Sunday, 17 March 2013

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman

I honestly wish I could make up a witty joke to follow through with the title of this post, but unfortunately St Patrick's Day celebrations have got the better of me.  I have lost several thousand brain cells, and my stomach and liver are in a fierce battle with the green shots and subsequent KFC consumed last night in honour of the great Saint.

What a weekend its been. The Irish contingent were out in force, and everyone else was claiming Irish ancestry, well not during the Ireland Italy match of course, but apparently our ancestors really got around. The 'power shower' and 'how now brown cow' impressions were being thrown around like nobodies business.

I celebrated St Paddy's a day early in O'Neill's, which was, as you can imagine, covered floor to ceiling in shamrocks and leprechaun hats.  If I am honest, my real celebrations were actually due to the England defeat in the Six Nations. I know we Irish can't exactly talk after our pitiful performance in this year's championship (honestly, losing against Scotland AND Italy. Shameful, just shameful) but after all the abuse I have received over the last few weeks my joy is perfectly justified. 

The England fans didn't seem to understand why the Italians, Scots, Irish and even Aussies were supporting the Welsh. I'm not even sure I can fully explain it myself. It is just simply AOBE- anyone but England. That's just the way it is.

But my St Paddy's celebrations didn't end there. We continued the all day drinking into the evening and to a bar that is swiftly becoming one of my favourites. The Underdog in Clapham is free entry, has a great range of music including some timeless classics, and the bar staff even danced Coyote Ugly style on the bar. The serial song requester struck again last night, and it was very nice after requesting One Direction to not have the DJ actually laugh in my face and ask if I'm being serious, which happened to me a few weeks ago (just do your job and play my god-damn song!). Now don't judge me for that, firstly because it's St Patrick's Day so that is definitely racist, and secondly, 1D may be a bunch of little cretins, but their songs are really catchy!

Naturally after midnight, and therefore officially St Patrick's Day, the shots began and well, it just went downhill from there. All in all I have had a thoroughly drunken St Patrick's weekend, and yes, I even ate a heavily potato based meal for breakfast. Irish stereotype well and truly lived up to!

So, I raise my glass to you, well a metaphoric glass, as the thought of alcohol makes me want to retch. Here's to Arthur*. Here's to Saint Patrick. And here is to all those who are, or claim to be, Irish.... so basically everyone then.

Happy St Patrick's Day, and may your hangovers be as mighty tomorrow as mine is today.

*Arthur Guinness - no further explanation needed.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Who runs the world....

Well the last few days have been quite important for the female sex. International Women’s Day on Friday, Mother’s Day on Sunday and yesterday another woman stood up against the sexual predator that is Harry Styles.

(Calm down 1D’ers I have listened to 1D’s ‘Kiss You’ on repeat more times than I would like to admit, so no hating please!)

Now I am not a parent, and as most of my friends will tell you, I am really not the mothering type. I am aware that there are probably mothers, daughters, grandmothers (Hi Nana), fathers and sons (see, not sexist!) reading this, but I have to admit I am that person who strategically chooses a seat as far from a small child as possible on a plane (cheers Easyjet for going back to allocated seating). And I have got off a bus three stops early when a child wouldn’t stop crying, that level of noise in such a confined space was just more than I could bear.

But I am a daughter who sadly couldn’t see her mum this weekend due to ridiculous flight prices back to Belfast (god Easyjet, can you do anything right?!).

My mum and I had the classic ‘no honestly, don’t get me anything’ chat early last week, which of course is code for ‘Thornton’s summer fruits chocolates will be just fine’, but for some reason, this year, I took her request quite literally.

As the guilt started to set in, and the subsequently bought Thornton’s chocolates made a disappearing act, I had to rethink.

I tried to remember some of the great memories over the years, like Mum v Ikea Furniture with incorrect screws, or Mum v Crowbar while laying floorboards. Both great and hilarious moments in my opinion, but my mum swears that neither of these events actually took place (she has obviously repressed those traumatic memories) so maybe best not to dwell on those.

I decided that I was going to attack this Mother’s Day gift DIY style. So I set off into London with my twin sister, a photographer (who was blissfully unaware of this role when agreeing to the day trip) and a handmade I LOVE MUM sign.

The idea was to create a photo/video montage of this sign and us across London. It started with the simple, un-intrusive photos of me with my hairdresser, then with the barman at a pub (cheeky sod then tried to get my number so he could “send the photo to his mum”…I know your game!). Next stop was a casual Tube photo; you can imagine how well that went down with the London commuter beside me…not awkward at all.

We then decided it was time to move on to bigger targets, the London Eye, Big Ben, etc. We were tempted by a large wooden climbing frame on the Southbank, but as ‘big kids’ weren’t allowed, we decided it was best to avoid this photo opportunity, as our mum would definitely not appreciate a phone call from the police on Mother’s Day.

Our final few shots were with the talented Southbank street performers, which I have praised in previous blogs. The man dressed as a chicken and the green Frankenstein were more than accommodating, but one particular performer had a different agenda all together.

