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It’s Always Time to ‘Makan’

April 2, 2011

Makan, makan! (eat, eat!)

A couple weeks ago, Y (one of my best friends) introduced me to a fellow Singaporean via Facebook messaging. It went something like this:

Y: “Hey guys! How are you doing? Sorry for the late introduction, but N – this is J, my awesome Singaporean friend who will be moving to London soon. J – this is N, my awesome childhood friend who lives in London. I thought you guys could get together and go grab a bite once J arrives.

Now obviously since Y is a close friend of both of ours, I trust her judgement when she tells me that I should meet her friend as she thinks we’ll get along. Seeing as I’m half-Singaporean and J is full Singaporean, however, means that this is a safer bet than you’d think.

Food is important to everyone in that without-food-we-will-be-hungry-then-die-and-that-would-not-be-good sort of way, but to a Singaporean (or even half-Singaporeans as the case may be): food is a way of life.

We eat. And while we eat, we talk about food. And once we have eaten and can eat no more, we discuss where and what to eat next. We Singaporeans love food so much that we don’t recognise this three meals a day mumbo-jumbo. Three?! Ha! We can put away four or more without batting an eye. It’s not uncommon to have breakfast, lunch, dinner and then supper (late at night). One of my good friends, C, back in Sydney would often call me up between the hours of 12am and 1am. I would pick up the phone and more often than not, the first word out of his mouth would be: supper?

Oh, the good old days.

And because Singapore is the melting pot of cultures that it is, you are absolutely spoiled for choice in the lion city. Personally, I never eat western food in Singapore. It’s not that you cannot get a good European meal; it just seems so illogical to not take full advantage of the local offerings whilst travelling, especially when in a country that is renowned for its food.

My favourite places to eat are the hawker centres and kopi tiams – outdoor food markets where each stall sells just a few dishes which are generally different from the surrounding stalls. They can be found all over the country (all 699 km² of it), but most predominantly within residential areas.

Once there, you can wander around comparing the offerings and inhaling all the delicious aromas that drift towards you as these specialised cooks work their magic. The worst mistake you can make – especially if you’re as indecisive and enamoured with food as I am – is to arrive hungry. I am not fond of making decisions at the best of times, but when I’m hungry… I can walk lap after lap around a hawker centre simply unable to choose a dish because I want everything.

In any case, J finally arrived into London last Saturday and as discussed, we made plans to meet up in a few days time. Meetings were rescheduled on Monday, however, and when I texted J to see if she might want to meet up that day I received a slightly tearful phone call in reply. Clearly she was missing family and feeling a bit homesick, so we decided to do what Singaporeans do when… well, what Singaporeans do whenever. Eat.

An hour and a half later we were sitting at one of our favourite haunts: a Malaysian restaurant called C&R in the middle of Chinatown. As we tore into our dishes we discussed food (of course) and told each other a bit about ourselves. Food aside, I was surprised to find how much we had in common. The meal was punctuated with emphatic nods of agreement – wide-eyed, cheeks full, chopsticks suspended in mid-air – as the other spilled her story.

With our 3 o’clock meal packed away, we went for a wander (to digest, of course) whilst deciding whether to go have a cupcake at The Hummingbird Bakery. Did that sound believable to you? No, it didn’t to me either. The truth is we both knew that that was where we were going to end up; even before we lamely mumbled, “well, let’s see if we have space later” and “can also next time, lah“. Then there’s the fact that we just so happened to be ‘walking off’ our second lunch in the direction of – oh my, how convenient! – The Hummingbird Bakery.

Pathetic. But hey, we are who we are and we love our food, we do! Now if only we had Y here as well, what a merry little trio of food lovers we would be… isinit?


 

C&R

Telephonic numerals 0207 434 1128

Location: 3-4 Rupert Court Road, London W1D 6DY. It can be tricky to find at first. Remember, it’s just off Whitcomb Street (in between Gerrard Street and Lisle Street). There is another C&R at 52 Westbourne Grove (W2 5 SH). I’ve yet to visit this one, but it has reviewed well.

Opening hours Monday – Sunday from noon until 11pm (according to yelp.co.uk)

And? I’ve not had a bad meal, but one of my favourites – both for nostalgic reasons and for the fact that they do a decent job – is the Nasi Lemak (malaysian chicken curry with coconut rice, a boiled egg, ikan bilis [deep fried dried anchovy with peanuts] and a generous dollop of sambal).

