Images of London

Just a selection of photos taken while I was in London… 

Reunited with the girls for brunch at Raoul’s:


I must have walked past this so many times but had just never seen it:


Somewhere in Primrose Hill (but I’m not sure exactly where):


St John’s Wood High Street:


A night at Escortikov Novikov:


Brunch at Cut:


Regent Street:


Baker & Spice:


St Paul’s Cathedral:


Dinner at Riding House Cafe:


Cappuccino at Raoul’s:


Drinks at the Soho Hotel:


A walk through Regent’s Park:


I’m definitely taking my DSLR next time!


Dubai: A proofreader’s paradise

While I was in London the newspapers had a design facelift but the content hasn’t improved.



Sentences should start with a capital letter, shouldn’t they?


I’m pretty sure it should be ‘she loses her weight’.


The UK isn’t perfect either! ‘Bring them with you’…


Here are a couple of other things I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks.

The crossword usually has ‘Cryptic’ clues and ‘Quick’ clues, but on Friday they printed:



At the supermarket: I’m pretty sure they mean ‘Chocolate bars’, but they could just as well mean ‘bar of chocolates’? I doubt it though.


Did you know that the English translation of the French word tampon is inking pad or rubber stamp? Now, that’s unfortunate.


To see more mistakes, click here.

Review: The Marriage Plot


I bought this book in late 2011 (so it counts towards my Mount TBR Reading Challenge!) and had been looking forward to reading it as I loved Middlesex when I read it in 2005. It was so… different.

I found The Marriage Plot to be a disappointing ‘modern romance’. Madeleine, a student at Brown University in the early 1980s, is writing her thesis on the way marriage plots are used in Victorian literature. She has two men in love with her. This love triangle continues after graduation – she ends up living with one while the other goes travelling around the world. The way I’ve described it sounds dull. Actually, it was dull. I felt nothing while I read it. It was like kissing my gay best friend.

There are some passages of beautiful writing, but it reminded me of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom – smug, dysfunctional, flawed characters. I know flawed characters make interesting reading, but this was not interesting. 

It took me ages to finish the book – partly because I just didn’t want to continue reading it, and partly because I travelled for a while and didn’t read it for a month. I didn’t even consider taking it on holiday with me because I knew I wouldn’t want to read it.

Read no further if you’re planning on reading the book!

In a nutshell:

From the books you read for your thesis, and for your article – the Austen and the James and everything – was there any novel where the heroine gets married to the wrong guy and then realizes it, and then the other suitor shows up, some guy who’s always been in love with her, and then they get together, but finally the second suitor realizes that the last thing the woman needs is to get married again, that she’s got more important things to do with her life? And so finally the guy doesn’t propose at all, even though he still loves her? Is there any book that ends like that?

That’s the story. In one paragraph. On the last page of the book. I could have saved myself a lot of time. 

I’m lagging this year – I’ve only read six of the 20 books I plan to read in 2012 and according to Goodreads, I’m three books behind schedule. I thought that when I moved to Dubai I’d have more time to read, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have some catching up to do!


Dubai: Week 24

Week 23 was a write-off so there’s not much point saying anything about it. I got back, fell ill and spent the week in bed. On Saturday evening I decided I’d had enough and that it was time to get back on track.

I had a Sunday morning session with Rama (it killed me). My parents wanted to go out for lunch so we headed to the Dubai Mall. Considering it was a public holiday it didn’t seem so crowded at first. When we were told we’d have to wait 1.5 hours for a table at one of the restaurants we decided to go elsewhere. We ended up at Red Lobster (I had grilled salmon, broccoli and a baked potato) and then went to Tim Horton’s for coffee. It must have opened while I was away because it definitely wasn’t there before I left. I had the French Vanilla cappuccino – I’d never had it before. Lovely!

After lunch, Dad went home and Mum and I went to get a birthday present for my cousin’s daughter. We went to Times Square Center intending to go to Toys R Us but I got side-tracked by a music store selling pianos.

I’ve been wanting to get a piano since I moved to Dubai (but admittedly haven’t done much about it) so I went in and looked at what they had. I’ve noticed a lot of places selling electric keyboards/pianos here, but very few sell traditional upright pianos. The assistant in the store said they only sell Ritmüller pianos. I’d never heard of them. I was told the pieces (hammers, strings, keys, soundboards) are crafted in Germany and assembled in China. I suppose Yamaha are also assembled in China – so what difference does it make? I’ll have to do some research. 

We eventually made it to Toys R Us, picked up the present, and headed to Oasis Centre. It was dull household stuff – hangers, plastic boxes for the kitchen, and so on. I couldn’t wait to get home. 

