Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2016: Week 10

I had a really hectic week and struggled to find time to get any work done! I managed to squeeze in a lot of exercise, but not a whole lot of work.

After my yoga class on Sunday evening, my parents picked me up from Village Mall and we went to Markette at Box Park for dinner. They’d been there for dinner the week before and had liked it. The funny thing is: they both thought the menu was two-sided, but it actually opened so there were four sides to it – they’d missed out half the menu! We shared the calamari and shish taouk platter for starters.

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The calamari was just average, I thought. The shish taouk was very good – the chicken was tender and juicy. After that, my mum ordered a soup for her main course, my dad ordered the grilled corn and chicken salad and I ordered a galette (an open crêpe, if you like) with turkey ham, cheese and two fried eggs.

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I was really full after that, not to mention sleepy after my yoga class.

Monday was busy – I had a session with Pete on Monday and a piano lesson that afternoon. I also had my Arabic class that evening! An exhausting day.

I went to an IBWG lunch at the Trade Centre Club on Tuesday afternoon. I hadn’t been in a while – I was swamped with work during the January lunch and had the flu during the February lunch so I thought I’d better make an effort for March or risk my membership lapsing. I was on a table with just three other women, but we had some interesting conversations. I was home by 3pm and then decided I’d go to a yoga class at 4pm. After that, I worked for the rest of the evening.

I woke up on Wednesday and it was pouring! It was so dark outside, I wasn’t even sure what time it was. It usually makes no difference to me when it rains as I barely leave the house, but on this particular day I had places to go. And when 5 minutes of rain leads to 5 hours of traffic, I was dreading it. I had a session with Pete in the morning, managed to do some work until about 3pm and then headed off to DIFC for my meeting at Caffe Nero. It was still drizzling by that time. At 4.30pm I went over to the Conrad as I had a schoolfriend staying there for a few days and we were meeting for coffee. I think the last time we’d met was over 10 years ago – it was nice to see her, but we only managed to spend an hour together as I had to head off to my Arabic class! Thankfully it had stopped raining by then, but there was still a lot of traffic everywhere – and there were only five of us in the class.

On Thursday afternoon, a friend came over with her baby for a little while. After she left, I went to Roberto’s for a friend’s birthday drinks. I thought I’d only join them for a bit, and I got there at 7pm, but I ended up getting home at 2am. That always happens to me!

On Friday morning I got an email from my client who had sent me the Chinese paper the week before. They wanted me to continue working on it. Were they mad? I told them that I had no idea what I was doing and that it would take too long. They told me they would increase the rate and the deadline. They also told me they’d send it to the author to check before it was published. For goodness’ sake – what good would that do? The author already thought that the garbage he’d submitted was proper English, how would he even understand what I was writing?

Anyway, I decided I’d focus on that on Saturday and spent most of Friday working on other things.

I was up early on Saturday morning as I had tickets to see Chris Cleave at the Literature Festival. When I left the house, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy any books. None. At. All. I got to the Intercontinental at Festival City shortly after 9am and had bought a book by 9.15am. I think someone should host an intervention for me. I bumped into a friend of mine who was attending the same session at 9.30am and we went in together.

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I had never read anything by Ann Cleves (but want to now) and had only read The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (and bought his latest book, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, that morning). He came across as such a lovely guy – so humble and so surprised that people would want to hear him speak about his books. They both were so interesting to listen to and made some really good points about writing about the horrors of life. Chris Cleave said that we all know what the horrors are, and we don’t always have to write about them so graphically – sometimes just referring to what’s happening ‘offstage’ is enough. He said you have to trust your readers to know what you’re talking about…

After the session, we queued up with our books for him to sign. When I got to the front, he shook my hand and thanked me for buying his books. I told him that my copy of The Other Hand had been bought in Dubai and taken to Bali and Nigeria and was finally back with me. He asked me if I’d been to Nigeria and I told him I lived there as a child. He told me he went there once for a week – he said it was fascinating but that he wouldn’t want to live there! I think a lot of people who live there feel like that too! He was really interesting to talk to – and he signed both my books.

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He said he was running a couple of workshops that afternoon, but when I went to see if there were any tickets still available they were sold out.

