(This was my entry for a 300 word short story/creative writing piece competition. I think it’ll help if you know what kelpies are! Probably my favourite mythological monster, they’re supposed to be a shape-shifting water spirit that lives in Scottish lochs, usually looks like a big black horse and has a taste for human flesh)
Balloch. Small, quaint, rural, quiet, surrounded by the waters of Loch Lomond. Dark waters, unsuspecting; the sort of waters that have slurped up one too many drunk revellers. The kelpie doesn’t enjoy eating the inebriated. Their blood emanates alcohol. He’d rather virgin flesh, all sweet and pure. Beggars can’t be choosers, especially not in this day and age, where news of missing bodies is spread far too wide, on the news, and internet, the Twitter. He wouldn’t want people to come looking in the Loch. So, the kelpie stays hidden, feasting off slippery trout and pondweed.
Yet, every so often, he can’t help himself. He slinks up to the banks. If you were looking, all you’d be able to see was a black snout, rising up and out of the water. His mane fans out below the surface, slippery scaled tale furling out beneath.
A fair maid walking yonder.
Blonde curls, cupid’s lips. He misses the garments of a past age; denim is awfully hard to digest. Nonetheless, he can’t resist raising his head above the water to watch her. She struts along the water bank, eyes transfixed on a glowing object held in her hands. Oh, how he yearns to capture the maiden, and drag her back down to his murky depths.
Yet, her angelic face is stricken. Half scowl, half anguish. Fat tears run down porcelain skin. The kelpie grimaces, and retreats from the girl, back down to lurk amongst the pike and lamprey. Dinner never tastes so good when tainted with grief; it tends to give off a sour taste.
I don’t really know when we got so into afternoon tea. I started going after heavy nights out, as there is something incredibly amusing about stuffing yourself with cake and trying to remember to lift your pinkie as you drink tea, when deeply and darkly hungover. Despite this tradition, I wasn’t even slightly hungover when I went to Lele’s monthly special of afternoon tea (although, having avoided alcohol recently, half a glass of bubbles went straight to my head).
As aforementioned, Lele’s vegan afternoon tea isn’t an everyday thing. Instead, sittings are run on a monthly basis, which means you have to book well in advance by sending them an email and arranging a deposit. This makes it all the more niche, and perfect for celebrating events (a late birthday treat for myself), planned in advance with plenty of time to look forward to. From 4pm – 6.15pm, Lele’s venue in Dalston is emptied of everyday diners, to offer swift service to a select few afternoon tea attendees.
I really wish that I was the sort of person and blogger who took the time to selectively photograph each cake and sandwich, to savour and rate it, but unfortunately you would’ve thought I’d never been fed after the way I was let loose and devoured the cake. Between my friend and I, we cleared all the sweets and savouries in record timing. I saw most of the other tables leaving with their leftover, unfinished treats boxed to go – which I personally can’t fathom. Nonetheless, everything on offer was pretty memorable, so I can at least remember what was consumed, even if there’s no picture evidence.
I’m not normally a sandwich person, but both the vegan cheese or faux smoked salmon/carrot sandwiches were really good. I don’t think you’d have been able to tell the scones from vegan scones (are normal scones even vegan?). The pastry selection consisted of a Victoria sponge, carrot cake that was supposed to be a brownie without cacao (tasted like carrot cake if I’m honest, but good carrot cake at that), and a chocolate tart. The latter was the only let down in my opinion, as the chocolate filling wasn’t quite right.
Overall, Lele’s had a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, and the once-a-month sitting makes it all the more exclusive. All the food was delicious (vegan cakes have come a long way), so it’s definitely one to put on the bucket list for vegan fine diners and afternoon tea enthusiasts in London. Priced at £25 per person, it’s also a steal when compared to other venues charging over double the price.
Bristol being crowned vegan capital of the world is of little surprise; there’s a vegan falafel bar or vegetable based dinery on every corner. I was a little surprised to find out thatChef’s Pencil, bestowed Bristol with this title based on the number of google searches for vegan eateries in a particular area. I do love scouring the web for places to eat when I’m at home in Bristol, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I slightly managed to skewer the data whilst searching for the best vegan pancakes online.
