Month: December 2017

December in review

The last monthly review of the year! Not sure I’ll keep these going next year but time will tell.

Lived

Highlights

Ahhh December, and your parties and nights out; the work night out was the usual nonsense, the party at a friends with a huge spread of excellent (homemade) party foods was fun, the gym night out was a great cocktail filled laugh, and I started a new tradition with some colleagues (aka Team Awesome) by going to the Panto at the Pavilion which was utterly bonkers brilliant!

The run up to Christmas was nicely busy too, some good times, and apparently I’m now popular enough to get invited to too many places at the same time, which saw my Christmas Eve and Boxing Day both featuring double invites… check me out!

Christmas Day was wonderful as always, a very relaxed day mostly focused on little Lucy, and my ‘second’ Christmas Day (with the ‘family’ I chose) was a wonderful food and drink filled day of laughter (as it always is).

I feel very VERY lucky and very blessed at the moment.

Stepcount: WHO CARES IT’S CHRISTMAS!

Read

Nothing finished, too busy galavanting! (As my wee granny would’ve said)

Watched

The Last Jedi
A must see for any Star Wars fan and whilst I’ll post no spoilers, I did leave the cinema a little underwhelmed. Not massively, it’s still a gloriously large scale sci-fi romp but it didn’t entirely feel part of the same universe? Hard to put my finger on but I bumped on a few scenes in the movie and still not quite sure why. It’s a good movie, but not a great one.

Also watched:
It’s a Wonderful Life.
Saw this at the small local Grosvenor cinema, a bottle of wine, comfy seats and the usual happy tears streaming down my face. Doesn’t matter how many times I watch it. Officially Christmas now!

Listened

Nothing new, too busy to stop and think so have just been revisiting favourite bands/albums from the past couple of years. Smatterings of The Go! Team, GoGo Penguin, and a few classical piano playlists have been tiding me over before the Christmas songs descended.

Gig: Honeyblood

Have yourself a Honeybloody Christmas!

Featuring sets by Emme Woods, Man of Moon, and The Spook School (I only got there in time to catch the latter), there was a great atmosphere prior to Honeyblood coming on stage.

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Honeyblood 🤘 @yumhoneyblood

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Having seen them twice, once supporting Foo Fighters at Murrayfield, and once at the teeny tiny Hug & Pint, I had a sense of what to expect.

Expectation be damned!

Honeyblood have been touring for the past few months, and it shows. Up-tempo versions of some of their tracks ripped along, the tracks from the now one-year-old second album sounded vibrant, and before we knew it they’d rattled their way through their setlist and encore.

As it was a Christmas show, there was a pause mid-show for a dance off – cue a lot of pogo-ing, hands raised twirling – the winners of which got up on stage to play a round of pass the parcel, and as a final song a rather kick-ass version of Merry Christmas that Slade would’ve been proud of!

Special mention to the drummer Cat, she’s recently been playing with Mogwai and from that first gig at the Hug & Pint to the other night at the ABC, she’s turned into an absolute monster of a drummer.

All in all a pretty good gig to round off my year.

The day of boxing

It’s over.

Another year and you’ve survived Christmas Day. Well done!

For some Christmas can be an ordeal, a day to be gotten through. For others it’s a day to savour and enjoy. Whatever type of Christmas Day you had, it’s over now.

Boxing Day is a day for leftovers if you have them (trifle for breakfast!) and lazing around in front of the TV. Maybe you’ll go for a walk, maybe you’ll visit some friends, or maybe you’ll simply relax and enjoy the fact that the ‘big day’ has passed once more. I’ll be doing all of the above; trifle for breakfast, then a walk to a friends house.

However you spend these festive days, I hope you are well and can find some happiness and peace.

And whilst I remember, thank you for visiting this odd little blog, for reading and commenting, and sharing your thoughts on the nonsense I post here.

But for now, bugger off, enjoy yourself, and be good to you and yours.

Weekend Reading

Last one of the year (I’m taking next week off to focus on family and friends), I hope you’ve enjoyed these random selections as much as I have. It’s been quite a year, but here is to a wonderful 2018 for everyone.

  • The house that Edek built – and the secret suitcase kept inside
    When Edward “Edek” Hartry and his wife Teresa designed and built their family home near Woking, they created a daringly modern building full of light. Their glass and timber home stood out among the red-brick Tudorbethan of stockbroker Surrey – simple, open-plan and translucent.
    Quite a story, and quite a life they lead.

