Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What did I do this weekend?

I've been invited by Gattina to participate in this meme by telling you what I did this weekend. Well, strictly speaking it's not "this weekend" any more, but yesterday was a bank holiday, meaning we had a long weekend, therefore the week's only just started. Hence I can still play :-)

Saturday: Hubby was feeling a bit fluey (due to spending Friday night with his mates, watching movies and consuming alcohol) and didn't feel like going into town to buy new shoes, as per our original plan. So we just walked to a new cafe that's opened nearby and had a very nice brunch of freshly-prepared sandwiches and lentil salads, washed down with mugs of tea. We also had a breakfast tart to share. Spent the rest of the day doing errands, going to the post office, taking clothes to the drycleaner's, doing the weekly shop etc.

Sunday: Weather windy and wet so we stayed indoors all day long. I'd left the window open in the bedroom and went in mid-morning to find it'd been raining on the bed, which by the way is positioned a couple of feet away from the wall. Our windows are sash, so they open up-down. This one was open just 30 cm at the top and the rain still got in. Drank too much tea to keep warm, and almost made soup for lunch. I kept thinking of our local drycleaner, who was getting married on Sunday. I hope the wedding was in the afternoon, as the rain stopped around 5 PM and we had glorious blue skies all evening.

Monday: Weather was much improved, so we went to the Notting Hill Carnival, a big celebration talking place over the bank holiday weekend. Watching the parade in the sunshine, you could almost imagine you were in Rio. Almost, not quite. Had lunch at a Greek restaurant, then got home and had a snooze in our sun-lit living room, one sofa each. Spent the evening watching rubbish on TV (hubby) and reading guide books (me).

Anyone else would like to play? What did YOU do this weekend?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Memory loss

Yesterday was our 7th wedding anniversary. Both my husband and I failed to remember it. I even wished my cousin a Happy Birthday (prompted by Facebook) and I know my cousin's birthday falls on the same day as my wedding anniversary, of course I do, but the significance of the date just didn't hit me.

I only know it was our wedding anniversary yesterday because my dad called me a minute ago with belated wishes. Shocking or what?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Driving through London - part 2 - Camberwell

Having spent the best part of an hour crawling through Peckham, we finally reached Camberwell, another inner south London suburb low on charm, but lively nonetheless. I don't have as many photos to show you because traffic conditions improved considerably (seems that every car going through the area was stuck in or around Peckham) and we picked up some speed, so it wasn't as easy to take photos. Here's a selection of the best ones.

I don't know what this building is, can't even tell if it's an office block or residential accommodation, but I thought it looked nice.

Finally, some empty roads!

Coming up to Camberwell Green, the hub of Camberwell where all the restaurants and bars are.

Check out "Noodels City". You may have to enlarge the photo to see the sign.

Continuing towards Kennington, it's getting a bit busier on the roads, but still moving at a steady speed.

Another example of terraced housing - this time Victorian/Edwardian (I think).

Made by Cows - a popular ad campaign by Anchor Butter.

The empty road happiness wasn't meant to last. Soon we come across more roadworks and more cones, and we're back to single lane traffic.

Still, slow speeds are good for photography. I really shouldn't complain.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Driving through London - part 1 - Peckham

OK. Here's the deal. There are 212 photos in my "London" folder from last weekend's roadtrip from hell. There is absolutely no way I can show you even a quarter of them without creating a mega photo-sharing post or a slide show, and I have an aversion to both. So I thought I'd bundle the photos according to area and show you a few out of each group instead.

To start, I give you Peckham (pronounced as Peck-uhm, not Peck-ham). Not one of the most salubrious areas of London, but I did warn you it's the London the tourists don't see. Ahem. Keep in mind that I took these pictures from the car while we were moving (admittedly at crawling speed) along the A202, so the photos aren't terribly well-framed. I guess what I'm saying is, cut me some slack, OK.

I've no idea what this is (other than a building that's been boarded up after a fire) but I like the art. I spotted it in New Cross, a run-down but very hip neighbourhoood, just before Peckham proper.

In case you're still wondering why it took us 40 minutes to drive 4.5 miles, here's the answer: roadworks!

This is a typical terrace, a row of identical or mirror-image houses sharing side walls - either Victorian or mock Victorian, I can't tell.

Did I mention the traffic? Notice the cars are perfectly stationery although the light is green.

A pub and two shops with funky names...

A typical neighbourhood mini market - sells everything and anything.

A messy picture, but I like it because you can see Manze's traditional pie and mash shop and catch a glimpse of the top of the futuristically designed Peckham Library.

A typical high street: Rye Lane and the Aylesham Shopping Centre.

I like this photo because of the scooter. You don't often see scooters on London roads. Also because the sun's shining and the sky's looking interesting.

The Harris Academy at Peckham promoting themselves.

And finally, the back of a London bus!

These are the best of my Peckham photos, plus a bonus one here. So, tell me, how closely do they match what you expected to see?