 

THE HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY

Telephonic numerals 0207 851 1795

Location There are 3 locations in London to date: Soho (155a Wardour St), Notting Hill (133 Portobello Rd) and South Kensington (47 South Brompton Rd).

Opening hours vary from store to store, but they are all open 7 days a week from latest 10am until at least 5pm. Check their website for more details.

Website www.hummingbirdbakery.com

And? Red velvet cupcakes; what more is there to say? Oh, I suppose it may be worthwhile to note that they have a range of gluten-free offerings called ‘Made Without’.

 

N


The Myth of the Perfect Strapless Bra

March 24, 2011

Earlier on tonight, I made W (one of my flatmates) decidedly uncomfortable. Apparently the word ‘bra’ and discussions that contain this word make him feel rather uneasy. I must remember this in the future [cue sinister cackle].

The ‘discussion’ began with me telling him that I had wandered up and down Oxford Street all afternoon looking for a ‘stupid strapless bra’. Almost immediately a somewhat panicked look shot across his face… which I took to mean that I should continue with my ‘sharing’ – you know, just to see how uncomfortable I could make this poor guy (should we insert more evil chortling..? Perhaps later).

I explained that I needed a new bra for this dress I intended to wear for my birthday get-together; that the cut of my current ones weren’t right for the dress; that strapless bras are idiotic concepts, are never ‘perfect’ and that shopping for them is a bloody nightmare.

To his credit, W threw out a few comments and questions at this point. The guy clearly knows nothing about these things… which, given that he’s a 23 year old male, is none too surprising. Why should he know anything about strapless bras? He has no use for them. The only thing he’ll ever need to know is how to remove one and that… that I can assure him is a a hurdle that guys older than him still fumble over.

Nevertheless, I explained to him that no, “boobs are not boobs”; that they are shaped differently with some hanging higher, some lower, some towards the left, some to the right, some are close together, some are wide apart, one can be slightly or quite noticeably bigger than the other, and so on and so forth. I parleyed in somewhat less than mathematical terms the role each aspect of the bra plays and the incredible gravity of incorrect angles and lines and what-not. In other words… I said, “Dude, it’s so important, like I can’t even tell you”.

The sheer magnitude of the challenge of designing a strapless bra; the interminable list of responsibilities it must take on board and check off to be considered a successful product… cripes. I honestly don’t see how it’s possible to make a great one-design-fits-all strapless bra. The notion seems illogical to me. But what do I know about bra designing?

Lesson: Don’t buy strapless dresses or tops unless they work with a strapless bra I currently possess. It’s like buying “one-day-it-will-fit” clothes. No, no, no and no.

Also, don’t talk to W about bras. Poor dude….

 

N

The Looming 30’s

March 16, 2011

Eureka! Wait, what was I saying?*

Welcome to the wonderful world of your 30’s. Your personal slide into forgetfulness and embarkation card into the land of wrinkle creams are here, ready and waiting for you. Cripes.

As it is the 16th of March, I have roughly 12.5 days left as a twenty-something. I’m generally fine with turning 30 although I have found myself occasionally pivoting away from nonchalance and into minor-freak-out-land. It’s this whole expectancy that by 30 one should have certain boxes checked and the fact that according to society’s standards, I’ve checked… well, none of them.

I do realise the idiocy of panicking because of a number that represents benchmarks that are defined by others rather than myself. I do. That doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that I am impervious to the odd bout of self-doubt and comparisons to others I know.

On the whole, however, I’m looking forward to it. I think our ‘twenties’ are a confusing time. Sort of like adolescence 2.0 — we don’t always behave more intelligently, but we do think we’re smarter and now have the money to be the idiots we couldn’t financially afford to be in our teens.

I think our ‘thirties’ (well, mine at least) will be a decade of increased self-assurance, heightened couldn’t-give-a-crap-ness and a generally more balanced level of emotional security. That’s not to say it won’t be fun and that there won’t be embarrassing mistakes and funny stories to recount. I mean it’s not like I’m getting a personality transplant, for blog’s sakes! I think I’ll just grow into a more… grounded version of me.