Somewhere that I’ve had my eye on for a while is Eat your Greens. Living in London, I’m so accustomed to having the tube right on my doorstep, and the lack thereof in Bristol means that I’m fairly confined to a walking radius of my house (yes I do know buses exist, but after being shouted at for trying to use contactless on a bus in Bath, I’m a little bit wary of public transport in the South West). The trek to Totterdown, where Eat your Greens is based, has therefore been put off for a while – but is wholly worth the time.
Eat your Greens is just the archetype of an independent business that you want to be supporting. The infamous ‘Babs’ works in the kitchen, cooking your food on her own (I only got a brief glimpse when I popped to the loo, duly covered in Star Trek paraphernalia), and the food service is incredibly attentive. The décor is quaint and arty, with paintings and collectables adorning the shelves, and bits of ivy curling down to the tables. Eat your Greens serves breakfast and brunch daily, offering an array of plant-based alternatives to fry ups and smoked salmon (smoked carrot, that is), and relaxed dining by night. The personalised table reservation was a very appreciated addition.
The evening menu consisted of choice between 3 starters and 3 mains, with more complex dishes such as vegan cheese stuffed courgette flowers, or a ciabatta burger and chips for perhaps the meat eaters less inclined to adventurous plant-based options. The gluten free tempura was potentially a highlight. Although I left pretty full and very satisfied, I did also treat myself to a brownie to go – as a selection of freshly baked vegan goods are on offer throughout the day.
All in all, Eat your Greens is the perfect option for a lazy plant-based brunch, or a relaxed dinner (I hear they also offer a prime Sunday roast), if you’re looking for exceptional home cooked food from ethical sources.
I’m sure everyone’s been on a bad date. Up until the start of this year, I hadn’t really had any bad experiences – or rather, after a few bad boyfriends, coupled with a tendency to get anxious around strangers, I had managed to avoid letting any boy come within 5 metres of me. The comfort zone is however there to be challenged, so I’ve been through a string of what you can only call ‘interesting’ experiences (a banker offering to pay to take me home was one of these highlights), which really peaked with a boy who slid into my dms a few weeks ago. Looking back, it is entertaining, but I also want to show how dangerous the influence of social media (particularly Instagram) can be, and how fake everything we’re idolising online really is.
Like I said, I’m always apprehensive when people ask me out and usually do my best to make excuses and get out of dates. Not to be swayed by pretty people, the boy in question was a 9. A 9.5, my housemates were shrieking, and declared that there was no way they would let me out of this one. He’d asked me to gym with him, which turned into a walk in the park, and later some food. He was admittedly as beautiful as his pictures in person, as an ex-topless Abercrombie door model, and general underwear model.
Straight away, he told me his goals were to travel the world for free as an influencer, and to document it on Instagram and YouTube. I didn’t think much of it; everyone has big dreams. He also loosely mentioned he had a foot fetish, and with all my recent marathon training, my toenails are looking a bit questionable – so I stuck a bunch of fake toenails on before our second date.
He’d offered to make me protein pancakes after I had dinner out with my friends (is there a better way to win me over?!) When I arrived at his house, he was making the pancakes – topless. Despite being perfect and chiselled and very gym-honed, it seemed very staged and fairly cringeworthy. Whatever, I was getting pancakes. Halfway through watching a film, he turned and stared at me, all wide-eyed, before putting one of his vlogs on to ‘show me what he does’. (I pretended like I hadn’t avidly researched him and watched it twice already). He then asked if I knew of Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren. Who doesn’t? The power couple took the internet by storm in 2016, posting couple travelling vlogs, making us all lust after their dreamy life; beachy, summer sun and extra sexual. It was at this point that I realised that I wasn’t even really on a date, but more of a business interview.
