Saturday, 28 April 2012

Banana Loaf

So thats that then. I worked my last day this Wednesday so I'm now a rather rotund lady of leisure. To say it's an odd feeling is a slight understatement. I have worked since the age of 12 so to not be working (indefinitely) is quite strange.

My career so far has consisted of the following jobs:

Older Brothers Leaflet Stuffer - Age 12
As my dad had to bring up 3 kids on his own, money was very tight when we were growing up. We didn't get pocket money so learnt pretty early on that if you wanted something, you had to work for it. Or sell snails to the neighbour which I did try but it wasn't very lucrative. (100% true even though it sounds slightly insane). Living in a small village in Essex, career opportunities for a slightly eccentric red headed 12 year girl were rather limited to say the least, so when my older brother offered me my first job I was over the moon. He was 2 years older than me and got himself a job delivering the local free paper, The Yellow Advertiser, on a Friday after school. He had to deliver 500 newspapers which always needed stuffing with various leaflets before he delivered them which is where I came in. He paid me £1 every Friday to leaflet stuff. Looking back it was not the best position I have held in a job capacity, but was probably a good indication of how the future would pan out. Hence my brother now lives in Sydney running his own company, owning several properties in Oz + the UK and I live in Hackney in a 1 bedroom flat and am going to be an unmarried mother. Hmm, I think I can see now where my problems started. I should never have accepted that leaflet stuffing position.

Baker - Age 13 to 16
To say I was an actual Baker is stretching the truth somewhat. I worked in a bakery on a Saturday, Wheatcroft the Bakers in Brentwood Shopping precinct, with about 5 other teenagers and I loved it. I got £12.60 cash in a paper bag each Saturday for working from 8am - 2pm and still think this was the best job I ever had. It was brilliant. We had the best view of the 'hunky' skateboarders who used to skate around the precinct, Chocolate Eclairs cost 28p and I had a uniform. A yellow coat and a dark brown tabard. My hair always smelt of bread at the end of my shift but it was a small price to pay for my first proper wage packet. Happy days.

Child minder - Age 16 to 17
When I was 16 my dad asked me to give up my Saturday job to look after my little brother. He said he would pay me the same money as the Bakers to stay at home and look after him while my dad went to work. So, I quit my dream job and my dad never paid me any money. I was gutted and probably never forgave him for ruining my life and stopping me from being able to spy on the skateboarding hunks.

Dorothy Perkins Shop Assistant - Age 17 to 17
After a year of sulking I begged my dad to be able to get another Saturday job and ended up in Dorothy Perkins in Brentwood High Street. I hated it. The shop was narrow and claustrophobic and the clothes were awful. Although this didn't stop a couple of girls from school coming into the shop under the pretense of seeing me but actually shop lifting. Nice!

Burton Menswear Shop Assistant - Age 17 to 18
I think the Manageress of Dorothy Perkins knew how much I hated the job which is why she suggested I transfer to Burton's at the other end of the high street. A Saturday job transfer was probably quite a rare thing but I thought it would be worth it to get away. This ended up being a great move on my part. Burtons, although selling awful slacks, was really good fun. All the other staff were really nice, one of them had a car (this was most impressive to me) and we got to go on 'training days'. It was awesome.

Burton Menswear Shop Assistant  - Age 18 to 20
After I completed my A-Levels I went to University. Not coming from a family with any money I could only go if I worked to pay for myself, so I got another transfer! From the Brentwood Burtons to the High Wycombe branch. This was another job I loved. This Burtons was huge. It had a whole wall of jeans that I was so proud of being in charge of I took a photo of which I often showed to people. Also the other staff that worked there were brilliant. I can still remember them now which is saying something considering how booze addled my brain is. There was handsome Christian (he had amazing eyes and was very posh), young Mike (he lived on a nearby army base and had a small crush on me. One day he brought me a tape single of Will to Powers version of 'Baby I love your way'), Paula the Deputy Manageress and Graham the Manager who ended up making twins together!

