Saturday, 30 June 2007

Dancing around my bedroom

My cable died on Wednesday. I was very upset. I missed Top Chef, as I can’t get TV reception without the cable box. I tried resetting it, but it’s buggered, there’s no power to it at all. I called to report the problem and they are going to send a man out, except there’s no-one available until Thursday because of the 4th of July holiday!! That’s a whole week, what am I supposed to do, read??? Tsk!!!

I tried to look at the positive aspect of having more time to catch up with all the Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletters I’ve been ignoring, but instead of cerebral pursuits I’ve been listening to BBC Radio 1 via t’internet and dancing around my apartment to Reverend and The Makers. I love this song.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Opting out of the dating pool

They were chit chatting on the radio this morning about a new study released by the CDC that indicates 4% of heterosexual American adults are virgins. The DJs were extremely surprised by this, amazed that it could even possibly be true that one in every twenty-five US adults had never had sex. They were even more stunned when they read on that 25% of women reported having no more than one sexual partner in their lifetime and that only 9% of women had slept with more than fifteen men. They found this last nugget completely absurd and claimed the women must be lying, but as a single 30-something female - albeit not American - New Yorker I would not be the least bit surprised if these women were being a 100% truthful since there seems to be an epidemic lack of dating going on among the women I know.

When I first met GS he would often comment how so many men found me attractive and must want to date me. Um….which men would they be then? Could you point them out, I’d like to meet them. Apart from GS and a couple of lecherous 60-odd year old men in salsa class I’ve been asked out exactly ZERO times in the 7years I’ve lived in New York. This is despite the fact that American men supposedly find a woman with an accent to be extremely sexy, and an English accent to be sexiest of all. Harumph!!

I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing wrong, but whatever it is, my friends - an intelligent, successful, sexy bunch o’ women if ever there was one - are doing it too since they don’t fare much better. I couldn’t tell you the last time any of them were asked out, but when I talk to men they all seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that single women are fighting guys off with sticks. Odd, because even though we all get our share of appraising glances or smiles, which we return encouragingly, actual requests for a date are as rare as hens’ teeth. Although…perhaps the men who find us attractive are just shy of approaching and are, at this very instant, posting messages for us on
Craiglist’s Missed Connections. I’d better go check....

Pht!! No messages!! Then again, if the message below is any indication of the type of guys posting messages, then the phrase ‘dodged a bullet’ springs to mind…

You are a girl, so I am pretty sure you have a vagina. The whole time I was thinking about talking to you, I was also thinking about your sweet, sweet vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina! The word flows off of the tongue like some sort of pagan incantation of carnal delight. I would have loved it if you had wanted me to stick my ding-dong in your furry cookie.

Pagan incantation of carnal delight??? Stick my ding-dong in your furry cookie??? And people wonder why women choose to be single. What an utterly sad man!!

Call me conceited if you will, but I don’t think I’m THAT unattractive. Don’t get me wrong I’m not giving Gisele BŌčndchen a run for her money, but I’m not exactly frightening small children either. I’m a nice person, I can hold an intelligent conversation, I keep in shape, have good hygiene and over the years at least six random people have told me I resemble the actress Kristin Scott Thomas – I don’t see it myself, but if you stand 200yards away and squint at me through your eye lashes I’ll give you there may be a passing similarity – and people seem to think she’s quite attractive, so I’m assuming I’m not THAT hard on the eyes, but when it comes to meeting men I think I have been off at a sample sale when the pheromones were handed out. It’s a complete mystery to me how some women go from relationship to relationship with barely a break in between. How do they do that? My friends suggest it’s because these women are ‘not picky’, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself picky either. I’ll pretty much go on a first date with anyone – with the exception of sexagenarian mambo men – it’s not like I expect movie star good looks, a fat wallet and washboard abs from a date, I’d just like to meet somebody normal who’s within approx. 10years of my own age. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve taken matters into my own hands and asked men out, but it hasn’t exactly worked out well so far. The first time landed me in an on/off 2year relationship with a recovering alcoholic, whose idea of a fun-packed Saturday night was staying home to watch movies – his notion of a good one being ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’!! Eyeroll. By the way, what WAS Dame Judi Dench thinking??? Then there was Dan, my former Pilates instructor - yeah yeah yeah, I’ve heard it, a fitness instructor, never mind what was Judi Dench thinking. What was *I* thinking??

