September 2011 Archives

in going places |

Went out for an afterwork drink so I’m running behind. Almost ready.

  • check in — done, managed to change to a good window seat
  • minicab booked — it’s £25 to heathrow, which works out to be about the same as getting a minicab to paddington then heathrow express, no brainer
  • travel insurance — got worldwide multi-trip for the whole year
  • laundry — done yesterday
  • arranged for pickup at chicago — getting the bus
  • packing — almost done
  • checklist stuff — on track

in being healthy |


Came home today to a soft red package inside the front door. It’s my “loser” jacket for not getting a place in the london marathon 2012 ballot. I donated my £32 entry fee to charity in case I’m unsuccessful so I got:

  • the fleece jacket
  • entry into a draw for an additional 1,000 guaranteed places
  • free draw for 1 entry into the ING NYC Marathon 2012 including travel & accommodation, or 1 week’s sporting holiday for two

There’s also a magazine that has a huge COMMISERATIONS! written across the front cover, just to rub it in. Most of the magazine consists of adverts for charity. The message is, “come run with us, we have places!! Oh, you have to raise hundreds or even thousands of pounds for us. But hey look, we have places!!”


Okay, don’t get me wrong. Running for charity is a good idea. I’ve done it myself. But something clicked when I came to the UK and started looking into races. Almost all are driven by charities. The focus isn’t on running but on getting as much money from donors as possible. I’ve had a couple of people (non-runners) offering to sponsor me when I say I’m running a marathon and surprised that I said I’m not in a charity group. They thought it was a requirement.

I’m not alone in feeling the charity fatigue. People are tired of the incessant hounding. It is telling though, that one of the people in the article said,

I hate that every marathon or burst of activity has to be sponsored - for goodness sake, just get off your backside and go for a run if you want to

The problem, I think, is that the only way the person’s friend could get into the marathon or burst of activity was to “pay” the charity entrance fee (pay as in paid by their friends, family and colleagues). I understand that in these times charities are hard hit, and the majority are good causes. But there is a fine line between the noble cause of doing something for charity and blatant guilt trip to the verge of blackmail. My question is, do the charities think that the hard-sell method used by their chuggers, or the hoarding of popular race slots, really work? I guess the former mostly turns people off but the latter does work, because I’m sure the VLM will be at capacity next year.

Back to the VLM. I’m not that bothered that I didn’t get in. If I’m still in London I’ll probably go watch. And besides, I’m confirmed for the Brighton marathon a few weeks before.

in going places , in the news |

youtube link:

So Britain is basking in the glorious sunshine of an indian summer with temperatures predicted to reach 29°C over the weekend. And what will I be doing over the weekend? Flying to Chicago, where it is currently raining and grotty. I’m looking forward to it very much though, to see my friends. Oh, and that wee 26.2mile race Sunday week.

in money business |


Read in the evening standard that families are living on £162 a week after taxes, bills and transport. The alarming statistic is that this represents a 7.9% drop from last year, and with inflation at 4.5% on top.

Yes, I have more left over and I can survive on a weekly grocery budget of £25. The problem is, savings suffer big time. Everyone is feeling the pinch. I’ve been thinking of retreat strategy.

in objects of desire |


Yes, I’m trying to declutter my life and not buy anymore stuff, but I’ve been coveting these kidrobot for swatch collection since they came out a month ago. I was at the kidrobot store 2 weeks after launch and they’d already sold out, so I was happy to spot a few at John Lewis. They didn’t have the full collection so I couldn’t get the black one or the pink one. This grey bengali tiger by Joe Ledbetter is super dope and I’m very pleased with it.

in eating and drinking |


I wanted to try to make pea and broad bean bruschetta that I tried at Jamie’s Italian last week. Don’t really need a recipe, but this is one from bbc good food is a good reference.

