England’s hidden gems

The BEST CLASSICS YOU Have TO READ (or re-read) THIS SUMMER

I have always LOVED reading. I can remember being about 8 years old and hooked on the Potter books before physically moving into the world of Robert Muchamore’s spy academy. Seriously, my childhood was either spent in Hogwarts or being a CHERUB – you could not get me out. As I moved into my teen years, of course I was into young fiction. Looking back, I think that’s where I got most of my ideas about love and fantasy. As I got older though I became more fascinated in classics – particularly in contemporary dystopian novels where I’m transported into a world of misfortune and sadness. Anyway, I digress. Here is my list of my top 5 novels (new and old) that you have to read.

  1. The Body – Bill Bryson

Last year, the American author Bill Bryson came out with his latest non-fiction novel. As someone who rarely reads non-fiction books, I was blown away by the style of Bryson’s writing and how it was able to keep me engaged. It’s a good read for those who are curious about every aspect of the body. Bryson keeps you on your toes from the moment you open the book to the last page; with facts about the heart, face, brain and every bodily system you can think of. I would highly recommend this book, and to be frank, its the book that started my non-fiction journey.

2. Station 11 – Emily St John Mandel

This book was actually recommended to me at a book club I attended two years ago. It’s about a virus that takes over the world in less than 24 hours (uncanny), killing everyone it infects within a matter of hours. The story follows several characters along their lives 20 years after the virus hit. The themes and storylines that are brought up in this book haunted me for for at least a year. St John Mandel’s writing is amazing and this book was an absolute page turner. I mean, it was such a good book, that I had to write a 20 page essay on its characters and themes, definitely worth the read.

3. 1984 – George Orwell

My battered copy of Orwell’s 1984 has been passed down from my great uncle to my dad and then to me. I read it first when I was 10 and revisited the book a few years later. Only then did I realise how many important points I had missed. If you don’t know the book already; it follows the protagonist Winston Smith who represents the feelings of every human being in a twisted, dark world. Orwell writes with so much subtext, warning the world of what there will be to come.

4. The Handmaid’s tale – Margaret Atwood

Again, I have to add this dystopian classic. It was actually released a few years the hit 1984. Atwood found it so eye-opening that she decided to write her own and in my opinion, she did it better. Not only does she create an entire world where the world goes to shit and people have to deal with it, Atwood created a masterpiece that will hold relevancy not only today but for hundreds and thousands of years to come – that’s where the beauty lies. The sequel to ‘A Handmaid’s tale’ is ‘The Testaments’ which talks about the the fall of Gilead.

‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes’

Mark TWAIN

5. When breath becomes air – Paul Kalanithi

I remember reading this book on the train from London to Brighton. The first three-quarters or so of the book was written by the award-winning late Dr Kalanithi, who wrote about his time as a neurosurgeon. The book was finished by his wife after he sadly passed away from lung cancer in 2015. It’s heartbreaking but beautifully written, the majority of the time I was laughing through the tears – it’s a good read.

The BEST CLASSICS YOU Have TO READ (or re-read) THIS SUMMER

I have always LOVED reading. I can remember being about 8 years old and hooked on the Potter books before physically moving into the world of Robert Muchamore’s spy academy. Seriously, my childhood was either spent in Hogwarts or being a CHERUB – you could not get me out. As I moved into my teen […]

Read More

DAY TRIPS AFTER LOCKDOWN

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted, my family and I were at great difficulty when picking a place to visit for a day trip. You see, for the last 12 weeks we had been reminiscing our old trips and optimistically researching and planning new ones for the near future. We had so many places on […]

Read More

DAY TRIPS AFTER LOCKDOWN

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted, my family and I were at great difficulty when picking a place to visit for a day trip. You see, for the last 12 weeks we had been reminiscing our old trips and optimistically researching and planning new ones for the near future. We had so many places on our list. Some of these places had actually been on the list for a few years now but in all honesty, we had never found the time to go.

If being stuck in my house for 3 months has taught me anything, it’s the fact that I should not waste time or procrastinate. Especially with travelling. I used to delay my holidays by a year or two simply because I didn’t have the right people to go with or that because flight tickets were too expensive. Now I believe that’s hardly a reason. So here’s the story of the first day trip I took with my family after lockdown. Like I said before, this was on our list for a very long time, and now our dream had finally come alive.

We were just pulling up to the Lavender fields near London when my first thought was ‘Oh shit, there’s going to be a lot of bees’. I was not wrong. There swarms of bees left, right and centre. As we visited at the start of July, the lavender was only half-bloomed, meaning the fields were a lighter shade of purple rather than the full bloomed you may see in pictures. At first we were trying to take pictures; dodging the multicoloured insect left, right and centre. We soon learned they won’t bother you unless you bother them.

