Sunday, 27 November 2011

A story by my grandfather

My grandfather is a great story teller, mostly because he's had a pretty interesting life, and he's had a good memory to remember some great stories. Whilst searching for some Doris Day songs (from the film Glass Bottom Boat), I remembered that there's a particular tale of mistranslation that he told me once. I decided to google the expression, and lo and behold, I found his story in an Armenian forum! It seems to be told by someone from Portugal, so I wonder if the tale has simply just travelled...

For all of you:

When TV didn't exist yet, in the glorious age of radio, it happens that a certain lady - let's call her Mrs. E. - worked in a private radio station. She had quite a pleasant voice and a very good diction so she had a lot of fans. Mrs. E. didn't speak a word of any foreign language.

One day she was presenting a songs program. So while a song was playing, she picked a good english-portuguese dictionary that was handy, and started translating word by word the title of the following one: "My love, come back to me". After a hard work she wrote down her final translation, a work of art.

When the playing song finished, while putting the new record on the dish, she announced the title (her translation) of the next one: "Amor, salta para as minhas costas!"

Do you know what that means in english? "Love, jump on my back!"

It took quite a while for Mrs. E. to recover from such a gaffe. And needless to say that she never translated any other title... - Blog

Monday, 21 November 2011

Walking to Work [photos]

I won't be winning any photography prizes by taking photos with my camera-phone (or any other camera/camera-phone), but here are some shots of what my walk to work looked like this morning:

I suggest having a look at the link above if you want some really gorgeous photos. Here's the link again, for those too lazy to scroll. - Blog

My first day at work

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cooking for my parents

I’m 24 and until September I’d never cooked for my parents. This was a big deal to me given that for most of my life I had always eaten my mother’s cooking but I had not yet had the chance to share with her my culinary developments since moving out. The opportunity presented itself when I was invited over for dinner one night to take a break from my hectic commuter full-time-job life to which I was adapting slowly, having only graduated in July: I lept at the chance and offered to cook! It took a bit of fighting with my mother’s maternal instincts in order for her to relinquish the job of feeding us, but then that Sunday there I was, standing outside their door holding my bulging Tesco bags and ready for action!

Deciding what to cook for a family of three was the hardest part. I tend to cook only one day a week, and make enough food to take to work with me each day for the next 3 – 5 days. The basic formula tends to be: Some form of mince, some form of beans, half a rack of spices. Occasionally there’s some variation; I might throw in a new vegetable or some pulses, buy a jar of paste from morocco or somewhere in the orient, and hope for the best. I can honestly say that exploring the possibilities and cooking for myself has resulted in my making some of the nicest food I’ve eaten. The secret isn’t in being an amazing cook per se, instead it lies in the fact that the textures and flavours are new, and they’re entirely to my taste.

For this meal, I would go ad-hoc. I decided not to plan it more than my regular meals, and instead just leave the house in plenty of time and wander around Tesco until I felt inspired. I toyed with a jar of Tagine paste (which I highly recommend) and put it in my basket, but after wandering around a bit longer I decided that no – this meal would be made from scratch! The advantage of this recipe is that most of the spices and the oil you can happily use again in many meals to come or as an excuse to throw some dinner parties where you’re the chef.

Preparation time: Overall preparation time was two hours, but if you want it done faster you can include less water with the stock and add the carrots a little earlier.

Cost: Just over £10.
Feeds: 3 people, twice, with some leftovers.

750g Beef (but can equally be pork or lamb)
2 Onions
200g Shallots
600g Carrots
3 Peppers
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
1 Tin chickpeas
2 Garlic cloves
Hot Chili Powder
Ras El Hanout spices (black pepper, coriander, ginger, paprika, allspice, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne, cloves) but you can easily replace this with just ginger, turmeric and nutmeg.
Olive oil
Beef stock cube
4 tablespoons of flour
6 Chapatis

500g Spinach (frozen)
150g Feta cheese

Chop the onions into chunks and crush the garlic cloves, fry in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and leave to brown before adding all the beef. Wait for the beef to be fully cooked – add salt, cumin and paprika. Add the stock cube to about 300ml of boiling water then mix in with the meat. Add the peppers (chopped into slices), the shallots (peeled), the tin of tomatoes, and the chickpeas. Stir well then leave to cook so that the vegetables soften and the water from the stock evaporates – but not completely. You can make the side dish while you wait.

