Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas Baby...You sure did treat me nice...

Wishing all my lovely blog, twitter and Shepherd's Bush friends a very, very merry/safe/warm/happy/holy Christmas (delete where applicable).

Lots of love, Bird x

Talking 'bout my guy...

Many have asked why my current squeeze (the obstinate single girl in me still doesn't allow me to say boyfriend easily) is known as NewMan. Aside from the obvious, that he was once shiny and new, there are a few good reasons why I've kept the name. A few of these I will share.

1. He is still very new to me in the sense that he's completely unlike most men I've fancied, dated and kept coming back to. His personality and approach to life is refreshingly new and different and I like that.

2. He is a new man in the modern sense of the word; though I'd never say it to his face I applaud the way he gives me Tfl zones of space and encourages my independence and individual success (though we may have different opinions on how I should go about achieving it!)

3. More recently we have both come to laugh hilariously at Channel 4 show, Phone Shop, where one of the characters is nicknamed "New Man". NewMan is nothing like New Man, but it did make me smile knowingly to myself.

And here I am on the cusp of a New Year with NewMan... that is if he survives Christmas with my family in the 'burbs.

I couldn't embed the Phone Shop clip I wanted to post, but here's another sketch from what I also thought was a wickedly funny show. Enjoy...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blah Blah Blah

This is the name of a Kesha song and it is the name of a vegetarian restaurant in Shepherd's Bush. One of these things I like, the other I just don't see the point of, other than this one off provision of a blog post title. (Please excuse terrible quality of photos courtesy of iPhone and Blah Blah Blah's mood lighting.)

Mo and I went to Blah Blah Blah on Goldhawk Road last Friday night. It has recently had a refurb (not that I could tell) and a change in management. I last went there two years ago with my very vegetarian (she is borderline vegan and suffers from a number of food allergies) friend CeCe and we both walked away impressed and full, sans stomach irritation. I've been looking for an excuse to go back but seeing as NewMan and the majority of my friends are all carnivores I've had to wait until now.

Rumoured to be a hit with BBC staff parties we expected the worst after booking a table the Friday before Christmas. Instead it was an empty restaurant but for a fairly well behaved Christmas party of 8. Blah blah blah is a BYO restaurant, which after you've spent as much money on bad restaurant wine as I have can only be a good thing. Though I suppose I should maybe have learnt by now that the-close-your-eyes-and-point-method isn't always fool-proof when it comes to wine lists. The service was friendly with a warm welcome from the on duty Manager amusingly resembling Teller from Penn & Teller.

Mo and I shared a starter of Halloumi Toasts, basically fried cheese, and enjoyed doing so. Though it wasn't quite how it was described in the menu (there was no ciabatta bread that I could see, and I wasn't that drunk at this stage) it was a nice light starter to share (i.e. I could have eaten 7 more).

I chose the Wild Mushroom Linguine as my main and it hit all the comfort food spots that it needed to. Well-cooked pasta in a creamy sauce with flavour-full mushrooms and the added surprise of garlic and walnuts. Too many years ago I spent a summer travelling around Italy and as my absolute favourite cuisine I consider myself a good judge of pasta. This didn't disappoint though the mushrooms weren't quite as melt-in-my-mouth amazing as I like. Mo had the Caribbean Curry which I was permitted to try. It was also delicious; a spicy take on coconut curry instead of the de facto creamy coconut curries which are more common. The plaintain was also cooked to perfection. We both finished with empty plates.

Though tempted by the desert menu we decided to finish our Tesco bought Cava (what?! it's Christmas!) and saved any available stomach space for more drinks as we were heading on to the Notting Hill Arts Club.

For a meat eater I think the sign of a good vegetarian restaurant is finishing the meal and realising not once have you missed meat. I think it's fair to say that Mo and I didn't give meat a first or second thought as we relaxed and enjoyed Blah Blah Blah that night...That is until about 2am Saturday morning when we found ourselves chowing down on Chicken Milanese bagels in Bagel Bite; absolutely no reflection on the food at Blah Blah Blah and absolutely a reflection on us and our drinking habits.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rocking around the Christmas tree!