It was so easy to become lost in the fields. It was set up so it was just row after row of lavender bushes for several acres. It was a camphoraceous smell that was woody and pungent. I’ve smelled lavender before in small bunches, but its really quite an experience when there’s an entire field of them in front of you.

The farm we went to used to have a ‘pick your own lavender’ service. However, due to the risk of contamination, it was stopped but it was possible to buy either fresh or dried lavender bunches instead. The gift shop and café also had limited access. Both stores were restricted to guests and instead we had to tell the staff what we wanted and they would get it for us. They had a wide range of lavender products on sale, including jam, chocolate and homemade ice-cream – all of which I tried and tested. Oh, and you also had a constant soft buzzing noise in your ears to take home for free.

Overall, my first day trip after lockdown was just a new breath of fresh air. I loved being at one with nature again, stretching my legs and finally seeing people at ease. Below is a short video of my time at the lavender fields.

LAtest posts

reminiscing düsseldorf

The current travel restrictions put in place due to the pandemic means that most of us have been stuck at home and can only flick through holiday albums and fantasise about about the trips we were due to take this year. For me, it’s Düsseldorf. The prominent German city which sits east of the Rhine […]

Read More

PAINTING TIPS FOR DUMMIES…

…from a dummy. I have zero artistic talent. None, whatsoever. Back at school, my friends would spend hours during art lessons, focusing all their attention on the centre piece. They would squint to focus on the image every time they looked up and they drew with intricate wrist movements, using a variety of tools to […]

Read More

Get the f*** away from me

I, like millions of others, am going to be trapped in my own home for possibly the next few months. I know I’ll be fine – you see, I am the master of self distancing and my bedroom has always been my isolation station. Perhaps this entrapment will make me start hanging out with my […]

Read More

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Please help me out and fill out this feedback form below. It will help build on future content!

reminiscing düsseldorf

The current travel restrictions put in place due to the pandemic means that most of us have been stuck at home and can only flick through holiday albums and fantasise about about the trips we were due to take this year.

For me, it’s Düsseldorf. The prominent German city which sits east of the Rhine river and hosts an array of luxury brands and museums. I’ve visited Düsseldorf multiple times over the past 5 years, but no visit was more special to me than my most recent trip there. It was during the beginning of the Christmas period and the lights in the town square had just been switched on. My previous visits to the city took place during the summer months, hence why this trip was the start of a new experience for me.

There’s nothing better than visiting a typical German Christmas market in the months of November. Although Düsseldorf remains one of the wealthiest and most expensive cities in Germany, the Christmas markets are far cheaper and more value for money than the ones near my home in London. Whether you prefer to splurge on Bratwurst hotdogs, chips and gravy – the national favourite – or browse the stalls with individually handcrafted nutcrackers and tree decorations, then the Christmas markets are just for you.

Advertisements

It wasn’t only the Christmas markets which made my holiday. It was also the weather. I’ve always loved the winter season. It includes the combination of my favourite holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays…) but also the satisfaction of wrapping up in my winter coat, wearing thick walking socks and boots, longing for snowfall and only cringing at the approach of warmer seasons. Düsseldorf was cold but magical. From the minute I stepped off the plane, I felt a harsh wind pinching at every inch of my face. The best way to make the most of the weather was to take a stroll down the river in Königsallee. You will see a multitude of picturesque bridges and streams of small canal boats docked up for the winter. Beware though, Königsallee is also the ultimate shopping destination, boasting high end brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Rolex. This entire street would be filled with lights and Christmas decor so you are bound to bump into overly excited tourists one way or another. I hope to return to Düsseldorf soon – preferably again during the winter and perhaps explore more of the Christmas markets.

If you would like to see more of my trip to Germany, check out my video here.

If you liked this post, check out my other travel articles; Top 10 highlights in Amsterdam and 48 hours in Prague.

Advertisements

PAINTING TIPS FOR DUMMIES…

from a dummy.

I have zero artistic talent. None, whatsoever. Back at school, my friends would spend hours during art lessons, focusing all their attention on the centre piece. They would squint to focus on the image every time they looked up and they drew with intricate wrist movements, using a variety of tools to imitate the look of the object in the centre of the room. I, on the other hand, would finish in no more than 10 minutes. I would hand in my work to the teacher, who would only just sigh, knowing that the weeks of training me to have the slightest bit of artistic flare had gone down the drain.

Its been many years since then and although my patience for drawing has not changed, I have learned to appreciate the skill and dedication needed to fill a blank canvas. I have also found a new love for geometric drawings and painting block colours. Long gone are the days where I tried to draw streams, forests or skeletons in the centre of art classroom.

I started drawing one line pictures and used blocks of colour to create repetitive patterns. At this point, my godfather (an excellent painter) gifted me some acrylic paint. I immediately YouTubed ‘easy painting tutorials’ and came across one that easy enough for me to try.

