Sunday, 12 December 2010


I attended TEDx Pearl River Women the other day, and found it to be incredibly inspiring. 6 speakers presented. Each with their own story of a dream they had to dramatically change something in the world and how they were in the process of accomplishing it.

Alexandra Harney (Author of the China Price) spoke of her mission to train factory workers in Southern China so they can actually have transferable skills to build their own autonomy. Vivian Lee discussed her path from Olympic disappointment to Asia Olympic swimmer success. And Mara McCaffery led us through her heart wrenching story on saving the orangutan in Bhutan.

What to me was most remarkable (and most attainable) was that all these women had actually started quite late in their endeavors, and had re-starts and detours in their journeys. Mara had started working with Orangutans at the age of fifty, Vivian had started young but then reinvented herself years later to become a business woman, and Alexandra had started as a journalist and now moved into philanthropy only in the last couple of years.

So there's hope for all of us who work in a bank, ad firm, consulting box, office job, being a wife.. it's never too late to pick up and start working towards something we are truly passionate about.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Up in the air

As I sit in Tokyo airport waiting for my connecting flight back to Hong Kong from Washington. I realise that the one and only real upside of traveling once a fortnight for the last two months, is the free Financial Times... And the udon and sake in the ANA lounge...but that only applies to Tokyo, which is the US, you're lucky if the muffins don't poison you.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

No tech

After my iPhone let me down again by most inconveniently drowning in my bedside water last week, I had to go out and search for a suitable replacement.

I waited for my turn in the phone shop, playing some "burn ants" app with the demo iPhone. Once I'd burnt a few million ants, I went on to kill "sneezes" and then to gamble all my imaginary budget on pin ball. It was probably around the point when I moved on to bbq recipes, that I realised my life with high tech communication equipment needed to end. Seriously, who needs all this stuff?!

The row of familiar Nokia phones looked up at me like old friends, their clanky buttons and black and white screens like forgotten photographs. You know these guys last a lifetime, and if they decide to drown in a tea cup, you just have to open them up and use the blow dryer on them and they'll be as good as new. None of this superior, "you can't open me up because Apple is above tinkering." That love affair, my friends, is over.

Needless to say, I bought one of these trusty little Euros.

I've set the screen onto "reef" which has little fishies that swim across the screen. Ahh, it's in the little things.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Chicken soup

I was feeling rather the worse for wear when I arrived in Singapore last week. And, after spending two days walking around with tissues stuffed up my nose and rolled up in my pockets, I decided that maybe alcohol was the best remedy.

So, I joined in on a "team building" event. Read "team piss-up". A bottle of wine later, and I was feeling much better, and rather pleased that I'd been able to fight off the evil cold so effectively. I have always said that colds-should-be-ignored-and-bombed-out-with-Nurofen-cold&flu.

I regretted all my bravado the next morning. I felt terrible. My throat was a tight knot, my stomach had spasms of pain echoing through it and my head felt like it had been pulled off and then sewn back on the wrong way round. I lay in bed, curled up with my nose against my knees, hoping that this would all go away, and also trying to think up a plan as I had a meeting at 10am which I needed to be alive for.

So I called down to housekeeping and managed to whisper "panadol" and hang up. Just moving my head made me wince. Here's where the hotel recommendation comes in. The Intercontinental was jaw-droppingly amazing. Within minutes someone was knocking on my door, let themselves in when I must have mumbled something like "come in"(but probably sounded like "kill me"), propped me up in bed, gave me two panadols, had her sidekick boil me some water, asked me whether she should call a doctor (to which I shook my head and dove back under the duvet) and then told me she would call me in two hours to see if I was ok and to make sure I would be on time for my meeting.


Needless to say, I recovered and felt quite human by the time I had to leave. Nothing like a bit of TLC.

Did I mention that they enquired after my health with every wake up call for the rest of my stay? Along with whether I would like tea or coffee to help me ease into the day? I almost cried when I had to check out.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


If you walk around the shops in Hong Kong right now, you'll see rack upon rack of heavy knit jerseys, leather leggings and fur lined jackets. Erm, has anyone opened the windows? It's 26 C outside!