  • Pinegrove on How Being a Good Artist and a Good Person Are the Same Thing
    Our interview series Icebreaker features artists talking about things—some strange, some amusing, some meaningful—that just might reveal their true selves.
    Been on a bit of a Pinegrove binge (solipsistic moods and all that).

  • Deliverance From 27,000 Feet
    Five Sherpas surrounded the frozen corpse. They swung axes at the body’s edges, trying to pry it from its icy tomb. They knocked chunks of snow from the body, and the shattered pieces skittered down the mountain.
    I’m always fascinated by extremes and the people who take such risks. As horrific as this is.

  • ‘The Basic Grossness of Humans’
    Content moderators review the the dark side of the internet. They don’t escape unscathed.
    The internet can be such a dark and disgusting place, what a job.

  • Want to really understand how bitcoin works? Here’s a gentle primer
    The soaring price of bitcoin—the virtual currency is now worth more than $250 billion—has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks. But the real significance of bitcoin isn’t just its rising value. It’s the technological breakthrough that allowed the network to exist in the first place.
    Still massively ‘meh’ about this but part of me knows I shouldn’t be. But still. Meh.

  • Hopeful Images From 2017
    2017 has been another year of news stories that produced photos which can often be difficult or disturbing to view. I’ve made it a tradition to compose an essay of uplifting images from the past year.
    MORE OF THIS IN 2018 PLEASE!

  • Behold The Most Hilarious Wildlife Photos of 2017
    Wildlife photographer Tibor Kércz would spend a few nights each year camped out in a tent near a tree, hoping to capture photos of little owls and their nestlings. But just before nightfall on one fateful evening, three of the birds flew out onto a short branch.
    MORE OF THIS IN 2018 PLEASE!!

  • Endlessly zooming art
    DeepDream is a computer vision program created by Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev which uses a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images via algorithmic pareidolia, thus creating a dream-like hallucinogenic appearance in the deliberately over-processed images.
    MESMERISING. I just lost 20 mins staring at these.

  • Dancing on roller skates with James Brown’s style
    For the latest installment of the Dance In The Real World series, the NY Times visited a Chicago roller rink where people skate in a JB Style, named after the performer James Brown. I wanted to watch about 10 more minutes of that…and then go roller skating.
    Skating (wheels or blades) is like black magic to me, just… nope… but THIS, I’d love to be able to do this!

  • Jam to These Super-Specific Spotify Playlists
    Writer Grace Spelman collects songs like they’re Legos, in a meticulously sorted tackle box.
    Already decided that 2018 will be a year of musical discovery for me, but I’m a long way from this level of collation!

  • Here’s Why Everyone Should Have an ‘Antilibrary’
    Now is the time when year-end book lists abound, hardcovers are gifted at family holidays, and your favorite writer announces that they’ve got something in store for 2018. But even if it feels like there are too many books and never enough time, that could actually be a good thing.
    An interesting idea, but goes against my desire for ‘less’… still, a mini version might be worth a shot?

  • How to Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns
    If you feel awkward using gender-neutral pronouns—or avoid them because you don’t know how to use them correctly—it’s time to get up to speed.
    Intellectually it’s pretty easy to learn, my struggle has been undoing decades of ‘muscle memory’.

  • A 17-Hour Chronological Playlist of Beatles Songs: 338 Tracks Let You Hear the Band’s Evolution From Talented Boy Band to Legendary Pop Geniuses
    The Beatles have seemingly never been just a band; they’ve been a brand, a history, an institution, a genre, a generational soundtrack, a merchandising empire, and so much more—possessed of the kind of cultural importance that makes it impossible to think of them as only musicians.
    Already decided that 2018 will be a year of musical discovery for me, once I get through this beezer of a playlist!

  • Exclusive interview with Derren Brown as he prepares to take UNDERGROUND back on tour
    As Derren Brown prepares to take his show UNDERGROUND around the country in 2018, he tells us what makes him happy, reflects on the future of magic entertainment and reveals he’ll be back on our TV screens soon. It’s great to see that UNDERGROUND will be back in UK theatres in 2018.
    AND I HAVE TICKETS!

  • Coca-Cola didn’t invent Santa … the 10 biggest Christmas myths debunked
    Are you still boring your relatives with stories about Prince Albert’s tree and the origin of mistletoe kisses. Stop! The truth is much more interesting Christmas is a strange time of the year, when people merrily do all sorts of bizarre things.
    My inner pedant cannot WAIT to unveil some of these beauties to my friends and family (who will LOVE being corrected, so much!)

