Thursday, 19 August 2010

Puttin' on the Ritz!

Ok, it's a terribly cheesy and unimaginative Blog title I know. I did ponder 'Crackers for the Ritz' and 'Ritz a Wonderful Life' but the obvious one seemed the least cringe-worthy!

To the post!

2 months ago I went for afternoon tea at the Ritz in London, with my Aunt. I'd bought her a voucher for tea for two there a year earlier to celebrate her 50th, and because I'd been living in Hampshire with little funds to transport myself back to LDN for a whole eight months, yes, you heard right - eight months - the day we did eventually go was the last day we could do so before the voucher expired! But oh my - twas fabulous...

We met up at Bond St. station after our working/interning day was over, and had a little drinky and a wander around some shops before heading to Green Park tube station. We were still a little early however - for some odd reason afternoon tea runs from 7.30p.m. until 9.30p.m. Actually, thinking about it they do several slots a day and that was the most convenient time for us both... sirry me!

So we waited in the Rivoli Bar, and not wanting to be rude and order a £15 glass of wine I settled for a bottle of posh elderflower presse. I'm not much of a big drinker, I usually go for a beer but I didn't think that would seem very... Ritzy. Although saying that, I did nab the plush paper coasters they gave us as a souvenir! The staff were wonderful and it made us feel like celebrities! They served mini cheese twists and olives so we had a nice nibble while we waited. We both felt quite underdressed, as other attendees were in more formal attire that you might see at a wedding - but a lot of other tables were birthdays and special occasions. And I think we would have both looked quite silly beforehand, going into work in outfits more suited to a day at Royal Ascot!

I nipped into the loos before we were seated at our table, and was blown away again by the glamour and magnificence -from a toilet!


Plush seats, murals, pink details AND jewellery cabinets!!

The washbasins were so girly, and instead of paper to dry your hands there were baskests of soft white fluffy flannel-sized washcloths! And a hamper to put them in - it did feel a little wasteful, but I can't imagine a hot-air hand drier in an establishment with these levels of extravagance!

The string quartet began playing softly, and we were seated at our table. We were right next to the catering entrance, beside a screen - maybe because we were not so exquisitely outfitted as the other patrons...

But we didn't care because the food was delicious and the surroundings were fabulous! Here's me sipping on some Jasmine Blossom Tea:

 You got to pick from a list of yummy blends and had your own teapot - I had trouble picking one, I could probably have had several pots! Here's my Auntie, check out the yummy cakes and all the wonderful features...

And a final view of the room. 

We had a variety of teeny sandwiches cut into rectangles, such as smoked salmon, mature cheddar and of course cucumber, with staff replenishing them as we ate. They were small, but very filling! Then we were served hot scones with jam and clotted cream - absolutely heavenly. The top tier of our stand was reserved for tiny desserts. My Auntie was stuffed by then so I got to try them- including a gorgeous Macaron - I should have asked who it was by as it was delightful! *mouth waters*

The time went quite quickly and we thoroughly enjoyed the top quality treats and girly gossip. I'd definitely do it again for a special occasion. I can't think how much it would cost for me and Tom to get married there though...

...but imagine it! Wouldn't it be just perfect?

Ta-ta for now!



Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Blogger, Bloggees, and a quick catch up!

Greetings to you, you being a person who is reading this with their eyes! I bet you didn't know that if you in fact read with your tongue instead the blog will taste like cupcakes, did you?

*crosses fingers and hopes you lick screen*



Never mind. I've had some sweeties late at night so clearly I'm a wild child and can't be tamed. I'm not sure who is reading this blog, after having it for over a year and not writing many posts within that time (about four I think - shameful, I know, I should be sentenced to suffocation by melted marshmallows) I decided to try and get myself back into the habit of blogging more often, and so I shall endeavour to do so. Goodness knows why, I can't imagine who wants to listen to/read my drivel, and (as I've always called it) "Nonsensical Witterings". Maybe I should trademark that...

But if you are reading this blog and bathing your eyes with my word-shaped ridicoulousness, thenI hope you enjoy it and don't require an acidic eye-wash immediately afterwards, or reach for a tiny fifties cocktail fork to pluck them out and-

etcetera etcetera.

