Archive | August 2012

‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

You would be forgiven for thinking that I was referring to the Olympics but actually I am talking about a far more important celebration – my birthday that just happened to fall on the same day as the opening ceremony.  So nice of the whole country to join in my celebrations! Lol!  I haven’t seen the opening ceremony but by all accounts it did our country proud and Team GB did very well with 29 gold medals, 17 silver and 19 bronze, putting us 3rd in the medal table.  Go Team GB!  I did watch the closing ceremony which was fantastic and I especially enjoyed the Spice Girls which took me back to my early teens when I was mad on them and the girl power they stood for.  I must admit this is the first year I have taken an interest in the Olympics.  I even got my rabbit Rufus into the spirit with a Team GB football!  Tomorrow marks the start of the Paralympics.



The origins of the Olympics go back to ancient Greece in 8th Century BC.  The first games held in the UK were in 1908 when such sports as Tug of War were included.  We came top of the medal table that year with 56 gold medals!

So another year passes and sadly this will be the last year of my twenties.  I don’t feel a day over 21 though!  Where have those years gone?  Guess I feel a little behind my peers at times given my lack of career path; however numerology does say that those with a birth date of 27 tend to be late bloomers, taking their time to choose a profession.  It also says we are creative so perhaps there is some hope for a writing career still.

Being that my birthday fell on a Friday this year I decided to stretch the festivities over the whole weekend.  On the day we had a family trip to West Wittering beach.  I chose here as despite being some distance away, the place holds good childhood memories.  You can park up virtually on the beach and picnic.  The sand stretches for miles whilst the tide is out and there is a lot of shallow water making it ideal for children.  The car park has been run commercially since the 1920s and in 1952 the local residents bought it to prevent a Butlin’s (or similar) holiday camp being built on it.  Check out their website for further details.

We had a lovely cooked breakfast on arrival cooked on a camping gaz and a picnic lunch, followed by a mouth watering coffee and walnut birthday cake that my Mum made.  The history of the birthday cake is quite an interesting one.  Since the middle of the 19th century it has been an important part of celebrating birthdays in the West, however there is evidence of the custom going back to Roman times.  Putting candles on the cake is believed to go back to 18th century Germany.  Singing happy birthday became popular in the early 1900s and it was then that the words happy birthday started to appear on cakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had great fun playing tennis and rounders on the sand.  When I was batting in rounders, I was so excited to have hit the ball I forgot all about running!  I had a bit of a swim and we built sandcastles with my beautiful baby niece who at 13 months is already very cultured; eating olives and feta cheese.  Not sure who enjoyed the sandcastles more – her or me and my partner, lol!  There is nothing more relaxing than the warm sun beating down on you with the soft sand beneath you, water gently lapping and a slight salty taste in your mouth.



I wore my denim skirt dungarees with a white t-shirt and my bikini underneath.  To finish the look off I wore my healed glitter jelly shoes.  Now these PVC plastic shoes were hugely popular in 1980s but have had a revival a number of times.  People have guessed at their origins with some suggesting that it goes back to just after WW2 when there was a leather shortage in Europe so a French shoe maker developed them.  Many people think they are a big no no or only suitable for children but how else can you wear heels to the beach?!



We finished the day with a fish and chip supper and a very pleasant bottle of wine and all returned home rather sunburnt with numerous mosquito bites!

Saturday morning my partner gave me his presents to open and brought me breakfast in bed.  That evening I went for a curry where I used to live with many of my friends.  I stuck with my resolve to try different dishes and had Malayan Chicken.  It was a lovely evening and time flew past meaning that we missed the last train and had to sheepishly knock at Mum and Dad’s door.  I wore a butterfly maxi dress from Jane Norman for the occasion.

butterfly dress

Sunday was another meal out, this time with my partner’s family and I was lucky enough to be showered with more gorgeous gifts.

I want to use this platform to thank family, friends and my partner for making it another wonderful birthday and at time of posting I am still dragging out my birthday.  One of my partners presents has yet to arrive and two weeks after my birthday another one of my boyfriends arrived – a gorgeous mosaic bistro set which will set the garden off lovely when it’s all finished.



I also couldn’t resist these thank you cards from Zazzle, so me don’t you think?