As if on cue, I received some samples from Olay in the mail this morning; samples of some sort of ‘super serum’ that claim to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles whilst firming the skin. Gee thanks, guys. For the record, I don’t need it yet. And, knock on wood, hopefully I won’t for a while.

I was fortunate enough to inherit my mom’s genes in this department and let’s face it… Asian women tend to age well. Generally speaking they look younger than they are right up until one day, sometime after the age of 60, they wake up one morning and Bam! They look much much older. My mom is – crap, she’s going to kill me if she ever reads this – over 60 and she looks amazing.

In fact, she looks so good that the rest of us in the family are slightly baffled. Granted, she does eat well and practically lives at the gym, but still! The woman is in crazy good shape and looks 10 years younger, if not more, than she actually is. She has also chilled out immensely from the feisty temperamental fire cracker that she once was. To top it off, she has a social life to rival my soon-to-turn-21-years-old sister. All I can say is that when I’m her age, I would be thrilled to look as good and be as outgoing and social as she is.

On that note: here’s to our ‘thirties’, the years that follow and improving with age!

 

N

 

*WordPress Topic #73: Grab the nearest book (or website) to you right now. Jump to paragraph 3, second sentence. Write it in a post.

Bonus: Make up a sentence to follow the first one, but make it go in an entirely different direction that the actual book or website does.

Book: Lessons of a Lipstick Queen
Author: Australian lipstick goddess, Poppy King
Sentence: Eureka!

Look, Ma! Only 17 Syllables! – How to be Poetically Snide in 12 Words

March 15, 2011

Topic #71: Write a haiku about something that drives you nuts.

That’s 5, 7, 5, right? Here’s my haiku then:


you stand before me –
so literally speaking
no… you are not dead

 

Huh. Look at that. A semi-snide correction in a neat 17 syllable package of 12 words. Perhaps I should only complain in haiku format from now on. Might help usher in a new more succinct era of communication for me… (uh, hello, Exhibit A?).

Apparently capitalising the first word in the second and/or third lines is a no-no (although acceptable in the first line) and the use of punctuation is controversial. That’s right. Punctuation. Controversial. And look at me, scandalously using an ellipsis and a dash [a mock gasp ensues]. Let’s try again.


how different now
your life will be since she went
and ripped you a new….

 

I quite like doing this. They’re not the most elegant haikus. They are also lacking in any seasonal references and yes, there was not a single mention of whispering leaves or trickling streams. I am, however, getting my point across. Which is not the point of a haiku… but hey.

Okay, enough. Time to leave the haiku-ing behind and go apply for jobs. Joy. On a related note, my legs are seriously killing me from yesterday’s Vibe class… and no, I don’t mean that literally.

 

N

It’s All About the Vibe

March 14, 2011

In a bid to keep up with the ‘Post a Week’ challenge, I was going to write a post in response to yesterday’s WP’s Topic of the Day “Chocolate or Vanilla?”. I was so uninspired by the question, however, that my writing just about put me to sleep.

But I like you. So I deleted it. And the second and third attempts too.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about my Vibe class at the Move Your Frame* studios today.

This was my first Vibe class since the doctor ordered me to rest my leg. I could not be bothered waiting another three weeks as he had suggested. I’d waited four weeks already and frankly, I’m sick of being asked to wait. The doctor, potential employers, the gas company, the bank’s customer service number… the list goes on. It really would be a nice change to have someone wait for me or even come to me instead… well, not the doctor… that’d just be weird.

In any case, my leg is feeling much better and I figured this even-slightly-motivated-to-exercise-shaped window of opportunity is not going to stay open for long. And so off to Vibe class I went. For those of you who are wondering why I’m telling you about some sex-toy sweat-training session, let me just say: get your mind out of the gutter! Grief… (but you’re not the first to ask/wonder).

A Vibe class is a circuit-type exercise class that utilises a vibrating gym machine. The machine looks similar to a treadmill, except that instead of the long sloped platform, it has a short (foot-and-a-half long), flat, vibrating platform. Classes tend to be small in size and are a maximum of 25 minutes in duration due to the intensity of exercising on these Vibe machines. Those are two huge selling points for me right there. Happy to suffer; just don’t let me suffer too long and in front of too many people!