Dan flirted up a storm with me in the reformer classes I took at his studio, singling me out in conversation and tickling my toes or rubbing my shoulders in class, attention he didn’t pay the other women. He’d also send flirtatious emails so unsurprisingly I got the impression he might be interested. As I was considering switching to another instructor anyway, I quit Dan’s class, took the bull by the horns and asked him out. “Oh no,” he stammered, “I hope I didn’t do anything to give you the wrong idea. I would never date a client, past or present, it’s unprofessional.”

Hmm, and tickling my toes and flirting with me in class is the height of professionalism is it?

My female friends in England don’t seem to have much luck either. My mum used to assume my terminal singleness was because I was ‘too choosy’, but after working with women my age who have had similar experiences with men, she’s since concluded there’s ‘something wrong’ with my generation.

Miles on the other hand thinks I expect too much of serendipity to help me meet a potential mate, he thinks I should be proactive and join pronto!! However friends advise me to steer clear of online dating, claiming their own experiences have been a series of disappointments that left them feeling miserable and bereft of hope. Sara, for example, joined an online dating service in January after making a new year’s resolution to go on at least one date a month. This resulted in a total of 3 dates, the first with a man who turned out to be married and was just looking for a bit on the side; the second with a pony-tailed 40-something who lived in an apartment in his parents’ basement and whose 70year old mother still did his laundry, and lastly was the date with a man who turned out to be going through some sort of manic depressive episode and broke down in tears within 20minutes of them meeting. Is this the best of what’s out there? Spinsterhood is looking more and more attractive!!

I suppose if I were truly unhappy about the situation I would have made a bigger effort to do something about it and gone online, but Miles has a point, I do like the romance of serendipity. Maybe one day I will venture online, but at the moment my attitude is that if it happens it happens. If not,…well, it’s not the end of the world. Overall life’s pretty good, and if you’re going to be single, New York’s an excellent place to enjoy it.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

What on earth is that appalling guff?

The iPhone is out in New York on Friday and rumour has it there are people queuing outside the Apple stores already!!! Completely mental, especially in this weather, which is appropriately described by New Yorkers as 'soupy' - very hot with unbearably high humidity. You're outside for 5minutes and you feel like you need to take a shower, it's disgusting!! Tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same!!! Let's hope for the sake of the salespeople at the Apple Stores that there's a nice big rainstorm on Thursday evening to cleanse the longterm iPhone queuers, otherwise they're all going to reek to high heaven by the time they're able to get their mitts on a phone!!! Ugh!!!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Parental visit

My parents flew back to England yesterday after visiting me in New York for a week, their tenth visit to the city. It went pretty well I think; not completely smooth sailing, but not so stormy on the domestic seas either, unlike some previous stays which have included some humdingers of arguments.

Visits from my parents usually start out well, but have a tendency to go down hill fairly quickly. This time was different and I think both sides were doing their bit to keep any irritation in check. I was especially proud of myself when I didn’t so much as utter a squeak of complaint when the two of them coerced me into a trip to Canal St so Mum could check out fake designer handbags, and Dad could get a Ba Da Bing T-Shirt; he’s a BIG Sopranos fan - I’ve prepped him for his inevitable disappointment with the final episode when it’s screened in England.

My parents inexplicably LOVE Canal Street, it probably ranks among their favourite places to visit when they come to New York. I have no clue why, and quite frankly I suspect I must be adopted, since as far as I’m concerned it’s the arsehole of Manhattan and to be avoided at all costs. My mum however is absolutely thrilled when she hears the traders mutter “Miss, miss, you want handbag? Prada? Gucci? Miss, handbags miss, handbags. You want?” She beams with excitement when she’s ushered through a secret door, or a hidden wall panel, up a staircase to a back room where an abundance of counterfeit Prada treasures await. I’m anticipating the day she’s visiting and gets caught up in an NYPD raid and I’m called to bail her out of a police cell.

