Watch your head!

We went back to St Ermin’s today to enjoy afternoon tea again and, in the process managed to avoid the hail that pelted London for a about 10 minutes.  That was lucky!  We could hear it from where we were seated in the Tea Lounge.  We were in a corner furthest from the windows and doors but we could still hear the noise.  I don’t know if I’ve ever written about it but I have this weird preoccupation about precipitation.  I hear rain, I need to see it.  I see snow coming down and I have to run to the nearest window to see the flakes floating down (yep, I’m very odd like that).  But this afternoon, I was well-behaved and stayed in my seat.

St Ermin's Tea Lounge

The afternoon tea was as lovely as I remembered.  This was the second time we’d had afternoon tea in St Ermin’s so we knew that we could change the savoury and sweet elements of the afternoon tea.  We chose our tea, asked for our favourites and waited.  If you do want to enjoy afternoon tea in beautiful surroundings, without having to pay through the nose and having to adhere to strict dress codes (obviously common sense dictates that you do dress accordingly), try afternoon tea at St Ermin’s.  The food is lovely, the teas are amazing, but most importantly, the staff are friendly and oh-s0-very-helpful!

Afternoon Tea at St Ermin's

Anyway, after the lovely food and the even more delicious tea, my klutzy self chose to make an utterly flamboyant reappearance!  As we were walking from the Tea Lounge to go and pay the St Ermin’s bees a visit (the hotel keeps bees and gives the honey produced in cute little pots to their guests), I managed to miss a step and fall on my left arm and smash my head on a wall with a loud bang.  I’m sure it was caught on St Ermin’s CCTV, so at least my embarrassment would only be witnessed by whoever was manning the security cameras and there wasn’t anyone else except Alan to witness my epic fall from grace!  I say epic because it felt like the worst expression of klutziness in my personal history, ever.  Everything felt like it was happening in slow motion but at the same time it felt like it was over in a flash and I was left to enjoy the starts after my head hit the wall.  Even Alan said he thought it happened so slowly that he thought I would be able to stop my head from hitting the wall.  Evidently, I didn’t because, even to me, the sound of my head making contact with the wall was very loud.  I am only thankful that it wasn’t a concrete wall or it had some sort of wooden panelling.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting at home with only a sore head and bruised arms and a dreadfully damaged ego.  I am so thankful for small mercies!

Yikes

On the way home, because it was Chinese New Year, I read my Chinese horoscope (I’m not necessarily superstitions but I do find it entertaining reading) and it says, that health-wise, for Dragons “Due to the existence of the inauspicious star Tiane (天厄), you will hardly maintain the stable health in 2017. To be simple, you may easily have minor illness or disaster, and suffer lingering cold or fever…” – lingering cold, check; minor disaster, fall and bang on the head today, check!  I’ve never had my horoscope, Chinese or otherwise, be this spookily accurate!

My head is still sore, and the left side of my body feels bruised.  I can’t seem to straighten my left arm but I think this is because my arm took the brunt of the impact of my fall.  I’ve had people say that I need to get checked out by a medical professional just to make sure I’m okay.  I will…if anything completely out of the ordinary happens.  But I am just mostly bruised so I don’t think I need to see a doctor…but I am keeping an open mind and am listening to my body.

Be careful everyone!  Watch where you step!

Steps

Learning mac-speak!

So I bought my MacBook nearly 3 years ago now but I’ve only just actually started exploring what it can actually do.  Why buy such an expensive piece of kit?  I honestly don’t know.  I blame Alan as he introduced me to the iPhone (I did have a first generation iPod Touch but I looked at that as my mp3 player and game console all in one instead of a communication device really), and my romance with Apple products began (yes, I’m one of those geeks that can happily spend time at the Apple Store moving from one table to another playing with the new gadgets and looking – very longingly – at the new iterations of the MacBook Air).  I used to be a PC person, and I still am for work, but at home, I am mostly a Mac person (although, that being said, I do have a Samsung Galaxy S2 tablet, which I love, really!  That being said, however, if anyone offered me a new iPad Pro, I’d give up my android tablet in a heartbeat!♥).

I’ve just learned to add text to a picture from my Photos folder (yay me and Google!).  I found loads of instructions on the internet but the Mac tips on Here’s The Thing by Ben Patterson is the easiest to follow.  Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to take a look.

And here’s my newly minted header image!  Ha!

cropped-img_0977.jpg

Of mundane things

It’s the weekend!  Hurrah!

I’ve been suffering lately.  I went to see the doctor recently to ask whether I needed to have my hands looked at again.  I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.  It doesn’t help that I make my living working on the computer and keyboard.  After an exam (it wasn’t just my hands and wrists bothering me really but I thought the muscle pains were a result of my body readjusting itself to deal with the pain in my hands), the doctor said he didn’t think it was a simple case of the CTS flaring up again.  So he’s sent me off for tests.  We shall find out what this stupid thing is when my doctor comes back from his 2-week vacation.