I was a bit nervous going back in. I did come out, as always, feeling better than I arrived. Emotionally, I mean. Physically, I felt a bit sick: dehydrated and nauseated with jelly-like arms and legs. The walk home never felt so long. My arms were sore and where my legs ought to have been where these two foreign wobbly things that kept giving way under me. I was convinced that I was on the verge of having to roll home. Fortunately for cyclists in the area, I managed to drag myself home in a mostly upright position.

That’s one down and three to go for this week. Did I mention I signed up for their bootcamp? Well, I have and I think it’s a great way (in my economically-challenged state) of ‘forcing’ me go to each class as I’ve prepaid for the whole 4-week shebang. I have neck and back issues to work around which is always challenging whilst exercising, but them’s the breaks. It should be fine. Fingers crossed, abdominal muscled pulled in and shoulders down and back.

 

*MOVE YOUR FRAME

Telephonic numerals: 0207 033 1855

Electronic mail: team@moveyourframe.com

Location: 29 New Inn Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3EY. Tip: New Inn Road is right between the Tesco’s and the petrol/gas station on Shoreditch High Street

Hours: Mondays – Fridays: 7am-10pm, Saturdays: 10am – 5:40pm & Sundays: 10:30am – 5:30pm

Transport: The closest tube stations are Old Street and Liverpool Street. The Shoreditch Overground Station is also close by and buses 26 and 48 (amongst others) will drop you off on Shoreditch High Street.

Website: www.moveyourframe.com

And? Classes start from as low as £6 and they constantly run specials deals and special classes.

 

N

In case you were wondering, the answer is chocolate. Why? Because as much as I love vanilla, I cannot fight the dairy-centricity (chocolate-loving, cheese-worshipping, milk-enamoured, cream-adoring…) that I inherited from my Swiss father. Plus, hello?! It’s chocolate. How many times have you heard, “God, I have such a bad vanilla craving!”. ‘Nuff said.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow

March 9, 2011

I’m posting this photo, not because it’s my best or most suitable ‘shadow-themed’ photo, but because I was actually going to include it in my previous post (marine-themed that it was) and then didn’t. So I’m posting it here. Because I can. And it fits the theme.

 

On a beach in Newquay, Cornwall (UK) in 2009

This photo is from a 2 week road trip that L and I took in 2009. We rented a car in Bath and drove up the east coast of England and into Scotland, through Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen all the way to John O’Groats, then back down through the Isle of Skye, Cardiff, Cornwall and finally back to Bath. It was an amazing trip filled with great memories and even though there were the odd moments of misadventure (like having to sleep in the freezing cold rental car and then breakfasting on crisps and 3p sandwiches that we’d thrown together from our pound-shop-rummage because we’d messed up our bank transfers and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere with less than £5 between us), they just made it all the more interesting and memorable.

 

N

Shark Fins and Killer Blue Thingys

March 8, 2011

I recently received an email from a lovely woman in Australia who informed me that she would like to buy one of my photos to frame and hang in her home – best compliment ever! Anyhow, we’ve been emailing back and forth, hashing out the details with a bit of conversation thrown in for good measure. In her last correspondence she mentioned seeing a mother and baby dolphin. ‘How cool!’, I thought and proceeded to recant my own personal experience with dolphins which is decidedly less ‘cool’:

“I once found myself swimming next to a mother and baby dolphin in an estuary on the Gold Coast… I’m rather embarrassed to say that I freaked out at the sight of the fins careening through the water and proceeded to try running away (yes, RUNNING; it doesn’t work well underwater, trust me). Once on shore, they were long gone and my boyfriend at the time informed me – once the hysterical laughing (his, not mine) had subsided – that they had been dolphins, not sharks… yes, pretty special, I know.”

I’m not sure why I decided to share this rather telling and none-too-flattering story with someone I don’t really know… or why, for that matter, I’m now posting it here for anyone and everyone to read. Oh well. May as well continue.

This wasn’t the first time I tried running underwater. There was this one Christmas that my family and I were holidaying on an island in the Philippines. I decided to go snorkelling by myself and was rather enjoying myself until I spotted a shark. Not just the fin, but the whole absurdly toothy beast. 16 year old me panicked and ran. Underwater. Well, I tried. Attempting to escape from a harmless, metre-long baby shark which I probably scared half-do-death may sound silly, but A. it was a shark – who cares how big it is?! and B. how was I to know at the time that it was harmless???

