Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Applying for my Nigerian visa: part 3

Last week I wrote about my latest Nigerian visa application – and how the process was much smoother this time round.

If only collecting my passport and visa had been as simple…

When I submitted my passport and application last week, I was given a receipt with the date 29th August and a collection time of 3.30-4.30 printed on it. ’29th is a bank holiday,’ I told the man. ‘You are open on the bank holiday?’ 

‘Eh… Yes,’ he replied.

Hmm. I wasn’t entirely convinced but left it at that.

On Friday I called the visa enquiry number at the High Commission just to make sure they were going to be open. 

‘Eh… We are doing collections from 12 to 1,’ the man told me.

‘But my receipt says 3.30-4.30.’

‘Eh… but it’s a holiday so come at 12.’

So if I hadn’t called to check and shown up at 3.30 as planned, they’d have been closed! FFS.

So, I left home on Monday morning, got there at about 11.50, and went into the visa hall and waited. 

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing happened. There were about 15 people waiting with me.

At 1pm I went to the counter and asked the man what was happening – when would the collections be ready?

‘Eh… They are not ready.’

‘Yes, but *when* will they be ready?’

‘Eh… We think by 2 o’clock. You can go and come back.’

FFS. Go where, exactly? 

I went out to get a sandwich and was back in the visa hall by 1.30. At about 2.15pm they started calling out receipt numbers – mine was first. There were LOADS of passports awaiting collection – but I don’t think their owners knew that they had to collect them early as it was a holiday. I took my passport and got the hell out of there. Thank goodness I’d taken a book with me… I’d have been bored out of my brains otherwise.

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Week 5 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

A bad, bad, BAD week. So bad, in fact, that I haven’t even bothered to weigh myself. I’d rather bury my head in the sand and pretend everything’s going according to plan. Basically, there was too much drinking and not enough exercise.

I did learn two things though:

  1. If I’m going to the gym, it has to be before work. I planned to go on Tuesday evening but ended up at the pub. And it wasn’t even a good pub. I only went to the gym once last week – and that was on Thursday morning before work. 
  2. Beer, champagne and sake do not mix well. I’m thought I’d learned this a while ago, but apparently it hadn’t sunk in. I think I’ve learned my lesson now. What was supposed to be a chilled Friday evening turned into quite a heavy night as we went from a pub to a bar to a restaurant. The combination of drinks made me totally forget we planned a barbecue for the bank holiday yesterday. It turned out to be a laugh, but I ate so much. I can’t even think about the amount of meat that was cooked.

I’ve made a mental note of what I had to drink this week and it’s a lot! I won’t bore you with it, but I had at least two drinks on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. That’s way too much, even for me. 


So there you have it.

And the next three weeks aren’t going to be any easier either as I’m off on holiday!

Read more updates here.

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Your week ahead (29 August – 4 September)

Hope you all have a wonderful week!



6 of Swords – feeling the blues – working to get through the day, feeling listless; recovering – getting over a tough time, picking up the pieces; travelling – going on a journey, taking a trip



The Star – regaining hope – thinking positively, counting your blessings; being inspired – realising your inner strength, regaining motivation; being generous – spreading the wealth, holding nothing back; feeling serene – finding your still centre, experiencing peace of mind



The Magician – taking action – doing what needs to be done, practise what you preach; act consciously – understand your intentions, know what you’re doing and why; concentrate – focus on a goal, be totally committed; experience power – make a strong impact, become energised



5 of Swords – acting in your own self-interest – looking out for number one, encountering selfishness; experiencing discord – feeling people are set against each other, experiencing conflict; witnessing open dishonour – sacrificing integrity, losing sight of what is right; watch your back



10 of Swords – bottoming out – having nowhere to go but up, feeling things can’t get any worse; feeling like a victim – feeling self-pity, wondering ‘why me?’; being a martyr – letting others go first, being self-deprecating



Queen of Cups – loving – unconditionally accepting, infinite patience; tenderhearted – kind and gentle with all creatures, feeling what others are feeling; intuitive – guided by the heart; always tuned to emotional undercurrents; psychic – open to the unconscious; spiritual – appreciating the deeper meanings of life