Anyway, I've been avoiding shopping like the plague but, with the prospect of a number of dinners and events this week, I couldn't face wearing my French Connection dresses again. I have two French Connection (I refuse to say FCU..) dresses to be precise and to say I wear them every time I go out is hardly an exaggeration. That's not to say I don't have other clothes, but they're a little sad looking and stare out at me from my wardrobe with such a look of despair that I can't bear the thought of donning them.

I do, however, occasionally try and break out from wearing the two aforementioned "favorites". Last week, for example, I almost left the house in something not dissimilar to an aerobics outfit, which I thought was rather "80's artsy chic", but I was stopped by a last minute glimpse of myself in the mirror looking like something out of Flashdance but with the additional flair of a trench coat on top. Clearly this was a cry for help.

So, I was in Singapore this week for work, and I found it to be a little more sensible than Hong Kong, as it isn't flogging the winter theme quite as effusively. That's not to say they don't have "Happy Christmas" written in red (and blue?!) glitter all over the place... anyway, I managed to squeeze in time to check out Topshop (which everybody loves for some bizarre reason - seriously, why would I want to wear a floral jump suit with a large necklace with feathers hanging off it?) and spotted some lovely shoes at an Australian shop called Witchery in the airport.

Here's what I found, bought, and will wear until they fall apart:

Yes, it's Topshop, no I don't generally like them, yes they sometimes have the occasional thing that I can actually see myself wearing

Refreshing discovery. Good quality leather, innocent prices and shoes in all sizes. If you're going through Singapore Airport, and you have big feet, here's your place. They also have clothes, but I thought they were ghastly.

P.S. If anybody is wondering how my fantastic gold Zara shoes are holding up, I wanted to mention that they died yesterday. They will be missed, and a note will be made that Zara shoes should only be worn on occasion and when the weather forecast is fair

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A man of few words

The parental unit came and stayed with us last week and, amongst many other things, including walking around in the freezing cold for two days, we went to visit the priest at the Cathedral. Father Hogan. Now, Father Hogan is in charge of lining up T and my speedpasses to heaven and making sure no one thinks it's a really bad idea that we marry. He listened as I explained the ins and outs of the wedding, his hands folded in front of him. He nodded, listed off the paperwork we needed and then politely leant back in his chair and smiled. Silence. My Mum, an expert in eye contact when she's not wearing her huge shades - which-is-most-of-the-time - looked at him warmly and smiled back. I fidgeted.

We got up to leave, and as we did, I remembered to mention that it might be helpful if he could talk to Father Riccardo in Paros, but that-he's-Polish-and-only-speaks-Polish-Italian-or-Greek. (We're currently communicating through Google Translator - which is priceless)

Father Hogan nodded and said, "That shouldn't be a problem. I speak most languages fluently. I taught for many years in Rome, and you know the new testament was written in Aramaic."

Of course.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Call me tiger

If you remember at all, I went to have laser hair removal on my legs at Indulgence Spa. Well, the first treatment didn't work at all, and the second treatment resulted in me literally having grill lines all over my legs. Not good.

I was more British about this obvious catastrophe than I am about most things. I informed them that I'd been "over cooked", politely accepted the technician's (Tamara - for those of you who want to avoid her) scar cream and went home for a month of wound licking.

But yesterday, my mind finally made itself up. I called them up and left an urgent-but-calm voicemail on their answering machine. I tried to sound like a ship's captain reporting a mayday - authoritative yet unequivocally in dire straits. "I need to speak to the manager. Severe scarring has occurred etc"

Needless to say, the manager called me back immediately and asked me to come down to the spa so their laser "expert" could look at me. I arrived and was led into a room, patted, hugged, stroked, photographed, tutted over and soothed. At this stage, I informed the manager that I would be getting all my money back, to which she replied she was going to "deduct the price from the upper leg" to which I repeated you-will-deduct-everything. Small victories. I mean, seriously, I could have rolled myself up inside my oven for free.

Anyway, the expert, the manager and the soother all left me alone in the room for a minute as they went to turn the accountant upside down and empty his pockets. At that moment, I absent mindedly looked down at the cream the expert had given me for scarring, and read that it was the wrong cream. I'm no dermo, but "bleaching cream" isn't going to help skin healing. No comment. I marched out and told them they were dangerous and should have their license taken away. They nodded, soothed and hugged in reply.