Cooked the shelled fresh peas and double-podded broad beans in water until just done. Roughly crushed with a fork with freshly chopped mint (I bought a mint plant especially for this), s&p, a little olive oil and a tiny bit of parmesan. Toasted a whole mini-baguette and spread a generous portion of the pea mixture on top. Heh, this is one of those dishes that I can only eat on a running day without guilt. And yes, I did 20k before lunch.

in eating and drinking , how the day went |

ldnstrfood040pancake ldnstrfood039crabcake

Went to the autumn real food festival at the southbank with RM, SM and his wife. Similar to the last time I went in May except with more stalls that spilled out to the river side. We walked around checking out all the stalls. I had Heston’s crab cakes and whole roast hog roll, again. I figured I won’t know when the next time I’ll see it, the weekly market probably ends when it gets near winter. For dessert we shared some mini Dutch pancakes and chocolate mousse. The Dutch pancakes, or poffertjes, were tiny, fluffy and made from a grill with small holes like the ones the Japanese use to make octopus balls. Traditionally served with butter and sugar which was how I ordered it.

in eating and drinking |


Saw this in the newspapers this morning, that there will be a whisky from Cornwall for the first time in 300 years. It is brought to us by the St Austell brewery, which makes really good cider. £150 for 500ml, hmm.

in eating and drinking |

labuv001artichoke labuv003choctart

What is this about vendor lunches and dinners lately? Another one wanted to take us for dinner but we decided on lunch after a meeting instead. They are based in Richmond and they took us to la buvette, a nice bistro serving regional Frehcn cuisine.

No wine as it was lunch. Most of us had the artichoke and tapanade to start. I’m glad we know them quite well, it’s difficult to eat artichoke without hands. I liked it, it was tasty and done just right. Mains I had calves’ liver with gremolata, bacon and portabello mushroom. Again, cooked just right. Dessert was chocolate tart with honeycomb.

I’d say if I were back in Richmond I might return, although there are so many other good restaurants that are worth trying.

in arts and media |

youtube link:

Our department went out for a farewell party for one of our colleagues. Dinner first at the forge at covent garden. I had roasted vegetable risotto, steak diane, and crème brulee.

Then it was onto the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road to see Respect La Diva. It’s only on for 3 weeks, and I thought it was a musical that included songs from the great divas — Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner et al. Actually it was more like a straightforward concert of tribute singers singing those songs. The singers were all very good, but the show could have been tighter and had a bit more of a storyline. It’s a very small theatre that doesn’t seem to have an orchestra pit so the band was on stage. This meant not a lot of space for the performers (especially the dancers) to move around. Some of the audience members were really enjoying themselves and the majority of the house stood up and clapped for the finale.

in evidence of my insanity , habitat |


Took this from my kitchen window a while ago. The rainbow was a bit faint by the time I saw it. The UFO looking objects are the reflections of my ceiling lights.

in being healthy |


As part of registering with the local surgery I get a free NHS health check. Went for my blood test ages ago and only got the return appointment last week for this morning. It was mainly the clinician asking me questions and him trying to figure out where to put the answers on his computer. Snerk.

Non-smoker, moderate drinker, regular exercise — all good. Glucose level ok. BP was high, and cholesterol tiny bit high too. Nothing I didn’t know before. The overall test was to assess CVD, or cardiovascular disease risk in the next 10 years. Apparently my score ws 1.9, but he couldn’t quite tell me what it means or what the range is, only that they will start getting worried for scores at 20. So I guess I’m fine. Found some online calculators that puts me in the green zone anyway.

Then again, you hear of otherwise fit people having heart attacks in the middle of running or doing sports, so even a risk factor of 0.00001 is still a risk. The clinician’s advice was pretty standard: exercise, low salt, low oil. And I really do have to watch the BP.

in being healthy |


nikeplus: 31.08km (19.3miles) 4:10:38hr 8.04min/km
garmin: 32.2km (20miles) 4:10:38hr 7.47min/km

The second 20-miler in the training program. Regardless of whether it was 19 or 20 miles, it was long enough. Did the usual loops around Hyde Park, switching walk breaks to speakers’ corner because of the crowds. Felt pretty decent until around mile 17 when I got really tired. It’s funny (funny strange, not funny haha), I did the CARA ready-to-run 20-miler last year in 4:16 and I thought it was a disaster. The same distance this year in 4:10 and I think it’s a good result. I can’t deny that truth, that I’m slower this year, probably due to weight gain and worse diet. Doesn’t matter, I feel less exhausted after today’s run and ultimately I think that’s an important gauge of success. So, taper start.

in how the day went |

jamie011lcockles vintagewhisky01

Early day, was at RM’s serviced apartment around 9.30am to help him move to his apartment. He called a minicab and we managed to take all his stuff down and upstairs without much problem. Walked around Canary Wharf for a bit, had lunch at Jamie’s Italian. Starter of peas and broadbeans bruschetta was very good. I had cockles linguine, the cockles were delicate but oh boy the pasta was perfectly cooked.