Page of Pentacles – having an effect – making plans real, acting on dreams; being practical – taking a realistic approach, finding a solution that works; being prosperous – increasing your means, seeking abundance; being trusting/trustworthy – have faith in others, keep your word



3 of Swords – feeling heartbreak – causing heartbreak, being disappointed, hurting someone’s feelings; feeling lonely – being separated, being rejected, feeling lost; experiencing betrayal – finding your trust misplaced, getting stabbed in the back; having surgery or dental treatment



King of Pentacles – being enterprising – attracting wealth, having the Midas touch; being adept – being informed about practical matters, having quick reflexes; being reliable – assuming responsibility; being supporting – readily jumping in to help; being steady – working towards a goal, having regular habits and activities



9 of Cups – having your wish fulfilled – achieving what you desire; feeling satisfied – feeling pleased as punch, indulging in a little smugness, being content; enjoying sensual pleasure – experiencing luxury, experiencing beauty, appreciating the arts



9 of Wands – defending yourself – expecting the worst, feeling wary and guarded; persevering – trying repeatedly, keeping your resolve, refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer; showing stamina – continuing despite fatigue, keeping up the pace



8 of Wands – taking quick action – striking while the iron is hot, putting plans into action; coming to a conclusion – experiencing a grand finale, completing unfinished business; receiving news – discovering the truth, getting an important message, finding the missing puzzle piece

For previous readings, see Notes by Nectar.


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Double vision?

One of the good things about rain? Rainbows! 

And what’s better than one rainbow? Two rainbows!

I was at The Volunteer on Baker Street this evening when I saw this:


Aren’t they cool?? 


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Silent Sunday 12


Silent Sunday



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Applying for my Nigerian visa: part 2

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was planning a trip to Lagos for Vinay’s first birthday and that once again I would need to brave the Nigerian High Commission in London.

The visa application process is a little different these days. All applications are processed and paid for online, and once you’ve submitted your application you’re told what date you need to submit your passport to the High Commission. Organised, isn’t it?

Well. Yes and no.

I filled in the application form online, paid for my visa (£90!) and was told I needed to submit my passport on 23 August. Simple.

I then decided to look at the list of things I needed to take with me:

  • Valid passport
  • Printed copy of the online visa application form and a copy of the payment confirmation page and a passport photo
  • Letter of invitation from Nigeria accepting full immigration responsibilities for me while in Nigeria
  • Photocopy of the inviter’s passport
  • Visa fee payment confirmation AND a £20 postal order for processing fees (so I spent £110 on the visa in total)

I had all those things except a printed copy of the online visa application form. I could just print it off after it had been submitted, right? WRONG. I logged in using the details they’d given me only to be told that I couldn’t change my application. I couldn’t even see my application form. Shit – I thought I was going to have to re-apply and pay the £90 again! There must be an easier way, I thought. I emailed the help contact on the website explaining the situation and waited for a reply. It took just 5 minutes for the advisor to get back to me. She said I needed to fill in the online application form again but instead of submitting it, just print it. Now why hadn’t I thought of that? And why don’t they tell people this on the site?

So I managed all that. No problems.

The Visa section of the High Commission officially opens at 10am. At least that’s what it says on their website. I know from past experience that if you get there earlier you can still collect a number and wait in the visa hall. I decided to do that – I got there at 9.15 (in the pouring rain) and was met with a queue outside the building. There were about 20 people in front of me and the queue was moving quickly. When I got to the front, I realised that embassy staff were checking that people were coming in with printed application forms and proof of payment before entering the main hall. You’d be amazed how many people didn’t bring their application forms, their payment confirmation, or even their passports (eh?) – and they were shocked that they were turned away. I didn’t have any problems and the man let me through.

Once I entered the main hall I had to join another queue where another man was also checking documents and he gave me a ticket – number 606. I’m not joking when I say that there were at least 100 people already in this room – men, women, children, babies, strollers. It was noisy and there was nowhere to sit. The person standing next to me had ticket number 025. F***. I was going to be there forever!