So, while I wait to see my doctor for a real solution. Just call me tiger.

P.S. If anybody knows any good scar reducing cream or anything to get the white stripes to disappear please let me know!!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Waiting for the wind

Left to their fate

There has been much anticipation about the Super Typhoon Megi that's supposed to hit this weekend. People have been scrambling over each other in the supermarkets, rushing down aisles and grabbing all the Campbell's soup from the shelves. Offices have been sending warning signals to employees about shuttle buses and staying far away from moving objects. Workers have been praying for a day off.

This morning, T and I ran up into the howling wind on our roof to tie down the plants, and pull the flowers into the stairwell. I had naively stocked up on foliage this weekend in the Flower Market and do-not-want-to-see-them-dead-in-a-day.

And now, after all of that, the typhoon is "no longer coming directly past us". Shame. We were quite looking forward to all the excitement. Rather anti climatic all round, I'd say.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Busy getting married

Photo borrowed from

T and I are getting married. Hooorrraaaayyy!! We've been engaged for quite a few months actually, but it's taken us a while to refocus...

Now that we've set a date (summer 2011) and a place (Greece), I have now got a full year ahead of me to go completely mad. Organization thus far has been seamless...other than a couple of Hong Kong specific adventures...

Remember my shoes? Buying a wardrobe? Finding a flat? Well, much like Karate Kid, I can now apply those life learnings to finding a wedding dress. Although with much more excitement, anticipation and reflections of me in princess dresses that only come down to my ankles.

I have also started frequenting the local church. Which has been quite emotional. I spent much of Sunday morning sniveling into the hymn sheets, while what looked (and sounded) like the Tabernacle Choir powered from number to number.

Not only does this church have a seriously well practiced choir, the priest has also craftily assigned men with voices like Russell Crowe to read all the readings and announcement. So, in between tear-jerking hymns, we have Russell Crowe booming out over the microphone, with that all-powerful-yet-incredibly-calming voice of his. Even the announcement that "we will be having tea after the service" sounded like "If only you had been born a man, what a Caesar you would have made".

My life, and Sundays, now have a whole new meaning to them.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Histoire de France

T, T's Parisian Friend and I went to Sai Kung last weekend. Sai Kung is not only beautiful, it's also only 15 minutes away by cab from the center of town. Why everybody says it requires a weekend trip to get there and back completely baffles me. So, the plan was to climb a mountain (Sharp Peak). And you know how much I love climbing. It's up there with sitting in traffic jams and running on treadmills. Endless.

So off we went. T walking at the speed of light and me panting along behind him, holding onto my knees for moral support. Meanwhile, T's friend, who smokes like a chimney and is skinny as a rake, walks the entire 5 hour trail with utmost calm and composure. As if he's taking his dachshund for a morning stroll by the Seine. His head held high, and with a certain swagger in his gait, he politely keeps me company by telling me just about the entire history of France, with anecdotes and tales of treason and defeat thrown in for good measure. All the while, my tongue is hanging somewhere on the floor and my calves feel like glass shards are shooting up them.

We arrived at the beach just as clarification was being made that it was the French, in fact, that had started most European wars and not the Germans. Much against popular belief...

The stinky village we passed after the beach, was prefaced by a story about how Les Halles was covered in cobblestones to stop the goats from digging up the corpses from the cemetery. Something this village might want to consider.

We then climbed up and down a few more hills and zoomed home on a motori...the wind whistling through T's hair.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


When I told Babes (my boss) that T hasn't slept a full night in 5 years, she said that was un-f**ing believable and that something had to be done about it. Babes, by the way, always refers to bad news as being un-f**ing believable. Anyway, she recommended we take T to her Chinese doctor. So, after much bribing, coaxing and eventually just ordering, I managed to get T to leave the office at 7 and join us at the Chinese apothecary.

The shop was piled high with glass jars full of gnarled up pieces of what looked like dried body parts and plants. And in the corner was someone who looked like the accountant - blue shirt, neat hand writing and a notepad. The doctor.