  • The 1883 Krakatoa Explosion Made the Loudest Sound in History–So Loud It Traveled Around the World Four Times
    Think of ourselves though we may as living in a noisy era, none of us — not even members of stadium-filling rock bands known specifically for their high-decibel intensity — have experienced anything like the loudest sound in history.
    I’m sorry. HOW LOUD? Off-the-scale unimaginable. My brain can’t even. Nope.

  • There’s a reason why iPhones get slower after every iOS update
    Have you ever noticed that after a year or so, it feels like your iPhone is just a bit … slower? You might not have downloaded any new apps or even been using your phone significantly more, but everything feels more sluggish.
    Only comment: Apple should’ve been clearer about this (I think they are doing it for the right reasons though). Transparency would’ve nullified this as a news item.

  • “Inemuri,” the Japanese Art of Taking Power Naps at Work, on the Subway, and Other Public Places
    If you’ve visited any big city in Japan, you’ve no doubt seen a fair few commuters sleeping on the subway. The more time you spend there, the more places in which you’ll see normal, everyday-looking folks fast asleep: parks, coffee shops, bookstores, even the workplace during office hours.
    I wholeheartedly approve this notion (but not so much the reasons it came about)

  • These Are the Stunning Photos From the 2017 National …
    Whoever said there’s no greater artist than Mother Nature was right. Thanks to the professional nature photographers of the world, we regular folk can be exposed to all the unimaginably beautiful, surreal, confusing and even disgusting scenes Earth has to offer.
    Interesting how many are (probably) from drones.

  • It Takes a Special Kind of Person to Get Chills From …
    Music seems to have a primal hold on us, reaching the very core of what it means to be human and reminding us that we are all small town girls, living in lonely worlds. And when it finally hits that chorus, you know that you’ll never stop believing.
    IT ME! I goosebump on a few tracks, every damn time. I am Gordon’s raw emotions.

  • No, Matt Damon, you can’t appropriate #MeToo for innocent men
    When my kids were tiny, they had a mechanical Woody from Toy Story doll, who, when you pulled the cord on his back, randomly uttered one of a selection of quotes. Over many years, as my kids got older and lost interest in him, Woody developed a fault.
    FFS. New rule for 2018, ALL MEN JUST SHUT UP.

  • What to do when Bill Gates sends you a 30lb Pusheen. STEP 1.
    PRO TIP: When filling out your reddit gift questionnaire, don’t act like a crazy person in hopes of making sure your santa understands the 1 thing you really care about. Bill Gates might read it. And then you will over-analyze every lame joke you made. #truestory
    The final link of the year. Here’s hoping 2018 is more like this.

Five pounds

What would you do with a fiver?

That’s the question recently posed by Awesome Foundation Glasgow, as they handed out bright pink envelopes on Buchanan Street. They hoped the fivers would be put to good use; donated to charity, maybe used to purchase food bank items, or used to buy a hot meal for someone who needed one.

I happened to be in town that day and received one of the envelopes. I already had half a mind on what I’d do with it, and it’s been great to see the updates on social media on what others did with theirs. I decided to embrace the ‘fiver’ aspect rather than the monetary amount itself, and thought I’d buy tea and a hot roll for some of the many homeless people I see every morning as I walk to work. One person a day, Monday to Friday.

The homeless situation in Glasgow, like most other cities, is noticeably on the rise these past few years. I give change when I have it, but if I don’t I still try and make eye contact, still try and acknowledge that this is a fellow human being in front of me. I read an article earlier this year that touched on that, that the interaction can be more valuable than the amount, and can make a real difference to break the sense of isolation that many homeless people feel.

With that in mind I tried to spend a few minutes chatting to each guy (all of them were men) each morning. A couple were younger than me, a couple were older, one was foreign and didn’t have much English, one was from London and had heard that Glasgow was a friendly place.

And each morning as I walked away, heading to a warm office, the privilege of my life struck me, alongwith the horrifying realisation of how easily that could happen, to anyone, to me. A few changes of circumstance is all it would take.

The first morning I chatted to a guy called Darren, it wasn’t for more than a few minutes, but as I headed off he thanked me for talking the time to stop and talk to him. “That’s what ah miss most, you know, just chattin tae someone fur a bit”.

There is every chance I’ll see these guys again in the coming weeks and if I do I’ll stop and say hello. I might buy them a cup of tea, or give them a couple of quid, but the real takeaway from my week wasn’t about money.