A man painted head to toe in gold, floating in mid air; how could you miss that photo op, right? WRONG! He asked for a kiss on the cheek in return for the photo. I naturally obliged, as my thespian sister couldn’t possibly risk contracting tonsillitis, glandular fever or swine flu before a performance…

So as I moved in for the kiss, and yes you’ve guessed it, he pulled the fastest head-turn I have ever witnessed and got me square on the mouth, I swear he tried to get the tongue in too! I’m not going to lie, I felt somewhat violated after my mouth-assault, but it did produce some pretty amusing photos, so Mum, I hope you appreciated it!

Lots of people asked to borrow my sign to send pictures to their mums, (you lazy dogs, know who you are!) so I think I managed to spread a little love, and no doubt facial herpes, around London on Saturday.

Of course I am not suggesting that, next year, you all put yourselves at risk of mouth-assault for Mother’s Day; a perfectly good, and hygienic option for Mother’s Day is afternoon tea. Lots of places around London offer it, with my personal preferences being the Sanderson Hotel Mad Hatter tea party and, for a more traditional affair try Camellia’s Tea House on the top floor of Kingly Court; Carnaby Street- the Red Velvet cake is something else!

So, to my lovely Mum, I thank you for everything you have done for me, and I am thankful everyday that I inherited your deep-seated love of chocolate and list writing. It has created the most perfectly organised route to obesity.

Not under pressure for Father’s Day at all…

Follow me on Twitter @HollyJ_Brown

Friday, 1 March 2013

Thinking about food? Good, me too.

Anyone who knows me relatively well knows that I like food. I like it quite a lot. Okay, I’m lying. I have an unnecessary, emotional bond with food, it is on my mind 90% of the day, and it is my sun, stars and moon. Thornton’s calls to me when I walk past (although my mum gets this too, so it's obviously a genetic disorder and therefore out of my control), and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange genuinely is mine, ALL mine, and so help me if you take the middle section or the final segment you will regret it.

So, in summary, I bloody love food.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a food connoisseur, in fact, I am actually terrible with food. My housemate can vouch for this; I am in charge of cutting and stirring ONLY, as I cannot be trusted with any other duty. I did in fact, on one occasion (as you only make this mistake once), put a potato wrapped in copious amounts of tinfoil in the microwave a few years back…as you can imagine that was not my most successful jacket potato.

However, not being able to cook doesn’t concern me that much because I know my true skills lie in the eating department. And my god do I do it well.

I have been blessed (or cursed in my waistline’s often-ignored opinion) with both a sweet and savory tooth. I believe whole heartedly in the power of the ‘second-wind’ – for those of you who don’t know, this is strategic breaking throughout a large meal, to ensure that you can eat the maximum amount possible. I get horrendous food envy; if you’re having chips, I am having chips. Salad is not real food – FACT. And I have just experienced what I called ‘Cake-Watch’ of the cake in the fridge on the ground floor of work. It really is surprising how fast you can move down 8 flights of stairs when you receive the email announcing the cake has been cut.

Okay so I will stop reminiscing and get to the point. As you may have realised, I like to eat, and apparently I cannot cook, so eating out is the perfect option for me, however my purse and I don’t quite agree on this.

But I have the solution! When I moved to London a friend introduced me to the wonderful Tastecard and it has honestly saved me so much money. This card gets you 50% off or Two 4 One in restaurants all across London and the UK. And I can tell you now it definitely takes priority in my purse over my gym membership card.

Just be careful that you ring up and book a table before hand and tell them you have the card as some places will refuse it if you haven’t pre-warned them. And a lot places won’t accept the cards on Friday and Saturdays, but it is all very clear on the website.

At the moment they are on sale for £79.95 for the year, which in fairness you would make back fairly quickly, however a few times a year they are discounted to around £30, which is far more reasonable, so I shall keep you in the loop when that comes around again. Alternatively you could try out their free trial which lasts for a month.

A few of my personal favourites include Imli (Indian Tapas, currently being refurbished) and Banana Tree (Indochina restaurant) both of which are on Wardour Street, Soho. I even kindly, but unknowingly, made an Orangutan Donation with my meal in Banana Tree last night, although that was my fault for not actually reading the menu properly due to my excitement.

[And I can tell you, the coconut ice cream in Banana Tree is ridiculously good, it fits perfectly into your dessert stomach, and this is coming from a girl who thinks a Bounty is not worthy of a spot in the Celebrations tin]

Fear not, for those who like to keep it simple with a good old Italian, Zizzi’s, Pizza Express, Prezzo and many more take Tastecard as well! It pretty much has every cuisine going.

So whether you are one of those people with a regular ‘Eat to Live’ type relationship with food or, like me, have a ‘Live to Eat, and eat some more, and then some more’ type relationship you need to get yourselves a Tastecard and start saving some money.

Please note that I take no responsibility for any expansion in waistline, increase in sales of slimming/hold-in pants or any additional time required on the Spawn of Satan, a.k.a the treadmill, as result of this blog.

And to finish could we please just all take a moment to give thanks to Marks & Spencer for bringing the buckets of Chocolate Mini Bite rolls into our lives. We are eternally grateful.

Follow me on Twitter: @HollyJ_Brown

Image of Mojito Cupcake from E&C Cakes. Follow on @EC_Cakes