The only tense moments of their visit largely stemmed from my exasperation at my mother’s inability to look before she crossed a road. Seriously, the woman seemed to lose all road sense once she landed in New York. If someone crossed the street ahead of her, she'd just follow, not a moment’s thought as to whether the light was in her favour or not, she’d just saunter out into Park Avenue, not even a glance in the direction of the oncoming traffic. There were a few close calls with cabs and food delivery guys during the first couple of days and I started lingering around her like a nervous parent whenever we left the apartment. She'd near a road and my hand would automatically hover over her shoulder, ready to grab her to prevent her from being squashed by a cab. It was like looking after an errant toddler. She’s only 55 too; not exactly old for the mother of a 36year old daughter. I worry what she’ll be like in her advanced years.

Dad was a breeze by comparison, despite being 80% deaf!! The only problem he had was a few blisters from walking too far in ill fitting shoes, but once we found him a pair of trainers he was sorted. My Dad is a fairly simple being; he’s happy to go pretty much anywhere as long as there’s the promise of a hamburger or a steak dinner at the end of it. He’s also very easily distracted by ice-cream and Starbucks' Frappucinos should my mother's shopping habit prove a little taxing on his tolerance.

Parents eh!! I love ‘em, but I have to admit I'm relieved they’re now firmly ensconced at their home in England, under the watchful eye of my sister.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

The scent of summer

If you can move beyond the pungent aroma of drying dog urine, hot rotting rubbish and headache inducing humidity then New York is a lovely place to spend the summer.

Aroma wise I'm blessed to have somewhat of a limited sense of smell. I think long-term exposure to the family Labrador’s farts in my formative years severely impacted the sensitivity of my proboscis.

Bizarrely it’s only the unpleasant smells I have difficulty with. I can smell perfume and flowers no probs, but bad smells have to be extremely strong for me to pick them up. Melissa and Ash were very envious of this ability on our hols in Panama when I was blissfully unaware of the stench of raw sewage emanating from the bay as we took a walk alongside the ocean. I couldn’t smell a thing unlike the two of them who would have glady sold their right arms for a clothes peg each. Quite frankly with a talent like this, I’m surprised some flatulent man – and aren’t they all – hasn’t snapped me up before now!!

Anyway odors aside, I love the summer in New York. There’s just so much going on, much of free and most of it happening in parks. You've got performances by the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera on the Great Lawn in Central Park; Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater, which attracts a lot of well known thesps, and is a fabulous thing to do if you can spare 5plus hours queuing for the free tickets - a limit of 2 per person - handed out at 1pm. A few years ago it was THE hot ticket of the summer season when Meryl Streep performed in The Seagull. A friend of mine was lucky enough to bag a ticket, but only because she and her father came into the park to queue at 4am, and they weren't even at the head of the line. Apparently the police kept kicking them all out of the park, only for everyone to sneak back in a few moments later. The police would return and kick them out again and so on until they finally manage to stake out a spot in the queue and get their mitts on the coveted tickets. They're a menace those theater lovers.

Central Park also hosts free performances at the Summerstage, then there's the Monday night movies in Bryant Park, Shakespeare in The Parking Lot, Shakespeare on the Run (they love their Shakespeare these New Yorkers), the free concerts at McCarron Park Pool in Brooklyn, movies at River Flicks, Moondance held on one of the Hudson River piers, enjoying the sun and a few cheeky beers at Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City etc etc etc. So much stuff!! I love New York.

The thing I like most about these events is not so much the culture, but the picnicking and, best of all, the drinking. Technically it’s against the law to drink on the street in New York, but at many of these events the police turn a blind eye. I’ve spent many a happy summer evening getting sozzled under the stars with a pile of friends on Central Park’s great lawn. The classical music playing in the background was largely incidental, since for the most part we’re not an especially savvy bunch when it comes to the arts. Although one year my friend Matt did perk up on hearing the Philharmonic play a familiar piece asking, 'Don’t I know this one from Bugs Bunny?'