So Babes positions T in front of the doc and launches into a full blown description of T's medical history (in Cantonese). Might I mention that this is the first time the two of them (Babes and T) have met. So, her knowledge of T's medical history is pretty shaky, to say the least. Within minutes she has his jacket off and the doctor poking and prodding him while the two of them humm and haa. All this in the midst of busy shoppers queuing up for potions, buying tea and generally pretending to be busy.

The doctor then gives us his meticulously scribed Chinese notes and Babes directs me to the potion counter to get T's sleep elixir while T is shuffled to a corner where, from a distance, it looks like he's launched into a wrestling match... 4 elbow jabs in the thighs and 10 toe pulls in the wrong direction (think wish bones) later and T emerges looking dazed and a little off balance. This was meant to "relax" ..seemed to have done the trick. That night, he downed the foul smelling concoction and went to bed to wait.


It takes a few sessions to kick in.

Today: round two.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

NYC Eating

Coffee and Continental breakfast
Cafe Gitane - Italian and Frog petit dejeuner hang out
McNally Jackson - Self-consciously curated left wing books for all day browsing and chewing
Think Coffee - Crap coffee but good outdoor seating on Bowery
Joe - Thick black coffee on a bench in West Village

The Standard Grill - Big sunglasses, models and fantastic food (ghetto chic)
Cafe Habana - Bad cuban food, great cuban music, waitresses that look fresh from Havana (ghetto chic)
Bubby's - Same as The Standard Grill but with babies. Arrive early or risk being run over by prams (preppy)
Bar Marche - Good food for crying over boys (preppy)
Public - Australian modern food (upscale-ish)

Lunch (all are good for taking parents, in-laws and clients)
Any michelin star restaurant with a prix fix menu (Nougatine, Bouley, Joel Rubichon etc)
Any Keith Mcnally restaurant (Balthazar, Pulino's, Mineta Tavern, Pastis etc)
Cipriani Downtown - Yuppy-st Tropez sort of place

Momofoku - Ramen. If the queue is killing you, go round the corner to Leon (hipster casual)
Hecho en Dumbo - Modern Mexican, mean Mezcal cocktails. Don't expect to leave sober
EN Japanese Brasserie - (minimalist)
The Modern - Full on at the MOMA (parentally friendly)
Adour at the St Regis - Deliciously French (parentally friendly)
Wallse - Minimalist Austrian (parentally friendly)

Detox (Go alone with your dog)
Liquiteria - every juice on earth
Angelica's Kitchen - raw, vegan food for those who love their bodies more than life

Parentally friendly = somewhere your father feels comfortable. Well lit, tablecloths, space between the tables and waiters in closed shoes
Ghetto Chic = fashionably grungy. Kate Moss sort of hang outs
Minimalist = upscale but no table cloths
Preppy = pea coats, navy blue jeans and alice bands


4am in Hong Kong. Can't wait for the old body clock to re-set. Any appetite I had for writing was sucked out of me by the 17 hour flight, which was made even more arduous when my freshly unopened FT Weekend (with mag) was swiped when I went to the bathroom. I spent 10 hours festering and thinking of ways to track it down - loudspeaker, frisking everyone before they left the plane..the air hostess (tron?) gave me the WSJ to appease me, but that's like replacing a baby's dummy with its finger. Not quite the same effect.

So, here are some shots from my crap iphone camera of my wonderings through the city. Loved every minute of it, but oh so happy to be home.

Early morning in the Upper East Side. Just before the poodles and facelifts hit the road.

Soho after trying on Ralph Lauren shoes that actually fit.

Any-juice-on-earth bar with Micheal Jackson hits blaring over the blenders, patrons with designer tattoos and orange nails (on the girls..and some boys). Need I say it's the East Village.

Our coffee shop. On our street. By our home. Obligatory attire: Ray Bans.

Great Jones Street. Sorry this is an even more crap picture than the other four.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

NYC - Part I

It's 2 am and I'm wide awake in New York on a school night. I'm here for meetings with Le Bureau. Here to meet the team etc. As I've promised myself not to write about work, I thought I'd fill you in on what I've been up to otherwise.

