Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saying goodbye

I met Alex for breakfast today and told her I was going to Edinburgh. Her eyes got really big and...she looked almost worried. She asked when and I said late May. She leaves for Africa later this week and doesn't come back until mid June, so yeah...This is hard. But she can come up and visit me, or I'll come down and visit her. Her boyfriend is from Newcastle and that's just a hop, skip, and a jump from Edinburgh.

Holly is still in India (or Sri Lanka or Nepal?) and I haven't told her yet. She's the one I worry the most about. She's not going to handle this news very well. She's been saying since our course ended that she doesn't know what she'll do when we all return to our respective motherlands. Sigh.

Paris post soon. Soonish.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Birthday Fun Timez

Sunday, 7:20am--returned home in the same clothes I left the house in on Friday, 8:40am. One would have to conclude that I've had a pretty damn good birthday, which is surprising, because at 8:30 on Friday morning, I was holding back tears, convinced that I was going to have a terrible 29th birthday, sitting at home by myself watching tv. All of my most beloved loved ones were far away (family on other side of world, Holly in Nepal, Tanya in Sri Lanka, Izzi and Tim in Surrey, Anna in America, Alex in Alex-land, James in Cambridge, etc.) or otherwise occupied (Carina had a wedding). But surely I could count on Aparna to celebrate my birthday with me, no? I approached her with a rucksack in her hand. Spending the weekend with boyfriend in Cornwall. Hm.

So while at work on Friday, I emailed Maggie in a panic (she with the boyfriend whose family has a ridiculously amazing house in the Cotswolds) begging her to hang out with me on my birthday. She was all too happy to oblige. Then I found out that Anna wasn't in America yet, so she could hang out too!

After work on Friday, I headed over to Tim and Izzi's, where they had made lamb and roast potatoes and baked me a delicious cake with cream cheese icing! Yum! And they got me a very pretty green bracelet. Izzi's friend, Katie, was there as well and she is such a sweetheart. We discovered that she shares a room (bunkbead, even) with a guy I used to work with at the pub in Hammersmith. Small world! Tim and Izzi promised me a birthday breakfast if I spent the night, with pancakes and birthday bacon! (It's just like regular bacon, but fried with love.) Obviously, that was an offer I couldn't refuse. I headed to work for noon wearing some of Izzi's clothes.

At work, my French coworker sang happy birthday to me in French over the walky-talky, Anna got me a cupcake, and Alison made me a homemade card! Then Anna and I headed to a pub near work to meet up with Maggie and Hugo. Maggie's friend, Mitch, was there, too, and we had a fun time drinking and eating. Then my phone rang, and it was boy-Alex, my old (favorite!) manager from work, calling to wish me a happy birthday. He and Maggie and Hugo are really good friends, so when I told him I was hanging out with them, he invited us all over to his flat. We had so much fun just hanging out and playing card games (not strip poker, don't get any ideas!) We stayed until 5am. It was absolutely wonderful. Also, Mitch and Anna really hit it off which makes me happy (if slightly jealous) cuz Anna hasn't met any decent men in a while and Mitch is really sweet.

So it was a really, really good birthday and I need to learn my lesson not to feel sorry for myself preemptively. It was bittersweet, though, because Izzi and Tim and I got talking about my 30th birthday (shudder) and the fact that my visa expires just before it. And they were saying that they'll start saving their money now so they can come celebrate my 30th with me in America, and the thought of that kind of upset me. I don't want to go back yet! I've been mentally preparing myself for months now, but the idea of not being in the same country as Tisobel is hard to accept.

Which brings me to other news: Work said I could move to Edinburgh with the company. It would be late May, just two months away. I'll miss all my friends, but in a sort of "oh, haven't seen them in a while, oh well" sort of way. But I'll miss Izzi and Tim the way I'd miss a finger. You don't absolutely need it, but life is so much better and easier with it. Other than that, though, I'm super excited! Finally following my dream of marrying a hot Scot!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

At Passport Control

I generally think it's a bad idea to lie to UK border agents, so that is why the following conversation went the way it did. Now I know better.

Going through passport control to reenter the UK from France:

Agent: "What nationality are you?"


"But you live in the UK?"


"What type of visa are you on?"

Post-study work.

"What did you study?"