After about 20 minutes add the Ras El Hanout, or your preferred combination of spaces and add the carrots (sliced). Mix well, and leave for another 20 minutes. You can heat the chapatis while you wait. Add the flour and the hot chili powder, stir well, and you’ll see the stock water “vanish”. The meal is ready.

Side: In a frying pan, add the spinach and wait for it to defrost. Spinach stores a lot of water, so keep it at a low heat for the spinach to dry but not burn. Some people might fry the spinach in a bit of olive oil or add chopped onion, but personally I prefer it without. Once it is dry, chop the feta into blocks, and add it to the spinach, mixing it in to melt well.

Chapatis: Once you’ve made the spinach and your main is almost done, you can give the frying pan a wash and then just heat each chapati on the frying pan for about 10 seconds on each side. You can place them in a clear dishcloth to keep warm while you wait for the meal to be done.

Dessert: I blitzed yoghurt and raspberries with three tablespoons of sugar the night before and left it to freeze. Once frozen, leave in the fridge to soften a little and then mush it up with a fork – voila! Home made frozen yoghurt. - Blog

Goodbye to the job...

It's 11/11/11 and my last day on the job. My dad sent me this in an email this morning:

Coolest dad ever?
Thanks dad! - Blog

Monday, 7 November 2011

What it's like to commute.

I would be surprised to find anyone who, with a straight face, could tell me that they honestly enjoy a commute.
One does not do much on a commute, but what one does is done uncomfortably. There are a series of different types of trains that go the length of my commute during the day, but the things that they have in common tend to be a) a dreadful lack of space, and b) an absurd waste of space. The train will often be so packed that most passengers will be found crushed up against the luggage rack, standing or sitting by the toilets and doors, and often lined up all the way down the corridors. Some trains will have sets of two, four and five seats.
Wherever there is a row of 3 seats, it is an unwritten rule that the window and aisle seats must be taken, and that any middle seats will be left for bags. Most of the time the seats that are taken are taken up by people who occupy 1.25 seats. This is inconvenient for those of us that require a minimum of 0.75 seats. I wish I had any humour with which to convey this sad truth.
In addition to this, even for anyone within a "normal" size range, the seats are not designed with elbows in mind. The seats force you into a primary school assembly sort of position, where you have your hands on your lap and don't move for fear of losing your lunchbreak.
Often you will be lucky enough to smell someone's breakfast, gum, coffee, dinner, or beer; depending on whether it is the morning commute or the afternoon. You'll almost certainly be treated to a handful of phonecall conversations, muffled music that headphones cannot contain, occasional alarm, ringtone, and snoring.
Some people have children. It's 6:18, it's peak time, it's London; there's nothing but frantic men in suits with their coffees, iPads, suitcases, iPhones, Evening Standard, fold-away bikes, ..., there're women in their inappropriate-for-running heels; with handbags, tote bags, Kindles, Metros, Blackberrys... And somehow in the middle of all of this, in trainers and a pink anorak, is a mother with two children, one in a pram, shoving herself onto carriage 8 as she tries to shush one with a dummy and the other with some food. Children talk and scream and cry and cry and cry. And you feel guilty for hating every second, because they're children and she's outnumbered.
Sitting on the tube is, in a way, better than the train. Although nothing can compare to the two hour bliss of finding your favourite seat empty on the morning train, and getting on with your own business quietly the whole way there, the tube affords a different perspective of travel.
Sitting on the tube lets you see far more people "cycle" far more quickly. Sometimes I find myself wondering what the tube looked like on the day of the 7/7 bombing; those looks of boredom, monotony, the faces tired of hearing that someone apologises for the delay due to signal failure, a slow running train, a suicide on the Jubilee line... And how little any of those people could've known what would happen to them. It's a horrid way to go, and on a tube no less.
I particularly enjoy the lines to and from the City, the way you know whether you're on a Circle or Hammersmith & City line train. The suited crows are there, with their waves of iPads, ebook readers and smartphones (do commuters prop up this industry? Everyone has something. Often many "somethings".), then there are the students, the tourists, and the people that seem fundamentally misplaced. There was the skinny highly tattooed guy in a new-looking suit and old suitcase, the old lady in 8 shades of mis-matched pink, the Victorian governess, the large black man in a suit and yellow shoes scribbling in his Moleskin in a frantic way.
They say that 1 in 10 people has X disease, or Y mental illness, or that 1 in Z people have been sexually abused, have stolen, have accidentally killed a pet. And you spend so many hours each week in close quarters with a different cross-section of the population, each individual with their own back story, thoughts, plans... You're bound to be within feet of incredible strangers without ever knowing it.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Liberty and Justice for All