He next pulled out his modelling casting book, and I had to leaf through the pictures of him, ooo-ing and aaaa-ing to try and feign admiration, although I was incredibly confused and a quite put out by this level of narcissism. He forced one of the pictures of himself upon me, despite my attempts to refuse, and insisted on signing it (who leaves a date with a signed picture of the other person?) He proceeded to tell me that he had discovered me on Instagram, and that I had a lot of POTENTIAL, but wasn’t quite there yet. He repeated that I had the potential to be a ‘strong powerful woman’, but was at this stage not quite good enough, just a ‘baby’ – albeit ‘cute’ one. I was told several times that I inspired him, that I resembled Natalie Portman (not complaining), but that I would have to lose the fake tan (not happening). A ticket to Bali in two weeks on time was on offer; I didn’t have to pay for anything, just bring myself, and I guess whatever brand I represent.
After playing Jay Alvarrez and Alexis Ren’s vlogs, nodding away enthusiastically, (he gave me a sly sideward smile and said that I could do their sex scenes too – if I wanted to), he put on some of the Victoria Secret models’ workout videos. Whilst in no way skinny-shaming, or body-shaming in any form, these girls are incredibly thin. It has taken me years to build up self confidence in my shape, and I am fairly open about my past with body image and eating disorders, yet I was completely taken aback at the suggestion that I needed to be thinner. I just sat in silence, watching these models work out whilst the boy was grinning away and telling me how together we could achieve this look. These videos were briefly interspersed with an old video of Rihanna’s; the grin turned into a frown, and he said that she had become ‘horribly fat’ nowadays. A little too shell-shocked to say anything, I ‘suddenly remembered’ that I had to be up early, collected my things, and called an Uber. I closed the door on calls reminding me of the flight to Bali in two weeks-time.
It’s safe enough to say that two weeks have passed, and I am not in Bali. (My fake toenails have also popped off). Maybe some girl somewhere would have taken him up on his business proposal, but the thought of travelling with someone I’d met a week earlier, who’d sourced me as a business project, and repeatedly told me that I needed some improvements, filming intimate footage for money, is pretty sickening. I guess I was inadvertently groomed in a strange, new, 21st century version of profiting out of girls, thanks to our obsession with social media. I have come away laughing – eventually – and my skin is pretty thick, but after being sourced and unknowingly interviewed to be an insta-wife, I take this as a lesson on being aware of how fake, staged and fictitious the lives of your favourite Instagram stars are.
I tend to forget that I lived in hostels for 6 months. I’m kind of a creature of habit (in case you hadn’t realised). I do like a good routine. The barista where I go to get coffee every morning knows my name, as does the candy shop owner where I mass buy watermelon flavoured bubble-gum on the regular. I’m pretty easy to track down in daily life – which is pretty surprising in contrast to the year I spent living out of a backpack. Nonetheless, I still remember the tips and tricks I learned from hostel-hopping across the world.
Do your research. I wasn’t really intending to backpacking, or definitely not for quite so long when I started off. The first proper hostel I did stay in was the Arts Factory in Byron Bay. Have you seen The Inbetweeners movie? You know when they arrive at their hostel in Australia and their faces just drop? That’s the one. I probably would have loved it a lot more had I now returned to stay, but it was just a little overwhelming at the start. I chose it off Hostelworld because the pictures looked quirky. Quirky to say the least. A cockroach fell on me whilst in bed. A man with a cockatoo (big white bird) toured around the communal kitchens and played the didgeridoo. I woke up to someone passed out in the toilets. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been fun, but a bit of background research (or rewatching The Inbetweeners) would have meant I probably wouldn’t have chosen such an intense hostel for my first stay.
Choose mixed dorms. They are so much more fun! Admittedly this worked well until I was semi harassed/assaulted twice whilst trying to sleep in Cairns (and reluctantly stayed in all girls for a few weeks thereafter) but mixed dorms generally have a much more upbeat and enthusiastic vibe. Everyone tends to be more keen to mingle and go out and explore (not saying all-girls are boring…).
Get people to add you on Facebook. Maybe you’re not as bad at names as me. Faces I can recognise, but names go completely over my head no matter how many times they’re repeated. I spent a whole week in Ho Chi Minh with this guy whose name I don’t just not know now, but really didn’t know at the time either, and became too painstakingly awkward to ask for it (this proved awkward upon multiple occasions of the week). If you meet any cool travellers, you can hunt them down to explore via social media whilst also having a sure-fire method of not forgetting their names.