Turns out that you don’t need five pounds to make a difference, just five minutes, and we can all spare that.

Slowing Down

Despite eschewing New Year Resolutions for the past few years I happily set myself the challenge of reading 24 novels this year (tracked in Goodreads). When I was younger I used to read a lot more than I do now but these days, with so many more things fighting for my attention, my ability to carve out a few hours to sit and read can seem like a real challenge. So, I figured, I could game myself into setting aside some time to read.

Even though I’d been attending a semi-regular book club (it’s my attendance that is semi-regular, not the book club), I realised that I was struggling to read enough and that was enough to let some old habits and behaviours creep in. The sign, for me, is that low level anxiety/fear that makes my stomach churn and kicked in when I realised that I wouldn’t manage to read 24 books by the end of the year and so will have ‘failed’, and one thing that my counselling confirmed is that fear of failure is pretty much the stick I use to beat myself with (relentlessly and brutally).

I can happily confirm that I will not manage to complete the challenge this year but as I set out this year I knew it wasn’t really about completing it, it was more to find a way to push myself to slow down and step away from, … well, … everything else and focus on just one moment, one thing at a time.

However, recognising that I was feeling not good about my progress against the reading challenge, I’m stepping back to remind myself of the original reason I wanted to read more books in the first place, it’s the same reason that I enjoy long walks, the same reason that made me start meditating; I need to slow down.

“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” – Walter Hagen

For most of my adult life I’ve set goals for myself, pushed myself to do things, learn things, try things, and I’ve never found it easy to sit still and at peace for any period of time. Even watching movies my brain is still whirring away, analysing lighting choices, word choices, acting choices. It’s why if I’m looking to relax I’ll either watch a big silly blockbuster I’ve already seen – because I can completely switch off and let it wash over me – or an episode of Friends because I’ve seen them all so many times I don’t even need to think about them.

Finding ways to slow down used to be a real challenge and growing up I grabbed onto lots of little examples of how I thought I ‘should be’. We are told that goals are good things. What is your goal in life? What do you want to be when you grow up? You study to pass exams, you compete to win trophies, your have a career path, goal after goal after goal after goal.

Goals are good! Goals give us something to aim for, a reason to keep going, a target to hit. Goals fit with the general mantra of work hard and life will be good.

At least that’s what we are told.

These days I’m not so sure. I do think goals CAN be good, but only in select circumstances, and I’ve been guilty of using them all the time (for emotionally driven reasons, rather than any sense of benefit of achieving said goals).

Everyday life has changed in the past 20 years, and the rise of the ever connected, super productive, smart computers that we have to hand almost 24/7 and it’s no wonder that social media is a drain on our time and the urge to ‘keep up’ is only furthered by the stream of everyone else is doing everything, and living their glamourous, fun-packed lives. Keep up, go faster, Keep Up, do more, KEEP UP!

This sense of urgency to always be busy, to always have to strive for more because it’s what everyone else is doing* is something I had no sight of when I was 10 years old. Back then I didn’t know what any of my friends were doing when I wasn’t with them and it didn’t concern me one bit, I’d find out when we met to play football in the grass at the back of my parents house.

At this point, having figured out that I need to carve out more quiet time away from social media my instinct is always to go big and declare that I was going to have a sabbatical for a week, or maybe a day every week or… something. But the reality is that some form of connection can be good and ~ gosh I think I’ve said this before! ~ when it comes to things like this I know for me it’s more about finding the balance.

It’s important not to discount the upside of social media either. I know I experience compersion when I see other people happy, and even if I’m in a bit of a funk it’s good to have those little glimmers, so cutting out social media completely would be to deny those moments.

That said, dealing with the negative side of social media, the comparisons, the envy, isn’t always something I’ve been good at. Stepping away, in essence taking a time out, is something I’ve been making a conscious decision to do from time to time, even if just for a couple of hours it can be enough to stop me reacting to what I’m seeing. It also means I’ve got pockets of time to myself that I am no longer feeling the need to acknowledge the endless scrolling updates that ping on my screen.

Meditation is definitely a help here, finding even 10 mins in my day to sit quietly with my own thoughts has been a huge boon (as I’ve discussed before). I still use buddifhy on occasion but am just as comfortable with an unguided session and for those I look to Calm or the newer Oak app. Those moments are becoming increasingly important to me and I’m starting to protect my meditation time as much as I do my gym time.

