Sunday, August 31, 2008

Selfridges, Birmingham

Mr K-E was in Birmingham earlier this week because of work and he had a look around Selfridges while he was there.

It's strange to see a building with no windows; but it makes perfect sense because it's a retail building. Retailers don't want any natural light.

The facade is unusual; normally architects try to break up the facade into sections that give the impression of windows, even if they are fake windows. Maybe impart a sense of scale to the structure. (I'm not an architect myself, so I'm only guessing) For example, if it wasn't for the two people at bottom of the photo, it wouldn't be easy to gauge the size of the building.

Detail of the facade.

The interior continues the "rounded" theme.

I think this looks organic. Mr K-E thinks it looks rude.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mr K-E hates saxophones

Mr K-E doesn't like jazz, so I was surprised when he wanted to come along to see Polar Bear at the Roundhouse. Polar Bear are an "experimental jazz-electronic band" - not really my thing either, but they sounded interesting and I was curious to see what the music would be like.

The warning bells rang when there were two saxophonists and no vocalist. Okay. The drummer was truly awesome and no doubt the saxophonists were too; but as the performance went on, I could sense Mr K-E becoming more and more agitated. The venue was sold out and the rest of the crowd were obviously loving it. There were people shouting, "yeah man" and not in an ironic way.

After Polar Bear finished their set, they came back on for an encore and Mr K-E lost it. He said, "OMG, I cannot take anymore of this crap", grabbed his coat and walked out. I had to apologise to my confused friends and tried to leave discreetly. Not an easy task, as it was cabaret seating (little round tables) and Mr K-E was practically stomping as he left.

I guess "experimental jazz" isn't for everyone.

On a different note (geddit, hahaha) we saw this Banksy original on the way to the Roundhouse. So it was worth a trip to North London anyway.

Monday, August 25, 2008

August Bank Holiday

We kicked off our bank holiday weekend with a family dinner at New World restaurant in Chinatown, which has been a family favourite since I was a child. I met with some relatives from across the sea and we had a lovely dinner.

My favourite sister :) and her husband were in London and stayed over too, so that was an added bonus.

Then on Saturday, after a full English breakfast, we waved off sister and husband, before heading off to the South of my favourite places in London.

We went to see Psycho Buildings, an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. It was described as "artists take on architecture"...and it was good. There were only about a dozen installations but they were all original and thought-provoking.

Our favourite installation was snappily titled Normally, Proceeding and Unrestricted With Without Title by Gelitin. They had created a "lake" with rowers on the roof terrace on the Hayward Gallery. The best thing about it was that the public could participate; although we had to queue for an hour to participate for about 5 minutes.

I hate small boats so I was really nervous. This photo shows the rickety floating platform that served as the alnding area.

I was also paranoid that we would actually row off the a 3 storey drop below.


Mr KE loved it.

After all that excitement, we had an early dinner at Wagamama.

Mr K-E had Chicken Katsu Curry and I had Yaki Soba (fried noodles). We also had some gyoza (little dumplings) and tori kara age (fried chicken pieces).

Then we were off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

(The summer production at the Royal Festival Hall)

We weren't allowed to take photos of the set, but here's a photo of the Hall before the show began.

Mr K-E had got us seats in the 3rd row (clever Mr K-E!) so we had a great view of the performers and orchestra.

The Royal Festival Hall is a brilliant venue, not stuffy and poky like the theatres in the West End. It opened after a complete refurbishment last year, and it is super-duper. It has proper air-conditioning!! (My number one complaint about theatres in the UK)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lost in London

On Thursday night I was out on a girlie night with other women from my team. We were defying the credit crunch. Yes, spend your way out of the recession :)

We went to Meza in Soho which a pretty cool place to hang out, although we all thought the food was over-priced. The cocktails were super though, so that made it worth it. In the basement, there is a Cuban place called Floridita where you can dance the night away. I left after dinner but the others continued into the night.

Anyway, we had a really interesting discussion during dinner about our "local communities". There were 4 of us : one Bruneian (me), a Korean, an Iraqi and one Bulgarian. We are all about the same age; two married and two single. One thing we all had in common was that we didn't hang around with people from our "home communities" in London - in fact, most of us actively avoided them.

Although it's nice to meet people from home sometimes, I just don't think it's worth the hassle because (I've found) that they can be the most nosy and judgemental. They will ask you lots of questions, not because they are genuinely interested, but because they are trying to weigh up your income, your husband's income, your lifestyle etc.

As my Bulgarian friend said - the killer questions are : Where do you live? In a house or a flat? Where do you work? What car do you drive?

You can practically see the wheels in their brain turning while they try to calculate your "standard" ..... whether you live in a four bed penthouse in Chelsea (envy) or a one bed council flat in Croydon ( oh dear).

My Iraqi friend added that the worst is when people judge your lifestyle and drag your family into it as well.

This is why you will never find me hanging around in Brunei Hall or tramping around the streets near Bayswater/Queensway. I like being lost in London.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tough Times

Things are tough in K-E workworld. XYZ Group are not happy with the way that our UK company is forecasting and wants us to sort it out or else! The problem isn't really with the London business unit but with business units in other parts of the country eg Glasgow, Birmingham and so on.

Just to explain, XYZ Group is a PLC and we answer to shareholders and the market. The number one thing that shareholders want is reliability i.e. no surprises. So if you are forecasting 5% profit, you must make 5% profit. If you are forecasting 2% loss, OK that's not good...but if you actually produce 5% loss, that's very bad news. On the other hand, if you forecast a 2% loss, then declare a 10% profit, that doesn't send good signals because either a) you have no understanding of the market that you are operating in; b) you are cooking the books or c) both.