Expensive isn’t always better. Especially if you want a good atmosphere. Some of the best hostels I stayed in were in Vietnam for between $1-$5 a night.
Check the amenities. I’m not trying to sound prissy, but aircon became my best friend. I spent a week in Sydney in a hostel without aircon whilst it was 40c and the hottest week of the year, and never again. Sleeping wasn’t really sleeping, but rather profusely sweating away in my bunk all night, and having mild arguments with the girl below over which way the fan was to be turned. I also ended up sleeping outside on a mattress (with a bug net), surrounded by stray cats on Gili Air by accident after not researching properly, so I can’t stress this enough.
Bed bugs! I’m now a self-declared bedbug expert after having two infestations in 6 months. I know it’s kind of irritating – when you first get into your room, you want to throw down your bags, whip out a change of clothes and head out to explore with whoever you’ve found – but a quick once over glance at the sheets prevents a horrible aftermath. Bedbugs leave small squished blood trails on the mattress. I was asked twice in Seminyak what skin condition I had after being bitten all over, and had to pay £30 (a LOT in Vietnamese money) to have my backpack and all my clothes steam pressed.
Facebook groups. If you haven’t met anyone to explore with in your hostel, or have particular areas you want to go with further afield, every traveller’s city tends to have a backpacker’s Facebook group. My favourite was the one in Bondi. I traded in my suitcase for a backpack. People used to post what they were about two escaped pets, two very vibrant and rainbow coloured parrots who were incredibly tame – weekly posts on the Facebook group showed that the parrots actually belonged to a known someone, and whilst they might trespass on your balcony for a bit, they always returned home (this made spotting the two parrots all the more exciting).
Don’t sit down in the shower. Admittedly, this one is pretty common sense, but I like a good sit down to think things over, and consequently came home with ring-worm all down the backs of my legs. (Ring-worm isn’t a living creature, as ominous as it sounds. Think more of an exotic eczema).
Hostels almost always have a lost and found. Benefical for when you want to save money, and nothing quite as exciting as a half-used tub of aloe vera.
Occasional breaks from hostels are okay. After sharing a dorm with 40 people for a while, I stayed in a cheap villa by myself in Bali for a week. I was heinously excited, and it was great for a night (a double bed becomes such a luxury), but surprisingly enough, I ended up kind of lonely and missed the cacophony of 40 snorers. Nonetheless, a break here and there is still good if you need some private space.
In the end, travelling is less down to where you’re staying, and more the people you meet. Hopefully, with these few tips and tricks from what I personally learned and the mistakes I made, you can hopefully quickly learn to love life out of a backpack!
It’s what you British like to call summer-time, and you’ve dragged me to the sea. You wouldn’t believe it. The canopy of clouds is too thick for any sun to pierce its way through. Were we still in LA, on a beach day back with my family, the beach would be littered with scantily clad tourists and sunbathers. Here, we are alone. Almost alone, if you discount the faint silhouette of a man and dog tossing a ball to and fro. I don’t mind it. In fact I think I prefer it. I can hear the wind and the waves and a few stray gulls and your laugh piercing these sounds of the sea as you toss something my way.
I feel saltwater seeping into my old worn welly, but I don’t mind that either. I scrunch up my toes and it seeps slightly further into my socks, a slightly cold and prickling sensation. Your mum lent me these. Pulled the well-worn boots out of a cupboard with a delighted smile and told me I was going to love the British seaside. It took a little to win her over. I paid due care in saying please and thank you, and complimenting her cooking, but what really won her over was when I got down on my hands and knees whilst she was weeding, and asked questions about the clematis and rhododendrons. You were in the shower. I could see her face light up, the formal mask she likes to hold up around me soften. I know she’s apprehensive. They blame me a little for your jet-setting lifestyle. You always spend a lifetime in the shower, enough time for her to point out the late-Spring bloomers, and rant about the peat-laden soil in the area. After that she was warmer, brushing my shoulders as she walked past, or filling up my mug of hot coffee without asking. She pulled those wellies out of the cupboard with gusto, assuring me that despite the temperature and the dubious looking skies, we would have the best time. Alongside the wellies, I’ve been clad in a thick tweed waterproof, just the sort I imagined your family to have lying around. I almost look ready enough to go out and shoot something.
