Thursday, 6 March 2014


My absence can be explained.  Much like a cat with a large tropical bird in my mouth coughing feathers, I've been holding onto a secret to the point that I could burst.  

Baby number 1 is on the way.  

There.  Feathers gone.  

But can I say that secrets and food really don't mix.

Case in point -  Christmas this year was probably my worst Christmas ever.  

My mother brought enough Jamon de Bellota to feed an army, which I diligently passed around looking demure and like-I-don't-want-to-over-indulge. 

My sister-in law made her own foie which, ethics aside, made me shed a bitter tear as I politely declined, again looking like I'd just arrived from a 2 week detox in Thailand.  

The home cured gravalax didn't help either.  

Seriously, until this year, I hadn't realized what a nightmare Christmas could be.  My own solace was found in the grilled scallops..and even that was questionable.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Taxi Spanish

My daydream in the cab was broken by the driver asking me, "Are you German?".  I quickly tossed up what would end this conversation sooner, me being German or something else.  

I went with, "Spanish".  

Silence reigned again and I went back to my daydreaming.  

Then, out of the blue, I hear,

"Ta ta di que so."

"Sorry?" I Say

"Ta ta de que so.  Si.  Cheescake."

"Cheesecake?  Oh, tarta de queso.  Yes, that's cheescake."  I sink back into wondering why he can say cheesecake, of all things, but my thoughts are interrupted again with,

"Piscina pubico."

"Publica, yes. With an L."

"Ah publica.  yes."

He then pointed to the left, "Comisaria de policia."

The collection of schoolboy words in Spanish is a little baffling, I must say.  

I lean over to see he has a pile of flash cards next to him, some in Spanish, some in Italian and a glimpse of "klein nudeln" reveals the enthusiasm for German earlier. 

Other useful words are listed like "stamp collection" and "spread germs" 

He then asks, "How do you say IFC in Spanish?"

I said that there were two ways, the long way and the short way.  The long way was requested:

"Centro Internacional Financiero"

He wrote this on his newspaper as we sped down the highway at full throttle.  

The Spanish list

After asking him a number of words I've been wanting to learn in Cantonese (traffic jam, I'm late, up to you and birthday cake (to go with cheesecake)), we had sadly arrived.

He shouted Ciao! out the window and was gone.  

Monday, 26 August 2013

Casual Fridays

If the average 40 year old Japanese banker wears khaki trousers, a button down shirt and boring shoes on a Saturday when going for lunch with his wife, then why does he wear a Nike cap, Nike Airs, white shorts and a Lycra t-shirt on "casual Fridays" at the bank?

This is the question I asked myself ten minutes ago when I got a call from T at Le Banque in Tokyo.  Turns out the electricity hasn't quite come back since last year's earthquake - don't ask -  and so they're saving-on-a/c.

Due to it being, well, the middle of summer, the CEO sensibly suggested that employees might "dress casually and not wear a suit or tie" to avoid total meltdown.  

Clearly, this was interpreted as "dress for Sports Day" or alternatively, "please all go home, dig around in the rag basket, hassle your 10 year old son for his hand-me-downs and throw it all on.  In the dark."

I suppose it was that or the French alternative which would have been to shut down the entire Japanese division.  That would be a far-better-way-to-save-on-a/c. Non?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Me and my kite

So, I took up kite surfing this year.  As someone who can't get down a slope and can't do anything on wheels, I would say this is an achievement.  I started in Boracay this February where I gained celebrity status (in my mind) by being one of the few beginners to get up and go within 3 days.

So, needless to say, when we arrived at the kitesurfing school in Paros this summer, I felt more than confident that I'd be "up and going" in no time.  They gave me a form with a list of all the techniques one should have at my level which I ticked off glibly.  Yes-of-course-I-can-waterstart-and-kite-in-both-directions.

Satisfied that I had clearly mastered the art, they threw me my equipment, assigned me Giacomo, an Italian, and off I sauntered into the howling wind and water.

Two exhausted hours later, I still couldn't get my feet into the board straps, let alone begin to try and fly my kite.