The other weekend my friend and I met up in London as she was away for my birthday.  We spent a very pleasant few hours wandering round Harvey Nichols and other shops in Knightsbridge looking at all the lovely things we can’t afford.  I especially enjoyed the Louboutin boutique in Harvey Nichols where the assistant informed us that on his crystal encrusted shoes, each crystal is applied separately by hand and so they can take at least a day to make one pair – now I understand the price tag!  Being adventurous and keen to try anything a bit quirky, I couldn’t resist trying out Bubbleology – a concession that sells bubble tea within Harvey Nichols.  The stall looked more like a science lab, with the staff wearing white coats saying bubbleologist on the back.  Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the eighties.  Bubble tea is fundamentally green, black, white or red tea and it can then be infused with milk or fruit and drunk hot or cold.  Small bubbles are formed on the top in the process of making the tea as it is shock vigorously, hence the name.  In the bottom are small balls of tapioca.  I quite enjoyed it; it’s certainly worth experiencing!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finished off the day in Harrods for afternoon tea in their Georgian restaurant with a glass of champagne included.  Now as much as I enjoyed catching up with my friend and sampling some delicious sandwiches and scones and a nice glass of champagne, whilst the piano played itself; Harrods itself was some what of a let down for me.  The gold leaf on the plates was faded, the silver tea pots were tarnished and the décor looked tired.  My other complaint at the risk of sounding like Samantha in Sex and the City, was the amount of children there.  Now don’t get me wrong I love children but I’m not sure they should be attending a luxury afternoon tea plus isn’t it a waste of money for their parents?



To end on, I must share with you one of my presents, a book that must have been written for me, lol!  Mum kindly bought me Manolo Blahnik – The Elves and the Shoe Maker.  This book combines the old fairy tale with the story of the designer and is illustrated with drawings from the designer.  The author also wrote another of my bibles ‘How to Walk in High Heels.’  This has interesting tips on such things as how to change a light bulb.

I also received from a few friends, gorgeous scarves, two with butterflies and one with dragonflies which I will be brightening up my work attire with.



That’s all for this time.  Do let me know any beaches you recommend or indeed what your feelings on jelly shoes are.  I’m now off to enjoy another of my presents – Champagne with black Raspberry Chambord; kindly bought by a friend to remind me of our trip to London Fashion Week.




Cultural Celebrations

The first weekend of July was a fantastic one, if very hectic with my Indian friends wedding, birthdays and a trip to Kensington Palace.  I took the Friday off work and pampered myself; having my highlights done and finger and toe nails painted.  I then set about making birthday cakes; Ben 10 for my 6 year old nephew and Peppa Pig for my 3 year old niece.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriday evening was the Sangeet night for my bride to be friend.  This is a ceremony which takes place before a Punjabi wedding and in this case was combined with the mehndi ceremony.  Women only customarily attend the Sangeet night with a few men attending if they are close to the bride or groom.  The event was held at her house and was like a wedding in itself.  There was a marquee, a DJ and staff serving food.  The beats of the Indian music were already in full swing when I arrived and certainly was in keeping with the English translation of ‘Sangeet’ as ‘sung together’.  The many colours of the saris were breathtaking.  It is traditional for the women to wear vivid colours to add to the festival feel at a mehndi ceremony.  I wore a bright red lacy dress.  Mehndi is henna used as a temporary skin decoration and is applied to the hands and feet in very intricate designs.  It is traditional for brides to have very elaborate designs; sometimes with the groom’s initials hidden in it.  I couldn’t wait to have my hands done and was amazed at the wonderful patterns created freehand with a henna cone which looks rather like a piping bag.  As the henna dries it forms a hard layer which then cracks and falls off to reveal a reddish brown stain.  Oil is applied to the hands to darken the pigment.  The henna lasts for approximately one week. 



The delicious scents of Indian cooking set my taste buds alight.  Following food, there was much traditional dancing and the DJ’s music was also accompanied by the dholki which is a traditional two headed drum with cotton rope lacing.  It was a wonderful experience and on leaving her mother gave me a beautiful bag filled with Indian confectionery.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Saturday I headed up to London for some British history with my Mum, aunt and cousin and we visited Kensington Palace. This was the home of Queen Victoria before she became queen and many royals have or have had apartments there; including Diana and now William and Kate.  Some of the highlights for me were Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and an assortment of Princess Diana’s dresses.


