I forget the name of that basically changed my life. Also, what Borneans can do with plantain and breadcrumbs is magical. Just trust me on this one, it’s all delicious. Malaysian Borneo also reawakened my passion for coconut water, so now every time I find myself drinking that Vita Coco stuff, I’m instantly transported back to a Bornean beach with sand in my hair, laughing my lungs out, just intensely happy.
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    Yes this is a real place. Damai Beach.

     

  2. The people
    A real mix of people were drawn to the volunteer experience at Matang: Americans, Canadians, Brits, Aussies, Germans, they were all bloody brilliant fellow journeymen.
    However, I really enjoyed meeting the locals, who were always extreme in everything they did; whether it was the abundance of knowledge they had to share about local plant life and indigenous animals (like orang-utan, sunbears, crocodiles, gibbons, frogs, snakes etc…) or in their insistence of sharing local rice whisky with you (many a good night was had.We’ll say no more.)

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    Faye, Dom

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    Richard, Emma

     

  3. Wildlife
    Matang Wildlife Centre near Kuching rescue orang-utans, macaques, sunbears and various other beasties. Most have come from the pet trade where people have surrendered them because they’ve become too big and dangerous to keep as pets. The staff here do the best they can with what they have. They make every effort to rehabilitate animals and give them a good quality of life. Major props to all who give up their time and salary to work here!
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  4. Wellington boots
    A strange pick I’ll admit, but this was the last item you’d put on before you trudged off on a day’s work up the farm, mucking out animal cages or just general manual labour, and I loved every moment of it! OK, not the time I got a leech on my leg in the middle of the jungle, or that time I scraped the back of my leg with a scythe and thought I was going to develop septicaemia and die. But all those other times were immense!
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    leech, borneo, matang, matang wildlife centre, kuching, lundu,
  5. Treks
    From night hikes spent discovering the wonders of phosphorescent moss, day hikes to waterfalls strong enough to blast your pants off (literally) and mountain journeys to fairy caves.

    Oh…and one final thing:
  6. Education
    I learnt more about animal cruelty-free tourism by actually taking a trip than any ‘share and vent’ Facebook article could tell me. Let’s just say, I won’t be riding any elephants, visiting tiger temples or holding wild animals any time soon. Oh and I’ll be doing my best to avoid buying products that contain unsustainable palm oil as best I can.

If you’re curious about other cultures, exotic animals and landscapes. Go to Borneo. Here’s a link to the oran-gutan project I went to if you’d like to read more about it.

Treasure: Guyanese Leather-Bound Passport from 1967

12 Jan

Guyanese passport:1967 was the year

In a recent bid to clear out the loft and create some much needed living space, we uncovered hoards of little treasures along the way. Most items we found were toot to be tossed, but we also uncovered some gems that had been forgotten and lost for years.

He’s even cuter than I used to be…hmph!

Just take a look at my Dads’ beautiful forest green leather-bound passport from the first country he ever called home, Guyana, South America. A West-Indian jewel of a nation, full of things that glitter; gold, Demerara sugar and warm-natured people.

Jewel green Guyanese leather bound passport

I couldn’t resist showing off these pristine passport ink stamps and British Guyana paper stamps. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that this well worn item from the 50’s still looks so handsome after all these years (no I’m not talking about you Dad.)

One EBay seller who shares my passion for stamps and snapshots of the past, is this wonderfully curious vendor; selling his collection of stamps on six envelopes sent from Guyana to the U.S. in 1968, 1976, 1981, 1983 and 1985, and what treasures they are.

A little taste of Guyana’s history: 1815 sees the beautiful West Indian country under the grasp of British rule. It isn’t until 1966 (yes that long) that Guyana receives its independence.

It borders Suriname to the east, Venezuela to the west and Brazil to the south.  It’s also the only English-speaking country in South America.

Famous for its gold, Guyana’s Omai mine is one of the largest gold mines in the whole of South America.

My fathers’ family who own a property in the capital ‘Georgetown’ moved to England in ’67, but I’m desperate to meet our charming and vibrant family members that reside in Guyana.

Food Craft: The Invention of Bawbag Heart Pie

10 Nov

Last weekend the boyfriend and I bundled off to sleepy town of Naaarwich (Norwich) for a long overdue weekend visit to see some dear friends of ours.

The Sunday following the night out the boys were glued to the football while Deb and I were struck with an utterly genius idea. This happened to be the weekend of all hallows eve, so the two of us bundled off in search of a pumpkin to carve…The moral of this story was, snatch up a pumpkin before every other sod has thought of it first.

Little did we know that hope was just around the corner in the farming town of Bawburgh, a place full of charming canals and picture perfect pubs. By the roadside were huge great bundles of apples bagged up and on sale for a mere 50 pence.

After a night on the sauce neither of us fancied making pie pastry, so shop bought pastry it was we added dried and sweetened cherries, lemon zest and juice in with the blanched apples in to a heart shaped dish.

With the little pastry we had left to cover our humble pie Deb came up with the bright idea of styling up the top with a ‘Snow White’ style lattice effect. The outcome was an explosion of pastry strips, which looked edgy and delicious.