The control of infectious diseases.

"But you work in retail?"

(Embarrassed smile) Yeah.

(Not smiling) "That's not really relevant, is it?"

Uh, no.

"How long have you been working in retail?"

(I start to suspect I should lie, but decide to go with the truth) A year.

"That visa is meant to be so you can work in your field. Why aren't you working in your field?"

I've been trying to get jobs.

"When was your last interview?"

About...five months ago?

"You're not trying very hard, are you? You know, this is exactly why we're getting rid of the post-study work visa, because of people like you who don't use it for what you're supposed to."

She stamped my passport and handed it back, and I just took it with a forced smile and walked away, fuming. I couldn't even focus on finding my waiting area or listening to boarding announcements, I was so upset. I spent the entire train ride home going over all my many inadequacies. I know I'm not supposed to internalize shit like this. I know when people are horrible to you, you're just supposed to shrug it off and feel sorry for them. I'm not supposed to let this ruin my memory of my three wonderful days in Paris.

But she was right. I'm not trying very hard. I've lost sight of the point, of my dream. I've become complacent and I'm wasting time and resources. Although part of that is precisely because of the mind-numbing and soul-destroying process of applying for jobs, but I need to be more determined. No one else is going to follow my dream for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Didn't think I'd need it again!

MERDE!! Just pulled out my trusty old mapbook of Paris and turned to the page that is supposed to have the area Bonus Sis and I are staying in.

It took me a second to remember...they were drawer pulls, I think. I was extremely proud of myself for creating such cool drawer pulls. Inspired by the store I now work in. I even wrote a blog post about how I was gonna cut circles out of maps and hodge-podge them to my drawer pulls.

So yeah. I ripped the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, along with Le Marais neighborhood, out of my "trusty" mapbook in order to do craft projects. Note to self: when you arrive in Paris tomorrow evening, prior to trying to find the flat you're staying in, BUY A NEW MAP.

Living situation

Why do washing machines in this country take so freakin' long?! I put a load in nearly two hours ago! Arrrrgggghh!

Anyway, yes, I'm off to Paris tomorrow and have no clean clothes. Nice one, Kusems. No complaints, though. Today was a perty good day. Work was easy and I got to spend loads of time shootin' the shit with our stockroom manager, whom I adore (read: have a crush on but will keep a respectful distance from as he has a family). And our flat situation dissolved with minimal impact to my finances, which is great!

Basically, I was reluctant to move in with this girl because she's neurotic and patronizing (despite being a full 8 years younger than me) but didn't realize this until I had already agreed to move in with her so didn't feel like I could back out. We put down a £1000 holding deposit on a flat three weeks ago, and it's taken this long for the letting agents (they're like used-car salesmen, but for your future rental home!) to check all our references and stuff. After this girl gave them the money, they sent her a document saying that we would lose the money if we backed out for any reason or if they deemed our references unsuitable. She signed it without noticing that. On Wednesday, they said that our references "failed" because this girl's boyfriend is on a temporary work contract. They said the only options were to provide a guarantor for the whole cost of the flat (not just for his share) or to pay 6 months in advance (again, the whole kit and caboodle). I refused to even attempt to do that, especially as it would require this girl loaning me all the money, so they said we would lose our £1000.

The eminently wise Tisobel said, over and over again, "Talk to the citizens' advice bureau about your rights!" So I went to get some advice from them on Thursday. While I was waiting for my turn, I called the letting agent and spoke to him for the first time. The plan was to be cool and collected and read off of script I had written out beforehand. I did not do any of those things. I was unreasonable and angry and overly aggressive and had no idea what to say. The guy handled it relatively well. He probably gets that a lot. But he was clear and firm: "we" (i.e. my would-be flatmate) signed a paper forfeiting our right to our money. He said he was planning to have a word with her boyfriend about her options. I ended the phone call firmly with, "Well, I'm at the citizens' advice bureau at the moment, so I'll have a chat with them and you have a chat with [boyfriend] and we'll talk later."

Then I spoke with the citizens' advice lady, who said we could take them to small claims court and argue that they were unreasonable and didn't try hard enough to accommodate us, etc. This option did not sound appealing, so I went to work feeling hopeless. I spent the entire tube ride going over it all in my head, fretting. Then I called my would-be flatmate in order to inform her that I had lost my cool with the letting agent and had probably blown the whole thing. Before I could say any of this, she told me that her boyfriend had just spoken to them, and they were going to give us some of the money back.