Next Shop Assistant / Hostage - Age 20 to 21
I had hoped that in my final year I could concentrate on my studies / Kiwi 20/20 consumption at the Student Union and left Burtons. Considering I had never asked my mother for a penny for anything before, I enquired as to whether she might like to help me out in my last year of studies. She didn't, so I was on the job hunt again and ended up getting a job in Next. To this day I can't walk past a branch of this place without getting a sweaty top lip. This job was like a bad dream.  Not only did I have to wear their clothes the Manageress was insane. Literally. The final straw was when she locked me in her office for 20 minutes one day as I said I couldn't work on the Boxing day Sale. Unbelievable. So I complained to their head office about my false imprisonment and she got sacked. Apparently several of the staff had complained about her so they had to let her go. Total nutcase.

Blink Productions Receptionist, PA + PM - Age 21 to 27
My first proper grown up job. On completing my Degree I needed to get working properly. Most people on my Film course said they were going to move to London to be 'runners'. I had no idea what this meant but knew these 'runners' worked in production Companies. So Auntie Margaret photocopied me the names and addresses from the Yellow Pages of all the Production Companies in the West  End. I only got as far as 'B' before giving up but luckily thats all I needed. I had 2 weeks left in my house at College and managed to get a job in what is one of the most successful Production Companies in London. I still don't how I managed it. I was very lucky. And I didn't have to be a runner! I went straight in at reception! I was pretty useless and pretty terrified. I couldn't turn the reception computer on, had no idea what a cappuccino was and had never met so many posh people in my life, but somehow I didn't get the sack and stayed for nearly 7 years. I made some awesome friends, friends for life hopefully and worked my way up from Reception, to Production Assistant to Production Manager. It's also here where I got to do a lot of travelling. I went to Spain, Kenya, Arizona, New York, LA, Austin, Portland, San Francisco, New Orleans and Dublin. Screw you mad lady from Next!

1997 Production Company of the year Party. 
Incase there is any doubt, this is a wig. Don't ask me why.

I took my role as front of house VERY seriously.

Free trip to Arizona courtesey of the travel agent we used to use.

Budweiser shoot in Kenya.

Sky shoot in Sussex.

View from my room at the Mondrian in LA for a Land Rover shoot.

Sony shoot in Barcelona. We were there for 3 weeks. I learnt how to say 'Son of a bitch' in Spanish.

'Fill Her Up' by Mark Denton, Short film shoot in Spain.

Adidas shoot with Dave. I took him his lunch, burst into tears and had to be escorted off his winniebago. The happiest god damn day of my life.

Me on the Blink Bags. Still see them every now and then even though this was taken donkey's years ago.

I met Orville. I'd left Blink by then but went back to give this bird a little grope.

Another Film Company PM Age 27 - 35
I left Blink to try my hand at being Freelance but ended up almost immediately joining Another Film Company, another Production Company in the West End. It was here that my interest in dressing up really took off.

MacDonalds Shoot. I did not love it. This is irony.

Mexican Wrestler.



Dodgy wig with my friend Theo in a dodgier wig.

The Honey Monsters shoes.

A long Venetian nose.


Aerobics' instructor.

I also got to travel some more too. I went to Argentina, Prague twice and Cape Town twice.

Mastercard shoot in Prague with Pele. He's front row wrapped in a flag.

Diet Coke shoot in Cape Town.

Nokia Shoot in Argentina. We chartered our own plane.

NPower shoot at Wembley Stadium.


Some famous Rugger chaps at Twickenham Stadium for 02.

I even grew a moustache one day.

100 years of M+S at Borough Market.

Freelance PM - Age 35 to 37 
Then for the last 18 months I've been working Freelance (having to do your own tax is a headache) doing a couple of jobs at Mother:

but mostly I've been working at The Moving Picture Company:

Mother was an interesting place to work but I have really loved being at MPC. Its a huge company with some very clever people working there. Again its a miracle to me that I managed to winkle my way in but I did and it was all thanks to my old friend Mole (we worked together at Blink). When I first started there we had to share a desk and a phone, you could only work that close to someone you like and luckily for Mole and I, we get on pretty well. We are both wally's basically. So thanks for all the work Mole, but most importantly, thanks for the memories.

Mole, he looks a bit like Chuck Norris.

Roundhouse kick to the chops Take 1.

Roundhouse kick to the chops Take 2.

Lucky Voice.

Wheres Mole?!