Final step was to dust with caster sugar and cinnamon, bung it in the oven for around 20 minutes then slice up and serve with custard or ice-cream, smiles all round.

[If you’re wondering why ‘Bawbag’ pie for a name, we must confess it’s a funny Scottish insult that we had been throwing about that day, plus it sounded a little like Bawburgh, no?]

Stafford in Colour

11 May

A bit of a grey area, Stafford is a largely overlooked hub of modern culture in a historic setting. Situated in the East Midlands (Staffordshire) it’s a town that just quietly gets on with things.

Tami and I have a stroll through St Mary’s green

The high street is rich with craft boutiques and knick knack stores, like Number 28 which offers quirky, individual gift ideas for the home and locally crafted cards, or Kalika homeware boutique, crammed with shabby chic and vintage items (which operates out of a front room).

Hidden down by the river, Jade second hand clothing boutique is where I unearthed a sequined ball gown that I’d been searching for, for the longest time, as well as a classic safari dress in black from French Connection that had to come home with me. The store also extends through to a prom, wedding and bridesmaid boutique (also vintage). The second hand samaritans at Jade are hosting a charity fashion show locally in the village, so do buy some tickets if you’re about.

Tudor house doubles as a museum along the high street

There’s even an old Victorian folklore which demands that all shops on certain streets must close on Wednesdays. Annoying if you need to pick up a spot of cod from Parkers of Mill Street, Stafford, for dinner but it certainly adds to the charm of the place.

Victoria park bridge Stafford

The 16th century thatched building that houses a family run restaurant-come tea-room called Soup kitchen  is perched down a cobble stone alley called Church street, and surprisingly enough overlooks a beautiful stone church (St. Mary’s). I must admit I have had two dates here in the past week, firstly with the boyfriend and secondly with a very dear old friend, visiting for the weekend.

16th Century Soup Kitchen Stafford

Everything is prepared and cooked on-site, the staff are always chirpy and the prices aren’t too offensive either. On both occasions I opted for their sky high puff pastry pie with veg, followed by cakes and desserts that are so naughty but too nice to pass up.

Tam looking very pensive

Carrot cake and cherry pie & custard for dessert

We topped it all off with coffee and conversation at The Grove on the other side of St Mary’s Church where talk somehow shifted to our shared love of actress and beauty Thandie Newton, which of course led to a Thandie ‘pose off’.

Thandie ‘Tami’ Newton

Thandie ‘Ella’ Newton

Here are some snaps from our wonderful day in Stafford:

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Dutch fairytale family store: Hema

30 Mar

When my mum and dad journeyed to Amsterdam last year (2010) they managed to pick up some patterened plastic bunting from a family super market.

I have it trailed throughout my room, and it always lifts my mood when I wake-up to it. There are flashes of cherry red, fuschia pink, lime green and sunshine yellow. It’s smattered with gingham and ditsy flower prints, so basically it’s right up my street.

I did a little sniffing around to see where it was from, and I stumbled across the wonder that is ‘Hema‘. I really wish I’d popped in here when I was in Amserdam.

They take care of everything, from picnic food, to darling bicycles, to orienteering equipment for kids, they even sell clothes. I think it’s kind of like a Woolworth’s (R.I.P) or a Wilkinsons, but with a little Ikea magic.

Their gardening range is super-cute, personally I want the ‘Kweekkistje‘ or wooden plant tray. Also if I had a decent garden at the back of my student house I’d love some  ‘insectenpot‘ to contain and study insects I might come across.

I think we need a little sprinkle of Hema in England, it’s got a lovely self-sufficient vibe about it. It’s making me excited about summer and nature, and all the great memories you get to create at these times.

Check out their brochure here, or follow their homey updates on Twitter (they’re in Dutch, but the links are adorable.)

Photo Album: La bella Sicilia

7 Mar

Last summer (2010) I went to Sicily with the folks, we stayed in an area called Alcamo, just along the beach from Castellamare del Golfo where style is the religion of choice.

We saw much of the capital, Palermo, in between much needed espresso and ice cream stops. We shopped, and ate, and fell in in love with Sicily.

On our first evening at the beachside hotel the restaurant was over flowing with Sicilian mama’s & papa’s and young beautiful people. What struck me most was everyone’s inadvertent sense of instinctive style (barring a few men both young and old in trousers that were a little too tight for my taste.)

However the message isn’t style over comfort, it’s a message that suggests style equals respect, and it’s not hard to achieve. For example on an evening out, Sicilian women will wear feminine peep-toe wedges while back in Britain ladies torture themselves with towering platformed catwalk stilettos.

The proud nature of Sicilians meant that there was an air of confidence instillied in each person we met. It is simply custom that in Sicily the house is always right and the customer falls in line and appreciates this.

Here are my favourite pictures taken on a modest disposable camera:

View from the hotel restaurant at dusk

Mummy & I at the annual vintage Cinquecento obstacle race outside the hotel

The bay at Castellamare del Golfo

Fishing boats at Castellamare

Roaming the alley's of Palermo

Daddy beaming at Castellammare