Something slaps me on the chest, and I look up. Your light peals of laughter have increased to cackles. Following the unidentified object, I find myself peering at a lilac-hued pile of what appears to be slime. Upon closer examination, I realise that it is in fact a tentacle-less jellyfish. I think you see the annoyance flash across my face, as your laughter slows and you gesture to the tide line.
“They don’t sting. These ones are harmless”.
I roll my eyes, but take a step closer to the streamlined section of beach where the water meets the sand. Hundreds of these lilac-blue blobs line the tideline.
“These guys must’ve been unlucky. Happens when the tides change, or it’s too cold”.
I didn’t know you were a jellyfish expert. I guess that sort of thing happens, when you have tweed jackets in your cupboard. I pick up a loose piece of driftwood and prod one delicately. This triggers fresh amusement on your face.
“They won’t bite. Or sting. Such a big group of them, it’s called a bloom”.
A bloom of jellyfish. How poetic.
You take a step closer, and I narrow my eyes. I don’t want to be hit by anymore harmless-or-not-so-harmless dead jellyfish. But, you pause, smile, then press your lips against mine. I can taste the salt in your kiss. You pull away, looking almost bashful, and entwine an arm around mine.
We meander back to where the car is parked, bracing against the strong winds and the gulls, and the lone man and his dog. You’ve promised your mum you won’t let me leave without tasting the finest ice cream the British seaside has to offer.
Bristol seemed like a big-time thing, when I lived in Exeter. It boasted of whole extensive shopping centre – even with with a Hollister! You have to understand that this is the ultimate dream, as an Abercrombie/Jack Wills drenched youth. Admittedly I was a little older when we did end up moving, and the whole Hollister novelty had slightly worn off (considering the sexual assault claims, I guess those topless models weren’t so good after all). Nonetheless, Bristol seemed a whole deal more exciting than Exeter (until I moved to London 6 months later, where there is an abundance of Hollister/Abercrombie stories, albeit very tired and you-wouldn’t-be-caught-dead). Particularly for food – voted the vegan capital of the world last year!
Not to be side-tracked by my questionable fashion choices as a teenager (a Jack Wills onesie still lurks at the bottom of my wardrobe), I’m more here to talk about the food options. No, still not a vegan, but when pressed to decide on tasting menus at Bulrush, in Bristol, I opted for the vegan one. It’s rare that a Michelin starred restaurant offers a complete vegan alternative – and by that I mean actual, thought out dishes, as opposed to the meat option minus the meat. I’m not massive on nouveau cuisine. Sort of in the same sphere as my attitude to alcohol, I was always told that my tastebuds would mature, and that I’d start to appreciate wines and spirits (which still really hasn’t happened but doesn’t stop me shotting them straight), I was told that I would come to appreciate a fine foie gras, or gazpacho (the devil of cold soups), or pate. None of this has unfortunately taken place, and whilst vegetarian, I’m still happier with a bowl of pasta than tiny dishes of mousses and extractions and foam (imagine this all said in the deep and soulful Masterchef voice over).
Still, not one to turn down a treat, I was more than happy to try all of Bulrush’s 9 courses as part of their vegan taster. As mentioned before, the menu is tailored accordingly to vegans, and not just the steak without the steak. Situated in Cotham, Bulrush prides itself on organically sourced ingredients, and high-end, well thought out and beautifully executed dishes. I remembered to snap a picture of the menu, because my memory isn’t that good. As you can see, the dreaded gazpacho was indeed present (although cleverly disguised under the name tomato consommé) but it actually wasn’t half bad. My favourite course was admittedly the bread, served with vegan cream cheese which lo and behold actually tasted like cream cheese. The only let down was personally the ‘scarlet elf cap in fermented cep broth’, but as those close to me know, I really do hate mushrooms so mushrooms floating in mushroom water was a bit overwhelming, and my distaste lies with my own mushroom-related fears rather than the dish itself.