I actually feel quite proud looking back at all these pictures, quite a journey really. So even if I never work again I've not had a bad innings although I hope to god I will work again. I'd definitely be a baker again although I'm not sure I fancy revisiting the leaflet stuffing days.

So now, I'm at home trying to relax but trying not to get too brain dead, I have been making sure to go somewhere each day or at least make something so yesterday I made a Banana Loaf. I've never made one before but must have my finger on the pulse since in today's Guardian they have a recipe for Banana Loaf! Anyway, here's the recipe I used, it's really easy, extremely delicious and good for using up ripe banana's.

To make 1 Banana Loaf

Shopping list:
125g Butter
75g Caster Sugar
75g Demerara Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Beaten Egg
190g Self Raising Flour
3 x Ripe Bananas, mashed with a fork.

* Pre-heat the oven to Fan 150 C.
* Line and grease a loaf tin.
* Melt the butter and sugar in a pan and add the Vanilla Extract.

* Once melted, remove from the heat and add to the mashed banana's. Mix together well.
* Add the beaten egg, stir again.
* Finally stir in the flour, then when it's all mixed together pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle with demerara sugar to give it a crunchy top.

* Put into the oven and cook for a long time. Initially it was meant to cook for 40 minutes but ended up taking over an hour. You basically need to keep checking on it through the door of the oven (don't open the oven door) and wait for it to go darker on top. Once you think its ready remove from the oven and poke with a skewer. When the skewer comes out of the loaf dry, its ready.

I didn't have a tin to keep it in so have wrapped it up like this, I think it looks quite nice and tastes lovely.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

'Headhunters' (Hodejegerne) and a Haircut

After the flurry of Hackney Picture House visits at the start of the year, we hadn't been for a while. Actually thats not entirely true. We go most weekends for a lovely hot chocolate and a breakfast, but we haven't been to watch a film since the diabolical viewing of 'The Raven'. I'd been put off by the cinema after that awful night, but its not really the Picture House's fault, so on Monday, The Wig and I took ourselves up the road to watch a Norwegian thriller called 'Hodejegerne' or ' Headhunters' if you speaka da Anglais. If you watch the trailer it does give quite a lot of the film away but not enough so that you don't  have to pay to see it.  Not only did we really want to see this film, we also thought we better make the most of being able to go to the cinema before we'll be turned into zombies by the small person moving in with us in 4 weeks time.

This film was definitely the best film we have seen this year. It was brilliant! I'm not usually a massive fan of thrillers but this was definitely worth watching. The only possible down side of the whole film was that one of the characters looked very similar to the Dad in the Bisto adverts which I found slightly distracting but apart from that, I couldn't fault it. It had a gripping story line, a great performance by the main guy in it (who looked like a young, more buggy eyed Christopher Walken) and its interesting every now and then to see a film thats not set in the the USA or the UK, Norway has some stunning scenery. There was a couple of gory bits that I had to cover my eyes up for for but it wasn't violence for the sake of it if you know what I mean, it was essential to the plot. So this gets a big March Hare thumb / paw up and I'm going to rate it a very high 9.5 outside toilets out of 10. (Watch the film and you'll know what I'm talking about).

As well as cinema visits, getting haircuts is another 'treat' that apparently becomes very difficult when you have a baby. Luckily I take no pride in my hair at all so this isn't such a big deal but I did think it might be wise to have a little trim yesterday while I had nothing better to do.

I have had some absolute disastrous 'do's in my lifetime. I think the worst was when, for my 13th birthday, I was allowed to get a cork screw perm. I'd been growing my hair for some time and imagined I would look like Doris from Five Star. That's what I wanted. But thats not what I got. Unfortunately, the hair dresser I went to was not familiar with the biggest band to come out of Romford and preceded to cut my hair, give me a nanny perm (ie tight curls all over my head) and sent me on my way looking like an albino Michael Jackson look a like from the Billie Jean video. Devastated was not the word. I'm surprised I ever recovered from the trauma. I would have loved to have posted a picture of it on here but for some reason no photo's exist of this 'do'. I can't think why. Oh yes I can, it was RIDICULOUS.