Very educational those Warner Brothers cartoons.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Say it isn't so!!

Very sad news on Eater, my favourite cosy coffee shop, DT:UT, is closing in just over a week. June 24th will be the final day. Sob!

I’ll be extremely sad to see it go; it holds a special place in my heart, when I first moved to New York and was a total Billy-No-Mates I whiled away many a lovely weekend afternoon lounging on the battered sofas, checking out fellow loungers while pretending to read. Halcyon days!

It’s also the place I lost my S’mores virginity. I believe there’s still a scorch mark on one of the coffee tables commemorating the occasion.

For those of you not in the know, S’mores are DELICIOUS. They’re made of Graham crackers – which probably most resemble Digestives – toasted marshmallow and pieces of Hersey bar - which is intended to resemble chocolate(1) – all splodged together in a delicious dessert sandwich. See below.

Ahhh, I remember my first time very well, I was beside myself with excitement and, in a fit of S’mores related fervour, managed to flick a flaming marshmallow off the wooden skewer I was holding.

I was with Melissa and Ash and recall time seemed to stand still as we followed its fiery arc until it landed about three feet away in a gooey flaming puddle on a coffee table, much to the horror of a little girl of about 8years old, expertly toasting her own marshmallows – hers were a uniform golden brown, whereas my efforts tended to be raw on one side and charred on the other, perfecting S’mores is harder than it looks - with her mother, across the room.

Fortunately she was my only witness as DT:UT was having an oddly slow hour that day. The place is almost permanently packed, so it’s not closing for lack of business. Nope, it’s that old chestnut, the landlord is doubling the rent and they cannot afford to renew. Sigh!!

Yes, I’m bitterly disappointed DT:UT is closing. I mean look at the place, it just oozes charm.

It practically screams come on in, stay a while, put your feet up and have a lovely cup of coffee and perhaps a blueberry scone. It’s a far superior coffee loving experience than your average sterile Starbucks. Pah!!


(1) One of the cruellest tricks playing on unsuspecting British ex-pats living in New York is that Cadbury allow Hershey to package their chocolate in Cadbury wrappers. You cannot IMAGINE the horror when you bite into it, expecting to taste the signature velvety smooth taste of Cadbury, only to experience something more akin to the dog drops we used to feed our Labrador. Bleugh!!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Another step closer to 40!!

It was my birthday last Sunday. I ended up having a lovely day despite being in no mood to celebrate. Not entirely sure why I was feeling so gloomy - it went beyond turning 36 - but I'll hazard a guess that having to work all day Saturday and cancel plans contributed.

Initially I made low key plans - spurning the more traditional British plan to drink lots since I was originally expecting to be very happy on Vicodin following my wisdom tooth extraction - in favour of a tour of the Chelsea art galleries followed by French cream donuts at Pain Quotidien with Sara on Saturday, and then brunch on Sunday with a small group of friends.

I was really looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend, but unfortunately had to cancel my Saturday plans as a client threw a hissy fit last Thursday over an analysis I'm working not being ready, this despite the fact that the agreed deadline of June 22nd is still over a week away so it’s not even MEANT to be ready, but does that matter? No, of course it chuffing doesn’t. I mean, as the client, why on earth would I be reasonable and allow the analysis to be completed in the AGREED time when I can throw a tantrum, have the agency consultant work like a dog over her birthday weekend and get the report a week earlier.

Sometimes I REALLY hate my clients.

Ironically the client pitched a fit to my AD while I was at off-site training, learning how to deal with client conflict. Timely!!

The training was an interesting two day experience I can tell you. If I'm honest I'd rather have been working than taking the training, but it was mandatory. The general gist concerned learning to be a better listener with your clients, suspending your own agenda in meetings to improve your emotional bond and how to deal with conflict, should it ever arise.