Part of my 2018 will be to continue that practice, and continue to push to find a balance, but I already know that I will be looking to make better use of my time, be it attending more events, seeing friends more often, and generally living life, or just taking some time from my day to sit quietly and slow down.

* newsflash: they aren’t, we are not our social media feeds. (I know you know, just bears repeating).

Weekend Reading

  • The Problem with Muzak
    Imagine you are in an airport, and you have forgotten to eat lunch. It’s a mistake you will pay for with a dull, expensive dinner.
    I like Spotify but also aware it is limiting my musical view. Something for 2018 I think…

  • Former Facebook executive has sworn off social media because he doesn’t want to be “programmed”
    While Facebook’s business is booming and the company continues to expand its tentacles to every corner of the internet, its early employees and investors are growing more and more vocal about the damage it has wrought among its users.
    Maybe something else for 2018, cut back on FB. Time to delete from my phone?

  • For the Good of Society — and Traffic! — Delete Your Map App
    I live on an obnoxiously quaint block in South Berkeley, California, lined with trees and two-story houses. There’s a constant stream of sidewalk joggers before and after work, and plenty of (good) dogs in the yards. Trick-or-treaters from distant regions of the East Bay invade on Halloween.
    Rat runs can be deadly and cause more problems than the roadworks you are avoiding. Map apps help expose those. Maybe just take your time? Why all the rush??

  • 6-year-old made $11 million in one year reviewing toys on You Tube
    When most people think back on the child celebrities of their time, they may think of child movie actors, the well-trained stars of showbiz. For some, these were stars such as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, or Macaulay Culkin of “Home Alone” fame.
    WHIT!! I fear I sound very old when I say I’m not sure what the world is coming to these days

  • ‘Women are better writers than men’: novelist John Boyne sets the record straight
    Male authors are always pronouncing their own brilliance – or boasting about not reading books by women. So, after a lifetime of writing and attending literary festivals, John Boyne would like to get something off his chest …
    This should NOT be a surprise.

  • What do we teach small children about consent?
    Last night, my daughter asked me to snuggle in with her under her duvet to sing her a bedtime song. I obliged, and gently tickled her feet. “No! No more tickling!” she giggled, while at the same time pressing her feet to my hands in a way I know is indicative of wanting to be tickled more.
    Very aware of this with a smol niece around.

  • According to a Harvard Psychologist, People Judge You …
    Judging people is less a conscious choice and more an instinct. No shame, we all do it. But when you’re being judged, or you’re the one doing the judging, the stain on your shirt isn’t the deal maker or breaker. (Relax, no one even notices the tiny things you freak out over, anyway.)
    Another ‘scientists point out the bleedin’ obvious’ article? Well kinda but not quite (it’s me, not you).

  • Merriam-Webster’s 2017 Words of the Year
    Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism. The word was a top lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events.
    This is both pleasing (that people are checking what the word means) and worrying (that people have to check what the word means).

  • Seedless Avocados Are Here to Keep You From Cutting Off Your Hands
    Here’s a new item in the produce aisle for people who adore avocados but are terrified of slicing the fruit themselves: seedless avocados. The strange product, which looks more like a cucumber or zucchini, is being featured by British retail chain Marks & Spencer.
    Do we REALLY need to tamper with nature so much?

  • A Drone’s Eye View of New York
    We first got to know Humza Deas three years ago, when he was a 17-year-old self-taught photographer taking the sorts of thrilling pictures of the city, often from places he wasn’t technically supposed to be, which someone who is maybe no longer a teenager would probably not attempt.
    Never been to NY, these images are driving it further up the ‘visit’ list for sure.

  • The Reckoning: Women and Power in the Workplace
    As revelations of sexual harassment break, women have been discussing the fallout and how to move forward. Here, women from across the working world take on this complicated conversation.
    Frank and revealing conversations. Still so much to learn.

  • The best compliment you can give, according to Meryl Streep
    Meryl Streep, known to many as the Queen of Hollywood, is no stranger to praise. She’s received more Academy Award nominations than any actor (20 in total), and three Oscars and eight Golden Globes under her belt.
    Aforementioned niece will be hearing this one a LOT.

  • Red Dawn in Lapland
    It was a frigid January morning on the outskirts of a Finnish military base, 62 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Daylight was still four hours away and would cast off again by midafternoon. Through darkness and gently falling snow, I could see only one of the soldiers skiing in a line ahead of me.
    Bonkers but fascinating. I do love these articles of things I’m completely unaware of.