On Monday I had yoga after ages. After that I went for a Balinese massage at Dreamworks Spa at Palm Strip Mall. I’d bought the deal (1 hour for AED99) a couple of months ago and forgotten about it. When I found the voucher, I realised that Monday was the last day I could use it and luckily they had a spot available. I went there, really not expecting very much (especially after the massage at Chelsea Tower) but I was pleasantly surprised. 


It was quiet. The rooms were comfortable. And the massage was amazing. I will definitely go back – and they have 25% off massages on weekdays! 

By Monday night I had a slight temperature again and my muscles were aching after my training session the day before.

I woke up on Tuesday at 6am to see the sun rising (I sleep with my curtains open).


I did go back to sleep though, and stayed in all day – working.

On Wednesday I had another session with Rama and then Mum and I went to the Fairmont for a sushi lunch. We over-ordered and ended up taking home a doggy bag. After lunch we both had our nails done. I had a much-needed pedicure – all that walking in London didn’t do much for my feet, and even if I’d wanted to have a mani/pedi while I was there I don’t know when I would have fit it into my busy schedule!

My parents were out that night and I had the place to myself. I caught up on some work and some TV shows. That night a friend suggested I start a food blog. I admitted that I would love to but that I usually remember to take photos of my food after I’ve eaten it (oops). I must try and remember to take more photos. 

Thursday was quite busy. I went to the gym in the morning and then my parents and I went to Vapiano at the Dubai Mall for lunch. I knew their portions were huge from the last time I went, so I ordered a Greek salad to start with.


For my main course, I was supposed to share the tagliatelle funghi with my mum, but it was too much. Next time I’m just going to stick to the salad. Oh, and of course I forgot to take a photo of the pasta! After lunch, I got a takeaway coffee from Tim Horton’s and we headed home. 

An hour later we went over to the Shangri-La as my cousin was having her daughter’s 4th birthday party there. There were kids, mums, babies, nannies, balloons, an entertainer, a bouncy castle, food, cake. The kids looked like they were having a good time. We stayed for just an hour. 

That evening I went to Dubai Wine Club. The last two times I’d been, the venue had been outdoors at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel. This time it was at the Radisson Royal, just a few blocks down, at their restaurant Indo Thai. The venue is lovely but I preferred the set-up at Ibn Battuta: you can see everyone, you’re on a round table so you get to talk to most people. At the Radisson we were on long tables of 10 and the layout of the room was such that you couldn’t really see any of the other tables. Because we were on a long table our table was very much divided into two – which wasn’t very conducive to the discussion of wine (or anything else). I sat with one of my friends and the rest were all new people. I met an English/Irish couple and when they asked me what I did and I told them, the husband looked shocked and said ‘My wife wants to be you!’ She also works as a freelance writer/editor and in fact knew my ex boss from Haymarket Publishing. What a small world. 

On to the wines. Six sparkling wines were chosen for the evening – as before they were all blinded. 


E was my favourite, followed by A. I didn’t like B. C and D tasted almost the same and I didn’t like them either. I didn’t really care for F either. So what were they? You will be s
hocked. I know I was. 

  • A: Spanish cava (Castillo Perelada)
  • B: Taittinger
  • C: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir
  • D: Moët & Chandon – and guess what grapes they use? Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
  • E: Italian prosecco (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)
  • F: German sekt (Henkell Trocken)

No wonder C and D tasted so similar – they’re the same grapes! And compared to a couple of the other wines, D didn’t taste that good. Surprising.

The choice of food was quite good – chicken satays, beef satays, calamari, spring rolls, fish, steamed dumplings. Again, I forgot to take a photo – but instead of it being a buffet like it was at Ibn Battuta, the food was brought to each table on long platters. 

As people started leaving, a group of people gathered at the bar. I’d met some of them before so I joined them for some drinks. Three glasses of Sauvignon Blanc later, we were the last group to leave the bar. I got home after 2am. 

On Friday the three of us went to Sakura for lunch with my cousin and her parents. The food was good and I overate as usual. As much as I like Sakura, I think the rest of the Crowne Plaze Hotel could do with a makeover. It’s pretty shabby.

We got home from lunch a little before 4pm and I thought about going down to the pool. I looked down at the pool to see if there was anyone there – about 20 kids were splashing around, there were tables and chairs laid out and there was even a blow-up slide leading into the pool. I decided that maybe I could wait until Saturday to lounge around by the pool!


My cousin and I were supposed to meet for a casual dinner that night as well – but we both knew our parents were out and both wanted to make the most of the peace and quiet so we decided to postpone it! 