I'm sorry...what??

Apparently, I scared them! Or convinced them that we weren't going to go down without a fight. They are giving us half of the money back, keeping the rest to cover the costs of chasing up our references, etc (which the advice lady said was totally fair). And my would-be flatmate has very kindly only asked me for a small portion of the fee, not one-third. They are able to continue living in their flat for a while longer, and I am able to stay in mine for the moment, so all's well that ends well! I won't be moving to Greenwich :-( but might be moving to Edinburgh :-))))) so things are looking alright at the moment! You can continue sending lovely packages to my current address ;-) hint hint

Tuesday, March 15, 2011



Tonight reminded me of a day a year and a half ago, when I was feeling stressed and frustrated and alone, and I turned around and standing there, impossibly, was the one person I least expected but most wanted to see. That day, I was sitting in Hyde Park, frustrated with flat-hunting and desperately wanting advice, wanting to see a friendly face, and Alex came jogging by. In the biggest park in one of the bigger cities of the world, there she was when I needed her.

I'm pretty sure everyone wanted to come to my pie party, but all week people have been letting me know that they have to work late, or catch up on their studies, and this and that. I suspected that it was going to be a very small gathering, but I could at least count on my two flatmates and a couple others who said they'd definitely be coming, including a coworker who lives JUST down the road from me. Holly is in India, Tanya in Sri Lanka, Carina in Switzerland, Izzi and Tim at a wedding. I did not at all expect Alex to come. She's hard to pin down at the best of times, and as she is supposed to be leaving for 3 months in Tanzania soon, this is not the best of times. She sent me an email this morning saying that she had to go someplace after work and had stuff to sort out for Africa, but would try to come by after. This is Alex-speak for "see you in three months."

So I started baking this afternoon, not at all sure how many would make it. I was going to make two pies, a chicken pot pie using this crust recipe, and a homity pie. I got started at 4pm. At 6:40, while I was still working on the ingredients of the chicken pot pie, Flatmate One texted to say she needed to sort out her life and would not be coming. At 7pm, still slicing onions, Flatmate Two texted to say that she had been diagnosed with malaria and would not be coming (yikes!) I started taking pictures to document the utter failure that was my Pi(e) Day party.

Filling. Looks good, anyway.

Here's where things get dicey: the top pastry is hard as a rock!!
I almost threw out my shoulder trying to roll it flat.

No one else texted. Nobody at all. The time just kept ticking past, I kept working on my pies, secretly hoping no one would arrive because I was nowhere near having a pie ready for consumption. I became convinced that I would be eating them alone while watching an episode (or 3) of 30 Rock.

When my phone rang at 7:30, I expected it to be my coworker Laura, who I don't know very well and was a bit nervous to spend the evening alone with. But it was Alex, telling me she was downstairs and sorry she was late. It was beyond wonderful to see her. She brought mini steak and chicken pies from Marks and Spencers, and well as mashed potatoes!

Dinner for 10 became dinner for 1 became dinner for 2, and it was perfect. We watched Bridget Jones's Diary and pined after Mark Darcy.

But best of all, my pie was delicious! I even had a witness to vouch for it!

Concentrating really hard so as not to drop it.

I gave up halfway through the homity pie, but will finish it tonight and save it for lunches this week. I'm very proud of myself for making a pie, and a yummy one at that, but I feel weird about the evening. It was an almost complete and utter failure, but not in the way I expected. I've been telling people all week that I'm afraid of burning down the house or causing an outbreak of foodborne illness, but I didn't expect them to take that as a warning to stay away! I didn't even get to read out Becky's pie-ku's. :-(

Oh well. I had a perfect dinner with Alex and that's all that matters. And I have leftovers! AND I now know how to make a pie and don't need to be frightened of it anymore! I am INVINCIBLE!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is in the air!

Izzi and Tim are out of town for a wedding and I feel like someone pressed the 'pause' button on my life. How did I become so dependent on these people?