  • Seven Years
    Have linked to this website before. This one though… *wipes tear*

  • 010: Sigrid Veasey: The Science of Sleep
    Chronic sleep loss is the silent creativity killer. It impacts your attention, your memory, your moods, and your ability to “think outside the box.”
    And yes, we are ALL suffering chronic sleep loss.

  • Wine glasses are almost seven times bigger than they were 300 years ago
    Thank Christ it’s 2017 (there’s a statement I didn’t think I’d make this year!)

  • Disney and Fox
    It’s always a risk writing about a deal before it is official: CNBC reported a month ago that Disney was in talks to acquire many of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including its eponymous movie studio, TV production company, cable channels, and international assets.
    So what? Well if you watch Netflix at all, this is big news (and once again, us customers are the ones that will get stung)

  • Can Smiling While Exercising Improve Performance?
    Many athletes have been told that smiling while sweating will make our efforts feel easier.
    HAHAHAHAHAAAA sorry… I’m always too busy bitching and moaning to smile!

BootCamp is Dead

My third (and final) BootCamp is over.

That’s 10 weeks, two sessions a week, of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

DONE.

No longer will I be getting up and going to the gym at 9am on a Saturday morning!

This was my third BootCamp in a row and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people who have inspired me along the way and kept me motivated to turn up. Safe to say that the camaraderie is what kept me going back and that is down to the atmosphere of the gym and the trainers. I WANT to go this gym, even after the very first, nervous, BootCamp session I knew I would be back.

This is not a place full of people pounding treadmills (there aren’t any) or GETTING PUMPED at Spin class (there are no bikes). And despite the fact that the gym is more focused on lifting and mobility, there are no gurning, muscle bound idiots, slamming weights around and staring at themselves in mirrors (because there aren’t any mirrors). I hadn’t fully realised just how much of an intimidating and ‘not nice’ place a lot of gyms can be, and whilst some are now countering these with women-only areas (which is great) it leaves guys like me who also have body confidence issues feeling isolated and awkward.

So whilst there is no more BootCamp, a change of format and name means I’ll be doing three sessions a week as part of the new Team Training sessions. There will be a little more focus on lifting than solely HIIT, and I cannot wait to get started. To prepare I’ve been going to an additional class which is structured a little more that way and there is something oddly satisfying at raising a proper barbell over your head! (and it had 5kg weights on it too!).

I’ve been thinking ahead to 2018, not in a resolution kinda way, more just pondering a few things to try (more on that soon) but, for once, one thing that isn’t part of that thought process is ‘exercise’ because, somewhere in my brain, it’s just part of who I am now. Even typing that sentence still feels a little weird!

And, because I am now ‘one of those’ people who go to the gym regularly, I think I’m allowed to pass on my wisdom in a slightly preachy manner (exercise is a religion after all!). So, to those of you who are ‘resolved’ to exercise more, maybe don’t plan to focus on anything other than finding a place/people that fit what you want. Finding somewhere that isn’t full of the uber-fits or the muscle bound twats clanging weights around has made such a huge difference to my desire to be at the gym, as is the knowledge that when I go I know I will be spending time with some truly lovely, supportive, powerful and uplifting people.

For the record, the gym I go to is AGFitness, they have a variety of sessions, and Personal Trainer options as well.

Six by Nico: Disney

What a year it’s been at Six by Nico, and what a way to finish out 2017. So popular was their announcement of their ‘Disney’ menu that their website and booking system crashed, and they’ve had to open up on a Monday to cope with demand. I was glad we book well in advance (roll on January 11th for the next visit).

But all the noise on social media begs the question, was it any good?

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Six by Nico: Disney

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The menu for our seventh visit (from the website):

  1. RATATOUILLE – Ratatouille / Comte Espuma / Dijon Crumble
  2. MAD HATTER TEA PARTY – Chicken & Tarragon ‘Sandwich’ / Mushroom Tea / Truffle Empire Biscuit
  3. SWORD & THE STONE – Stone Bass & Swordfish Ceviche / Miso Vinegerette / Avocado / Tapioca
  4. LADY & THE TRAMP – Angel Hair Pasta / Shellfish Bisque / Seaweed Crumb
  5. ALADDIN – Lamb Belly / Prune / Pearl Cous Cous / Jasmine Tea
  6. BEAUTY & THE BEAST – Rose Panna Cotta / Lychee / Almond Sponge / Pomegranate

But first, as always, Snacks!