I had an hour until my next session at 11.30am. My friend and I grabbed a cup of tea before separating for our respective sessions. I bumped into some other friends as well, but on the whole I got the feeling that the Festival was much quieter than in previous years.

The next session I attended was called ’14 Centuries of Arab History’. The author was John McHugo – his two books are A Concise History of the Arabs and Syria: A Recent History. The person moderating the session was Riz Khan, who used to work for the BBC and CNN – apparently he lives in Dubai now. I was disappointed by this session – it could have been so much more interesting than it was. I know that one hour isn’t a very long time, but the session was mostly questions from the audience, a bit like ‘Question Time’, so no topic was covered in any real depth.

My friend and I met up again after that and walked over to the Belgian Beer Cafe for lunch. It wasn’t too hot, so we sat outside and both ordered the fish and chips. She had another session after lunch and I came back home.

I have to say I was disappointed with the Literature Festival this year. Last year I struggled to fit in all the authors I wanted to see but this year I struggled to find anyone I really liked. After speaking to a few other people, I think that was the general consensus.

That afternoon, I had to fight to stay awake while editing the awful Chinese paper, and then I headed to the beach for my evening walk – it was really busy! I was home a little after 7pm and had dinner with my parents.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 46

I woke up on Sunday feeling awful. I’d been out the night before and had way too much champagne! Any plans I’d had of going to the gym in the morning (or even getting ready) went out the window as I got out of bed at 1pm. I spent the day in my pajamas. It took me all day to edit one paper which would have normally taken me an hour. I just couldn’t focus on anything.

Monday was a bit better. I had a session with Pete, sorted out some paperwork at the du shop and then had my piano lesson. I came home after that and worked the rest of the evening.

After the gym on Tuesday, I went to the monthly lunch of the IBWG (International Business Women’s Group) at the Trade Centre Club. On the way there, I realised that I was in one of those moods where I didn’t feel like speaking to anybody. Networking was not going to be easy that day! I got there, picked a number out of the bowl (which indicates which table you sit at) and found my name tag. I said hello to a couple of people I’d met before and had a quick chat, but a few minutes later I found my table and sat down. There were two other people already sitting there so I guess they didn’t feel like networking either! Our lunch was served – I opted for the braised lamb with vegetables.

The talk that day was really interesting. It was all about posture and ergonomic work spaces. Er – if the presenter could see how I worked, she’d have been furious. I work on my bed with my back against the headrest and my legs either straight in front of me or cross-legged. I suppose it’s good that I’m not hunched over my laptop though! She went through consequences of bad posture and some exercises (which I either do as stretches with Pete or in yoga). She was an interesting lady though – and I enjoyed the talk.

After lunch I went to Mercato to pick up some Patchi chocolates and other things that my mum needed in Bombay. My dad was leaving over the weekend and she had a list of things to buy.

I came home after that and did some more work. I’d been swamped for the last two weeks or so, which is great!

It was Diwali on Wednesday, but honestly it felt like any other day. I had a session with Pete which pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day. I was exhausted. After lunch, I worked until the early evening, fighting off the urge to have a nap. At about 6pm, Dad and I did our Diwali puja – which took about fifteen minutes – and that was that. I’d been invited to a friend’s place for the evening but Dad didn’t want to go anywhere so I stayed in with him.

The weather was horrible on Thursday morning. Five minutes of rain in Dubai means five hours of traffic. The whole city comes to a standstill – and apparently so do I. I took one look out the window and decided to stay in and do some work.

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Of course, it had cleared up by the afternoon.

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That evening I met a friend for dinner at Segreto in Madinat Jumeirah. I had initially thought I’d eat something healthy, like grilled fish, but when we got there they had a special truffle menu which included pasta with truffles. We both took one look at that and ordered it. We shared a crab/prawn starter – it wasn’t what we expected but it was OK. The pasta with truffles was delicious. We also had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which was lovely. For dessert, we shared a cheese platter. I really think Segreto is one of the best Italian restaurants in Dubai – the food and service have always been excellent whenever I’ve been there.