Advertisements

I used a mix of poster and acrylic paint. The reason for this is because poster paint can easily be manipulated due to its soluble nature and acrylic is not water soluble. The advantage of acrylic paint is that it gives the painting a softer finish. Mixing both paints allowed me to create new colours without waste and have a cleaner finish. The brand of poster paint I used was Giotto. It’s amazing; inexpensive and comes in an array of beautiful colours.  

First, I dabbed my paintbrush in orange and topped it off with some white. It was important not to mix the colours as that would have given me a light orange. Instead, I wanted a strong orange tone with white streaks. I painted on a landscape piece of card, starting in the middle of the page and working my way down. 

Next I moved to the top of the page. I painted the entire top half white before adding a bright pink to it. With the pink, I worked my way downwards until it met the orange. At this point, I continued to mix a blend of pinks, whites and oranges until it looked as though both colours ran seamlessly through each other. 

Next, it was time to tackle the mountains. I started by drawing some blue lines 3/4 of the way down the page. I started filling some of the colour, but it wasn’t necessary to complete the entire painting since I was going to add more colours. The point of this was to create a shadowing effect, as if the sun had just slowing started rising.

I repeated the mountain effect 3 more times, using a darker colour each time until the final colour used was black. To create more of a mountain range effect I made sure to layer them over each other. Over the third layer (greyish – black), I decided to dab my paintbrush over the wet paint to add some texture in the painting. Once the entire sheet had dried, I painted a golden circle. After all, what would a sunrise be without the sun?



Now, might I warn you that just because I’m giving a painting tutorial doesn’t NOT mean I’m any good. I purely paint as a form of therapy and relaxation. If you would like to see the actual tutorial, it can be found here.

Advertisements

Get the f*** away from me

I, like millions of others, am going to be trapped in my own home for possibly the next few months. I know I’ll be fine – you see, I am the master of self distancing and my bedroom has always been my isolation station. Perhaps this entrapment will make me start hanging out with my family downstairs – Oh wait… no, it hasn’t.

We all should have seen the virus coming. It was written in every fictional book – coincidence or not, it was still a possibility. Margaret Atwood said ‘History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes’, which is true. Here we are, obeying authoritarian orders, locked in our homes with no freedom of movement, rationing our food and slowly turning back into the selfish animals we once were. This whole thing is very dystopian; the incompetency of the current government shining through, mass hysteria, and the collapse of a rising society.

About 6 months ago, I read ‘Station 11’ by Emily St John Mandel. It described the collapse of society overnight. Billions died from a flu, and the remaining lived the rest of their lives in fear. I used to say ‘Station 11’ was exaggerated, but now I think otherwise. Eventually, when we run out of food, we’ll be scavengers. It’ll turn into sin city – stealing, killing, losing a sense of morality because all you are doing is surviving.

If you haven’t stocked up already, do so now. Help the vulnerable around you. Daily televised news from the Prime Minster won’t help you survive. Learn to ration, practice yoga, medicate. The internet will get slower, perhaps we’ll even get power cuts from time to time. Remember, this is a war. Eat cleanly, exercise and don’t lose your sense of morality. Most importantly, don’t lose hope.

The rise and fall of Nintendo

Nintendo actually started off as a company which specialised in just playing cards until one of its Japanese owners decided to make games consoles. The colour TV 6 was released in 1977, shortly followed by the game boy in 1989. The most famous of all and most successful to take however, was the Nintendo DS (2004) next to the Wii in 2006.

Now when I was growing up, the latter two consoles defined your social status at school.

‘What colour do you have’ (black, of course),

‘What games do you have?’

Best of all we would have toy day; an afternoon at the end of the school year where the entire class would huddle around the reading corner, backs humped and eyes fixated onto the screen of Chatroom A. There was always that one kid who would be drawing phallic objects, and the rest of us would try to remove is off the screen as fast as possible in case the teacher walked by.

The DS was the most entertaining device I ever owned back then. It did not require internet and it was mobile, meaning my childhood mainly consisted of me, my Sim, cooking mama and Mario.

I stopped playing, however, after the age of 12 and my console remained neglected for the next six years. When I was 18, my best friend started the DS craze in my school – where we reminisced and replayed old childhood favourites. We went back to playing Mario kart during every spare time and it almost turned into the scene of the old reading corner – except this time with 15 teenagers, fighting it out to see who was best at drifting.

Over the years, Nintendo have come out with revolutionary consoles – but of course some have missed the mark every once in a while. The 3DS was meant top be the new upgrade. Instead, it made everyone feel quite nauseous whilst playing some of the games. Then came the Wii U which sold only 13 million hardware units, compared to the original Wii which sold 101 million in the first year.