T. Not me

I floated in the middle of the bay, the wind whipping past my helmet, my knees tucked under my chin while Giacomo zoomed around me on his jet ski shouting unhelpful advice like "tuck in your knees!", "steady the board!", "straighten your front leg!"  

All his instructions blended together in my cold head until he finally took pity on me, flung my limp carcass onto the back of the jet ski and bounced me back to the beach.

Madly enough I tried again the next day, but this time with a Venezuelan who had much more helpful advice like, 

"fall on your arse, not on your face (you'll look prettier that way)"
 "shag, don't s**t" - read stand tall and don't hang your bum in the water

He also enthusiastically shouted "Ole" every time I swirled my kite in the wind.

Much better.  

For those of you mad enough to want to try kitesurfing, check out this link first.  
If you're too far from paradise, you can kitesurf in Hong Kong.  It's pretty grim but better than watching YouTube all day.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Working out like a French woman

As someone who would rather sit among a pile of pillows eating ice-cream than exercise ANY DAY, I've naturally struggled with the modern phenomenon of "regular exercise".  I generally get into some sort of fad or other and then tire of it about 12 months later, disappointed by the results - exercise most definitely does not make you thin - and bored with the routine.

So, moving onto another fad, I signed up for a personal trainer in December.  I decided that perhaps if I had someone come-to-my-door and wake-me-up in the morning, then maybe I'd actually manage to stick to it.  And I have.

Part of the this was motivated by my trainer who suggested the notion that one "might want to workout like a Frenchwoman".  This, she implied, means never missing a class...ever....  

She told me (and I'm not sure how I feel about this) that many women work hard, play hard, drink hard, eat hard and exercise like maniacs, but that they don't keep it up.  French women on the other hand, work light, play light, drink light, eat light and always exercise (lightly) and keep it up.  

I don't know if any of this is particularly true (a good friend of mine, for example, does all of the above but then eats the entire cheese plate after she's had more than 3 glasses of wine), but in any case, I decided I would try the "always exercise, but lightly" idea.  

So now, twice or three times a week, you'll find me in the park lightly doing crunches, TRX squats, burpies, sprints, lunges and other death defying deeds...lightly.  

Monday, 27 May 2013


I was recently told about a conference call with half the universe on it, in a huge multinational, across four different time zones.  And in the middle of this call, everyone could suddenly hear the soothing tinkle tinkle of water, and the echo of what could only be the four walls of a bathroom.  It took everyone on the line about 5 seconds to register what it was and for the presenter to irritably say,

"Can we all go on mute, please?!"

And then I remembered a similar call where we were also talking across three million time zones, with twenty zillion heavyweights on the call and we could suddenly hear a dog barking and someone scream at the top of their lungs,


Again, a restrained request for the mute button to be used was made.

If you think about it, entire careers can be derailed because of not pressing the mute button. Even worse than not remembering to press the mute button is accidentally unmuting yourself with your cheek while squeezing it against the keypad. 


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lawn games

Last week at my brother's house in Canada, as I was stacking chicken skewers for our afternoon lunch in the sunshine, I let my mind wander to thinking about the bucolic bliss of living in the country and how I could just see myself making my own jam and maybe having a Lab or two who would fetch tennis balls from the end of the garden.

Daydreaming of gardens 
Thanks Pinterest Paola Gembetti

In the middle of this daydream of nature's bounty and the serenity of lawns, I looked up to find myself staring at the neighbour's fat black cat triumphantly standing in the garden with a large fluffy tail protruding from his jaws.

The tail was enormous, and the cat was looking understandably chuffed about his acquisition.  I watched, waiting to see if he would swallow the rest of the squirrel and spit out the tail.   He didn't.  Instead, he dropped the shivering wreck of a squirrel onto the lawn and proceeded to bat it around from side to side.  He then picked it up and flung it into the air, the squirrel's eyes out on stalks as it came down with a thud back onto the grass, where it lay winded on its back trying to catch its breath.  The cat, now preempting the end of the party, decides to give it one last chance and goes back to flicking the poor little thing from side to side.  

Finally, the squirrel having decided that he'd humoured the cat for long enough, rolls over limply, after which the cat puts him into this mouth and dives into the bushes and wasn't seen again for the rest of the afternoon.

Tea, anyone?