On Saturday I went to the gym quite late and then spent the afternoon at the pool, swimming and reading. There was an English guy there – I’d seen him before but had never spoken to him. I’m terrible with guessing people’s ages but I think he must have been in his mid to late 50s. We started chatting while we were in the pool and he said that there had been so many problems with the pool the year before that he joined the gym at the Shangri-La. He said the pool had become an algae green colour (gross) and nobody was doing anything about it. He also said that the residents in the building should be concerned about their safety in the event of a fire. He said the smoke alarms don’t work and that there aren’t enough sprinklers on each floor. He said the chances of people on the higher floors making it out alive were slim. I have to admit this had crossed my mind already. It’s a long way down from the 23rd floor. Since I moved I’ve read about at least five fires in residential buildings with devastating consequences. We talked for a bit longer and then he left. I did a few lengths, dried off in the sun and finished my book. A great Saturday. And the icing on the cake? I had the place to myself on Saturday night too.

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.


The final few: Week 8

I know week 7 was a while ago, but I was in London for a couple of weeks and have decided not to include that time in my mission to lose weight! I’ll just pick up where I left off.

I got back, immediately fell ill and spent the week in bed. It was bound to happen – the chaos of the last three weeks had to catch up with me at some point. I spent most of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in bed. I didn’t want to speak to anyone or do anything – just lie in bed with the covers over my head. I think it was a combination of post-holiday blues, exhaustion and a couple of other things. By Saturday evening I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d had enough of feeling sorry for myself – time to get back on track.

I had a Sunday morning session with Rama. He said it would be a shock to my system. And he was right. He said I was going to do HIIT (high intensity interval training). I didn’t like the sound of it. He explained it would be 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off and there would be ‘several’ rounds of each exercise. I was hating the sound of it.

‘You’ll feel awesome when it’s over,’ he told me. 

Because it’s over?’ I asked.

The first exercise was a cross between a burpee, a push-up and a squat jump holding a 3-kg weight. It took me a while to figure out how to do it. And then I did eight sets of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off.


I had a rest.

The next exercise was a combination of push-ups and squat jumps:

  • 10 push-ups and 10 squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 9 push-ups and 9 squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 8 push-ups and 8 squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 7 push-ups and 7 squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 6 push-ups and 6 squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 5 push-ups, 5 squat jumps, 4 push-ups, 4 squat jumps, 3 push-ups, 3 squat jumps, 2 push-ups, 2 squat jumps, 1 push-up and 1 squat jump (no rests)


I needed a rest.

The third combination was even worse:

  • 30 seconds of stair-climbers 
  • 30 seconds of burpees
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds of stair-climbers
  • 30 seconds of squat jumps
  • 45 seconds rest

I was supposed to do five sets of that.

At the end of the second set Rama said: ‘Let me know when you’ve had enough.’

‘I’ve had enough,’ I replied immediately.

He laughed and said I could stop after the fourth set. I know I complain about the stuff he makes me do, but I always do it. All of it. On Sunday I found it tough – after a break of almost 4 weeks and after being in bed all week – it was a struggle. I think he could see that!

After that I lay on my mat and did some lower body exercises and some abs and then I was done. Hurrah! 

I woke up on Monday feeling tired and fluish again but went ahead with yoga anyway. It wasn’t too bad – I was expecting to be less flexible than I was 4 weeks ago but it was OK. 

After yoga I went for a massage and by Monday night every muscle in my body was aching: shoulders, abs, thighs, everything. And I had a fever.

I slept in on Tuesday and didn’t go to the gym. I had a session with Rama on Wednesday. It wasn’t as tough as Sunday’s session, but it was hard. I started with a short warm-up on the cross-trainer. Rama asked me how I felt after Sunday – I told him I was still feeling the after-effects!

I started with 500m on the cross-trainer at level 10. I did it in 3 minutes and 3 seconds. The last time I’d done it was in mid-May – in 3 minutes and 12 seconds. I hadn’t expected to beat that time, especially after doing nothing but eat and drink for 3 weeks. Rama did point out that this was the beginning of the session though.

The first exercise was a clean and press/squat (‘the bear’ in Crossfit terms, I think) using a weighted bar. The first few weren’t so bad but after three sets of 10, I’d just about had enough. After that there were kettlebell swings (using a 10-lb weight) – three sets of 20 (10 on the right, 10 on the left).

The next exercise was the bench press – three sets of 20, followed by a seated row – three sets of 15, followed by tricep extensions – three sets of 15. I then did two supersets of lower body exercises and bicep curls. And then 10 different abs exercises (20 seconds on/10 seconds off). 

And to finish off… there were stairs. Rama sent me down in the lift and I walked up to the sixth floor. It took me 1 minute and 10 seconds. It seemed like a bloody long time. The second time, we both went down in the lift – Rama left and I walked up again. It took longer the second time – probably because I knew he wasn’t waiting for me at the top! And I think I stopped at each floor to catch my breath. My legs felt like jelly by the time I got home.

I went to the gym late on Thursday morning. My legs were aching after the session the day before. I did 5k on the treadmill in 47 minutes and 50 seconds (walking). I think the only way I’m going to improve on that time is by running. I think it’s time to give it a shot.