Went out to Carnaby Street, found a coffee & juice place to stay out of the rain. Found a vintage whisky place at Old Compton Street too. Met JA at Foyle’s then to Korean dinner. Went back to RM’s place for a drink at the building’s sky lounge bar. Long day, I wished I could have been home sooner.

in objects of desire , wheels in motion |


I was booking a zipcar for grocery shopping tonight and saw on the website a bunch of new locations and cars. Although zipcar and ford agreed to a joint venture in the US, it hasn’t made its way here. All the new cars are non-Golfs — Polo, VW vans and yes, that’s a BMW 1-series that will be around the corner from me. Yay, yay and more yay. Not sure about timing, I faked a reservation in late Oct and they were still greyed out.

in eating and drinking |

nbank002duck nbank003panna

Another vendor dinner, this time at northbank right next to the millenium bridge. Another modern British restaurant with a daily changing menu. We like this team of people and we had a good time

I had crab cake with fennel, duck breast with puy lentils & cherries, and poached strawberries with pannacotta. The crab salad was a little small, and I finished it in about 1 minute. The duck breast was just like any other duck breast I’ve tasted, but the pairing with cherries did work. Duck with any sort of sweet fruit works really. The dessert was fine, again it was a 1 minute affair. Reminds me that I should make pannacotta again.

in eating and drinking |

image from wikipedia

I forgot to take a pic, but I was feeling particularly peckish this morning. SM dragged me out to a wonder coffee place (I had chai latte) and I got a bacon sandwich at the shop opposite. Just plain British bacon (none of the thin and crispy American stuff) in between 2 slices of granary toast. And brown sauce. Hit the spot.

Of course no one in the UK calls it a bacon sandwich. It’s either bacon sarnie or bacon butty.

in techtalk |

I don’t think it’s BT. I tried to switch over to chrome this past week and it’s slow slow slow. I want to use it, but it’s back to firefox and safari for me.

in being healthy |

running20110910 running20110911

Trivial and inconsequential. Over the weekend I did 20k on Saturday and 5k on Sunday. Around halfway during Sunday’s run I logged 2,500km on the nikeplus and got moved to the next level. It’s another 2,497km to the level after that so I’ll probably be purple for a couple of years at least. Of course not all runs were logged, and there was a duplicate or two. 99% of those were actual, proper (albeit slow) running.

in how the day went |

video link:

in eating and drinking |

stj016marrow stj013crabtoast

It seems obligatary that any article about st john restaurant must contain the almost clichéd phrases: “nose-to-tail” (ie offal) eating, cooking pig’s head and the place where Anthony Bourdain would eat his death row meal. (Yes, I had the one dish he singled out, more later.)

There, I got them out of the way.

Despite calling only 1 day ahead, RM and I were able to score a reservation at 6.15pm. I’d deliberately run past the place on Thursday’s run home. The restaurant is in what used to be a smokehouse, and retains a lot of the simple decor and feel. The bar, bakery and dining room were white, plain and stark. The menu changes every meal, and they didn’t post the dinner menu till 5pm.

We got a bottle of house red and set about ordering. What about those bone marrow that Bourdain loved? I’d actually had the dish before, so I knew what to expect. To eat it with parsley salad and a pinch of rock salt is new, and it is a good pairing. The marrow is like cooked, fatty meat jelly and was delicious. What was even more delicious, to our surprise, was the crabmeat on toast. Can’t quite tell what was in the sauce — crab roe for certain — the crab smelled and tasted of the sea, it was so fresh.

stj021grouse stj026tongue

The menu for the past couple of days included ox heart so I had my heart set on it [groan]. Unfortunately not tonight. The best choice was ox tongue, which was tender but I would have liked something I hadn’t tried before. RM had grouse which came very rare, not for the faint-hearted.