After 1 ‘snack’, 6 savoury courses, 2 desserts and a truffle, you are pretty full – don’t be deceived by the small portion sizes. With the wine pairing, offering 5 glasses in between courses and of course dessert wines to match, you might even lose sight of what exactly you’re eating. Not to fear, for Bulrush exceeds not only in food but also service. Aside from the menu, each dish is clearly explained upon presentation, as is the wine. All waitstaff were incredibly attentive, and you’re given the choice to eat at your decided pace, either eating and relaxing at a languid pace between courses, or having the food as quick at it comes (permanently hungry, I opted for B). The atmosphere remained relaxed, and a polite eye was turned to my mother lecturing me about my career prospects (getting paid to blog remains an unlikely dream…)
I am definitely not made for running. I famously tried once to run (slowly) for three days in a row – having not really run at all prior – aged 15, and ended up in bed all day, projectile vomiting on the fourth. My body finds running disagreeable.
A podiatrist who treated my feet several years ago and prescribed me incredibly expensive insoles (one of which I also famously managed to lose on a night out last term. How one manages to lose a shoe and insert at 3am on Oxford Street remains a mystery. Bins were scavenged and checked the following morning, to no avail). My arches were declared a lost cause, and my pronation a source of distress. I was told I would be able to walk a more pain free if I always remembered to wear my insoles and promised to buy supportive footwear (I unfortunately have not touched a supportive sandal since), and abstained from heels (something I have also failed to do). Running was off the cards unless I bought a second and equally expensive pair of insoles in a different shape, with vague threats about my Achilles coming away from my foot.
Fast forward to the second year of uni and I became a little bored of in-gym cardio. It’s pleasant sometimes. I can go on my phone, and don’t break a sweat. There’s air-con, and no chance of running into pedestrians. I already spend enough time as it is in the gym though, and decided I wanted to see a little more of London – and what better way to do it than at a pace.
Okay, admittedly a slow pace. I ran like a snail to Hampstead Heath in September. It took me 20 mins and I was very out of breath afterwards. I caught the tube home. Those of you that have followed or dabbled in couch to 5km will know that it isn’t easy, starting to run. Most people don’t keep up the commitment either, but I’ve come to enjoy it as a designated period for thinking things over, blasting Spotify, getting out into some greenery in the midst of London, and seeing about 20 dogs a morning. Unfortunately I’m such a massive creature of habit that I have now run the exact same route consistently for 8 months, but I’m still pretty happy.
Running a half-marathon was initially my friends’ idea. I’m pretty passionate about mental health awareness and would like to raise both funds and awareness. It seemed like a pretty obvious way to combine the two. I didn’t really train as such, just continued to run for an hour, 2-3 x a week around Hampstead and back. I did the equivalent distance of 26km once the weekend prior and found it pretty gruelling – and that even with a coffee break in the middle.
The actual half marathon was a lot easier than my practice. I mainly have my running partner (and best friend) to thank for that. We sort of silently yet unanimously decided not to stop, and made it round in 2hrs. We started right at the back-of-the-back, and I cannot stress to you the level of people-dodging that went on for the first half hour as we were packed like sardines – something that I hadn’t premeditated. Other than that, the sheer number of people, both supporting charities, and families ready to support any and everyone, are the main reason it’s so much easier. People are caterwauling and throwing haribo at you and bashing drums and waving signs and egging you on in every way they can, so not stopping becomes easy.
Other than 3 black toes and a severely sprained midfoot, my feet also held up sort of okay.
Some talk to themselves (we’ll easily overlook that as the first stage of insanity and view it as more of a cute quirk for now).
Some bite their nails (also me). Some also sleep walk, sleeptalk. I’m not an avid sleep walker, don’t get me wrong. It happens only once every few months, so it’s still a bit of a novelty.
One of the girls with whom I shared a room in boarding school bought this niche new app that slyly recorded us all as we slept. Surprisingly, no midnight conversations from me, but I was constantly privy to the light snoring and even more absurd sleep-mutterings of five girls. Maybe my sleepwalking knows when it’s being recorded and decides only to rear its head surreptitiously.