I am disappointed to say that this is not a picture of mine and Mo's Christmas tree. It belongs to my good acquaintance SJ who has been proudly showing it off to anyone with half an ounce of festive spirit. (The picture really doesn't do it justice.) I say "belongs" but actually she has hired it, sort of. For a number of reasons, this year SJ decided she wanted the very literally perfect Christmas tree and I think most people will agree that this doesn't always happen. Like the Christmas tree I will be sat around in 10 days time, most are a mismatch of home-made decorations and thinning tinsel. It's the paper mache ballballs we made in primary school of presents that look like building bricks and the wonky skirted-angel on top of the tree that my brother created which my Mum lovingly dusts down each year and proudly hangs up in full view. SJ's tree wasn't like that; her ballballs match, there is a luxurious lace ribbon instead of tinsel and the tree's branches were a greener green than any fake tree I have seen. Though its' distant cousins are more at home in an American shopping mall, this tree was luxurious, perfectly coordinated and beautiful.

I met SJ through the volunteer work I do (as a volunteer reader for visually impaired residents in the borough) and I have been reading to her for just over two years. I enjoy it massively. Yes because I'm doing something worthwhile and getting a weekly dose of all important perspective, blah, blah, blah, but mainly because I get on well with her. She is very different to me in terms of background, age and experience but we have a very similar outlook on life; we are pro-equality liberal thinkers (i.e. borderline feminists with an intentionally suppressed revolutionary streak) and we are both obsessed with nail varnish.

SJ didn't chose to have this gorgeous tree delivered to her and then decorated for her (I never knew this service actually existed!) because she is blind, it was because is going to be away and knew she'd be too busy to actually get everything organised in time so it was one less thing to think about. Good for her I say as I haven't even bought the Christmas cards I will send out too late. As it happened the company that provided this tree and the decorations (which she has bought to keep unlike the tree which they take away as part of the service) were specifically accommodating and understanding of her lack of sight so I feel they, Pine and Needles, deserve a mention should any of you be considering this for Christmas 2011. (I anticipate they are all booked up for this year though I don't know for sure). The best bit is they are local to W12 with a mobile stand in Westfield where you can go and pick your tree or make an order. They deliver within a 4 hour time slot, though I must report that they were late delivering to SJ. However rather than a mumbled lacklustre sorry, SJ's compensation was an additional complimentary delivery of holly and mistletoe.

Of course SJ paid a healthy price for this luxurious Norwegian spruce and the ballballs which cost more than (but are probably about the same size as) most of my earrings. But getting something a little extra with what you ordered is always a lovely thing to receive, especially at this time of the year. I believe that may be what they call Christmas spirit and I wish you all lots of it Shepherd's Bush!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

When I get older, losing my hair...

This is a quick reflective post about age and getting older. (Hark! Is that a new year coming round the corner?)

I just escaped the cold and grey London winter for a weekend in the Canary Islands. Yes, I know I only just got back off holiday, but you try and stop a very generous birthday boy with a few pennies and a penchant for warm weather, i.e. NewMan, from treating his girlfriend, i.e. me.

It was my first time in Gran Canaria and it was everything I had expected it to be; December-defying sunshine and blue skies and an abundance of bad holiday hotel architecture surrounded by both Spanish and African influenced culture, food and driving. What I was somewhat unprepared for were the number of holiday makers of a certain age. I would say in our resort of up to 600 rooms we were the youngest couple by a good 20 years, and the mental population census I took at the airport awaiting our delayed return flight yesterday would confirm this was replicated across the island. And why not?! Where would I rather spend my winters of retirement if I could afford it - in the big freeze of the UK or in the near perfect climate of the Canaries?

It was a novelty sitting by the pool and watching couples help each other in and out of the jacuzzi or working their way through stacks of wordsearch magazines and Jilly Cooper novels. I even smiled fondly as the British couples queued for their day old Daily Mails in the hotel shop. Unlike my previous holidays in a similar resort, instead of under-age Brits necking shots and dancing to Europop crimes against music, the bars were full of men and women calmly sipping their gin cocktails and tapping their toes to the live piano music or show tunes karoke. It was different and it was adorable.

As I have a habit of doing, this all made me think. I started wondering about my own hopes and even dreams for my old age. I don't think I'll be making a bee-line for a sun lounger in Gran Canaria but I do hope that whatever I'm doing and wherever I go, on holiday or otherwise, I am happy. You hear truly awful stories about people grafting hard for decades, retiring and then becoming sick or worse just tragically keeling over within days of first tucking into their retirement funds. I can only hope and pray that this doesn't happen to me.