As usual with these training courses, only some of it was useful, I especially wasn’t so keen on the role play aspects of it. I hate it when I am pushed into doing things like that. I get such stagefright and I'm usually so anxious about the role play that my anxiety is all I can focus on, and I don't respond how I would naturally if I were actually in this situation with a client, so then I get critiqued on an unrealistic reaction.

I also had to raise my eyebrows when they discussed how to deal with client conflict. Apparently when a client gets a strop on, you are NOT supposed to smack them upside the head and tell them to stop behaving like a child, no matter how much you really want to, you MUST suppress this urge. Instead you should ask probing questions to get to the heart of why the client is upset, acknowledge their feelings (I am so sorry you feel that way), reassure them (there there) and work towards a resolution (what can I do to make YOU look good?)


I had to laugh when half way through the session, Simon - fellow Brit and recent transplant from London to NYC - leaned over to me and whispered "It's very American this training isn't it?" It really was, although I was shocked to realize that until he pointed it out I hadn't noticed. Clearly I’m fully acclimatized to the American way of doing things after 7years in New York. However once he’d said it, I couldn’t help but notice and the two of us would roll our eyes and smirk at each other every time the trainers discussed ways to deal with a client’s emotions.

I was reminded of that piece from "An Audience with Victoria Wood" where she talks about having a new car alarm, "it's an American car alarm, it doesn't go 'wah wah wah' like a normal alarm. Instead it asks 'why did you feel the need to throw that brick through the window? Are you upset? Can we talk about this?'"

Anyway training and client tantrums aside, I did manage to celebrate my actual birthday on Sunday with brunch at Aquagrill in SoHo with 6 pals - Jacqui, Azniv, Melissa, Sara, Francesca and Nigel, fellow Brit and token man. Nigel was in his element with 6 women and we were in our element sorting out Nigel's love life over Bloody Marys.

Nigel's almost 47 - although he looks far from it, more like late 30s - and looking for the right woman with which to settle down and start a family sooner rather than later. He’s been a heavy user of over the last few months months, but hasn't had that much luck, never getting beyond 3 dates with any woman, that is until he met Erin, a 37year old dance instructor, originally from Alabama.

Erin and Nigel have now been on six dates. Unfortunately Erin has yet to put her hand in her pocket and offer to pay for so much as a drink on any of these outings, and it's something that's beginning to niggle Nigel.

Initially he didn’t mind so much, since this is typical of dating in New York. Men are expected to pay, at least for the first few dates. Beyond that, it’s acceptable for a woman to offer, although not necessarily okay for the man to accept, and this is where it gets tricky since this varies among women with some being completely fine about going dutch on dinner – a camp into which I fall, I’m all for equality, although it’s nice to be treated every now and again – and others who will offer, but not mean it - the fake reach for the wallet - and will immediately brand a man who accepts as cheap.

For his part Nigel doesn't expect Erin to contribute, he'd just like her to offer. He'd be more than happy with a fake reach; he’s just not too keen that she's taking it for granted that he'll pay and being treated as a walking wallet.
He's now become overly aware of it that he finds himself tallying up how much he’s spending on the gold digging harlot (my words not his).

It’s all oddly old fashioned to me, when I first moved here I felt as if I'd somehow travelled back to the 1950s when it came to dating. Even after 7years living here I find it odd that Americans so completely reject our approach of splitting the bill. I've been on dates with guys who’ve told me that if a woman even offered to contribute on the first few dates they’d immediately assume she wasn’t interested in him romantically and he wouldn't ask her out again. Then again I've also been out with guys who’ve told me how much they appreciate that I’ve even offered, especially when it's clear my offer wasn’t a just 'a fake reach', but that I intended to back up it up with cold hard cash. It’s very confusing, especially when you throw into the mix that more than 20% of New Yorkers are foreign born, not to mention all the ex-pats, and don't intrinsically know these dating rules.