Dessert was madeleines, which had a 15min wait and came to the table with the piping hot taste and smell that only something that came straight from the oven could achieve. Great meal, came to around £60 per person, not cheap. Worth it though.

in how the day went |


I should have done 5 miles today, but with a still niggly knee I did the “listen to your body” thing and opted for rest. Did go to the supermarket and got the week’s shopping done instead, so that’s a good thing. Bought some red beets. Sigh, I’m missing: golden beets, honeycrisp apples, heirloom tomatoes and all manners of squashes.

in objects of desire , on the relationship front |


mm has a new love, her piano that was delivered today. She whatsapped be this morning and sent a pic to me already. I can’t remember the specs like brand, height and other important details. I’m sure I’ll hear about it in glorious detail in the months and years to come. I jokingly call it not!3mins to encourage her to keep going. Not a problem right now because she seems very keen (obsessed) with piano. I guess I shouldn’t feel threatened by an inanimate object? Heehee.

in how the day went |


The tube problem continues. Today it was the bakerloo line, signal failure again. Stopped for a good 5mins outside Paddington before struggling to Warwick Avenue. Then the driver said something about an amber alert and the train will stay at the station for a while. Fine. That’s only 1 stop, no problem. I’ll walk. One good thing came out of this, that I figured out the location of a couple more zipcars.

In other news, I can’t seem to stop eating snacks. Mainly biscuits, mini-flapjacks and quavers. No wonder I’m slower this year.

in being healthy , in the news |

Hurry Home
pic courtesy flickr user LaN_Luis

Should have known. Took a train forever to arrive, we were told there was a signal failure at baker street. Then at farringdon it was “all change please” and no prospect of continuing the journey westbound. What I should have done: walked to chancery lane or holborn, caught the central line. What I ended up doing: walked all the way home. I don’t believe in recording anything but runs on the nike+ but I thought it’d be informative: 7km+ 1hr 20mins 11.27min/km.

Lots of tube delays lately. How will they cope next year?

in |


Another top 10 reasons to run thread, and people were listing very noble and motivational reasons. But I like this one best:

1. food
2-10. beer


in being healthy |


32.02km (20miles) 4:14:30hr 7.57min/km

So Higdon’s Novice 2 gets up to the 20-miler one week after the smartcoach plan I was following last year. I don’t feel particularly well prepared or trained this year, but I’ll persevere. Went out at noon, figuring it’ll take me 4 hours. Normal route down to Hyde Park then 4 times around the 6k loop. It was cloudly and slightly drizzly when I started, but then it started raining.


For 2 hours.

It was miserable. I was so soaked through the water was dripping from my cap, and my shirt so waterlogged I had to wring it out. Blech. I thought about giving up constantly, but couldn’t because I need this training run. I did have walk breaks often though, every time at Hyde Park Corner, and then a short one to refill the water bottle. Also took one loo break.

The last 2-3k was a struggle physically. By then the rain had stopped and parts of me didn’t feel like a drowned rat. Time is slow due to the conditions and the frequent stops. At this rate, I’ll be close to my 26.2 time last year, which isn’t what I want.

The nikerunning site has been a pita lately. Can’t log in, white screen, and need to use other browsers. Once I got in, I noticed that I’m only 1 marathon away from the next level, purple, on nikeplus. That’s next week.

in how the day went |

Met up with RM and the A’s to go to Chinatown for dim sum. I haven’t been for ages and ages so weren’t familiar with the restaurants. Since the A’s don’t normally go for dim sum, I thought we should try one with trolleys. There are only 2 remaining, so we went to New World. It was pretty okay, the selection got boring after the 5th time they came around.

Strolled to Covent Garden, and we ended up for beers at Belgo. Hahaha. We split up for a bit, RM and I explored around Seven Dials and spent time at kidrobot store.

Dinner was with the A’s in their house. They had another guest, their neighbour who seems to be a big cricket fan. I was the only one he could talk to! We had steaks on the grill, asparagus, salad, new potatoes and cheese. Lots of good wine naturally.

in arts and media |

youtube link:

As part of the ads leading up to the opening of Westfield Stratford on 13 September, this is a cool video of 100 years of East End fashion.

in on the relationship front |


I uploaded the pics and wrote up each day of mm’s visit. Pics are here: cornwall set, kent and london set. Daily posts:

  • friday — 5.5hr drive to Marazion to a wonderful b&b, st michael’s mount and seafood dinner
  • saturday — sort of leisurely loop around minack, land’s end, st ives and the lizard
  • sunday — padstow
  • monday — cheddar, clarks village, bicester village, home
  • tuesday — whitstable, westgate
  • wednesday — parkside farm, le relais
  • thursday — harrods, whole foods, home feast
  • friday — west end, steinway hall, haz
  • saturday — stockpot, m&m store, love never dies

We also managed to do most of the things and places I had on my mm prep list.


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