After dinner we went to The Agency for a drink and then went to meet some friends at Cave at the Conrad. We had some more wine and at 1am, decided to head home. On the way home one of our friends decided he was hungry and wanted to stop at Burger Fuel. I hadn’t been there in ages and was also feeling a little peckish (our dinner was early – 7.30pm). I ordered a hamburgini with jalapenos – there was no way I could eat a regular burger so the mini one was just fine. I walked home after that and got into bed.

On Friday, I went to the gym in the morning. As I was walking to the Shangri-La at about 11am, I noticed how much cooler the temperature was – that rain the day before really cleared out the last of the humidity. That afternoon Dad and I went to Sakura at the Crowne Plaza for lunch with my uncle, aunt and the kids. The food was good, as usual, but it’s scary the amount of butter they put on the teppan when they’re preparing the food! I went home after lunch and did some work.

On Friday evening, I went to a friend’s birthday drinks at his place in Executive Towers. I didn’t know anybody there but him, but I’d already RSVP’d ‘yes’ and didn’t want to flake. I hate it when people do that to me, so I know how it feels! I stayed for over an hour, met some of his friends and then went to meet some other friends who were at Roberto’s in DIFC. I don’t know what it is about Roberto’s but every time I go there I just want to go to sleep. I start yawning and feel bored in general – it doesn’t matter who I’m with. Even though the bar area was crowded, it had such low energy that we had to leave after one drink.

As soon as we left – literally, as soon as we walked out of the restaurant – we were all in a much better mood! We went to La Cantine at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel and were dancing until 2am. When we left we decided to go to Zaatar w Zeit for some food. I hadn’t eaten dinner and was famished! After eating, I got home at around 3am.

I was home for most of Saturday. Dad left for Bombay and I did a bit of work. There was a gorgeous sunset that evening. I had been invited to Maya at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort for a friend’s engagement drinks. I got there at around 6pm and stayed for a couple of hours. A friend and I decided to have dinner after drinks instead of staying on there and went to Jones the Grocer. I hadn’t been there in ages. I had the pasta with chilli and prawns – which was OK. I thought it would be better. I was home by 10pm.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 42

After a weekend of eating out for almost every meal, I just wanted to stay at home and relax. After a trip to the supermarket and then the gym on Sunday morning, I came home, showered and got into my pajamas. I intended to spend the day bumming around the house. I caught up with some work, caught up with some TV and read my book.

I had a session with Pete on Monday and a piano lesson later that afternoon. I managed to finish my recording of the Chopin prelude I’d been working on:

After my piano lesson I walked to the Radisson Royal and went for a massage at Spa Zen. I’d bought two Cobone vouchers before my trip to Bombay and I needed use them before the end of October. The massage was lovely and I didn’t want it to end!

I woke up feeling a bit fluish on Tuesday morning. Ugh – I really didn’t want to get sick! I went ahead with yoga and then got ready for the monthly IBWG (International Business Women’s Group) lunch at the Trade Centre Club. I’d already paid for it, and I didn’t feel ill enough to cancel. Once again, I met some interesting people – and of the four other people on my table, I’d met three of them before. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be, considering summer is well and truly over now. The presentation was all about effective networking – language, body language, etc. It wasn’t anything I didn’t know before but it served as a good reminder.

Once I got home, I got into my pajamas and did a bit of work. I felt a bit worse by the time the evening came round and thought it would be wise to cancel the trip to Muscat. We were supposed to leave on Thursday morning and I didn’t want to get there and feel even worse.

I felt the same on Wednesday but still went ahead with my training session with Pete. I took it easy the rest of the day and most of Thursday.

I’d been invited to a friend’s place for dinner on Thursday night and I knew it wouldn’t be crazy so I went over with a couple of friends. It was a lovely relaxing evening at South Ridge – five of us spent the evening on her balcony with our sushi and wine and/or champagne, with a view of the Burj Khalifa.

I woke up on Friday feeling much better than the last couple of days. I didn’t have any plans until the evening so I took it easy during the day. I decided I wasn’t going to do any work and spent most of the day reading my book. That evening I met up with a couple of friends at Taste Kitchen in Mercato Mall. I had the spicy tomato juice (yum) and the pasta with prawns, garlic and chilli. It was also very good. The three of us then went to see Legend, the new movie about the Kray twins starring Tom Hardy. I thought it was a great movie, but a bit too long (over 2 hours) and a bit too violent (but that was to be expected). The acting was excellent. I was home soon after midnight.