But, as I have learned over the years my hair seems to go pretty fast so after several other disasters (not involving perming lotion) I've learned not to be too precious about it, and for the last few years I've been going to this place in Shoreditch, Pimps and Pinups:

It's the type of place that could look a bit intimidating from the outside but its not at all inside. I would have liked to take some pictures of the interior as its really great (huge mirrors with light bulbs all the way round, lovely chairs, but then they would have definitely realised what a loser I am if they didn't know already), so I stole these from their website:

Copyright Pimps + Pinups

Copyright Pimps + Pinups

Because I only go once every 3-4 months I always have someone different to cut my hair and have never had a problem. Most of the people that work there are either Australian or from New Zealand, I don't know why, but the owner is Australian which may have something to do with it, and they all have a lot of tattoos. Anyway, they are all really friendly and it's £42 for a haircut which isn't too bad for London I don't think.

Yesterday I had someone from Essex cut my hair which was a shock as like I said most of them are from overseas, and luckily it went well so I'm still very pro-Essex this week. (Yay!) He was only 23 years old which made me feel very old, but we covered a wide range of topics from relationships to sleep walking to Gheghis Khan. It was a real eye opener of a morning.  Anyway, he did a nice job on the old barnet although he did try to sell me some sort of sludgy goo for 17 quid which I had to decline, but another recommend on the March Hare list of recommendations. If you need a haircut and are in the area, you really cant go wrong. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

(Essex) Spinach + Feta Pie

Recently, when I've had the odd day at home, instead of working my way through a never ending list of chores, I've been getting stuck in to some quality daytime TV. Generally speaking, I don't actually like the telly. It seems to cost me a lot of money each month to have access to a plethora of ridiculous programmes none of which interest me.  I'm not 'Moving to the Country', I don't have an 'Attic to have Cash in', with the wedding postponed there's no chance of me being a 'Bridezilla' for quite some time and I draw the line at that horrid little Jeremy Kyle. However, I simply can not get enough of 'The Real Housewives' (of any American location, I'm not biased), 'Antiques Roadtrip' and my ultimate favorite, 'Judge Judy'. She is my inspiration. She always has immaculate hair and make up but more importantly, she doesn't take any shit. In the mornings they often have a run of 4 or 5 'cases' on one after the other which sets me up for the day and of all the episodes I've watched, I've never seen a repeat. There are just so many criminals in New York thank god she is there to keep the streets safe and clean!

I love Judy and thought that there couldn't possibly be anything to top her, until on Friday night I did something that I can't explain. I'm aware that I am very behind the times, but whilst waiting for The Wig to come home from the pub, for some reason I watched an episode of 'The Only Way is Essex'. Then I watched another one, then another one. I watched 3 in a row and I thought it was brilliant! I think it might have knocked the Judge off her top spot!

'The Only Way is Essex' (or TOWIE as it has become to be known) is set in and around a town in Essex called Brentwood, or my home town if you like. I grew up in a small village just outside of Brentwood, but as nothing much happened in the village I spent a lot of time in Brentwood. Some might say that nothing much happened in Brentwood either as in the 90's it was unfairly voted Britain's most boring town. Rude.,_Essex

But to my younger self it was brilliant. It had a cinema that cost £2 to get in (I got kicked out of this cinema trying to get in to see 'Top Gun' when I was under age), it had several good pubs to go to that seemed to encourage underage drinking (I was sick in all of them) and Noel Edmonds went to school there. In my memory though, it wasn't riddled with orange skinned people with fake body parts and an appalling pronunciation of the Queens English. However, a couple of years ago a programme appeared full of those sorts of people, in my beloved Brentwood. I was outraged. I refused to watch it. One was not amused. But on Friday night, I thought I'd just have a quick peak to see what all the fuss is about and got completely sucked in. Yes, all the people in it have terrible accents, yes they have a radio active sheen to their skin, yes they have fake bits and bobs but they actually seem like alright people. They don't go round fighting or looting or weeing on war memorials. They go to the Gym, open shops and have Segway rides. I like them. Up the Essex!

Other people from Essex I like are:
Helen Mirren
Alison Moyet
Denise Van Outen
Olly Murs

And also Jamie Oliver, which leads me nicely onto this recipe. We went to visit our friends recently and they made us this delicious pie for lunch. It was so nice that we bought the Jamie Oliver cook book and made it for tea last night.