But anyway, if you are reading, then thank you - I hope it gives you a little tickle rather than the side-effects listed previously. And if you do enjoy it, then please leave a comment saying so as it would cheer me up and I won't strangle any kittens.

I'm still getting to grips with this blogging thing, I've had a go at jazzing it up and trying to make it slightly more interesting but I'll be playing around with that for a while - I'm not a technophobe but I do have some learning difficulties which can slow me down! Maybe I will tell you about them some day. But more to the point - please bear with me!

I'm hoping to do some more interesting blog posts at some point - baking, experimenting with my jewellery, shopping trips, reviews and the likes, but at the moment I'm stony broke and living between two counties, waiting to find out which one I'll be living in for the next year. I was looking for work closer to London where I'm from, but my fiance, Tom, is currently living and working in Hampshire on the south coast. I've spent the past year there in our flat and had a number of jobs before I took on my internship. It's been a real struggle - I left a last job to go back to London and during my first week Tom had an accident longboarding with a friend and badly fractured his skull. Luckily I was working with a friend of a family member who was very sympathetic and I was able to rush back down and pack him a bag before hospital visiting hours. He needed constant supervision for at least 2 weeks. Over 2 months later he's still recovering - he's back at work but only on a part time graduating basis - it's knackering him out though - he's really not ready but circumstances were/are quite poor!

Anyway while he was off he decided to get back into some composing (he's a musician, and a very good one at that) because he really wants to write music for video games, TV, or maybe one day even film. He had been doing a music to media degree at Bournemouth University, but had to leave once when his father passed away to help his mum out (the man is a real sweetie - he likes to pretend he's a criminal mastermind but he's got a heart of gold). I was browsing through the website of the college where I studied for my degree, as they are moving this year, and have undergone a huge re-branding. Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication will now be located at the Greenwich peninsula (accidentally typed a rude word there first, involving male reproductive anatomy) just a stone's throw from the 02.

The new building is a striking, modern design and I was intrigued to learn more about it. I noticed that they were running a new course this year - Music to Media Production - and that places were still open for it. Tom's always wanted to finish his degree, and this course sounds amazing and just right for him. There's an interesting article which mentions it from the independent here. So, he applied and got in touch with the staff at registry and his old tutor (he's already been to uni, so they know he'll be up to scratch, and he doesn't have to wait for any results). So we're waiting for either the Admissions tutor to return from leave or for something to happen on UCAS later this week. In the meantime he's been working on his showreel, making some lovely compositions, and I've even given some videos that I edited from old, unused footage from my BTEC in Media Studies six years ago!

So anyway, lots of things are on hold at the moment, including the launch of my jewellery as it will be difficult to sell stuff if I'm in the wrong county or in the process of moving, so until then I will be working on all the little preparation bits that I can. I've really scuppered up my sleeping pattern though, Tom's not been able to sleep with all the pills he's been having to take so we've entertained ourselves re-watching my Green Wing boxset.

So bloody funny, and a fantastic example of British comedy, which is set in a surreal hospital with excellently written scripts improved by fantastically developed characters played by very talented actors. If you haven't already, get your hands on a copy and do not sleep until you have watched it all. We figured out that the characters we were most like were Liaisons Officer Sue White (me) and Anesthetist Guy Secretan (Tom).

Ta-ta for now!

Swaf xxx

Friday, 30 July 2010

Hello Kitty Teaspoons and a massage chair!

I went shopping in Bluewater with my Bestie Emma yesterday - well, I was actually there to hand out CV's as I finished my internship and am looking for full time work. But as Tom has applied for uni and won't know if he's got in for a while, I don't know which county I'll be living in for the next year so it seems a bit pointless. So I did a bit of shopping on the way...

I hunted down some sunnies that I'd been trying to get my hands on in Punkyfish - only £8, so retro.


Next stop was to see my old colleagues in Sanrio (Hello Kitty!). Had a lovely catch up and of course I had to buy something... these teaspoons won me over!




and the cuteness extended to the schweet lil bag:


Originally £4.95 each but lucky me got given staff discount - even though I haven't worked there for 3 years but shhhhh. I'm too loyal/obsessive. Can't wait to use them with my teacup collection! They also had dinky little forks, reminds me of the tiny cutlery Liz Hurley used to take with her. Perfect for afternoon tea with scones!