I took Friday off. I rang the Shangri-La to find out what classes they had scheduled for Saturday morning but she said they didn’t have anything on until 5.30pm (which would interfere with my pool time). 

I had no plans on Saturday so I went to the gym at about noon. I did my 5k on the treadmill in 46 minutes and 42 seconds. Just as I was finishing, one of the Syrian ladies came in. When I got off the treadmill she said ‘You look like you’ve been fighting in a war.’ I could see what she meant – my face was the same tomato red as my top. I suppose, in a way, I am fighting a war.

Low points? A few. One of my mum’s ‘friends’ telling me she ‘didn’t notice’ I’d lost weight and that I looked ‘the same’. I think she was just being a b*tch though. She then proceeded to watch me like a hawk during dinner – so just to baffle her I had a bit of everything. Yes, that was childish. I had a lot of wine at Wine Club on Thursday night – thankfully it only happens once a month. And I’ve found myself in a relationship with mini Galaxy bars – each one consists of three tiny squares of chocolate – and I’ve been having two after dinner (one just isn’t enough). 

High points? Three of my mum’s real friends telling me how well I looked. Getting back into a routine. Clearing out some old clothes – they were too big and taking up unnecessary space in my cupboards. 

Weight loss? I’ve now lost 16.8 kg (just under 37 lbs). I can’t believe it. 


Read more updates here.


Your week ahead (24-30 June)

Have a great week!



Ace of Pentacles – using material force – working with the physical, improving the body/health, focusing on concrete results; prospering – having the means to reach a goal, seeing efforts rewarded, increasing assets; being practical – using common sense, being realistic, accepting the tools at hand; proceeding with trust – feeling safe and protected, having a support system, believing in the good faith of others



Queen of Pentacles – being nurturing – giving love and support, making people feel better; being big-hearted – giving freely and abundantly; being down-to-earth – handling problems matter-of-factly, taking a simple and sensible approach; being resourceful – making a little go a long way, being handy and versatile; being trustworthy – being loyal and steadfast, keeping confidences and secrets



Ace of Swords – using mental force – being objective, finding out the facts, analysing the situation; having fortitude – facing problems, finding the strength to overcome; seeking justice – righting a wrong, accepting responsibility, establishing the truth; proceeding with truth – cutting through confusion, being honest, having clear understanding



4 of Wands – celebrating – rejoicing over an event, observing an anniversary or milestone or special time, enjoying well-deserved rewards; seeking freedom – breaking free of bonds, cutting loose, letting go of limitations; feeling excited – bubbling over with delight, feeling jubilant, being surprised



Knight of Cups – finding a balance between being romantic/over-emotional – remembering special occasions/blowing hot and cold in affections; being imaginative/fanciful – spinning marvelous tales/having an overactive imagination; being sensitive/temperamental – responding deeply to life/getting melancholy and depressed; being refined/over-refined – being suave and gracious/getting overwhelmed by pressure; being introspective/introverted – seeking below the surface/being unable to relax around others



2 of Swords – blocking emotions – denying true feelings, hiding distress, maintaining your cool; avoiding the truth – refusing to look at facts, choosing not to know, ignoring the warning signs; being at a stalemate – staying stuck, refusing to decide, being unwilling to rock the boat



3 of Swords – feeling heartbreak – having your feelings hurt, getting some unsettling news, being disappointed; feeling lonely – feeling lost, being separated, wandering far from home; experiencing betrayal – being let down, breaking your word, finding your trust misplaced



8 of Pentacles – showing diligence – making an effort, plugging away, producing steady results; increasing knowledge – taking a course, researching, increasing expertise; paying attention to detail – being painstaking, checking and re-checking, noticing the fine points



The Emperor – fathering – protecting and defending, bringing security and comfort; emphasising structure – creating order out of chaos, being organised; exercising authority – taking a leadership role, representing the establishment; regulating – establishing law and order, setting standards of behaviour



The Empress – mothering – giving birth, nourishing life, expressing tenderness; welcoming abundance – luxuriating in plenty, having more than enough, feeling rich; experiencing the senses – giving and receiving pleasure, focusing on the body, doing physical activity; responding to Nature – embracing the natural, feeling connected to the Earth, going outdoors



3 of Pentacles – working as a team – finding all the needed elements, functioning as a team, cooperating; planning – organising resources, reviewing beforehand, being prepared; being competent – getting the job done, meeting your goals, being up to the job



Knight of Pentacles – finding a balance between being unwavering and stubborn – staying fixed to a chosen course and refusing to listen to reason; being cautious and unadventurous – checking/double-checking and being too conservative; being thorough and obsessive – being meticulous and being too picky; being realistic and pessimistic – predicting problems in advance and dooming a project from the start; being hard-working and grinding – being tireless and unflagging and forgetting life should be fun

For previous readings, see Notes by Nectar.