I woke up on Saturday feeling feverish all over again so I spent most of the day in bed.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 33

I was home all day on Sunday and in the evening went to see the new ‘Mission Impossible’ movie with my parents. It was good – the plot was, of course, totally preposterous but it was entertaining all the same. We had dinner at Wafi Gourmet afterwards, which was good.

On Monday afternoon I had a piano lesson. I hadn’t touched a piano in two months and was looking forward to having my lesson. We went through a couple of things I’d done before I left and then my teacher gave me the music for a new song called ‘Love Me Like You Do’ (from 50 Shades of Grey – which I have neither read nor seen).

On Tuesday I went to the monthly lunch of the International Business Women’s Group at the Trade Centre Club. I’d been to one of their lunches back in March and enjoyed meeting so many different people. Last week, I decided to apply for membership and I got an email in response inviting me to their lunch. It was a much smaller group – there were only five tables of five or six people at each. I suppose, being August, a lot of people are away for the summer. The presentation was about the new laws regarding health insurance in Dubai. Basically, by the end of the summer next year, you need to have health insurance before (re)applying for your residency visa – and this goes for all your employees too.

I had a session with Trevor on Wednesday morning.

We had to take my dad to hospital on Wednesday night and he was admitted for a few days. On Thursday I was home for most of the day and went to visit Dad in the afternoon. Visiting hours were from 4pm to 9pm and Mum and I were there until about 7.30, after he’d had his dinner. I stayed in that night.

We were supposed to have lunch at Yuan at the Atlantis on Friday to celebrate Dad’s birthday but of course we had to cancel that. I called the Atlantis to cancel the table – you would think it would be quite straightforward but it seemed to take forever as I was speaking to someone who could barely speak English and/or was incompetent. When I checked how long the call had lasted, it was almost 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Good grief.

Dad had been moved to a different ward on Friday morning, and Mum and I took a cake for him to cut (but he couldn’t have any of it). Being Friday, the ward was quite busy during visiting hours and Mum gave most of the cake to Dad’s fellow patients, their guests and the nurses.

I had lunch with a friend at Y by Yabani at Citywalk on Saturday. The food was good, but not as good as I remembered it. We had the spicy edamame and sesame seed cucumber salad to start with. My friend also had a miso soup. After that we shared some spicy salmon/tuna rolls, the aubergine miso rolls and the salmon izuzukuri (new style sashimi). After lunch I went home and soon after went to visit Dad at the hospital.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 11

Compared to the previous week, this week was much busier, at least from Tuesday onwards.

I was home all of Sunday, apart from my session with Trevor.

On Monday afternoon I had a massage at the Oberoi. I’d have liked to go to the pool beforehand but it was a windy, sandy day. The last time I’d been there was in January and I asked to have the same therapist but she was away. Instead I had Hazel, who was also very good.

The spa at the Oberoi is different in that there’s no communal changing area with showers and lockers. Each therapy room is its own suite. So if you do use the pool before (or after) your treatment there’s nowhere to change into your swimsuit apart from the small toilet by the pool and there’s nowhere to leave your clothes and other items.

When I was paying for my treatment I decided I’d buy Trevor a gift voucher for a 90-minute massage. I still hadn’t bought him a Christmas present as I just didn’t know what to get! I figured you can’t really go wrong with a day at the pool and a massage. I enquired about couple massages – and the man at the desk told me they do them but it would be a woman giving the woman a massage and a man giving the man a massage. I thought that was weird. If I was having a couple’s massage I wouldn’t want some random guy in the room as well. Would you?? And doesn’t that contravene UAE laws about men/women being undressed in the same room??

I had a really busy Tuesday. I had my regular yoga class at home and then went to the World Trade Centre Club for a networking lunch. While I was at one of the sessions at the Literature Festival last week, I started chatting to the lady sitting next to me. It turned out that she knew a couple of people that I’d been doing some work for here in Dubai – and she told me that she was one of the founders of an organisation in Dubai called the International Business Women’s Group – and that they have a lunch every month for members and prospective members. She asked me to come along and thought I’d find it interesting.