At 9.30 they started calling people forward to the counters. I think that’s because they couldn’t fit any more people in the room and the queue outside was growing! My concern about being there all day vanished when they called the first ticket of the day – ticket 600! Visa applications and passport applications have separate numbering systems – thank goodness! I didn’t have long to wait at all…

My application was processed without any problems. The English guy applying at the counter next to me didn’t have a photocopy of the inviter’s passport and was told to come back another day. So they’re serious about all that!

I was out of there by 10.15 and headed to work. I just have to collect my passport in a few days and I’m done.

No mobbed counters and nobody shouting at each other – the process was much more streamlined this time. Thank goodness!


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Week 4 update: 10 kilos by Christmas

I had a great week in terms of diet and exercise, but the weekend was atrocious. It’s shocking how quickly the calories add up. 

As I said, the week was fine – I thought I ate well (apart from Thursday night when all I had was a glass of champagne, two martinis and some olives as dinner).

I had my induction at LA Fitness on Tuesday evening as scheduled – I was asked what my goals were, how often I intended to get to the gym and how long I was going to spend each time I was there, what my eating habits were, and then I was measured (height) and weighed (embarrassing). The trainer walked me through various exercises – I did some sets on the leg press and lateral pull, sets of crunches, push-ups, weights. I was knackered by the end of it. And the gym was *packed*. I decided right then that I would prefer to be there in the morning when I didn’t have to wait for a treadmill or weight machine to be free!

I went back on Thursday morning for a workout. I was there just after 8am – I did 15 minutes of cardio, another 20 minutes on various machines and then spent the last 20 minutes on the mat followed by stretching. I felt really good at the end of it – like I’d accomplished something! One of the perks of going at that time is that by the time I’m back in the changing room, there’s just a handful of women there. I can’t bear crowded changing rooms. I got ready and was at work a little before 10. Tip: avoid Regent Street in the mornings, the traffic is horrendous. I spent 10 minutes stuck in one place (by the Langham)!

On Friday evening I decided to go to a Zumba class at the gym. The class was at 6pm and I didn’t think it would be very crowded being a Friday night, but there were about 25 people there. It was a good class, but nowhere near as good as the class I’ve been to in Maida Vale. 

And there ends the ‘good’ part of the week. On Friday night I went to The Engineer in Primrose Hill with some friends. I’d read on Twitter that it was being taken over at the end of September and wanted to go before it changed hands. We shared the cured meat platter as a starter and each had our own main course. I couldn’t decide between the lamb and the tortelloni – but the artichokes won in the end. I had the tortelloni stuffed with artichokes and truffles in a butter sauce. Now if that doesn’t scream 1000 calores, I don’t know what does! It was amazing. And I was so full by the end of it, I didn’t have a bite of dessert. Not one bite. And of course there was wine – we had an Australian Pinot Noir. Lovely.

I had a carb-free lunch with the girls on Saturday, which I was pleased about. On Saturday night I went to Le Cochonnet for dinner. I love their pizzas but thought I’d give it a miss and go for a pasta instead. The pasta special was papardelle with salmon and spinach so I ordered that. I didn’t think it was too bad a choice. Better than the pizza at least. But I did end up sharing a chocolate brownie for dessert – which was yummy. And of course there was wine – a French rosé, but I can’t remember what it was called.

Lunch with my parents on Sunday was at Kamil’s, a Lebanese place on Boundary Road. We weren’t planning on going there at all, but to another restaurant on the same road, but we ended up there when I decided I couldn’t possibly eat any more pasta – for a few days! I’m pretty sure Lebanese food must be the worst choice when you’re trying to watch what you eat. Everything (all their vegetarian food I can think of) is fried.

Nope. Definitely not a good weekend for food.

And so Monday came round again. I’d booked a 7pm yoga class at the gym, but was at work till 7.20 so didn’t make it. I’ve booked a step class for this evening – which should be interesting. The last time I did a step class was when I was in my early 20s – God help me.

I was totally expecting to have put on weight when I stepped on the scales this morning but found that I was exactly the same weight as last week. I was relieved! I can handle the plateau but to go up again would have been really annoying. I need to start wearing those HotPants again! And eat less and exercise more, of course.


Read more updates here.


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Your week ahead (22-28 August)

Have a good week!



