Foxtons Mini

If you work for London-based real-estate agent called Foxtons – then chances are that you’re given a company car as part of your employee benefits package. Furthermore – such a car is probably a semi-personalised new-style Mini – personalised in the sense that it has your unique employee identification number painted on it – emblazoned amidst the supposedly trendy, flowery, corporate livery that makes up the Foxton’s brand.

Honestly though, I’m not so sure that it’s a “benefit” as such. Being an estate agent (or “sales negotiator” in 21st century parlance) you’re in probably one of the UK’s most hated professions (beaten only by traffic wardens and parking attendants I’m sure) – so having a car that sticks out like like a sore thumb makes you immediately identifiable as an estate agent. No matter how “work hard, play hard” the progressive ethic and uniformity in image that Foxtons tries to make out to be – you’re still just an estate-agent!

Waiting at a bus stop on Ealing Common this evening – I spotted the following distinctive Foxtons Mini. This one is the estate-agent’s answer to life the universe and everything. Personally, I would be embarrassed to drive such a thing.

Car belonging to employee number 42 of Foxton’s Estate-Agents
(Would you be embarrassed to drive that car?)

Apologies to those of you who work for Foxtons – or who are in the real-estate trade. I don’t really mean it. Just parody! :o)

Best Dim Sum in London

I once wrote about the New World restuarant in Chinatown (Gerrard Place) being my favourite place for Dim Sum – but I’ve found a real gem of restuarant where the Dim Sum is even better. Probably the best in London. It’s a place called China City – an informal family-friendly restuarant upstairs in the Oriental City shopping mall in North West London – which in itself is a spectacle worth visiting – especially for the massive selection of excellent Asian foods available to eat hot and freshly made in the food court (Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese etc.) It makes you feel like you’re in the far-east somewehere – totally unlike being in suburban London.

China City restuarant in NW9 – the best place for Dim Sum in London!

Today’s selection was: Prawn Dumplings, Prawn & Pork Dumplings, Char Sui Bao, Spring Roll, Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Prawn Cheung Fun, Prawn Cake with Salad Cream – all of which (except for the Cheung Fun, came as 4 pieces each). And all of which was extremely tasty! With green tea and a round of diet cokes for four people – the bill came to £28 in total. So – good value too. Far more convenient that the New World, and being inside the Oriental City complex, China City is a much better all-round experience. Although it was extremely busy (which is a good sign) – we didn’t have to queue for a table. I strongly recommend anyone who lives in London and likes to eat Dim Sum for a traditional Sunday “brunch” to try out China City – it’s excellent. Click here for location – nearest tube is Colindale – which is on the Northern Line.

Freshly painted road

Walking from my front door to my usual bus stop in my neighbourhood – I have to cross a few little side-roads. The other day I noticed that one of them had been freshly resurfaced and painted.

Freshly painted road.

This made me think. London’s roads are actually quite colourful these days. Whereas the general surface of the roads are greyish-black and the lane markings and give-way (yield) markings are white – there are many other colours used – for example – yellow lines and double-yellow lines for parking restrictions (or double red lines on some arterial routes). Box junctions are yellow-hatched. The cycle lanes are bright green. The part of the road surface where the bus stops are bright red – and the bus lanes themselves are often coloured red (or maroon) too. I think that London’s roads are the most colourful, nicely-patterned and consistently-marked roads in the world!

No ads?

Having travelled the world over in my lifetime so far – there is one thing that really sticks out about London’s public transport infrastructure – and that is the fact that every possible inch of visual real-estate has potential use as a marketing businness-opportunity. And it is used! Whether you are riding the escalators on the underground, or walking through tunnel passageways – or riding the buses, tubes or taxis – everywhere you look is a blaze of advertising banners and posters – competing in sometimes very innovative ways – for a those precious few human brain-cycles in transit.

So naturally, it is very noticeable when there is a distinct lack of such commercial opportunism:

What no ads?
(St.John’s Wood tube station – northbound Jubilee Line platform)

Sambhar Vada

Had the privilege of meeting the famous Chakra in real life yesterday afternoon. A cup of tea and a natter near the Sushi Bar in Paddington Station. And what a pleasure it was indeed! It’s always very strange meeting people whose persona and image you have already shaped in your own mind. I think it was more of a “shock” for Chakra than it was for me – as at least I had seen a pic of Chakra prior – but he hadn’t seen a proper one of me. Anyway – it turned out that it was my voice that came as more of a shock! This kind of bugs me really – so on tube on the way home after our chat I spoke into my dictation machine (a tiny Sony memory stick based machine of course) in various different tonal inflections and played back my own voice to myself in order to analyse. I never did like the sound of my own voice.

Anyway – one thing about our encounter that I was completely blown away by – was the gift some traditional South Indian snack food – which became a tasty meal for myself and Ms.79 later in the evening. Chakra got this for me from a new South Indian restuarant just opened in Wembley High Road (right in the heart of Route 79 territory!). The restuarant is called Saravana Bhavan – and is one of two London branches of Chennai’s most popular restuarant chain!