Speaking of afternoon tea, I had a voucher for free tea and cake for two in John Lewis. I had a cinammon twist and Em had a lemon tart, yummy. I wangled my voucher when I was doing my internship in London, I'd ordered something for the office and when I went to pick it up from customer services they took longer than anticipated so a member of staff gave me a voucher! Sweet deal considering I was quite enjoying just chilling away from the office...

We saw a delightful cake shop called buttercup on the way, but our tummies were too full! Looks delish though.


Bumped into my glamorous old friend Hannah in Juicy Couture, which was luvverly.

Wandered into Menkind where Emma had a slight orgasmic moment on the massage chair...


Last purchase was this ah-may-zeeng cat ring from accessorize, £4. Love it love it love it!


Oh and some sushi.

I'm getting a massive bruise on my leg from when Emma accidentally kicked me - we went for a late night swim to round off the day and the pool was unusually cramped, so we ended up swimming into each other all the time!

Ta-ta for now, Swaf xxx

Hello Kitty Rickshaw... & Jersey Boys!

I was in London's West End on 24th July, on a family outing to see the amazing Jersey Boys musical for the 2nd time. If you haven't already been - please go, it's great fun for any age. Think I surprised some of the older generation by singing along to everything!

Whilst we were having drinks and (very yummy) chips in The Spice of Life pub/restaurant nearby, I noticed this beauty parked outside and had to stop and get a snap of it. Apologies for getting the woman in shot, I did re-take it but my phone was seriously spazzing out that day and it had mysteriously disappeared later.


It's a Hello Kitty Rickshaw!! Here's a cropped image so you can see the HK motif more easily:


Isn't it cute? Loving the pink flower garland too. If I see it again I'm asking for a ride.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Primark Oxford Street: Actual Hell on Earth

When I heard about the mayhem of the grand opening of this branch, I found it slightly disturbing, but wasn't entirely surprised. Every Primark store is busy - the bigger the branch, the fuller the heaving throng of shoppers desperate for a bargain. It's been open for over three years now, and I only just recently managed to summon enough nerve to wander in.

I've been on an internship with Echo Brand Design, whose offices are on Oxford Street just over a block away from Primark-zilla. It's summer, so there are a lot of tourists and holiday-makers, which only adds to the chaos and disorganisation. It's odd, because there are staff everywhere - but they just can't keep up with the trails of destruction left by customers with little regard for the once neatly folded stacks of £4 t-shirts, or the effort that goes into keeping them that way.

It's almost as if the immense workforce are trapped, repeating their never-ending chores as if they were one of the damned in Hades' underworld - sentenced to fold and re-fold forever, but it will never be finished. I can't imagine how late they have to stay after closing time to have everything perfect for opening the next day - only to see it all trashed again within 30 seconds of opening the doors!

So my first experience of the Oxford St. branch will probably be my last. If I ever dare to venture in again, it would have to be an early visit, before peak times. Sounds stupid, but it really is like rush hour in there. But the point is, I HATE OXFORD STREET PRIMARK! I can usually only stand a Primark store for a short amount of time as it is. I wont bother with the queues for the changing room, as I find it easier to return it if it's no good. The shouty, chavvy tweenagers attempting to totter around on the only high heels they could afford are revolting. But this particular branch is LITERALLY HELL ON EARTH. Apologies for the excessive caps lock internet shouting, but I really feel the need to stress this exact point.

The store itself is heeeuuuge. But as I mentioned previously, more square ft. = more crazed shoppers. So the feeling that hit me the instant I walked in was claustrophobia. I have to explain one thing - it's not Primark I hate (although their manafacturing methods are rather questionable) it's the customers. Or rather, what they turn into when surrounded by mass bargains.

I have to say, and I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but the tourists are the bigger culprits when we're discussing a lack of behavioural decency. Sure, the local branches have their fair share of idiots, but times that by 100 and you'll get an idea of the mentality of the 'customers' in the Oxford St. branch. The insanity is magnified.

The moment you step through those doors, you can wave goodbye to logic and sense. A primal instinct washes over you, a need to gather as many bargains as you can to stay alive - the more you have in your basket, the higher your rank in the food chain. In all seriousness, there is a definite difference in attitude with shoppers. Us Brits are notorious for being polite, not as polite as the Japanese perhaps but less rude than other cultures. So why does this not apply in Primark?