I am back in business – I have an iPhone again (thank you Alan!♥) and (stupidly) it feels like all is right in my world again.  It’s funny how I felt so disconnected and incomplete without the phone.  I suppose it was the convenience of using the iPhone that I got used to, how seamlessly it connected to my phone, my camera, my laptop and everything else.  I didn’t see myself as a person who needed a lot of tech.  I used to say that all I needed was a phone that could make phone calls and send text messages.  I remember resisting getting on the iPhone bandwagon and sticking staunchly to my little Nokia 6300 when I moved to the UK.  It could take photos and do everything else I needed it to do.  I was happy.  Then I was introduced to the weird, wonderful and oh-so-user friendly world of the iPhone (I do love you Steve Jobs♥).  I was hooked and I never really looked back after that.  Imagine having everything fit in the palm of your hands, have everything you need to communicate with the world – emails, text messages, phone calls, social media, music, entertainment (aka games), calendar and planner, and the internet in one little gadget.  After I didn’t have the phone (because I stupidly lost it on the train), I felt completely lost and very disconnected – despite the fact that I had a replacement phone that could do what the iPhone could do (I’m sorry Microsoft, your Windows 10 phone is great, maybe even amazing, but it just felt slow and clunky when I was using it).  Maybe it’s just that I became a Mac person instead of a PC person.  Alan says it’s like taking the rail replacement service when the train services are buggered – it gets you to where you want to go, but the journey isn’t necessarily enjoyable.

I have, however, taken steps to make sure that I do not lose my phone again.  My phone will now be connected to my bag at all times.  I bought a case that allows a lanyard to be attached to it.  My bag has a little do-hickey that I can secure the lanyard to, to make sure that I never lose my phone (I know, never say never, but in this case, I will!).  So even if I put the phone down on the train, when I stand up, the phone will come with!  Ingenious really.

wp-1470520728210.jpgIn other news, I made lamb biryani from scratch tonight.  For the very first time.  And (yes, cooking faux pas coming up), it was GOOD!  Get me, eh?  Frozen lamb chunks from the freezer section (bargain!), herbs, spices, rice and a stock pot, et voila!  Comfort cooking and comfort eating heaven!  I got the recipe from Alan, who got the recipe from The Telegraph.  As with all my successful attempts at trying to cook food I’ve only ever tried in the UK, I wonder if I can replicate the feat in Manila when I visit the folks.  I think my dad would like it.

wp-1470518155353.jpg

Save

Pretty Harwich Town

I am guilty of complaining about the little seaside town that I live in.  I find myself complaining about how quiet it is, how dead it can be during the weekend and how annoying the dog owners are.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love dogs and think they make the most amazing pets BUT there seem to be a lot of irresponsible dog owners.  If you intend to walk your dog and you allow your dog to relieve themselves, PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG!  Right.  That’s me off my soapbox.  This is, after all, a post about the unappreciated good things about Harwich, Essex, England.

2012-06-04 17.00.39Harwich is at the very northern end of the Mayflower Line.  It boasts a lot of historical snippets dating back to Roman Times.  There are a lot of notable names connected to Harwich: Captain Christopher Jones, the captain of the Mayflower, lives in Harwich; Samuel Pepys, the famous English diarist, was a member of Parliament for Harwich, Captain Charles Fryatt, who is a First World War lived and was buried in Harwich; and my personal fun fact favourite, apparently, Clive Owen lives near Harwich (haha!).

Captain Christopher Jones' houseThere are a suprising number of little historical corners in Harwich: Captain Christopher Jones’s house (apart from being captain of the Mayflower, he was a quarter owner of the Mayflower as well); several notable lighthouses dating back to the early 1800s, as Harwich was a notable port and it was where the Royal Navy Dockyard was established; the Harwich Redoubt Fort, which was a circular stronghold built to defend England against the Napoleonic invasion; it also has the old Electric Palace, one of England’s oldest purpose-built cinemas still surviving and functional.

Redoubt FortI’ve always loved my little seaside town, my home away from home.  I like to say it’s where I properly grew up, because I learned to live and depend on myself and not my parents.  I love the little interesting nooks and crannies of this little town and it breaks my heart that some of the people who live here don’t seem to care enough about their town to keep it pretty and clean.  We all have to have pride of place, to be proud of our quaint little town because it is significant and important historically.

