Category Archives: being better

One in, one out

I don’t usually make resolutions. I am very good at failing to do the smallest thing on a daily basis and beating myself up about it (eating more veg, doing more exercise etc etc) so randomly choosing the start of the year to come up with a list of stuff that I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life seems silly. 

However. I have been recently kinda driving myself mad with the amount of stuff I own and similarly the amount of stuff I covet. In the last few months alone, I convinced myself I couldn’t live without a pair of  flat-ish, smart-ish, black ankle boots and that I couldn’t possibly make do with what I’ve got already. This is some of my collection of ankle boots (I thought it was all of them but then found three more pairs, and I was too embarrassed to share). There are five pairs of black boots in there (and another two that didn’t appear in that pic), two of which are new within the last two months. Seriously. Why? 

And it’s not just shoes which, if you know me, know is likely. I have 11 striped Breton tops, countless black tops from uniqlo, six pairs of black jeans. 

And here’s the handbags. 

And that’s just the clothing. When I was cleaning out the kitchen for the big refurb, I discovered three bags of red lentils, two bags of rice and I can’t even talk about the herbs and spices (but here’s a pic of some of the bottles I ended up throwing out) 

And then there’s the cutlery collection we’ve amassed. I could host a dinner party for 38 people and still have cutlery leftover. 

So my only resolution for 2017 and life is to stop buying stuff. I literally don’t need anything. And if I do get the urge to get the latest must have shiny thing, I can only get it if I sell something I already own to the same value. Which means, I’ll be doing a lot of car boots and ebaying as the year goes on, probably. But right now, I cannot think of one thing I simply must have. There’s lots I want to achieve. But nothing I want. As a natural consumer, it’s bloody liberating to not be desirous of stuff, I feel lighter already (emotionally, physically I have eaten all the cheese and may never move again). 

What are your resolutions? Let me know, inspire me! 

Advertisements

What I think about when I think about being brown

I mentioned in my last post about how this referendum is making me feel like the country  I was born and brought up in doesn’t really want me here.

But that got me to thinking about all the brilliant things about being an immigrant (or child of) and I thought, hell, let’s write a list. Because I’m bloody pleased that I’m a child of immigrants, and I’m (often – not always) bloody proud to call myself British and here are some reasons why the combination of my two cultures is actually a really good thing.

Something to rebel against

I did not have a bad childhood. Far from it, I had a great childhood. But I can only say that now with the benefits of hindsight. Ooh, I was a nightmare child. I mean, probably no worse than most teenagers, but I always felt the need to push against my heritage by way of rebellion, from wearing Doc Martens with saris to becoming vegetarian just to be stubborn (I get that my people generally are vegetarian what with the holy cow and all but the first gen Lankan contingent were committed meat eaters so being a vegetarian did not make them think I was pious and worthy and instead, it simply highlighted my brattishness). Also, weird shit like dressing me up in a sari and inviting all the locals over to gawp at me when I started my period (not even lying – see photo below) didn’t help me feel like being an immigrant was something to enjoy. My white friends just got given a box of feminine hygiene products and left to get on with it – I had a priest, pouring milk over my head, then getting dressed up like a 10 year old child bride in a sari with (fake) diamonds dripping off me and all of the Lankans in the extended family come over to watch the spectacle of me bleeding. Where are they now, eh? Maybe I should revisit this fun time once a month – they can watch me yell at the husband, cry and binge watch TV whilst eating all the Minstrels, I’m sure I could do that in a sari too.

IMAG5275 (1)
So this is me, aged 10 with my ma and pa, on the day they dressed me up as a little bride to celebrate my monthly chum. I am not sure why I’m green, when my folks are definitely brown. Let’s go with embarrassment?

So yeah, whilst I love the mad insane lot of them, being a child of immigrants gave me something to rebel against that helped me develop my personality (I have maintained the brattish behaviour throughout my life) when actually, all things considered, I had a very lovely childhood (and I wish I’d appreciated it more then).

(Swearing in)many languages. 

My mum likes to tell a story about the time when I was in a Sri Lankan shop with her best mate who told me to put something down so I called her a litany of swearwords in Tamil. I was 35. Not really, I was like 10. Possibly not dressed like above (more likely to be in some sort of batwing and legwarmer – it was the 80s, after all. Admittedly I still love a batwing).