Monday, August 09, 2010

It's a long, long way to everywhere

Last weekend we went to the West Country for a family reunion. The West Country is an area in SW England, approx. 130 miles (209 kms) west of London. We drove out on Saturday and drove back on Sunday. It took us 5 hrs 30 mins on the way out, 4 hrs 20 mins on the way back. That's an average speed of 23.6 miles outbound, and not much more than that on the return. It took us 40 mins to cover the first 4.5 miles out of south London, compliments of roadworks every half a mile, broken down buses every mile and a couple of minor accidents to add to the bedlam.

We thought that it was a pitiful attempt at using a car to get from A to B until we learned that a friend had also tried to leave London on the Friday to visit his folks up north, only to give up and return home after taking 3 hours to cover a distance of 1 mile. In a car, not on all fours, I hasten to add. Thankfully, he had better luck on Saturday morning.

The only good thing that has come out of this driving ordeal is that, as the speeds we achieved were exceptionally slow, I was able to take plenty of photos en route. I now have an impressive selection of 391 photos of London neighbourhoods, streets, shops, junctions, buildings, parks, rivers, countryside, petrol stations, more pubs than you can shake a stick at, traffic jams, fields, sunsets, a pig farm and even Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric monument. If anyone is interested in (any of) them, let me know and I'll post some tomorrow.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Houmous, falafel and the Cyclades

Marks & Spencer (aka M&S) is a major British retailer, with over 895 stores in more than 40 territories around the world. It is the largest clothing retailer in the UK, as well as being an upmarket food retailer, and as of 2008, the 43rd largest retailer in the world. Despite its huge and undoubtable success, M&S is unable to recruit even one person with knowledge of the Eastern Mediterranean into their Product Development department.

Which would be fine, and not at all a concern for anyone, if only M&S weren't so keen to develop the "World Flavours" lunchtime food range allowing you to take an appetizing international journey of taste without even leaving your desk. Problem is, this journey is so unpredictable, you don't always end up where you planned when you bought your food pack. In particular, you never end up in Greece.

The good bods at M&S, however, are blissfully unaware of this little detail. According to the press release, you can imagine yourself lunching on a sun soaked Greek island with "A taste of Greece" - a feta-style salad with houmous, falafel and sun-dried tomato breadsticks. Which is all well and good, only there's no such thing as feta-style salad, houmous and falafel are unknown in Greece, and sun-dried tomato breadsticks, although not exactly unheard of, are unlikely to be found on any sun soaked Greek island taverna, except for the really pretentious ones.

In any case, feta-style salad and fancy breadsticks I can accept. Houmous and falafel though? That's like putting together a "taste of USA" pack made up of Ploughman's sandwiches and Cornish pasties.

At first, I thought perhaps they're getting Greece mixed up with Cyprus (it wouldn't be the first time) but my Cypriot friends confirmed that, although houmous is indeed known in Cyprus, falafel is something that one would expect to find in Egypt, Lebanon or other Middle Eastern countries.

This begs the question: what is the purpose to taking two products that are nothing to do with Greece and putting them in Greek packaging, complete with Cycladic church? Surely anyone who likes houmous and falafel will eat them even if M&S calls them "houmous and falafel"? Not to mention anyone who's been to Greece is no more likely to associate the country with houmous and falafel than they are to associate it with chorizo and mozzarella.

Am I perhaps missing a great marketing strategy here? Is it a ploy to bring the Levant closer to Europe via the British taste bud? The mind boggles.

Last Saturday my friends and I went to the local M&S to search for this wonder product. Sure enough the Greece-in-Lebanon packs exist! We only found the mini-pack (sans feta-style salad and breadsticks) but our trip wasn't wasted. While looking around the shelves, we spotted another equally mind-blowing product: olives from Halkadiki.

What's wrong with that? I hear you ask. Well, what's wrong with it is that there's no such area called Halkadiki. The name is Halkidiki. And there are no alternative spellings either. Calling Halkidiki Halkadiki is like calling London Londin, or New York New Yark, or Sydney Sydnay. It's a huge, massive, stupid spelling mistake. We thought it was so funny that they'd misspelled the name of the product, we took a photo of the jar. The reason the photo is a bit blurred is because we couldn't stop laughing.

Then we looked at the lid. Which is supposed to say "olives with sun dried tomatoes" in Greek. Unfortunately it doesn't say that at all. It says "olives with sun wharmied tomatoes" - i.e. not only using the wrong word for "sun dried" but forming it wrongly too, against all grammatical and spelling rules. It's not just an unfortunate translation, it's a word that doesn't exist and couldn't ever exist. My guess is that it was made up by someone who'd studied Ancient Greek at college and had WAY TOO MUCH confidence in their ability to create new words in modern Greek.

Honestly, I can't decide which of these blunders I find more offensive: the Taste of Greece pack that seems to confuse Greece with Lebanon, the Halkadiki-spellchecker-fail olives jar, or the make-a-Greek-word lid! That M&S managed to make all three in just two products is so shocking one has to wonder if it was done on purpose.