Harwich sunsets

Upwards and onwards

In 1666 a great fire ravaged London for 3 days, devouring 13,200 houses, 87 parishes, St Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the city’s government.  At the time, there were about 80,000 people living in London and it is estimated that 70,000 of that total number lost their homes.  The fire, which apparently started on Pudding Lane, in the bakery of Thomas Farriner, very nearly reached Whitehall Palace where the current monarch of the day, Charles II, was in residence.  Surprisingly, only 6 deaths were verified.

On the corner of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill stands a monument to the Great Fire commissioned by Charles II.  Identified simply as “The Monument,” it is described as a fluted Doric column and stands 202 feet from where the Great Fire started.  Until very recently, I didn’t know that you could go up the Monument.

The Monument

On a bright, breezy and sunny Saturday morning, Alan and I went up the Monument.  I approached this challenge with trepidation.  I am not the fittest of people and have been known to huff and puff on some days when brisk walking from my flat into town to get groceries.  I’d much rather read than walk these days.  So this activity worried me a lot.  I was afraid I’d embarrass Alan by wanting to stop in the middle of the trek up to the top of the Monument.

Up we go!

So we paid our £4 for the privilege (it’s £4 for each adult to go up but we had a 2 for 1 voucher, so it was only £4 for the 2 of us) and up we went.  There are 311 steps.  Yes.  Three.  HUNDRED.  Eleven.  Steps.  At first, I wondered why there were hooky bits along the banister.  Then I figured, about a third of the way up that you could use those hooky bits to pull yourself up the steps!  There were these lovely little alcoves as you went up and boy, was I ever grateful they were there!  You could sit down, catch your breath while not get in the way of the other people, more fit than you who trudged up that blessed spiral staircase!

Look down!

But somehow, despite the huffing and puffing, screaming leg and thigh muscles, thinking in my head that I was going to die soon, I made it up the top!  I had to catch my breath first.  But after that, after I recovered from the jelly legs and shortness of breath and pounding heart, I looked around and marveled at the view.  It was glorious!

Look down!

The mesh cage at the top was added mid-19th century to prevent any other persons from leaping off the the platform.  I think it was a good decision!

IMG_2611

You get to see the Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge and the Thames

An unobstructed view of the Shard.

The Shard

The BT Tower.

The BT Tower

The The Cheese Grater (the Leaden Hall building), the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) and the Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street) and the Lloyds Building.

London skyline

So, if you want a challenge, a work out with a reward of a brilliant view of London, go up the Monument.  Despite the palpitations, the hyperventilation, the jelly legs, the view is spectacular and very definitely worth it!

Monument to the Great Fire

Depth of field

I’ve always loved taking snapshots.  It’s always a joy when you point and shoot a camera and you capture the nicest scenes.  Lately though, I’ve been trying to take photos properly.  I’ve been learning techniques on a bridge camera, not quite a DSLR but a good enough one to practice the photography techniques on.  Mind you, I’ve got a long way to go because I constantly confuse what the AV mode does (something about the aperture) and TV mode (which controls the shutter speed).

One of the exercises was depth of field.  Now I can’t, for the life of me, explain properly what depth of field is so I’ll use Cambridge In Colour’s definition: “[It] refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp. It varies depending on camera type, aperture and focusing distance, although print size and viewing distance can also influence our perception of depth of field.”

I think I managed to show depth of field successfully on the rose and everything else in the distance is blurry.

The Rose and the Treadwheel Crane

I love photographing birds and I seem to have a gazillion photos of seagulls now, courtesy of Harwich Pier.  I do love this photo of this huge seagull with the Port of Felixstowe in the background.

Seagull

More snapshots to come though.  I’ve got a lot to learn!

The Art of the Brick

Do you know how painful it is to step on a LEGO™ brick?  It’s painful.  No.  Actually, it’s very painful.  And I know.  Because I’ve done it.  So many times.  Of course this was during my childhood.

It’s funny how a small, plastic brick could transport you to worlds you’d never known, make you more creative than you had ever imagined you’d be and entertain you to no end.  For hours.  LEGO™ has never lost its magic for me.  Anything connected to it excites me, makes smile, makes me giggle.  Because it brings me back to the carefree days of my childhood.  If you think about it, LEGO™ was the most amazing toy, if you were fortunate enough to have a set.

Nathan Sawaya is a New York-based artist who creates three-dimensional sculptures made completely out of LEGO™ bricks.  He has a touring exhibition called The Art of the Brick featuring his most popular LEGO™ creations.  I had the good fortune to be able to go and see all his sculptures.  And it was amazing!

The Art of the Brick

The taking of photographs was highly encouraged so take photographs I did!  I can’t really say which one was my favourite although his 3D version of Gustav Klimt’s Der Küss is a forerunner!  I’ve posted all the photos that I have on my Pinterest board, so feel free to have a look-see!

Gustav Klimt's The Kiss by Nathan Sawaya