Other than relieving Duane Reade of its entire stock of Tylenol PM, buying shoes my size, blubbing throughout the Matisse exhibition at the MOMA and wondering around the city, I also managed to get stuck in the Hudson Hotel lift for 43 minutes (no, I wasn't counting) which, after letting them know that I was fully aware that they had breached every safety regulation in New York state, resulted in me getting upgraded from my wooden cell to a larger wooden cell with studded white sofas, a bathroom that looks like it was used in "Psycho" and free booze and lodging for the rest of the week. Not bad for 43 minutes of suspended disbelief.

After the lift experience, I then went out with a friend to recover at a restaurant in the Upper West Side (I was an hour late, so we stayed close to the hotel. Yes, I do feel I have to defend why I went for dinner in the UWS - one of the deadest neighbourhoods in NYC), where we were joined by a mouse. Needless to say, more free booze followed along with much bowing and scraping from the manager. Again, not bad for a little fur in our soup.

Despite all the above, it's so good to be in our old home, and, as the Americans would put it - I'm feeling "blessed" to be here.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Seasons greetings

There's something about the note in the lift that sends a shiver down my spine. I can only think it's the interweaving of well-wishing with flashes of imagery of your children getting hurt, you getting arrested and someone from "Leisure and Cultural Services" coming by your home and hoisting them off to a workhouse, to become pauper apprentices.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Cooking Class for Cooks

I've just come back from a French cooking class.

6 of us gathered together at 10am this morning. All girls. All with "starving" men at home. One girl had actually been given the class by her boyf as a birthday present. I spotted him just before we begun, kissing her goodbye before hastily running off to get his hair cut. Well they do say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Anyway, there we were, a Scott, a Canadian, an American, a Frog and me. And, of course, the French chef and his Sri Lankan sidekick, Jaguar. No I didn't make his name up.

So, aprons on and the class begins. Chef thinks outloud as he throws ingredients together and adds odds and ends to our mixtures. Questions asked in English are ignored and anything referring to measurements or quantities are answered with a shrug and a huffing sound. Other questions considered too silly to answer include where to buy the lamb we were making, "ziz is a restaurrant, we ave a supplier", do you have this recipe written down anywhere "mais non" shrug and, can I beat this in a blender, "Aie aie aie, t'es americaine ou quoi??!"

So, with much follow-the-leadering, secret additions from le chef and fetching-and-getting by Jaguar, lunch was made. And wolfed down by the girlies. Sorry boys.

Here's the recipe (typed hastily into my iphone with grubby hands):

Lamb with garlic sauce

Garlic Sauce
White wine 1 cup
4 garlic cloves crushed
Large pinch pepper
Bunch fresh thyme
Beef stock cube
Add cream at halfway reduction (1 dollop)
Boil until reduced
Put through sieve with spoon (squeeze)
Bring mixture to boil
Add roux (flour, water, butter over heat) and mix
Add salt or anchovies to taste

Garlic Sauce
Remove fat
Paper towel dry
Cut in half
Olive oil in pan
Pepper and dried thyme
Hot pan
Fry on outside in small batches
Sage and thyme (dry)
Put in oven at 180c or let sit

Cherry tomatoes
Cut in halves
Add olive oil
Stick in oven

Ratatouille (ziz we learn in anozer class if we want)

Warm water (2 cups)
Butter (1 cup)
Pinch salt
Tsp sugar
Let butter melt in hot water
Add 1 cup flour once butter is boiling (take off flame)
Put on lowwww flame and knead until it's no longer sticky
Add three eggs and knead until you get ribbons (keep adding eggs until you get ribbons)
Pipe onto baking sheet




200 c slightly open open ( to let steam out). 20 min. Then close and reduce to 170c and let dry 20 mins

Chocolate sauce
Black chocolate (72%)
Put in 1 cm water
Don't burn
Add water to make a little runny

Profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream, chocolate sauce and almond thingies

Now I'm recovering on the sofa. Tonight we will be eating spaghetti or something equally innocuous.