Then there was the time that my sister and I were snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and I attempted to save her life from this nightmarish creature with metre-and-a-half long electric blue tentacles that were circling her with the predatory vehemence of a psycho killer. Turns out it was the string from her vest. Well, you hear the horror stories and (sharks aside) they always seem to be blue with tentacles in my mind. That being said, I’m surprised my sister didn’t drown, she was laughing so hard.

 

Wow. I’m so damn special sometimes.

 

N

Challenge Accepted!

March 3, 2011

I meant to write something witty, clever and insightful, but between the sound of one of my flatmates talking on the phone, his music mocking me from the speakers and the rumbling distraction of the kettle boiling – I cannot focus, cannot lash nor dribble out quick-witted anecdotes, so I will hang my head in defeat and just say what I came here to say, dammit:

I’m participating in WordPress’ PostAWeek Challenge.

There I said it.

You know… brevity may not be my strong suit, but clearly getting straight to the point is bloody boring.

Hmph.

 

N

 

P.S. I really ought to start reading instructions. I’ve had to update this post twice already. Tag added? Check. Subscribed? Check.

Like a Water Buffalo in the Mekong: Ho Chi Minh City Research

February 26, 2011

Dedicated to Y.

One of my best friends is popping over to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) from Singapore for a mini-holiday (and yes, I am a little bit jealous). Let’s call her Y for brevity’s sake. Y is one of those travellers who has a guide book, is always prepared, is up for most anything and is basically a treat to travel with. Despite Y’s admirable organisational skills, however, she has asked me if I could do some research for her if I have the time. As I’m currently unemployed (someone please give me a job already!?), time is one thing I do have a lot of.

So I figured that if I’m going to be collating research for her trip, I may as well post it here just in case anyone else is interested. I have to just state at this point that I’ve only ever been to Hanoi and Halong Bay; I’ve never been to HCMC. The information below is solely based on research I’ve done. Hopefully, Y will give me some feedback later… maybe even write a guest post afterwards (hint, hint). This is all I have for now, but I’ll continue to add more over the next day or two.

 

GENERAL INFO

With nicknames like ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and ‘Paris of the East’, it’s hard not to expect quite a lot from Vietnam’s largest city and economic centre. The centre of this city formerly named Saigon is located along the banks of the Saigon River and is home to over 9 million people. The city was renamed after the eponymous late Communist leader Ho Chi Minh in 1976 although many still refer to the city (especially the urban districts) as Saigon. Over 90% of Saigonese (local inhabitants) are ethnically Vietnamese and about 80% of Saigonese are Buddhist.

The climate is tropical and there are two seasons: the wet (May to November) and the dry (December to April). The average temperature is 28°C and the average humidity is about 75%. International banks in HCMC include ANZ and HSBC.

 

MUST SEE’s & MUST DO’s

Reunification Palace:

Location: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street

Hours: open daily from 7:30am – 11:00am and then 1pm – 4pm

Price: Entry costs 15,000 VD and free tours are available

Info: Built between 1962 and 1966, the palace was formerly the presidential palace of South Vietnam. The tank sitting out front is a replica of the one that crashed into the gates during the war. A trip back to the kitschy 60’s awaits within.

Cu Chi Tunnels:

Location: 35km outside of HCMC (around an hour and a half away)

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Price: depends on the tour you take

Info: this incredible underground maze of tunnels was constructed as early as the 1940’s and used by the Viet Cong during the war. It provided them with shelter, somewhere to sleep, eat and work. There are traps throughout the tunnel that are still in place and that is reason enough for guided tours to be mandatory! The tunnels are over 250km long and stretch all the way to the Cambodian border. There is also a shooting range there where you can test your aim with a range of guns including AK47s, M16s and machine guns.

Giac Lam Pagoda

Location: 118 Lac Long Quan, District 11

Hours: 7:30am – 5pm

Price: Free, but donations are welcome.

Info: Supposedly the oldest pagoda (1744) in HCMC, the Buddhist Giac Lam Pagoda has gilded statues and a 32m tall stupa. Don’t know what a stupa is? Don’t worry, I didn’t either (click here). It is regarded as a minor pilgrimage site for Buddhists.