Oh, they laughed and were mortified all at the same time. Mortified because the only reason I’d know such filthy language was because my mum had used them on me in times of ultimate brattery. Your fault, mother. But in all honesty, more than swearing, I love the Tinglish of my people – you get them in a room and the words flow in all the languages and make a beautiful cacophony of sounds. It’s just great to be able to understand go to India or Sri Lanka or Wembley or Tooting and understand  people talking around you (not all the people, obviously, there’s a lot of languages there)

A naturally built in community

So I have many communities. Friends, colleagues, the people you see when you get the same train every day, I would say the gym/yoga/running club but that’d be a lie. But you get the drift. But what  I love/loathe more than anything is being able to spot a Sri Lankan Tamil at 100 paces. We have a ‘look’ you see. Depending on who I’m with (mostly my dad, really) you’ll then get the whole ‘which village are you from’ conversation – and invariably, you’ll find out that their mother’s second cousin, twice removed’s husband’s sister’s dog was walked by your cousin’s second wife’s sister’s neighbour. And you’ll be like, whoa, small world. But outside of those almost family members, there’s always all the actual aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins as well as the family by heritage (mum and dad’s friends mostly) who turn up to the opening of an envelope. They’re ace. Annoying as all sin, but ace to know they’re there. It’s difficult to be alone when you’ve got a whole race that could potentially have walked your grandparent’s dog (not a euphemism) back in the home lands.

IMAG4624
Some of my fam making merry and a couple pretending not to know us. We’re that cool.

F(orce)feed Me

I have no idea if this is because they didn’t have much back in the home country (I don’t know that this is true for I’ve been force fed there too), but fuck me, we love to feed people. I get anxious if someone just pops in for a visit if I don’t at least have a bag of Doritos to forcefeed down their throats. Honestly, there’s a generosity of feeding that I blame entirely for my inability to fit my fat ass into anything gorgeous and ethereal and elegant, and instead has given me the delightful dumpy figure I endure today. But in all seriousness, I love that I can pop in to my cousin’s to drop off a bowl and be there hours later, eating all the mutton rolls – it shows such generosity of spirit (and food) and makes you feel part of a family. It’s also considered rude to visit someone without eating something. Honestly, I’m just realising why I’m fat.

mutton rolls
Mutton rolls, fish patties. Actually licking the screen right now.

Saris and shalwars

So as I’ve mentioned (once or twice) I am short and rotund. It’s OK, one day I’ll come to terms with this. But the best thing about that is saris specifically are made for short rotund people like me – you get a blouse made to measure to your specific requirements and then acres of beautiful fabric, folded and draped over your womanly curves to make you look as though you have actual womanly curves rather than gigantic sofa cushions stuffed in clingfilm (thanks skinny jeans and lying magazines). Similarly – having a day where you just want to eat all the food and nap on the sofa – throw on a shalwar kameez. Drawstring pants and baggy tops can still look elegant if a cousin pops over to drop something off/get fed till they explode. And being a child of immigrants means that you’ve got all those outfit choices at the back of your wardrobe along with all the clothes of your adopted country too. It’s superficial, sure, but it makes me happy.

wedding
See? Womanly curves, not lumpy lardy bits (sorry about insane face – whodathunk I was excited about getting hitched?)

 

The opportunities

I should probably say here that had I been born and brought up in Sri Lanka, I may be a step closer to the ‘castle/sprog/Indian version of Dior’ dream I had at 11. But having known my parents for like 40 years now, I don’t know that would be strictly true, but it might have been. I may have been less brattish after all. I grew up here, I got educated, I went to university, I lived on my own, I met my own husband (rather than one being chosen for me). I never felt like the world wasn’t mine for the taking – everything was available to me. Sure, I get that some people don’t have that, but going back to my first point, part of my rebellion was to ensure that I could go out and grab the world, and I never felt like I should be held back (and god help anyone who tried to).

 

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised that not much is simply down to the fact that my folks moved here in the 60s and are brown. These things: generosity of spirit, community, support, multiculturalism, saris; are there for the taking for anyone at all – we’re one big melting pot of cultures and classes and that’s a bloody brilliant thing in my book. But some people don’t like it. And that makes me sad. So my request for all my tens of followers is that you go out and learn something about your own culture or one you want to be part of and you’ll soon see, that we’re all more similar than you think.

So this is (not quite) 40…

I think I’ve done spectacularly well at not falling apart at the approach of 40 but it is now just a week away and I’m starting to panic. I really do feel I should have some sort of pre-40 bucket list but with only a week to go so it’s unlikely that I’m going to find myself in Fiji and snorkelling with dolphins or skydiving in Outer Mongolia. And to be honest, as a terrible swimmer and with a pathological inability to do anything that’s even a little bit risky, those things wouldn’t be going on my bucket list anyway. Going to Fiji and sitting on a beach – that one’s definitely on the list.