I got there at around 12.15 and found my name tag. I paid for my ticket (AED 190 for non-members) and then had to pick a piece of paper with a number on it out of a glass bowl – that would be my table number. Everyone was very friendly and I met some really interesting women. One of the first women I met was a hypnotherapist – and this stunned me because just the day before I’d been thinking that I should see a hypnotherapist about my issues with stairs/descending. I’m not sure whether I’m over-reacting but I do think it’s getting worse – even stepping onto an empty descending escalator makes my pulse race. I told her what the problem was and she told me I’d need two or three sessions at the most and I’d be OK. Here’s hoping!

I also met a lawyer, a banker, an events coordinator, an explorer (!) and others. I even bumped into a friend of a friend. After about half an hour of mingling and canapes, we were asked to sit at our tables and our food would be brought over. When I reserved my seat for lunch I had to choose between the regular, vegetarian or healthy option meal. The regular option was grilled lamb chops with mint sauce, root vegetables and potatoes. The vegetarian option was open lasagna of Mediterranean vegetables. The healthy option (or Healthy Trendz, as they called it) was chicken breast stuffed with spinach. I went for the healthy choice and it was really delicious – much better than I thought it would be. After we’d finished eating, the guest speaker came on – that day it was Jane Drury, founder of expatwoman.com. She spoke for about 30 minutes – how and why she got started, and what’s in store for her company now. For dessert there was caramel fudge cheese cake and vanilla sauce. I had a few bites but didn’t finish it. I left at around 2.15pm – I was really glad I went and would consider joining the group as a full member.

That evening I met up with a friend for drinks at Calabar. We had a couple of bottles of wine and some food – it was a nice evening and I was home early(ish).

I had my regular session with Trevor on Wednesday and then settled down to do some work for a while. That afternoon I had a doctor’s appointment and then my piano lesson. After my piano lesson I went to Fitness First as one of Trevor’s clients was giving a talk about hormones and weight loss. I was there for about an hour – she talked about a lot of things and I think that if I don’t see results in a month or so, perhaps I should get a few things checked out.

On Thursday I had a friend in town from Mombasa. She was just here for a day in transit from Bombay on her way home. We met at the Dubai Mall for coffee. We ended up going to NOW Cafe on the Lower Ground Floor – she had a sandwich and we both had a cappuccino. Neither were particularly great and we ended up going Tim Horton’s where we shared a French vanilla cappuccino.

After that, my dad joined me at the mall. I’d asked him to come with me to look at laptops – I’d had mine for over three years and wanted to upgrade it. We went to Jacky’s but I didn’t really like anything there. I think the salesman was also a bit irritating which didn’t help. So we went to Jumbo Electronics and I settled on an HP Pavilion. As we stood in the queue to pay, my dad took out his wallet. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked him. ‘I thought you might need me to pay,’ he replied. I told him I was paying for my laptop myself. ‘If I’d known you were paying I’d have gotten something for myself too,’ he said. ‘What did you want?’ I asked. He said he wanted a new iPad – so I told him I’d buy him one. I think he was shocked. He decided on the iPad Air 2 and I paid for it. He was so happy! ‘Nobody buys me things,’ he said when we got home. And thinking about it, I suppose it’s true…

It was after 6pm by the time we got home and I was meeting a friend for sundowners and dinner at the Shangri-La. I freshened up and changed and went over to the Shangri-La. We had a couple of drinks at Ikandy to start with and then went to Don Alfonso for dinner. In Dubai, I usually find that restaurants serve great food but the service can be so terrible it sometimes ruins your meal altogether – but I have to say that at Don Alfonso both the food and service were excellent.

It wasn’t full at all when we got there – only two other tables were occupied. The manager helped us decide what to order as we just couldn’t choose from all the delicious things on there. (I have to admit I pointed out a couple of spelling mistakes to him I’d seen on the menu.) In the end, he suggested we share the lobster skewers for our starters and then each have our own main course. I ordered the John Dory ‘acqua pazza’ and my friend couldn’t decide between the gnocchi with mushrooms or the black squid ink and scallop risotto. She eventually decided on the latter and we also ordered a bottle of wine.