As I recently mentioned, I spent rather a lot of time drafting and re-drafting a personal statement application to BPP for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). When I was done, I sent it to a few friends that had read the first few drafts and one of them made the following comment:

"I'm especially glad you got rid of the bit about believing in justice"

This wasn't too encouraging, because I in fact did not "get rid of the bit" that said:

"I believe that the GDL at BPP would allow me to further develop my love of justice and argument and serve to empower me with the relevant knowledge and qualifications to embark upon a successful legal career."
Still, it didn't seem to bother them too much. And that was after I removed my 'joke' opening paragraph after a barrage of comments telling me that there is no place for humour in an application. I should've known. I should've known!

"A compulsive reading of every John Grisham novel I could get my hands on is not what made me want to study law. Nor was I convinced by a dozen irate males that perhaps I ought to consider a change of career path, and I certainly did not decide to do it because I thought I could handle the truth."

I saved myself some embarrassment which is always good.

On the topic of justice, I found today that the mother of a friend of mine has a particularly good quotation regarding law and justice:

"I also enjoyed her response to the question: What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law? She replied: "Remember that the law and justice are not a married couple. At best they are a one-night stand and part company in the morning." I certainly could not have put it better."

Have some Justice: - blog

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Always on the move

As I walked into work I thought about which song I should append to my next blog entry. The first song I thought of was The Clash's I Fought The Law, but although I know that taking the Graduate Law Diploma will be hard work, I'm not sure it is quite on par with "breaking rocks in the hot sun". Furthermore, I don't want to "fight" the law, and if I do, I certainly don't want it to beat me.

What I am trying to say with this is that on Monday - having submitted an application on Friday afternoon - I had a phonecall from BPP Law School telling me that I had an offer and that an email would soon follow with instruction of how to accept and start paying them. The more cynical amonst us may simply shrug and point out to me that anyone who applies to do a GDL, provided they can pay up, will be accepted. I can honestly say that this attitude does not bother me. I know that my course, and how much I benefit from it, depends on me: on how hard I study, on what I do with it, etc. That doesn't mean that I didn't spend several weeks drafting my personal statement, speaking to friends who have taken a GDL/LLB/LPC/LLM, going to open days, reading different publications, and following a series of twitter feeds. I did.

Actually, the open day really sold me to the course. The Virtual Learning Environment, which enables students to access all the resources from a remote location, seems to have been the pivotal point that enabled me to believe that I could succeed through "distance learning". Although the stigma of "mail-order degree" seems to follow me around, regardless.

I went and got myself an external reader card at my nearest University library (where I happen to have studied for my two other degrees) and took out a few books on what seemed to be interesting topics that won't necessarily be covered in the GDL, but that I could take an interest in for casual reading. Apart from that: now I play the waiting game.

Because there wasn't a lot of music favourable to lawyers ("I studied law and... it was great fun!"), I have decided to leave you with what I was listening to when I came into work this morning.