RABBITS VEGETABLE GARDEN – Crudites, Beetroot Hummus, Lime Creme Fraiche, Olives

Beetroot hummus with little heads of romanesco broccoli, shards of beetroot crisp, and a tart creme fraiche. What’s not to like? Wonderfully earthy and fresh, although I avoided the olives, and a nice palate cleanser before the first course. Admittedly the Queen of Hearts apertif also helped; Edinburgh Raspberry Gin & Tonic, with love heart sweets. Pretty sure I have a little bottle of that at home…

Thankfully there were no rats evident in the kitchen prior to the first course of Ratatouille. Neatly presented (although part of me wishes they’d done it ‘a la movie’) the vegetables were tasty enough, the tomato base was a little thin and the star was the thick, rich Comte Espuma; one of my favourite cheeses which definitely elevated this dish but overall it didn’t really hit the mark for me.

Next up, our decidedly non-Mad Hatter server, placed a silver platter in the middle of the table; tea cups ready, a clear tea pot with a dark rich looking tea, a sandwich triangle, empire biscuit and cupcake for each of us. Ohhh and some green ‘ketchup’ to go with the sandwich. First up the mushroom tea, ohhh my heavens, rich, deep, with a real umami hit I could’ve had the entire pot to myself! But no, pace yourself because you have a chicken sandwich to eat before you get to your sweets. And oh what a delicious sandwich, entirely made from chicken (no bread here) with a squirt of tarragon ‘ketchup’ it was a delicious, moist, chicken toastie at its best. Washing it down with the last mouthfuls of mushroom tea was a delight. The empire biscuit was good, two thick parmesan rounds, a hint of truffle inside, and a quince dot to add a nice little sweet tartness. The beetroot and goats cheese cupcake was ok but perhaps not really needed, given the quality of the other components on the tray.

Ceviche next and whilst I couldn’t tell which was Stone Bass and which was Swordfish both tasted wonderfully fresh. The accompanying parts of the dish were good, although the tapioca didn’t really bring much to the party, but the avocado and crunchy little morsels of vinegarette (I think!) cut through everything both in taste and texture. Smartly done.

Ahhh Lady & the Tramp and the iconic spaghetti scene. Thankfully you don’t have to recreate it to enjoy what was, for me, the star of the evening. From seeing earlier photos this dish has been tweaked a little, so we received a dish of angel hair pasta, with a perfectly cooked fillet (halibut I think?) atop. Add in a reduced shellfish bisque which was so thick it was clinging to the pasta and OH MY HEAVENS it was delicious.

Aladdin – one of my fav Disney movies – was up next and, Jasmine Tea aside I’m not sure I’m getting the lamb connection. An Arabian dish then, Baba Ganoush with a roll of lamb belly stuffed with cous cous and a couple of golden raisins. Of the entire menu this was, almost, disappointing. As expected everything on the plate was cooked well but it was all a bit one-dimensional for me. The most excitement came from a dash of sweetness from the few raisins hidden away inside the lamb, and whilst the lamb itself was succulent, it just didn’t get any help from the rest of the plate. It’s not often the Six by Nico doesn’t hit the mark but this dish definitely needed some help from a genie!

Dessert, a dish as old as time? Perhaps, but if you’ve ever craved a light, subtle dessert then this is the one for you. Wonderfully rose flavoured panna cotta with a gentle lychee gel on top, pomegranate sauce, and a lighter than air slice of almond sponge and there I was, twirling in my transformation from Beast to Prince as the last petal fell from the rose. What a great way to round off a meal.

Overall, not one of the best menus with a couple of dishes missing the mark for me but as always part of that is down to personal taste – I wouldn’t normally order ratatouille or lamb belly – but Six by Nico remains a highlight. The service is friendly and relaxed, the staff know what they are talking about if you have any questions, and even the ‘not so good’ dishes are still well cooked and presented.

Have I mentioned that the set menu is £25 for six courses (and you can swap courses between the main and vegetarian options). Add in £5 for the ‘Snacks’, and £5 for an apertif, chuck a bottle of wine in and for £45-50 a head you are being treated to high end cuisine in a laid back environment. The food quality remains high, as does the execution of each plate. It really is a fine dining experience on a budget.

Note: In a lovely gesture, Six By Nico will be donating £5 from every Disney meal to Glasgow Children’s Hospital. Bravo!