Sambhar Vada – very tasty. Thank you Chakra!
(Made into a complete meal by serving with some veggie rice and side salad)

Now I will have to learn how to make it!

Chicken Biryani

I haven’t put up a new recipe for quite while. Not because I haven’t been cooking – because I have. Practically every day. It’s just that I haven’t had the time to take pictures and publish. But I made the time tonight. Chicken Biryani – a quick stove-stop method – with asparagus and mushrooms on this occasion. Equally tasty without the chicken for a vegetarian experience – and you can use any combination of vegetables that you have to hand in your fridge. It really is very easy to make. Trust me!

Chicken Biryani (with asparagus and mushrooms)

Click here to learn how to make this really tasty dish!

Indian Prices

There is a major bus stop in Alperton – which is the penultimate stop on the Southbound vector of the 79 London bus route. It’s on Ealing Road – right outside a mini “strip-mall” style building complex – which amongst several small Indian boutiques and beauty parlours, houses The Clay Oven banqueting suites – a Fitness First health club, a famous Indian jewellers and a famous Indian clothes and fashion store called RCKC London.

The latter is proud of announcing that it’s amazingly-expensive designer sarees and lenghas are sold at “Indian” prices:

Does “Indian prices” mean “expensive”?

I often gaze into the RCKC store when I switch from Route 79 to Route 83 to get to Ealing Broadway in the mornings – and I am amazed at the prices of the clothes modelled by the mannequins in the window display. They are, in my view, significantly and relatively expensive. So – when I saw the banner in the picture above the other day – it really made me wonder.

My Nokia

I’ve had my current mobile phone for nearly a year now. Some of you may remember me writing about getting it last year. Here is a picture of it as it was then. (Actually, I do use lots of different mobile phones for my job – but this one is the one that carries my main phone-book, and therefore is my “work-horse” phone.)

The problem is that everyone appears to have one like this – especially at work – where they appear to have become standard issue – and even in the “street” – everyone seems to have a Nokia 6230. What’s worse is that at work – there are so many people who have them (and especially the ones coloured black) – that it’s not uncommon to accidentally walk away with someone else’s mobile phone after a meeting – or after a casual visit to someone else’s desk – where people have placed their phones on the desk or meeting table. This has caused no end of problems for me – taking someone else’s phone and only knowing about it until it rings and someone thinks you are someone else when you answer an incoming call – or when someone thinks it’s someone else when you make an outgoing call.

Well, I was walking to Marks & Spencer for a sandwich at lunch time the other day in Slough – and I noticed a mobile phone accessories stall in the shopping mall. So I stopped and looked to see if they had any “alternative” snap-on covers for the Nokia 6230 – and indeed they did have. £5 a cover. Or two for £8. So I bought one. I figured that if I could replace the commonly-owned black cover with a different colour – then the chances of anybody mistaking their phone for mine – or me mistaking my phone for someone else’s would be minimised.

The problem is – that now I get funny looks every time someone sees my phone …

My pink Nokia

I think some people have a problem with it being pink. It doesn’t matter if you’re seen wearing a pink shirt – or pink tie – but carrying a pink phone brings about some funny looks. I guess it’s just not conventional.


Decided to spend the day in Richmond in South West London. I used to work there. It’s a fabulous place in the summer. One of my favourite parts of London. Travelled there and back by bus, tube and train.

Turn up the volume loud and click on the green button below to load a (2.1 Mbyte) Shockwave Flash musical slideshow of some selected pictures from my visit to Richmond today. (Should only take a few moments if you are on a high-ish-speed Internet connection – and will only need to be done once.)

Music is a swanky, jazzy-style number called “Dust” by Recloose (featuring Joe Dukie). Hope you enjoy it!

Kissing Policemen

Yesterday (Monday) was a national holiday in the UK. The occasion for this holiday is “May Day” – to commemorate the start of the month of May – which has for centuries been observed as a symbol of the socialist movement in Europe. Although unlike many contintental European countries – there is very little reference to symbols of socialism in this national holiday in the UK: No “socialist” processions or marches – no overt dressing up in the colour red or the waving of red flags etc.

Instead – most people seemed to take the opportunity to go down to the beach, or the local park, or their own back garden for a barbeque; the May Day “bank” holiday being used to mark the beginning of, hopefully, much warm weather to come.

Anyway – I decided to spend the day at one of London’s many famous parks. Battersea Park in fact. But on the way – driving through the streets of London on the way there – I happened to spot what looked like a sophisticated piece of graffiti on the wall of a house at the North end of Ladbroke Grove – which is a relatively well-known street that connects the Harrow Road in North Kensington to the Notting Hill area in the West End of London.

I just *had* to stop and take a picture:

Fascinating graffiti spotted on the side of a house on Ladbroke Grove.

I’m wondering whether this graffiti is an example of progressive, “covert” art – or what? Whatever. It surely is the subject of much discussion – as there were many passers-by who stopped to look at it in fascination. I simply had to stop to take take the picture in case it would not be there in the future. Kind of like wanting to capture a spontaneous moment of expression. Transient art.