Anyway, the forecasting has been flip-flopping all over the place in the UK business mainly because no-one really knows what will happen in the next 6 months. All we can say is that things are looking dire in some parts of the country. All temporary staff have been laid off in some offices.

In London, we are under a lot of pressure to let freelancers go and support the other offices around the UK. Frankly, we are hardly in a position ourselves to give work away.

On another note, the last time there was a recession in our industry was after 9/11 and it lasted for about 18 months, I think. At the time, I was a junior member of staff and most of the management stuff just went over my head. This time round, I sit in on the resourcing meetings and know who are people next in line to be laid off. It's very strange. I've realised that the more senior I get, the more careful I have to be about what I say to more junior staff.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Park Life

We had a few nice summer evenings last week, so instead of watching TV at home, I dragged Mr K-E to our local park.

This park is less than 10 minutes walk from our flat. At the weekends it's very busy, but on a weekday evening there are only a few joggers and families around.

There is a small lake in the middle of the park with a wooden boardwalk. It's nice to be in the middle of the ducks and reeds. Very relaxing, said Mr K-E.

In the evening, you can see the ducks going to sleep. I had never seen ducks asleep before. They turn their heads backwards and tuck them inside their bodies.

Very cute!

A nest. I think these are two ducklings. They looked quite big but they are still fluffy.

Mr K-E took this shot before we headed home.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a shame.

Accordingly to a press release from the BDNOC (Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council); the reason that no athletes were sent to represent Brunei was the refusal of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to "endorse its approval for the athletes to participate".

The reasoning:

  • The swimmer had not attained the required achievement in regional and international competitions
  • The shot-putter was not fit to participate due to an ankle injury.

I can understand why the shot putter was not sent; but why not the swimmer? She could have at least taken part in the heats! And Brunei would have been represented.

All that talk about not being able to win any medals is a load of crap. If only countries that were sure to win medals participated then only about 100 countries would participate.

Frankly the amount of money that the various ministries spend sending their staff on shopping trips and holidays *sorry* "conferences and meetings" around the world, flying first class with allowances coming out of their ears, it can't be that Brunei couldn't afford to send a delegation to Beijing.

So what is it all about then? Is it that Brunei can't be represented by someone called Maria Grace Koh?

(Sorry if I sound so bitter. I'm just going to have to work on Monday and to put up with all my colleagues' lame jokes about this. Aarrrggghhh, why can't there be good news about Brunei in the media for a change!)

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'm not proud to be a Bruneian today.

You know, I'm normally really proud to be a Bruneian. Because I've lived in the UK for many years now and because Mr K-E is English; most of my colleagues and people I meet assume that I'm British i.e. I hold a British passport and consider myself to be a British citizen.

I'm always proud to say - actually I'm a Brunei citizen. I don't have a British passport. I still consider Brunei my home etc...

(To the amazement of people from other countries who can't believe that I would not take a British passport, when I could easily get one. )


How could Brunei's Olympic Committee miss the deadline to register our athletes? How? How? What do these people do? There's a whole committee to look after two athletes! Everyone was there....even Iraq and Afghanistan...even the poorest countries in the world were there....

I'm so depressed.

From the BBC website:

Brunei excluded from 2008 Games

The International Olympic Committee has excluded Brunei from the Beijing Games after the South East Asian country failed to register any of its athletes.

Brunei had until midnight ahead of Friday's ceremony, which started at 1245 BST, but missed the deadline.

"It is a great shame and very sad for the athletes who lose out," an IOC spokeswoman said.

Brunei's absence means that only 204 countries will compete at the Olympics, which officially started on Friday.

The IOC's Emmanuelle Moreau said in a statement: "The IOC tried up until the last minute to have them register, but to no avail."

The Brunei athletes involved are 15-year-old swimmer Maria Grace Koh and shot putter Mohammed Yazid Yatimi Yusof.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ham in Maple Syrup

This is the current star ingredient in the K-E household. Maple syrup yum yum yum.

Today we cooked a gammon coated in maple syrup and ground cloves, yep it was deeeelicious. I always find that gammon is really salty, so I soaked it for hours first and then boiled it to get rid of even more salt.

This is what it looked like when it came out of the oven.

I also roasted some potatoes and carrots to go with it.

Ham with roast potatoes, carrots, peas and cheese and parsley sauce. I made the sauce from scratch, even Mr K-E was impressed.

PS If you wonder what the difference is between gammon and ham. Well, when gammon is cooked it becomes ham. But not all ham is cooked, eg parma ham.

The Palm Tree

There is a little roundabout at the top of our high street which has been the subject of numerous local "campaigns". The council wanted to remove it and replace it with traffic lights *gasp* which would be better for traffic flow but everyone was in uproar locally...Hahahaha, local politics...

Then there was a public consultation to see what we could do with the roundabout. I remember there were four options i.e. piece of art, village sign, antique lamppost and something else. I don't remember a palm tree being one of the options!

You wouldn't believe the fuss over this little roundabout. Someone has commented on our local forum - why is it a palm tree?? What's wrong with a good old fashioned English Oak? :) You just can't please anyone!

Park Life

We have a few local parks near us but last Saturday Mr K-E and I decided to walk to a park about a mile away. We are quite lucky that this area of South London has lots of parks, but somehow we have never been to this particular one.

It was lovely day, warm and sunny. We had ice cream in the park and watched families picnicking, sunbathing and playing games like football and rounders.

Looking at the photos, it's hard to believe that we were in "inner city" London.