In 2018, Nintendo released the switch. The sleek, modern and colourful version of the Nintendo DS and Wii combined. The Joycons being made to absolute ergonomic perfection, accessible for all ages and capable of doing single and multiplayer games on one console. It’s the DS of the younger generation, and really won’t be letting them any time soon.

Welcome to the 20s

The last 10 years have been a rollercoaster. I passed exams and went to one of the best schools in the country. I made friends, lost friends, almost committed suicide over it and then met the most amazing people who I now call my family. I had a go at the dating game – one, two, three, four, five and my favourite number six – isn’t that impressive? I got my first job, learnt to drive and kickstarted my career as a writer. I even managed to graduate with a diploma in violin – a skill which I still struggle to find any use for. Like I said, it really was a rollercoaster. There were as much ups as there were downs, I’m sure, but most of it was just a learning curve – the elements which makes up the concrete, to set the foundations of my life. I learnt the value of friends, family and charity. I understood how incredibly lucky I am with all of the opportunities that were handed to me. A supportive family, caring friends, a safe home, freedom to travel, freedom to speak. I learnt to be decisive, control emotions and let go of things that were mere distractions.

The next decade will be completely different. I intend to have a successful career, perhaps a home or a family that I can call my own. All I know is that I’m prepared; the foundations have set, now its just time to build the tower. 

Hidden

Happiness evades me.

That’s a truth I can see.

Come and find me little one,

I set myself free.

For you cannot see me

If I keep hiding from thee

Questioning

Part I

I sat awkwardly between two people on the train home. My shoulders tucked and my hands were resting on my knees. I longed to stretch my legs but before me were a herd of school children of whom I was afraid to look at, let alone to almost touch.

On my right was my fiancé of 9 months and one week. The wedding planning had recently become stagnant after we had disputed over every other detail. I imagined a small intimate wedding of perhaps 10 guests from each side in a converted barn with wooden tables, wholesome food and only to be lit by candlelight. He wanted 2 weddings – Hindu and Christian to represent both of our backgrounds, a party with an open bar and a stag do in Vegas of course.

It’s not that we can’t afford it. He’s a respected chef and I’m one of the chief editor at a major newspaper in London – the youngest editor, in fact, according to Reuters. His ideas of marriage were just different to mine. I already knew this, of course, as this was one of the topics which came up in conversation on our first date – or was it second? I can’t remember. Anyway, he had done some catering for some extravagant weddings during his teen years, which, I believe started his lifelong fantasy of seven-tiered multi-flavoured cakes, fireworks and the brides arrival in a helicopter (yes, he really suggested this).

We met at university, about 8 years ago now. He studied Law, presumably by ‘suggestion’ from his mother. I had only met her once, since she died just 3 weeks after her son graduated, but I presume she said something along the lines of:

‘Why don’t you get a degree and you can focus on your cooking after that’

A doctor herself, I always wondered what she must have thought after being told that her only son wanted to pursue a career as a restauranteur. I don’t know if she would have be proud, even today. I digress. 

My fiancé had put up a notice about wanting volunteers to taste test his new recipes. Of course, he was a complete stranger to me back then – much like everyone on campus, since I only left my dormitory to attend lectures. However, something sparked when I saw his notice and I found myself walking over to his dorm that afternoon. 

He lived in the building directly opposite to mine. It had a pool and a screening room. I remember, he smiled as he introduced himself to me as he met me on the ground floor. He was tall, had neatly trimmed hair, a prominent jawline and a growing stubble perhaps after three days on not shaving. He was wearing a white t-shirt which was carefully matched with the black jeans I saw underneath the apron that was wrapped around his waist.

‘Why did you go so early?’ I thought to myself. ‘He’s not even finished cooking yet’.

I don’t remember much from the conversation we had that evening, nor much of the meal but it was something along the lines of fried quail and sage butter. There was a glimpse in his eyes which oozed a certain charm that I cannot describe. I found myself returning to his kitchen every weekend before it became every day. He was my first ‘I love you’ and the first person I had ever truly embraced.

After graduating, we took our first holiday abroad to Vienna. We were on the famous ferris wheel when he asked me to move in with him – romantic, I know. You see, I was forced to move back in to my old bedroom in my parents’ home, since I had not yet gathered enough savings for a place of my own. My fiancé’s father, however, was the owner of a music label (the name of which I cannot disclose), and had gifted his son a car and a three bedroom apartment in London. 

I decided to move in 5 months after the funeral – it was best to give him some space at least. 

Over the years, we both established good portfolios in our chosen industries and eventually saved up enough to buy a house together in Hampstead Heath. Like traditions go, we went on a vacation just before the big move, and to my surprise he popped the big question:

“Tara, please make me the happiest man and do me the honour of becoming my wi- ”

‘Excuse me Madam, you’re sitting on my coat’ 

An angelic voice bought me out of my daydream. It was a woman on my left.