The lobster skewers were amazing. I wish I’d taken a photo. And considering he’d split the portion between the two of us, there was still a good amount on each of our plates. After we’d finished, they cleared our plates and a few minutes later he brought us a portion of the gnocchi with mushrooms split into two bowls – on the house. That was excellent too. And after that we had our main course. I’m glad I had the fish as it wasn’t too heavy – and was so tasty.

It tasted better than it looks - and I didn't eat the bread

It tasted better than it looks – and I didn’t eat the bread

The risotto was presented very colourfully and my friend said it was delicious. I was really full after all that food but we ended up sharing a tiramisu and then the manager brought us a tray of complimentary bite-size desserts. At this rate I would have to be rolled home.

What I liked about the place was that the staff were friendly, we didn’t have to tell them to clear the table after every course (which happens a lot here – waiters will bring more and more stuff to your table without taking away the empties), they didn’t serve each course as soon as the previous one was done so they weren’t trying to rush us through our meal, and the restrooms were at the back of the restaurant (whereas with the other restaurants at the Shangri-La you have to go up or down a level to get to the restrooms).

Which made me wonder why the restaurant was so empty. While we were there, two or three other parties came in for dinner but still more than half the restaurant was empty.

When I asked for the bill, I told the manager that I had an Entertainer voucher. He told me to save the voucher but that they’d still give us one of the main courses on the house. So we had the gnocchi and one of the main courses free! What an unexpected surprise! The manager also brought me an Essence form to fill in – the Essence card gives you 20% off in all the restaurants and bars at the Shangri-La. So I’ll definitely be going back.

On Friday I went to Taste of Dubai with some friends. We decided we’d go during the day as we thought it would be less crowded than going in the evening. This year we bought the VIP tickets – which included access to the VIP bar and lounge, three dishes from any of the participating restaurants and two drinks from the VIP bar.

We got there at about 1.30 and walked around, checking out the restaurants.

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It was already crowded by this time. The selection of restaurants this year was disappointing, I have to say: PF Chang, Katsuya, The Cheesecake Factory, Noodle House, Shang Palace, The Act. I could have just gone to the Dubai Mall or the Shangri-La and eaten there! Where was Nobu? Where was Hakkasan? We had some dynamite shrimp at PF Chang and went to claim our free drinks.

The queue at the VIP bar was ridiculous and unmoving. We eventually realised it was because they weren’t serving alcohol between 12 and 2pm because of Friday prayers. When we were finally served, we each ordered a glass of wine only to be given a glass a little larger than a thimble. I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput. And the wine tasted like sh…ardonnay.

We went out to the VIP garden area trying to find somewhere to sit and ended up standing in the shade under a tree. It was really hot that day – the first hot day after the series of sandstorms we’d had. While standing there, sipping our awful wine we noticed that there was another VIP section right next to us, which was for ‘invitation only’ guests. And then… about 20 feet away from us, UB40 got onto a tiny stage and started performing. What??? I had no idea they were even going to be there. And I’m pretty sure that nobody else outside the VIP area knew they were there or could even hear them. I ran into them in Ibiza last summer while I was staying at The Hard Rock Hotel where they were performing so to see them again here in Dubai was just bizarre!

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They sang about six songs: Homely Girl, Kingston Town, a few I didn’t recognise, and of course Red Red Wine. I also bumped into some other friends of mine, so we hung out with them for a bit and had our second free drink. After we finished our drinks, we decided to try some other food. We got the spicy tuna with crispy rice and chicken salad from Katsuya and then walked around trying to decide what to have. We had some mini desserts from a new company called Savarin – they were yummy and so refreshing! Now the place was absolutely heaving and I would have been happy to leave.

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We had a couple of dishes from The Act – both of which were excellent: the beef anticucho and the ceviche. We even considered going there for dinner the following weekend. By this time it was 4.30pm, walking anywhere involved fighting your way through a crowd and I’d had enough. We went back to the VIP bar, found a table and had some Prosecco. At 5pm, we called it a day and headed home.

I went home and got into my pajamas. I didn’t realise how tired I was until it was 10pm and I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I’d been working all evening and still hadn’t had a chance to open my new laptop!

I spent all of Saturday at home too – working mostly, eyeing my unopened laptop on my desk. It would just have to wait!

And that was my week!

I love my life.

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