I'm getting really nervous about Pi(e) Day. Cooking for people scares me, and cooking for several people is terrifying! Oh well, I will woman up and tap into my inner awesomeness. Also, it looks like none of my favoritest people can make it to the party, so it might be an odd mix of semi-randoms. Oh well, it'll be fun no matter what. Mainly because pie is involved. Stay tuned for more "Adventures in Cooking with Kusems!"

Other things: Aparna went to Brighton this week for work, and since she's the best flatmate ever, she brought me Brighton Rock as a souvenir. My microwave dinner was insufficient tonight, so I started chomping into this. Check it out: it says "Brighton Rock" all the way through! How did they do that?!?

I talked to Jocky earlier, which was WONDERFUL.

I had a date on Friday! My first since...late July? Go me!

Paris with Bonus Sis (and meeting up with Jacque!) on Saturday (and I got the day off so can actually catch my train!) So excited!

And finally, SPRING BLOSSOMS! I saw my first ones on Tuesday last week. Sooooooo ready for Spring, bring it on!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pancake gut

I'm pretty sure I saw Lady Gaga trying on neon yellow Doc Martens at the Schuh on Oxford Street today. Or not, but this girl sure was intent on looking like her.

I was reading Becky's blog earlier and was inspired to start taking more photos again. I've been really bad about photographing lately, and haven't really carried my camera with me in months. This is silly, considering it was my New Year's resolution last year to take a photo every day. Ha!

Today and tomorrow are my two days of this week, and for once, I have nothing to do. We finished round 2 of our literature review last week and Greg is working on collecting the 250 journal articles we put through to round 3, so I just get to wait and relax. I've forgotten how to do that! When I have nothing to do, I end up spending money. That's right, I went shopping. I only bought one pair of jeans (part of our uniform allowance at work so way cheap!) and a cardigan. The jeans are a bit tight, and I'm slightly paranoid that they're going to split at the seams within a couple months. :-S But they look AMAZING! Check out that ass!

I was meant to have lunch with Izzi, but she wasn't feeling well :-( I had pancake lunch with Alex and her coworkers instead, at My Old Dutch. These are European-style pancakes, giant crepes twice as big as your head, with all sorts of fillings. They have £5 Mondays, and I swear it's going to be the death of me. I'm as tiny as ever, except around the middle where I'm developing quite the pancake gut. But tomorrow is Pancake Day (aka Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras) and if Izzi is feeling better, I've been invited round to their's for pancakes, so the gut won't be going away just yet. Maybe I'll give up pancakes for Lent. hahaha! Yeah, right.

Pregnant with a pancake baby!

Pi Day is coming up and I'm throwing a party. I'm going to try to make two savoury pies, and I'm excited, but terrified. Cooking actually frightens me. How sad is that? I really need to step up my efforts to find a man who will cook for me. Or just move into Tim and Izzi's flat.

Tomorrow, I was thinking I'd hit up Spitalfields for the Great Pancake Race, and then free hair cut in Camden. I'm in need of a serious trim, as I have a bit of long ducktail thing going on at the back. Yipes.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


You know how there are moments in life when everything seems to be working in your favor? This is one of those moments. Today, I got a call from a lab temp agency I sent my info to a while back. I was at work so didn't actually speak to them about whatever job they're recruiting for, but it's something! And then I got my payslip from work, and it turns out that all that extra money they paid me this month is actually mine. I take back calling them buffoons! Quite the opposite, they sorted out my taxes and paid me £900 back that I was overcharged over the past several months. I was riding the tube home and it felt like something was missing in my life, and then I realized it was the stress! The tension in my shoulders is missing! I don't have to stress about groceries. My friends can stop buying my dinners and drinks for me. I can afford to pay a deposit on a new flat. And the prospect of going to Paris at the end of the month no longer gives me a mini panic attack. I can afford to go to the Musee d'Orsay and eat meals, too! Obviously, I'm not gonna go on a spending spree. I'm still gonna try to stick the budget I've been on since January, but I can relax a bit. Tonight, I celebrated by treating myself to fish and chips and an episode of Misfits.

Man, it's such a relief.

Annoyingly, the flat we're trying to get is continuing to be problematic. Since my coworker is a student and doesn't have a UK guarantor, they want her to pay her full year's share of the rent upfront. Ridiculous. We'll have to see how it turns out.