It does however seem appropriate to mark this birthday as it’s a milestone, even if I did celebrate it two years ago (thanks Nat!) These are all things about me (weird huh?) but obviously, things like spending time with friends, family, loved ones feature high on this list. But that’s not a pre-40 thing, that’s a thing I will do for the rest of my days.

Decorate a cake well. I love to bake, you may have noticed. But I cannot decorate a cake for love nor money. I don’t have the patience or the skill. But, you know what, I am going to do it, goddamnit and it’s going to look amazing. I’d love to hear your tips for doing this, other than practice practice practice.  I’m looking for cheats.

This cake is by the incredible www.fondantfox.com who make stunning cakes. I would like to make something that looked half as good as this.
This cake is by the incredible http://www.fondantfox.com who make stunning cakes. I would like to make something that looked half as good as this.

Use my morning hours. I wake early, it is my superpower. But I often wake early and then do nothing till the wino wakes up so I’m going to take up something which makes use of the hours that I’m awake. Maybe decorating cakes. But more likely to do <gasp> sport of some variety.

Stop looking like a reject from a 1990s boyband. I have been sporting an asymmetric hair do for a few months now, it’s one of my go-to dos when I’m feeling blue (poetry, right there) But I’m also rubbish at hair maintenance and so as the do grows out (it’s quite short), it starts to look more and more like I am stuck in 1994 and a boy. It is not a good look. So I am off to see the lovely Tom and get him to reinvigorate my hair into something that isn’t ridiculous. And whilst I’m there, I’m probably going to get it coloured, for shits and giggles. Because why not.

Picture this do on a brown lady. That's me right now.
Picture this lovely Ryan Gosling do on a brown lady with black hair. That’s me right now.

Spend more time with my Nikon DSLR and its many lenses. God, I love my Nikon. But I seem to only take my Nikon on lovely holidays with me and never hang out in London town with it. So I’m going to go and practice what I learned two years ago on the amazing London Photography School course I did and make a pact with myself to use it much more regularly. Which may also involve buying a handbag that looks good and can fit all its many lenses. Anything for a new handbag.

IMG_20150121_230909

Start plotting out my novel. We all want to write one, right? I have always wanted to write one anyway. So that’s on the list for the next few weeks, get a start on it and then aim to finish it before my 50th birthday bucket list kicks in.

Get a birthday book thingie. I am literally the most terrible person for forgetting birthdays and god bless Facebook for the reminders, but I think I’m now of an age when I should be posting cards to people I don’t see, not posting inane messages on their virtual walls. To be fair, this is just a life thing rather than a pre-40 thing but let’s see if I can be a proper grown up before I hit 40. That’d be a rare treat.

Any other suggestions for what I can achieve in the next few weeks? The only pre-requisites are not life threatening nor expensive and that’ll make me feel as though I’ve achieved something! Woo!

Im-almost-40-ecard

Green fingers and mountain goats

I’m not particularly outdoorsy. One of Marcel’s favourite stories about me was a time when we were in the Peaks with some friends, who took us off track (they’re climbers and do this regularly) and it had been raining and it was squelchy underfoot and after about an hour of pretending I was OK, I actually stamped my foot, started crying (a little) and stated ‘I AM NOT A MOUNTAIN GOAT’. We made our way back to the car fairly shortly after this and I’m pretty sure we’ve not been back since.

My non-outdoorsy-ness stretches into doing the gardening. I blame early life interactions with insects for making me a little jumpy when anything buzzes too near me or scuttles across the floor as though it’s coming straight for me. The wino loves doing the gardening, I’m quite happy sitting in the garden, with a glass of something chilled, close to a handful of citronella candles, and letting him get on with it. I do however, get regular urges to grow my own veg and have chickens and stuff so I figured it was about time to see if I’ve actually got any gardening ability at all. Watch out, I’ll be climbing Everest in the height of winter at this rate.

So this weekend, we decided to go on an impromptu road trip and found ourselves in the lovely little village (town?) of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the heart of the Cotswolds. And in Moreton-in-Marsh, we spent a lot of time antiquing and in this amazing little shop called Jon Fox Antiques, we found a beautiful old steel bath. We’ve been looking for one of these for some time – I’ve been wanting a herb garden in a bath tub for about 20 years. It wasn’t too ridiculously overpriced so we bought it.