By the way, in case you're thinking of also doing a mad hatters cooking class, here are the details:
La Terrasse , G/F, No.19 Old Bailey Street, Mid-levels, Central, Hong Kong (852) 2147 2225

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Proust and Churros

The moment I bit into the toasted pan con tomate piled high with jamon and dripping in olive oil, I was transported back to lazy days spent in Sitges, long walks in Llafranc and family lunches on the terrace in Barcelona.

Morcilla de Burgos sent me back to my first taste when I was 7 or 8 at the "Captain" bar where my parents used to spend hours on a Sunday morning reading the paper, while I sat there staring into space and getting fidgety. I remember complaining, bored as usual, and my mother looking over her paper and saying dryly "the wall has come down in Berlin - and you're bored...."

The paella, the rice perfectly a punto, took me back to many summer lunches had in Llafranc at our favorite restaurant - until they told us never to come back after mum complained that the muscles weren't fresh and the crema catalana was too burnt. Dad then had to swoop in and talk to the restaurant owner, who was a grumpy tight lipped granny with a red beehive. She said that he was always welcome. Just not with her.

Finally, the churros con chocolate. Delicately sprinkled with sugar. Have only been enjoyed out of a truck at 6am by yours truly. Daylight eating was quite delightful.

So to all who love Spain. Here's to FOFO.

Catalan Kitsch (the penguins..not me)

Churros in something more presentable than a paper cone

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Women's Weekly

Yesterday I went over to the office manager's desk to ask about some mundane subject like expenses. As I walked over towards her, she looked up from what she was reading, and stared across the room in a sort of daze.

I looked over her shoulder to see what she was reading, and for all intents and purposes it was Chinese Playboy. Petite women pouted on the pages, wearing frilly knickers and bras over their bits and pieces. I said something along the lines, of oh-that's-nice and she nodded and glowed in appreciation.

I then noticed as I looked round at the rest of the desks, that most of the women had a copy of this mag balanced on top of their paperwork, or jutting out of their bags. It would seem that this is the magazine de jour. The "People" of Hong Kong. It's called Face, and the girls LOVE it.

Now, if that's what the chicas are reading..what are the chicos reading? I wonder...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

When the cat's away

...the mice do their hair.

I don't want to bore you with the ins and outs of hair salons. They're boring enough already without me having to re-live it all for you.

So, long story short:

Saturday: Got my legs put under laser so I wouldn't ever ever have to wax etc again ever. That was done in Indulgence. Unfortunately, I have to go back another 5 times until it's all gone. But the expert (Tamara) is a real pro. Says me who knows nothing.

Sunday: Got my frizzy mane tamed (finally) with that brazilian hair straightening treatment I've been debating whether to do since I arrived. A male friend of mine recommended the place, so I assumed it would be low key and cheap.... need to get better at recognizing metrosexuals... Place is called Dessange. Hair is dead-straight. I have to wait 2 days before I can wash it, so you'll find me at home if you need me.

The cat, in case anyone's interested, is in Paris..still... which is why I can do all these full on boring hair-when-is-this-going-to-be-over treatments.

Saturday, 28 August 2010


It's been a grueling week in Singapore rounded off with a knees-to-my-chest flight home.

As a welcome home special, this morning I got caught in the rain. Sorry, the Typhoon. I was minding my own business walking out of the bookshop when it hit. And in Hong Kong, it really hits. It buckets down and often doesn't stop for a good hour or so. As the rain worsened, I went through a mental list of everything I was a) wearing b) had in my bag and c) had on my face (mascara down cheeks? Not good for morale). And decided I had nothing that wouldn't recover after being drenched. And off I plunged. Into the wall of water.

Strangely enough, it was oddly relieving to be in that rain. After about 5 minutes of walking with my dress clinging to me and my hair plastered to my head, I started to feel quite calm. Like the week was washing off me, and that nothing is really that important anyway.

Of course the best thing of all was getting home, diving into the hot shower and bundling up in dry clothes with a cup of my-still-favorite-Nespresso to stare out of the windows as the thunder and lightening hit.

I feel just like just that girl in The Maggie B. Who, for-those-of-you-who-were-deprived-of-the-best-children's-book-on-earth-ever, faces a huge storm while out at sea on her little boat, and comes back inside in the midst of it to cook a delicious, warm dinner for her baby brother and her.

Sleepytime Tea anyone?