The consensus on Nigel's situation among the six women at the table – two born and bred New Yorkers and four multinational non-Americans - was that by not offering to pay for so much as a round of drinks or a post dinner coffee after six dates is a bit bloody cheeky of Erin. We dithered over whether to make allowances for the fact that she's southern - apparently southern women are extremely traditional and expect men to pay for EVERYTHING - but decided that she's lived in New York long enough - over 5years - to at least know to offer. When in Rome and all that.

Nigel agreed and says that it's really starting to bother him especially as he's found himself being all too aware of what she orders when they go out to dinner - entree only, entree plus dessert and coffee, whether she orders the most expensive thing on the menu - that it's having an impact on their dates, at least for him, so he's decided that if she doesn't offer on their next date then he's going to broach the topic. He’s anticipating an awkward conversation and expecting the relationship to end. However he seems quite matter of fact about this, and seems optimistic that someone else will come along!!

I wish I could take on board some of Nigel’s dating optimism. I try, but it doesn't come naturally when things don't work out. I have a tendency to rehash the past way too much and question what went wrong even though I know I'll never have the answers. Moving on is easier said than done. I had a small lapse this week when I saw that the restaurant GS manages was FINALLY reviewed in the New York Times – they wrote to the critic inviting him to review last summer when he and I were still an item. The review was a huge deal for him and he was determined to get a good one, which he did, a very good review. It was published on my birthday of all days, and when I the piece online on Wednesday morning my stomach flipped and a few old feelings and resentments came flooding back. I want him out of my head damnit!!!

Phew!! I hate these small set backs in my, already lengthy, recovery, but hopefully this time it will be short-lived. Fortunately I have my parents arriving in town on Sunday, so entertaining them will provide enough of a distraction.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Fun with oral surgery

So, no wisdom tooth out for me this morning, as the Oral Surgeon sent me packing....

Oral Surgeon: I thought the last time we were here we discussed in detail how difficult this tooth would be to take out and could potentially cause permanent nerve damage?

Me: I don’t recall discussing it in detail, but yes, you mentioned the possibility of nerve damage, however Dr A tells me it needs to come out

OS: There’s a 20% chance you could be left with permanent nerve damage.

Me: (weakly) 20%?

OS: 15-20% yes. Why did Dr. A tell you it needed to come out?

Me: Oh I don't know. Could you excuse me a second while I just rummage around in my handbag for that medical degree I appear to have forgotten I had and then I’ll be able to give you my highly qualified opinion of exactly why I think Dr A says it needs to come out.

Of course I wasn’t quite so facetious, but WTF!!!! Shouldn’t the two of them be talking to EACH OTHER instead of sending me back and forth with a referral slip? I said as much too, I was feeling belligerent because my nerves were on edge and I was caught in the middle of conflicting medical opinions.

The upshot is that he's told me to wait, at least until my next check up with Dr. A in November, and see if it gives me any more trouble – I had a minor gum infection that’s cleared up now. I’m home working now with radio1 blasting through the internet which is infinitely better than being in the office. Silver linings.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Sunday scoff

Did you see that a poor thirty something woman in the UK has been found MURDERED after going on a DATE!! ( If I wasn't put off by the whole dating men malarkey before I certainly am now. Ugh!!! Men!!

Jacqui is also off men after discovering that the man she was enjoying a mild flirtation with on Match, and hoping to meet for a face to face date soon, is not 44 at all, but 57. Fifty seven!! What was he thinking shaving 13years off his age like that? Did he think that when she met him she’d be so bowled over by his personality she’d forget the 22year age difference? I don’t think so.

Megan on the other hand is considering prostituting her services to support her culinary education. She quit her junior consulting job last week to fully immerse herself in her efforts to become a pastry chef and won’t be earning any money for the next 4months. She told us that when she does find her first job it will likely be for a pittance of around $20,000; can you IMAGINE!!! I'm guessing her current salary is about $80,000 so a HUGE decrease. Bananas, but I have to admire her for following her dream.