I should probably explain at this point that we bought this house from my parents, who lived here for 13 years and have moved somewhere smaller and easier to manage. The garden was one of the big selling points – our previous flat was a one-bed on the first floor so the thought of having more space and a garden was very appealing. And we couldn’t afford to live where we wanted to live (bloody London) so we chose garden/space over location. Whether that was the right idea is another blog post for another time… I mean, it is a bloody lovely space.

The garden The house from the end of the garden Some of the overgrown borders

But the garden – Mum had a gardener who came round a couple of times a month to manage the place and when they were here, it was lovely if a little old person-y (wavy floral beds, rose bushes, clematis, you know the drill). And a gigantic lawn. Marcel wanted to garden, so we cancelled the gardener, and then with life being a little insane, it all got a bit overgrown very quickly. And then it becomes a huge chore. And no one wants to undertake huge chores. So all in all, it’s been a bit of a nightmare.

On Monday, we (and half of the rest of the UK) popped to B&Q bright and early and bought compost, herb seedlings and a few other gardening bits. I left Marcel to tackle the ankle height lawn (we haven’t mowed since probably last September, we are very lazy) and to weed the beds (because that’s where bugs lie) and I set about creating a herb and vegetable pot garden on the hugely ugly crazy paving patio.

IMAG1776 IMAG1773 All potted up

So, anyway, the purpose of this post is that I’ve decided to man the fuck up and tackle the garden (with Marcel obvs, I’m highly unlikely to venture into creating compost like my darling husband). It’s likely to be a slow process – to be honest, I almost quit on Monday, about 25 minutes in to trimming the clematis, when I saw a type of spider I’ve never seen before and it scared the bejesus out of me so this may not be a long-term manning the fuck up. But right now, we’ve tidied up a small bit of the border, we’ve got beetroot, rocket, kale and a lot of herbs growing and you never know, if it all works, this may be a new thing for me. I have basically retired.

Knowing me, I’ll get overexcited and post photos of sprouting seeds on Instagram, so if you really care, feel free to pop over there and check it out! Otherwise, watch out, I may become a gardening bore (provided the insects don’t prove too much).

Any gardening tips for insectphobic novices? Would love advice!

Mum’s spicy Sri Lankan** flu fixing* elixir

I’m sick. Proper sniffly, fevery, sweaty, flu-y ill. I’ve been trying to pretend it’s not happening but last night, I was in bed by 7.15 and with a not unimpressive four blankets over me and I was still cold. I’m feeling very sorry for myself and like most people I revert back to wanting my mum when I’m sick. And yes, I’m aware I’m in my last year of my 30s.

A selection of the badly coordinated blankets I was covered in last night (and will continue to wear all day today)

So whilst I was shivering under four blankets and unable to sleep last night, I gots to thinking about this drink my mum used to make for me when I was ill as a child – like a Sri Lankan version of honey, lemon and ginger but spicy and hot and so very comforting.

In my fevered haze, I was convinced I’d worked out the recipe but at 3am, it was a little rude to phone her and ask. To be honest, she should have been aware I was ill and been at my side to mop my fevered brow, right? So maybe she deserved a 3am call but I don’t think she would have been that impressed!

So this elixir that I’ve made this morning is called koodineer (I have probably spelled that completely wrong so good luck googling) and is a very simple roasted spice mix, steeped in hot water and with sugar added to taste. It’s best made fresh each time rather than trying to make a potful and reheating so the ingredients below are for a cup full. It is perfect on these wintery days too, not just when you’re sick. Honestly, nothing is going to make me feel better today than this.

 Mum’s spicy Sri Lankan flu fixing elixir 

koodineer ingredients

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds (I don’t have any so I’m going to risk it with the powdered variety which I’ll add at the end)
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • Half a stick of cinnamon
  • About a centimetre of fresh ginger, sliced into small matchsticks
  • 200ml water
  • Sugar/honey to taste

Take all the dry ingredients into a small frying pan and put over a low heat until they start to release their aromas. Move the still warm spices into a small saucepan and top with water – bring this to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat. Strain into your favourite mug, add sugar or honey to taste, get under a blanket, Netflix on and enjoy your flu fixer.

 *I should probably put a disclaimer in here that it won’t actually cure your flu. Sorry about that.

*Also this may not be a Sri Lankan recipe but my mum’s Sri Lankan and she’s the only one who has ever made it for me, so in my mind it’s Sri Lankan. Don’t argue, OK? I’m ill and liable to cry.