Victoria's Wedding Dress

Victoria’s Wedding Dress

One of Diana's dresses

Another of Diana's dresses

Another of Diana’s dresses


Sunday was the day of the wedding itself.  I ordered a Lehnga Choli especially from India for the occasion and also wore gold bangles.  A friend gave me a bhindi to complete the look and I wore gold, jewel encrusted heeled sandals. 


We arrived early; around 9 at the Gurdwara.  I thought that was an early start but it was nothing compared to the bride herself who had been up since 4.30 am having her make up applied!  The bride was kept in a room by herself as she was not to see the groom before the ceremony.  The Baraat then arrived which is the groom’s procession.  He carries a sword and male and female relatives of his walk behind him.  He looked fantastic in his traditional dress.  Milni then took place where the bride and grooms family formally greet each other beginning with the fathers.  Garlands are placed around each others necks and prayers read.  Breakfast for all then commences.  This comprised of samosas and onion barjis with traditional Indian tea and the very addictive Indian sweets. 


We then all make our way to the main area of the Gurdwara where the ceremony is held and we are required to remove our shoes, cover our heads and men and women sit on separate sides on the floor.  I must admit I was rather worried at the prospect of locating my shoes again in the racks and racks of them!  The main ceremony is called Anand Karaj which translates as blissful union.  As we entered, we were required to walk up to the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs which is the scriptures of the ten Gurus of Sikhism), kneel down and place money in a box in front of it.  The Guru is treated like a human Guru and as such respect is always shown and no one must sit higher than it hence sitting on the floor.  The book is placed on brightly coloured cloth and has a canopy over it.  The Giani (priest) waves a Chaur over the Guru as a sign of dedication and respect.  The Chaur consists of yak hair on a wooden or metal handle and dates back to the times when people would gather round one of the ten Guru’s to listen to his teachings and fan him because of the hot climate.  The bride then entered and looked absolutely breathtaking in traditional red and gold with bracelets with like cymbals hanging from them.  She must wear the bracelets for 40 days after the marriage although some can be removed after 11 days.  The bride and groom then sit at the front with the bride on the groom’s left. 


Unfortunately as the ceremony was in Punjabi, I could not understand it but essentially the groom has a sash over his shoulder called a palla and one end of this is placed in the bride’s hand.  As each of the Laava (four sacred hymns) are read, the bride and groom circle the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and on the fourth circle they are married.  A Sewardior servant then brings round karah Prasad.  This is a sweet pudding made of semolina, sugar and butter.  It is prepared in a special way with prayers and should be received in cupped hands lifted up for the Sewardiand then transferred to one hand and eaten with the other.  It should never be refused or given away.  It was very nice and this marked the end of the ceremony.


We then all travelled to a community centre where the reception was to be held.  The weather was against us with torrential rain but as I mentioned in my blog last year when my other friend got married, rain is seen as lucky on your wedding day, signifying a lasting union.  Thoughts of the weather were soon banished though as we entered a marquee containing a chocolate fountain, fruit, champagne and various tasty fruit juices including lyche. 


Once seated the starters were brought out which were delicious.  The bride and groom then arrived to a chorus of dholki with the family in a procession behind them.  The cake was then cut and they had their first dance to Googoo dolls which was lovely.


The bride and groom then sat on the stage in a lovely white chair.  Photos were taken and people went up in turn to congratulate the couple and place money in their laps which is the custom rather than wedding gifts.  Our main was then served and the mother of the bride handed out boxed confectionery to us.  There was then much dancing until an early finish for the bride to return to her house for a farewell with her family before going with the groom and his family to where they live.  As the bride and groom left, we threw confetti and waved them off.  It was a wonderful day and it has made me more adventurous with Indian food.  When my boyfriend and I went for a curry on Saturday night, instead of my usual Korma, I ordered Chicken Darjeeling which I enjoyed very much.

To end with another celebration; on 20th July I went to see the Olympic torch relay come through Medway where I live.  It was lovely to see the community spirit and the pride of the country that we are hosting this great event.  People were out on mass with their Union Jacks and the crowd buzzed with excitement. 


I am fortunate enough that this is my second viewing of the torch as I saw it in Skiathos in 2004 when Greece hosted the Olympics but to see it in my own town was something far more exciting.

Anyway I shall end there.  Did you see the Olympic torch or perhaps you would like to share some interesting wedding traditions of different cultures?  Until next time….