She’s trying not to think about the money side of things, but says she’ll have to move from her $1,500 a month shared apartment in the West Village when her lease is up and find a share in the outer boroughs for under $900. She’s even considering placing an ad on Craigslist offering her culinary services and light cleaning duties in exchange for a free share in a house with a large kitchen. The realistic side of me thinks she must be absolutely bonkers to even consider taking such a risk, what with all the weirdoes out there, but my fairytale side can’t help but think of the romantic possibilities of her somehow meeting a wealthy investment banker, who’ll be seduced by her lovely tarts and they’ll live happily ever after in a brownstone in Park Slope. It has the makings of a romcom for the foodie set; Babette’s Feast meets Pretty Woman.

The three of us had dinner at Perilla last night, the new restaurant opened by the season 1 winner of fabbo foodie reality show, Top Chef, Harold Dieterle. I was THRILLED when Harold himself came out of the kitchen to say hello to the people in the next booth and sign their menus, but of course being a New Yorker I remained nonchalant, upholding my distant and aloof composure, and appearing outwardly unimpressed by his celebrity, although in reality, when I saw him walking through the restaurant I elbowed Megan so hard under the table in excitement she’s probably got a glorious bruise to show for it today.

I wish I’d been as thrilled by the food as I was by the Harold sighting. It was nice, but not amazing, although I think I had one of the better dishes - black bean glazed black cod with spaghetti squash, marcona almonds & snap pea sauce - since both Megan and Jacqui complained their food was over salted - fiddlehead fern ravioli, roast chicken respectively.

The fish was very nice, but I was a little disappointed by the spaghetti squash which was a bit overwhelmed by the snap pea sauce, but then I like my spaghetti squash simple - tossed in olive oil and seasoned with black pepper - so maybe I'm nitpicking. It's a very new place though, so I feel Harold deserves a chance to iron out the kinks. Kudos to pastry chef, Seth Cato, though for his divine lemon fennel donuts. Mmmmmm!!

Have to say, the GM is also VERY attractive in a scruffy, cute, bearded kind of way – sports jacket, shirt, casual trousers and pumas. We were all swooning, but couldn't decide if he was gay since he wore a ring on the third finger of his right hand. Is that the international sign of gay partnerdom? I’m never sure. Miles – a qualified gayer – vehemently denies this is necessarily the case and says I am making sweeping generalizations to assume as such, however all the women I know assume a right handed ring wearer is definitely nestled in the warm glow of gay domesticity. Who knows, he must be spoken for anyway. Next!!

Unfortunately Perilla was the last I’ll be seeing of nice food for a short while as I am having the last of my wisdom teeth out tomorrow. I’m not at all happy about it, given the first time I had a wisdom tooth out, the oral surgeon examined my other wisdom teeth and said he would take out the top two, but not the bottom left one because that one could be 'tricky'!!! Tricky?? I hate it when medical types tell you the truth like that. For God’s sake just lie to me.

In preparation for not being able to easily chomp solid food for a few days I ran down to Myers of Keswick at lunchtime to stock up on suckables: tomato soup, rice pudding and Devonshire custard. It was horrible outside too, we have really heavy rain and it's relatively chilly compared to the 80 degree temperatures we've enjoyed recently, although one of the nice things about working in an ad agency is that I can just wear jeans to work on a miserable day like today – or any day for that matter. I LOVE that, especially when you see all the finance peeps in their mud splashed suits and know they face a hefty dry cleaning bill.

Of course I do make an effort and try to dress up my jeans a bit. Today I have on my new Anthropologie lacy blouse, bargain Satya jewelry from Friday’s sale and cute shoes. I draw the line at too casual, although some in the agency are less bothered. Only last week I saw a woman wearing a tracksuit to the office - and it wasn't even a Friday. Can you believe that, a tracksuit??? I ask you, what's next, pajamas?

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Why pay retail?

I took the day off on Friday to go to the Satya Jewelry sample sale. I love it; it's my favourite sale along with the Theory sample sale, which also had an advance opening on Friday.