Weekend Reading

  • Remove the legend to become one
    When I started my first job at Amazon.com, as the first analyst in the strategic planning department, I inherited the work of producing the Analytics Package.
    From little acorns, mighty rainforests are borne.

  • Have you tried making yourself a more interesting person?
    Another passed-down tale: a student getting her story back from Barry, with the honest criticism on it: This just isn’t interesting. As I understand it, the student, a whiner, complained, What can I do to make it be interesting?
    Chimes with some ideas from the book The Charisma Myth (worth a look as well).

  • THIS → Social media is keeping us stuck in the moment
    The next time you look at social media, I want you pay attention to a subtle detail on each post: the timestamp.
    ALLLLLL the thoughts about this one, social media blackouts might be a thing for me next year.

  • 20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 16 Years
    Certain writers — or artists, or film-makers, etc.— are so embedded into their particular cultures that one doesn’t need to have consumed their work in order to understand its impact.
    More ugh (but well written ugh so, go read it!)

  • RIP Every Frame a Painting
    Sad but expected news: Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos have shut down their excellent video series on film, Every Frame a Painting. They wrote about their decision in the form of the script for a final episode that never got made:
    Stopping for the right reasons but UGH I loved these little documentary videos on film making. If you’ve never seen any, STOP AND GO WATCH! A Salute to Every Frame a Painting: Watch All 28 Episodes of the Now Concluded Video Essay Series on Cinema

  • The White Envelope
    As told by Nancy W. Gavin. It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.
    No YOU’RE crying etc etc, this is bloody lovely.

  • The Tianjin Binhai Library
    The Tianjin Binhai Library, a 33,700m2 cultural centre, features a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade.
    That thudding noise you heard was my jaw hitting the floor. Wow.

  • I Was Mauled by the Same Bear Twice in One Day
    This article originally appeared on VICE UK. Having a shitty Monday? Hey, at least you haven’t been attacked by a bear, made a lucky escape from that bear, and then once again been attacked by that same bear.
    File under: Funny (not funny)

  • How Mercedes got caught trashing a rental Tesla Model X
    Within the automotive industry, it’s common practice for companies to purchase competitors’ cars and benchmark or reverse-engineer them to learn precisely what they are up against. General Motor’s has an entire Teardown Lab for dismantling and scrutinizing other vehicles.
    What the actual fuck?

  • John Oliver grills Dustin Hoffman about sexual harassment allegations
    HBO host John Oliver hammered Dustin Hoffman about allegations of sexual harassment and the actor fired back with a ferocious defense, as a seemingly benign screening became an explosive conversation about Hollywood sexual misconduct on Monday night.
    Hoffman’s reactions more telling than the questions. UGH!!

  • The making of Burial’s Untrue
    Ten years ago, electronic musician Burial released his second album, Untrue, which went on to be quite influential.
    I’ve not read this article. My brain keeps stopping at the first three words… TEN FRICKIN YEARS WHAT!!??!!

  • All the Ways Learning English Will Destroy Your Brain
    “Read” rhymes with “lead”, and “lead” rhymes with “read”, but “read” doesn’t rhyme with “lead” and “lead” doesn’t rhyme with “read”. Following along? Then chances are you speak English pretty well — and you also know why so many people have such a hard time with it.
    I bloody love English (the language).

  • The Silence Breakers
    Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me. They’re svelte, glamorous, self-­possessed. They wear dresses we can’t afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew.
    You’ve seen it linked no doubt, couldn’t NOT include it this week.

  • Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?
    When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the 80s, and by the time one in 10 people had slipped into the depths of heroin use – bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners – Portugal was in a state of panic. The crisis began in the south.
    HOLD THE FRONT PAGE! Government in ‘applying science and common sense’ shocker!!

  • I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor
    Once upon a time, long before I began selling my face by the acre for features on VICE dot com, I worked other jobs. There was one in particular that really had an impact on me: writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor.
    In actual bits. This is genius.

  • The Consumerist Church of Fitness Classes
    Gyms provide ritual and community, serving as a sort of religion. They also promote values American culture already worships—capitalism and overwork. You pay a regular tithe to support the community. In public, you wear symbols that identify you as one of the faithful.
    As a recent convert I can attest to this, and apologies if I’ve been a bit preachy!

  • Sonic Tonic
    When Cale Holmes moved from Virginia to New York City for grad school, he started to have trouble sleeping.
    Dunno about you, but a ‘burbling brook’ just makes me have to pee at 3am (or maybe that’s my age… SHUT UP!)