Ben Thanh Market

Location: District 1

Info: Saigon’s most famous market, but leave it till the evening/early evening when things really pick up and come alive with food stalls and much more.

Benh Tay Market

Location: Thap Muoi Street in Cholon, also known as Chinatown (district 6)

Info: Here at Saigon’s biggest market, you’ll be hassled much less than elsewhere as many vendors are wholesalers. Have a look nonetheless and maybe grab a bite to eat from one of the food stalls (on the right as you face the entrance).

 

Other markets: Saigon Square (Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D1) – on offer are clever copies, dvds, shoes, clothes, you get the picture. Tan Dinh Market (Hai Ba Trung, D1) – come here to experience a genuine wet market where the locals shop. An Dong Plaza (Tran Phu st, D5) – cheaper than Ben Thanh, here you’ll find mainly shoes, clothing and fabric.

 

MUST EAT’s

Bânh mi: oh god, now I really am feeling the jealousy. Bânh mi is the most delectable sandwich. I swear. The bread is a hearty nod to the French baguette and the filling generally contains grilled pork, do chua, coriander, chilli and mayonnaise. Do yourself a favour and pop by a roadside stall for one. You simply must have one whilst in HCMC… if not two or three. You’ll thank me later.

Ngon Restaurant: located on Pasteur Street (District 1) – good, traditional Vietnamese fare.

Banh Xeo 46A: located at 46A D Dinh Cong Trang (District 3). They serve one dish and one delicious dish only: banh xeo (Vietnamese rice-flour crêpes filled with prawns, pork and bean sprouts).

 

TRAVEL & TRANSPORT

HCMC’s airport is called Tan Son Nhat International Airport (or Ho Chi Minh City Airport) and is located about 7km north of the city and takes about 20 minutes to get to. To get there from the city or to get to the city from the airport, you have a few options: metered cab (make sure it’s a reputable company like Vinasun or Mai Linh and that they turn the meter on!), minibus, cyclo (motorcycle taxis) or a bus (bus 152; cheapest option although apparently not the most punctual).

Cyclo: rates are around 36,000 VD per hour. Make sure to bargain with the driver and clearly agree on both the price per ride (not per person) and the destinations before getting on! Tipping is appreciated.

Scooters & Motorbikes: If you’re interested in travelling like so many of the locals do, why not rent a scooter or a motorbike? You can also pay a guide/driver to take you around whilst you hold on for dear life behind them. Either way make sure you get a helmet and that it’s a decent one.

City Look Bus: this tourist bus will take you to HCMC’s most famous sights. There is a guide and the information is given in English. The tour operates on a hop-on, hop-off system, so you can spend as much time as you want at whichever sights interest you. Buses are air-conditioned and come by every half an hour, tickets cost 75,000 VD and can be bought onboard and the tour runs from 8am to 5:30pm.

ONE FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE:

When crossing the road, just go for it. As Kevin Donnelly was told by his scooter driver, Tran, “Don’t ever stop, don’t rush and don’t look at the oncoming traffic. Walk confidently and like a water buffalo in the Mekong, the current will flow around you.” (The Australian, 2010)

N

SOURCES & FURTHER READING:

Donnelly, K., 2010. Chaos Theory in Ho Chi Minh City. The Australian, [online] April 24th 2010.

Wikipedia

Lonely Planet

Travel Fish

Bootsnall

Come and Go Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Airport Guide

iFly (airport guide)


I Wanted to Make a Skirt and Sew I Did

February 19, 2011

Before I moved into my new flat, I spent almost two weeks flat-hopping from Shoreditch to Limehouse to London Fields. It was while I was staying with the lovely Susanne* in London Fields, a quaint little suburb that I had never even heard of, that I stumbled across a shop called Our Patterned Hand. Tacked to their window was a sign advertising sewing classes. I’ve always wanted to be able to sew myself a dress or a bag or something, but alas, my experience ends with hand sewing back buttons that have gone rogue. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Their classes include a ‘Learn to Use a Sewing Machine and Sew Your 1st Project’ (where you make either a cushion cover, a shopper or a gathered skirt) and a ‘Learn to Copy Your Favourite Garment’ class. As class sizes are small and spots tend to disappear fairly quickly, I booked myself into the next available beginner’s class right there and then.