Jamie Oliver's Spinach + Feta pie (serves 4)

Shopping List

3 x Eggs
1 x Packet of Fio Pastry
200g Pine Nuts
200g Spinach
180g Feta Cheese
50g Cheddar
1/2 a Nutmeg
1/2 a Lemon
A Knob of butter
A pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt + Pepper
Olive Oil

* Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan and remove from the heat.
* Crack the eggs in a bowl, crumble in the feta, stir in the cheddar, add some salt + pepper and the nutmeg, add the zest of 1/2 a lemon and some olive oil (Jamie says a 'lug' whatever that means...). Mix everything together.
* Add the nuts to the egg/cheese mix, stir well and set aside.
* Meanwhile, take each layer of pastry from the packet, wipe some olive oil on it, season it with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne. Then add another layer and repeat until all the layers have been used up. Once you have a pile of greased up and seasoned pastry lay on top of some baking paper and place inside an oven proof tin that is smaller than the filo sheets. I used a 7 inch cake tin.

* In a pan, melt some butter, add the spinach and cook until wilted.

* Once the spinach has wilted, stir into the egg and cheese mixture and pour into the filo pastry. When all the mixture is inside, carefully fold over the excess of pastry around the tin and create a 'lid'. Add some more oil and season again.

* Put the pie in a pre-heated oven (Fan 180) and cook for 20 minutes.

* Serve with a salad. Nice one Essex chef!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

5 Weeks to go.

The end is nigh. 5 weeks to go until the baby's due date which suddenly seems very close indeed. However, among lots of things I have learnt over the past few months, I have also discovered that very few babies actually arrive on the date that you think they might, only 5% in fact. So we are prepared (as much as we can be) for a hospital trip anytime between now and the next 7 weeks. The Hospital bag is packed, the baby clothes are washed and we have decided on our 2nd person to accompany us at the hospital for the big day. I didn't realise until a few weeks ago, but you are allowed 2 people at the birth, so not only will I get some support from The Wig but we will both be getting some extra support from our mystery guest. I think this is partly why I'm now getting very excited about the  birth - my 2 favorite people in the world will be with me, yay! A couple of my friends have said that they also want to come and we did wonder if we could turn the day into a bit of a party, seeing as the wedding is temporarily off, however I realise these are words that only someone who hasn't been through childbirth would say. I'm sure the day itself will be less 'party atmosphere' and more 'try to squeeze a bowling ball through the eye of a needle conundrum'.

This week has been a bit hectic but now I'm on the big wind down till D-Day. We had our final bonus scan this week to see if the placenta had moved out of the exit route (*slight heave*). At the 20 week scan it was quite low and there was talk of a possible Caesarian Section, however it has moved well out of the way now so it look's like I'm going to have to push. If I hadn't done the Ante Natal class I think I would have been a bit annoyed about this. Being quite an organised person / control freak I liked the idea of knowing exactly when we would meet our baby, but on attending the course I learnt that its much better for the baby to come out the way nature intended. I won't go into all the gory details but it really has been fascinating learning about all the biology, the human body really is an amazingly awesome thing! I never really thought about it until now. The scan itself was probably the least exciting of all the scans we have had though as the baby is now so big that you cant really distinguish anything on the screen. All we could make out was a little chubby hand and the head. The Sonographer told us that everything was growing well, and it still seems to have quite long legs! This is quite odd as neither The Wig or I are tall so we think it might have something to do with my dad :) From now on we will see the Midwife every 2 weeks so I expect lots more prods, pokes and gropes before the big day arrives. Despite that though, I'm getting really excited about this new phase of our lives and I will also be very glad to see the back of:

* Relying on The Wig to tie my laces.
* Getting shoved around by Joe Public.
* Heartburn.
* Relentless toilet visits.
* The extra weight I'm lugging around.
* Abstinence.

Not only did we have our scan this week though, I also worked on my last shoot, for what could be quite some time. God only knows when I'll next be on another one. We have talked about me being off for 6 months but being freelance it's anyone's guess if things will work out that way. There might not be any work around for me in 6 months! But I'm not going to worry about it, sometimes you just have to hold onto your balls and jump (even if you don't technically have any balls), things generally work out for the best and no amount of worrying changes anything. I definitely think it's the right time to stop though, as I have felt knackered this week, so I'm looking forward to a lot of pyjama time over the next few weeks. Pyjama's, naps and hot chocolates. Lovely.