I was absolutely disgusted, and angered at the way customers were behaving. It's like they were completely blinkered, looking only at cheap goods and not the people around them. I'm a very conscientious shopper - I've worked in retail for years, so I know how to duck and weave through crowds and I also grew eyes in the back of my head. I know to be aware of people, watch where they're going and I'm very polite - maybe too polite now I think about it. So I had to be a bit less polite and completely on my guard in Primark.

People will attempt to walk through you, vacant expression on their face, caught up in a low-low-prices trance. With no concern for others, they will barge straight into you, no apology, no eye contact. Fair enough, you expect some treatment like this, especially in a tourist hub like Oxford Street. But when every single person except you is doing it, you start to feel like the only one in a zombie outbreak who hasn't been bitten yet. I'm usually a very polite person, don't mind waiting in queues, very nice to staff (I know what it's like to be on the receiving end) but I was really beginning to feel my blood boil. I found myself shouting on the inside, "get out of the f*****g way, you dozy idiot!", "watch where you're going for f**k's sakes!" and "move, d******d!". Yes, very sweary. Shameful thoughts - but this is what it does to you, I couldn't help it!

Even recalling the atmosphere now is making me feel irritable. I can't tell you how many people were awarded an imaginary bitch-slap/shoving from inside my head. It's mindless consumerism at its worst - or should I say, most effective.

Here are a few of the appalling things I witnessed:

  • Families of tourists with several huge baskets (big enough to fit a person in) tossing away the articles inside, whilst counting a running total in their native tongues. This was done in the middle of the floor of course, or the bottom of an escalator.
  • Women fighting over a garment - I myself had a near miss with a hanger in the eye. They have no qualms about barging in front of you - and I mean literally elbowing you out of the way to occupy the space you were just standing in, as you rummage through a rack for your size.
  • A couple having a blazing row - she was crying. I saw them on both floors - obviously shopping in Primark was a priority on this occasion.
  • A girl (pushing past me of course) grabbing handfuls of (at least twenty) pairs of their £1 nerd glasses. I'm thinking eBay/market stall? Quite clever actually, but still rude.
  • As I was queuing, a pair of women barged through the line to ask some people ahead of us if they would take their items to the till if they gave them the money for it. Luckily the person they asked had sense and said no. Queue like the rest of us plebs, obviously no-one's getting special treatment in a place like this!
I also felt it necessary to keep a good grip on my handbag as well, places like that must be a good pick-pocketing opportunity - it just didn't feel safe among the herds of primitive beasts. It won't take long for you to feel annoyed, but for the purposes of experimentation I decided to look around and really get the full experience. I'd gone in looking for something in particular, which I didn't find, but I did find a ballet cardigan, in beige, that I'd been wanting to add to my wardrobe. I went upstairs, immediately regretted it, but felt that I'd have to go through the whole thing because I really wanted the cardi. But when faced with the prospect of the huge queue, full of people with armfuls of you-could-fit-a-person-in-them-baskets, your courage and will is instantly diminished. But I soldiered on.

I'd had a quick look around the accessories, because I love sparkly things (obviously) and found a pretty ring with two large flowers that covers the fingers either side (knuckle duster style rings very popular at the moment) so I picked that up.


As I then had two items, I felt I could actually justify braving a wait in the queue a little bit more. It snaked around the partitions and then around the floor. To the credit of the staff, they were very efficient and obviously adept at dealing with a high volume of customers with an average item count of 50-something. With every till at this paypoint manned, I waited in line for 14 minutes. Along the way I passed the stand with all the nerd glasses and picked a pair up for Tom, who'd been wanting some (and barge-y girl came along too). I was dealt with quickly - I think the staff must love it when someone comes along with only a couple of bits, instead of folding a mountain of garments as if they were in a prison laundry.

I'd paid for my items, they were bagged and I had my receipt. I could now make my bid for freedom! Yeah, right. It took me a further five minutes to just get out of the damn building!! And all the while muttering curse words under my breath at the vacuous, idle tits in my way. An extra few seconds and I think I may have had an assault charge on my hands. I really think they should have a system where they let 100 people in at first, then apply a one-in, one-out policy.

My advice: avoid. Unless this sort of environment sounds like a relaxing vacation to you. In which case please don't go shopping when I do.

(I've given myself a headache at the memory alone now...)