Three weeks passed and the day of the class finally arrived. I’d made sure to have an early night beforehand, so that I would pose less of a hazard to myself and the outcome of the skirt I’d be making, but I was nervous nonetheless. The class was meant to start at 9am, but as one of the students was still M.I.A. and this was a beginner’s class, we waited until she arrived at 9:30am to begin the lesson. Definitely not Swiss that one.

Beneath the store in a little studio the four of us took our places around our sewing machines. We learned to prepare the bobbin, thread the sewing machine, adjust the tension and sew some basic stitches; terms and phrases that had not existed in my world an hour earlier. After a few rounds of practice stitches and only minor hiccups (I swear my machine was toying with me), we moved onto examining the skirt pattern and working out measurements.

We had been advised ahead of time what types of fabric to pick and how much of it to bring in (based on the length of skirt we wanted to create). The other ladies pulled out their beautiful colourful fabrics in nice, friendly medium-weight cotton for everyone else to have a look at and admire. Then there was me. I had rather ambitiously (or perhaps merely stubbornly) decided to use a lovely thin white eyelet fabric that was somewhat transparent and thus required lining. Like I needed the extra challenge. This meant that while everyone else was rapidly stitching away on their machines, I – the only utter and complete novice in class – was meanwhile rabidly swearing under my breath as the slippery lining fabric I had chosen slipped and bunched and otherwise defied me.

After a short tea break (cookies included) which gave us a chance to share a few laughs and exchange stories, we resumed our positions. We oohed and aahed periodically as one by one we reached tube-with-waistband status. Everyone was zipping around from work bench to ironing board (ironing regularly helps keep the fabric smooth and thus makes it easier to sew) and back to sewing machine. I was nervously racing to catch up after one too many… let’s call them ‘learning opportunities’. On the bright side, I definitely learned much more than I would have if I had decided on a fabric that didn’t need lining. The teacher was angelically patient and encouraging, telling me that I was doing a great job, that to be handling both lining and a skirt as well as I was on my very first sewing experience was impressive, that I clearly had a knack for this, etc… not sure if I agree, but it did make me feel more confident.

I was the last to finish, but given the added element to my skirt, I guess that’s unsurprising. An hour after we had been due to finish (or half an hour, given that we started half an hour late), I was the very proud owner of my very first sewing project. After thanking the teacher profusely for her help and her unwavering patience, I marched out onto the street where the Broadway Market was still in full force. The sun was shining, the air was full of the delicious smells of the market, I had a brand new skirt and a head full of plans to sew a thousand other things. Today was a good day.

 

 

OUR PATTERNED HAND

Telephonic Numerals 020 7812 9912

Electronic Mail ours@patternedhand.co.uk

Location 49 Broadway Market, London Fields (E8 4PH)

Grace them with your presence 10am – 6pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays) and 10am – 5pm (Sundays). Closed on Mondays.

Can’t be bothered walking? I’ve marked the tube and overground stations on the map above. Buses will get you much closer. Bus 394 drives down Sheep Lane (which runs parallel to Broadway Market) before turning onto Westgate Street (past the top of Broadway Market). Alternatively, buses 26 and 48 drive up Mare Street (get off just before Westgate Street).

Your pockets will be £40 lighter for their introductory project classes.

And? I highly recommend the beginner’s class. The worst part are the pre-first-stitch jitters, but once you get going you’ll be just fine! More advanced classes are also available. Give them a call, pop into their shop or shoot them an email if you’d like more info. Do it!

 

N

 

* If you’re looking for accommodation in London, I highly recommend staying at Susanne’s. She has two rooms available in her flat which is well-located just off Broadway Market in London Fields. She actually rent out her entire flat sometimes, and if you ask nicely, she just might do it for you. There’s a laundry machine, wi-fi, a kitchen, a small outdoor/garden area, a cosy living room; it’s almost like a home-away-from-home. Susanne is a friendly, helpful, easygoing host to boot. A word of warning: if you are allergic to cats, make sure to pack your antihistamines as there is a kitty-in-residence. Here’s her airbnb advert if you’re interested.