On the simplest of levels if I am able to find a peaceful place to sit alone and read Daphne Du Maurier and play Angry Birds on my then antiquated iPhone, I'll be happy. But on the other hand I do hope I've got someone by my side to help me get in and out of a jacuzzi in Gran Canaria if required.

This weekend I dared to wonder if this might be NewMan. As we lay by the pool on Saturday I remarked to him how sweet all the old couples were. NewMan turned to me and clasped my hand, squinting in the sunshine. He smiled and said; "Yeah, they are. They'd be even sweeter if they put more clothes on and bent over less. They're putting me off my beer."

Maybe not then. But he'll do for now, or for as long as I have gravity on my side.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

All the small things: 5. We're Queens Park Rangers...

For many, Shepherd's Bush is Queens Park Rangers and Queens Park Rangers are Shepherd's Bush. I grew up with football and so don't need to be convinced by how passionate people can be for their teams. This is only heightened when it's a local team. This is why QPR are one of my reasons for loving life as a Shepherd's Bush resident.

Though the name originates from Queens Park in North London, that being where most of the players came from, the Rangers settled in Loftus Road nearly 100 years ago in 1917. I was intrigued to hear that "The Loft" was originally built in 1904 for local side Shepherd's Bush F.C., who used to play on the Green. The history of the "Bushmen" was a very short one with the team no longer being able to play during the Second World War. (How I wonder if Shepherd's Bush's reputation would be different if there was a Premier League team called Shepherd's Bush F.C.?) In my opinion that makes Queens Park Rangers a true Shepherd's Bush legacy - certainly more so than BBC and Westfield.

I love that Loftus Road stadium is in a considerably built up residential area on the cusp of the White City estate. I used to go to evening classes up the road from there and would often walk past the stadium and then along South Africa Road past the astro-turf where maybe hundreds of young boys and men were playing football. That seems to make sense to me; that there are kids playing football next door to a football stadium as opposed to the stadium neighbouring out of town department stores or expensive flats.

QPR fans are loyal, sometimes scarily so. They are also currently very happy as QPR sit at the top of the Football League Championship after, what is fair to say, a number of years of more downs than ups. It's not for me to comment on the business and politics that surround many football clubs these days. In many ways the recent FIFA World Cup vote says enough about where football is today. The only thing that potentially has remained the same for clubs like QPR are the fans and their loyal support. I dare say that there are some regular QPR spectators in Shepherd's Bush whose ancestors were loyal attendees decades ago. I happen to know of many supporters who no longer live in the Bush but embark on long and now cold and traffic heavy journeys every other Saturday.

I am still yet to go to a match at Loftus Road though I regularly hear the cheers all the way over the other side of the Green. It is one of my new year's resolutions to go so I will be picking my match soon. I am half ready as this weekend I found a QPR scarf in a local charity shop (surely previously owned by someone who already had far too many QPR scarves and not enough neck) and I will be wearing it proudly around Shepherd's Bush and beyond...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Picture This: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

There are those who love winter, those who hate winter and those who pretend to hate winter but secretly love it. I am one of the latter. Though I am a girl who can never be hot enough, I love the smells and sights of winter, especially when it snows. I think I also prefer the creativity of a winter wardrobe with layers, cozy fabrics, maximum comfort underwear and warm, fleecy socks over figure forgiving tights.

In recent years I think it's accurate to say we've seen more snow than I can remember, even as a young child when I lived much further north. Snow was a once every few or more years exciting event, not the twice or thrice a year pain-in-the-chilblains it now is. Even if it means I abandon heels, walk funny and still fall over, I love the snow. Maybe it's because I'm a snowboarder, maybe it's because I'm really still a big child but I have loved seeing Shepherd's Bush under a sprinkling of snow this year and last.

These photos were taken this morning after a night of snow that Mo and I walked home in after a cheeky mid-weekly night out. I am confident that later all this snow will be sludge and the Green will no longer be a calm white blanket, but an odd array of deformed snowmen.

Despite cold toes and cancelled trains, let's try and enjoy it while it lasts!