I'm also looking forward to The Wig being on his paternity leave when it happens, we haven't seen that much of each other lately as he has been working very hard. We did manage to squeeze in a quick date on Monday night when we popped into our lovely new local wine bar/cafe/off licence. L'Entrepot Borough Wines seems to be doing very well in the few weeks since it's been open and I'm really pleased for the people that run it. I've been a couple of times now and its always bustling, particularly over the Easer weekend when people were queueing up for tables! Not only is the wine delicious ( I've now had 4 x small white wines in 8 months, unbelievable) but so is the food. They have a very limited menu, only 2 options of main course, but for a quick and simple dinner it was a really nice place to go.

Extensive Wine list. Mmmmm, wine . . . 

Chicken, cream and black olives, complimentary bread and lamb with tomato's and lentils.

So, here's to the next few weeks. Hopefully the baby wont come out too early as it still needs to chub up a bit before it arrives and I would quite like to get some last minute relaxing time in, but also I hope we don't end up waiting 7 weeks - I'm too excited! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Cow, 4 Chestnut Plaza, Westfield Stratford City, E20

Every once in a while, usually at someone's birthday and Christmas, there is a catch up / re-union of my College friends. I have known this particular motley crew since I was 18 which now feels like a very long time ago indeed, probably because it is, but its always nice to catch up. It's not always easy wrangling so many people together in the same place at the same time, and it used to be a lot easier when I used to celebrate my birthday with a party, but since my social life has dwindled over the last couple of years so too has sightings of these guys. However, on Sunday 29th April I have managed to scoop up the majority of the group for a Sunday lunch together. Hoorah!

I'm really looking forward to it but now I have to find somewhere for 13-15 x adults, 3 x children and 1 x wide load (me) to go. Since the 29th is only a couple of weeks ago, I was starting to get a bit sweaty about where to suggest. I don't actually know where half of the people live anymore and have no clue about where is good to take an under 10 year old for lunch, but last week good old google threw me a bone. After a slightly desperate search for 'pubs with good sunday lunches in london for all ages with an atmosphere but not really loud music please' the name Geronimo Inns popped up. I've never heard of this particular company before (they claim not to be a chain so I'm not quite sure how that works) but they have recently opened up shitloads of pubs, all over the damn place!

Their ethos on the website is:

We like bloody good pubs

A mix of delicious fresh food, carefully selected drinks and good people in a place where you can be comfy, relaxed, enthused, inspired and well looked after

A seal of approval

We are neither branded nor a chain, but a seal of approval

The food sets the scene

The quality, presentation and service of food sets a scene that reassures both drinkers and diners

A sense of community

The pubs reflect their neighbourhood through the design, the offer and the people. When we are considered as a core part of the village, the pub really works

We invest in our sites

Ensuring everything is fresh and clean with clear attention to detail is a thanks to those who keep the pubs busy
This gave me a small glimmer of hope that maybe we might be able to go somewhere nice and not end up in in Toby Carvery.  However, I did feel a bit nervous about dragging everyone to a pub I'd never heard of let alone stuck my snout into. But on Sunday, a miracle happened. The Wig wanted to go for lunch, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone. Feed The Wig up AND do a Geronimo Inn recce as they have one of their pubs, 10 minutes from home in Westfield Straford.

Lovely old lavender on the tables, restaurant on the top floor.
Bar food at ground level.

Big Cow wall tiles in stairway.

Bar in restaurant.

Delicious hot chocolate with a complimentary piece of fudge. Yumsters!

View of the Olympic site from the restaurant window.


Most delicious fish and chips. Seriously, very crunchy batter, delicious tartar and a huge portion I couldn't finish which is almost unheard of for me.

My dream tiles on the floor. They also have these on the floor in Liberty's and when I win the lottery I'm going to have every inch floor covered in these. But maybe not these colours.

So all in all a VERY worthwhile trip out. The food was delicious, the staff were really, really friendly and it wasn't too expensive. All in a I would rate The Cow a high 8 udders out of 10 and I'm definitely going to try and book one of the other locations for our college lunch. I juts hope the one in Highbury isn't crap.