The Hierophant – get an education – pursue knowledge, become informed; have a belief system – share a cultural heritage, follow a discipline; conform – follow the rules, fit in; identify with a group – feel loyal to others, be committed to a cause



8 of Pentacles – show diligence – make an effort, work hard; increase knowledge – take a course, learn a new craft or skill, do some research; pay attention to detail – be extra careful, get down to the nitty-gritty, check and re-check, read the fine print



5 of Wands – disagreements – quarrelling, arguing, bickering, quibbling over details; competition – rise to the challenge, look for a fight, try and outdo yourself; hassles – minor setbacks, being annoyed by demands, being irritated by others



8 of Swords – feeling restricted – being fenced in by obstacles, experiencing few options; confusion – being unsure which way to turn, lacking direction; feeling powerless – looking for a white knight, feeling victimised



4 of Wands – celebrations – rejoicing over a happy event, enjoying well-deserved rewards; seeking freedom – opening up to new possibilities, letting go of limitations; feeling excited – looking forward to the future, being surprised



5 of Cups – suffering a loss – letting go of a hope, being defeated; feeling bereft – feeling deprived of love, breaking up a relationship; feeling regret – crying over spilt milk, thinking you made the wrong choice, wanting to turn back the clock



Knight of Wands – you’ll have to choose between being charming or superficial, self-confidence and cockiness, daring and foolhardy, adventurous and restless, passionate and hot-tempered – there’s a fine line between them all!



Queen of Pentacles – be nurturing – give love and support; be bighearted – always have an open door; be down to earth – have no pretensions or affectations; be resourceful – make a little go a long way; be trustworthy – keep faith with others



Knight of Cups – choosing between being romantic or over-emotional, being imaginative or fanciful, being sensitive or temperamental, being refined or over-refined, being introspective or introverted



The World – integration – experiencing wholeness, achieving dynamic balance; accomplishment – realise your goals and flourish; become involved – contribute, use a gift or talent, feel engaged; feel fulfilled – savour the present, take pleasure in life



10 of Pentacles – enjoy affluence – be free from money problems, see your ventures flourish; seek permanence – look for solutions that will last, nail down a plan; follow convention – play by the rules, take part in traditions, be conservative



The Empress – being mothering – giving birth, cherishing the world, expressing tenderness; welcoming abundance – having more than enough, feeling rich; experiencing the senses – focusing on the body, giving and receiving pleasure, doing physical activity; responding to Nature – embarcing the natural, being outdoors

For previous readings, see Notes by Nectar.


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Silent Sunday 11


Silent Sunday

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Review: When God Was a Rabbit


I’d just finished reading Freedom and wasn’t sure what to read next when a friend lent me this book by Sarah Winman. This is a novel about relationships – siblings, parents, friends – and good times, bad times – all those things that make life interesting. I’ve always said that we need to experience bad times so we can appreciate the good times when they arrive. It’s like the Wheel of Fortune tarot card.

The first half of the novel starts in 1968, where we’re introduced to Elly (at her birth) and her brother Joe (5 years older than her). Their childhood seems simple and uncomplicated on the surface, but there is a recurring theme of violence in the background – Elly’s grandparents are killed in an accident, various forms of abuse, the death of John Lennon. The second half starts in 1995 and goes through to 2001. And there’s more background violence – more abuse, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11. I found the second half quite distressing to read – perhaps because I’m more familiar with those events than the earlier ones.

Joe and Elly know all each other’s childhood secrets – and this continues as they move into adulthood. Even though they do separate and lead their own lives (one in London/Cornwall and the other in New York), they remain close. As well as having each other, they each have a best friend: Jenny Penny and Charlie. Their friendships are not conventional at all, to say the least. It’s difficult to know how much to say about them – as I don’t want to ruin it for others who might read the book!

The other characters of interest are their parents (who suddenly decide to move the family to Cornwall and open a B&B), their father’s sister Nancy (a lesbian who’s in love with their mother), their gay tenant Arthur, and his best friend Ginger.

I laughed out loud in parts and teared up in others (yes, on the bus again – still embarrassing). It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but the author’s descriptive style of writing and quirky, eccentric characters make the book worth reading. 

So that’s number 12 of my 20 books in 2011 – still on track!

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