My sleepwalking certainly isn’t a new development. Despite highly protesting a 7pm bedtime and futile attempts to escape, I was also occasionally found dreaming whilst out and about the house as a child. Always on a manageable and slightly entertaining level; I’ve certainly never found myself outside, striding down the street at 4am in my pyjamas, or trying to drive (thankfully, I’m bad enough at driving awake).
Sleepwalking appears to be a long-lasting condition (I would use the term chronic but that makes it sound like an insufferable disease, whereas my experience so far has been amusing and hardly detrimental). I did go through a period in halls, in which I woke up once outside my flatmates room, clawing on the door in the middle of the night like something fresh out of The Shining. You probably already know that I touted earplugs for a good night’s sleep in a previous blog post. I’ve also woken up in the middle of the night and found myself stuffing said earplugs into my mouth in a more bizarre episode of sleep walking (thankfully I woke up before anything was swallowed).
As amusing as sleepwalking is, it begs the question of what exactly the cause is, and why only a select few experience the joys of waking up wholly disorientated, midst cooking a haute cuisine meal, or trying to shave the cat (don’t panic – I haven’t made it as far as either of these – yet).
Somnambulism is the proper term. Sleepwalkers tend to be out and about in the deep stages of NREM sleep. 1-15% of the population is said to experience these onsets, and it is much more prevalent in children than in adults. The exact cause remains uncertain, but some scientists speculate that it is a repercussion of the brain trying to go from the deepest stage of sleep, directly to wakefulness, without reversing through the stages of the sleep cycle. Alcohol and antidepressants exacerbate nocturnal wanderings,
Sleepwalking horror stories are abundant. It’s pretty easy to bring to the stand as a form of defence for larger scale crimes – for who could surely prove whether or not you were conscious, or comatose, disregarding the blood on your hands.
One thing is for sure – the impression that waking a sleepwalker is dangerous is a common myth. It’s always better to wake your dozing friend if you find them ambling about the hall at night.
I think it was almost a year to this date that I last dragged myself out, horribly hungover, for afternoon tea at the Sanderson, and remembered to blog about it. This highbrow venture was swiftly followed by an unplanned trip into Camden and a tattoo to balance out the dignity and decorum, so overall an interesting Sunday.
The concept of afternoon tea remains slightly perplexing to me, and I complained that going at 11.30 am to the Ritz, a year later, was terribly early for tea and cake – especially after going out the night before – but still managed to drown my hungover sorrows in sugar, cake and scones.
You get what you pay for in terms of food and service; every waiter is incredibly attentive and proper. You get your tea poured for you. A glass of champagne was offered – towards which I balked, deeming alcohol to be the last thing my hangover needed – and the respective jokes about hair of the dog were courteously exchanged.
I’m not really at the level of blogging where one whips out a professional camera and teeters on a seat to get good angles of food. It’s more a case of stealing furtive, blurry shots of dishes, and swiftly forgetting what I’ve eaten before I get to post about it. Nonetheless, afternoon tea includes an array of sandwiches, three cake type petit fours, scones, and additional cake if that isn’t a wide enough assortment of cake to tickle your fancy. The menu boasts of a whole 18 different types of loose-leaf tea, and they apparently employ a Tea Sommelier (from what I understand, the equivalent of a wine connoisseur, but for tea), who travels the world just to bring the finest of teas to your doorstep. The Ritz is also one of the only traditional afternoon tea hosts to offer a complete vegan menu (on this occasion, I decided not to force vegan cream upon myself), but I’ve read that it is just as good.
I have a pretty simple palate, even when it comes to desserts (I’ll happily opt for chocolate chip cookies over any nouveau cuisine pudding any day of the week), but was pleasantly surprised by the sweets on offer. I may also have been hungover enough to blissfully fill my mouth with anything sweet.
A universal tip for afternoon tea at the Ritz (or really anywhere) is telling them that one of you is celebrating a birthday. One of my friend’s sort of was (albeit a month late). Any mention of a birthday and you get a free cake, lit candle, and a brief rendezvous of happy birthday on the piano. Not quite as embarrassing as an entire restaurant yodelling happy birthday, and who in their right mind would turn down free cake.
Staging a proposal is potentially also worth a shot – you never know, you might even get a bigger cake.