I’ve never met a sample sale I didn’t like, it’s a mystery to me why London never has sample sales - at least they didn't seem to when I lived there.

In New York the sample sale season is typically twice a year around May/June and November/December when - usually - current season’s merchandise is offered at a 40-80% discount. If I were a tourist I’d time my trip to New York to coincide with sample sale season instead of heading down town to spend hours in the hell that is Century 21. I hate that store, it drives me absolutely insane, I don’t know how anyone puts up with it, but tourists seem to flock to it, and it seems to top the list of places to visit for most of my Brit visitors, especially Miles who loves to replenish his stock of Calvin Kleins there. I know you can get good deals, but I find it hard to be in there for more than 10 minutes. All those densely packed clothing rails, surly assistants and aggressive bargain hunters. Yikes!! Not to mention the fact that the clothes often look a little worse for wear, like they’ve been trampled by a herd of wildebeest. Give me a sample sale over that place any day.

A popular misconception, even among many of my less sample sale savvy New Yorker friends, is that the clothes sold at sample sales are sample sizes. Not true. I’m sure there are certain sales where only a smattering of wafer thin models can squeeze into the clothing on offer, but not at any sale I’ve ever been to and certainly not at Theory where the clothes run from US size 00 to a 12.

I love Theory, especially their trousers, a colleague introduced me to their sample sale four years ago and I've rarely worn trousers made by anyone else since. I’m not sure how they do it, but they seem to suit every woman regardless of shape or size. They are like the trouser equivalent of those one size fits all stretchy gloves I wore as a kid; they flow over curves, cling just enough in all the right places and flare slightly at the bottom, lengthening even my stumpy legs. I’m addicted. Ash takes the piss out of my obsession with their sale, but it’s just common sense to me. I baulk at paying full price, upwards of $220 at the likes of Bloomies, when I can get this season’s trousers for $89 at the sample sale, less than what she pays for trousers at Banana Republic, for seemingly higher quality if retail price is any barometer.

The Theory sale is also pretty civilized compared to most. The clothes are organized by size and they have a communal changing room where the capacity is also managed so that you are not fighting for mirror space with 10 other bargain seekers. The Theory sale is the only one I've been to which has the luxury of changing rooms. Usually you have to cast modesty aside and strip down to your skivvies in a darkened corner of the showroom to try anything on. I used to frequent one sale that was held in the top floor corner loft space with curtain-free windows spanning the length of three walls with a small corner set aside for changing which was adjacent to a large window. The building was a little higher than the ones immediately surrounding it, but I’m sure the people working opposite, or in the taller office buildings a couple of streets away, got an eyeful since the majority of sales enthusiasts have no qualms about stripping down to just a g-string to try on potential bargains, although you always see one or two more modest types struggling to try things on over their clothes so as not to flash the neighbors, which is how I was at my first sale.

I’m less inhibited these days, although I still like to preserve some modesty by wearing sample sale appropriate underwear - a thin vest top and boy short knickers – when I'm not sure if there’ll be a changing room available. I wish more of the women would follow my example, if only for the consideration of their fellow bargain hunters. It’s deeply distressing when you bend down to adjust the hems of your bargain, 70% off retail, trousers, only to look up and find yourself nose to cheek with some woman’s thong clad arse. Shudder. I appreciate that quarters are tight, but still…there are limits to what you should have to put up with for a bargain.

Unfortunately after waiting in line for almost an hour to get into the Satya sale – a typical wait to get into the more popular sales if you’re not close to the head of the queue once the doors are opened - and then blowing $375 on jewelry - 3 pairs of gemstone earrings; 2 bracelets and 2 necklaces, one long beaded jade necklace and one with a pendant of garnet and carnelian for mum – my financial conscious wouldn’t allow me to also stop by the Theory sale. I consider stopping by to just check it out, but I am weak willed where Theory is concerned and I knew restricting myself to purchasing just a single pair of trousers wouldn't work, especially as restricting myself to a budget of no more than $150 at Satya clearly worked out so well. Ahem.

Ah well, there’s always the December sale to save up for.