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danouche
danouche
danouche
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 12:31 am

I've just noticed that my LJ turns 15 years old in ten days

My Bio doesn't really describe me anymore, but my interests still fit for the most part. Considering the last post was a set of objectives for the year, my journal title isn't at all accurate.

Is anyone on here? Does anyone read? Every time I wonder is LJ still relevant to me, I glance at some of my older posts and am glad I still have it.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: sleepy sleepy

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, July 31st, 2016 08:04 pm

This has been pretty much the perfect weekend.

It actually started earlier in the week when I started curing the salmon. Then Thursday we made the marshmallows. Friday I worked from home in order to get to the butcher first thing and get the trotters and pork bones in the stock pot. Friday night was the big push, assembling and cooking the pork pies. Watching Notting Hill for the first time as they cooked.

Saturday morning we got up early and went to the farmers market for the rest of our supplies: broad beans, radish, dill, redcurrants and fresh Scandinavian-style rye bread. Then home to finish the prep and pack the picnic basket before dressing for the evening.

Me in my linen suit and a pink shirt (not the only one there I might add!), her in a flowery green dress, we walked through Holland Park with our wicker basket before meeting my friends and sitting down at our table, draped in white, on the terrace overlooking the Dutch Garden. We unpacked our picnic: gravadlax with dill sauce, pork pie and piccalilli, radishes butter and fleur de sel, quail eggs and celery salt, bread, butter, broad bean dip and a bottle of chilled Vouvray. The homemade marshmallows, red currants and sparkling malvasia saved for the interval.

After our leisurely wine, food and catchup overlooking the people enjoying the Dutch Garden, we took our seats in the third row of the outdoor tented stage area, just feet from the horn section and violins. OHPs production of La Cenerentola was excellent. Every bit as hammed up and funny as the reviews said, and perfect for my friends who are new to opera. Rossini doesn't shy away from duets and trios and big chorus numbers. Plus, no one dies. ;)

Today, a relaxed morning lounging in our underwear on my sofa, with the stereo turned up, just listening to great music together and enjoying a nice coffee, with no obligations for the rest of the day to see the weekend out.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: rejuvenated rejuvenated
Current Music: Peter Erskine Trio - You Never Know

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, July 31st, 2016 06:51 pm

I had a very good May bank holiday weekend (yes my updates are behind).

Through delegation, I was able to get a group of us together to see the Royal Ballet perform an adaptation of Frankenstein. It was our little Group, although one got stuck in transportation nightmare and didn't make it. I (we all) found it very moving. One of those performances I kept thinking about, not so much contemplating the meaning of life, but more reflecting on how much I enjoy dance and that sort of artistic performance.

Afterwards we decamped to the Great Northern Hotel for a final drink before the other couple scooted off (to stay somewhere and enjoy the next day in town) and my gf and I headed upstairs to our room to make it easy to catch the first train out to Paris the next morning.

Sort of good timing, someone she could visit in Paris whilst I enjoyed a day at Roland Garros, which I'd been wanting to catch for a while. The weather wasn't great, but I saw Andy Murray win, as well as some 100+ seed young American woman stage an emotional upset. Great day. Off to a nice Parisian Grand Brasserie for dinner with the friends afterwards.

The next day was mixed. There was a lot of wandering around aimlessly. Sometimes I enjoy that, but it was hard to get from my gf what she wanted out of the day, and I'd already done what I wanted to, so we sort of crossed wires. It was a learning experience for both of us, as even a couple years in, we are still getting to know one another in places. Not the best day out, but good for us to learn what we both need from ourselves, one another and trips away.

It didn't feel like Paris trips before, for me (not gf related). I mean, Paris remains as it is, and I hit a couple old haunts, but that connection felt different. There were, however, a couple highlights. One was the two of us trotting down the Champs-Elysee and me feeling like a rest so we ducked into a beautiful orangerie for extremely rich hot chocolate and a plate of macarons, just as the heavens opened and the rain pounded like cannon against the glass conservatory. The other was La Buvette, a natural wine bar that came highly recommended and was around the corner from the hotel we usually stay at. Simple snacking plates, and amazing owner, and perfect wine recommendations, all ending in the entire bar introducing ourselves to one another and chatting away til close. (NB We tried to get into the Clown Bar but you need reservations weeks in advance, so next time).

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Current Location: sofa
Current Music: Nils Okland Band

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, July 24th, 2016 02:18 pm

I've gone through more periods of feeling... flat or maybe drifting... is best I can describe. Both at work and at home, no excitement, not feeling or doing much that feels like progress. Looking back on it, much could well be attributed to weather; so much grey, not much summer sun. It's recently warmed up a bit (finally) and I've had some cycles in the sun, and I'm generally feeling much better. I've also pushed myself to take some time alone at home to sort a few things out (LJ being one of them) and same at work. Back to this idea of inertia, and also of moving things forward, of doing something different and making a change.

Things I need: sun, exercise, time alone for reflection, momentum

Interests that fulfil me: cooking, music, wine

The above two points I've covered so many times. Odd how I need to still remind myself. That's that reflection time, effort to stay centred.

rambling update on thingsCollapse )

So once again, if I'd just give myself a chance to stop and look around, I'd see that despite the ups and downs, my direction of travel is good. That, and more sunshine please.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: reflective

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Saturday, February 6th, 2016 06:23 pm

I'm now back from my 5 week ski trip. As part of my freedom and milestone birthday, I am glad I was able to realise at least in part my desire to spend an extended period of time in the French Alps.

I accomplished my main aim, namely to be a better skier. I went out there with the goal of being able to ski a specific long and nasty run by the end of my time, understand and not be afraid of bumps, as well as get a little better in the powder. By the fourth week, I'd skied the particular run, as well as just about every other black run in the resort, hunting down the odd bump run. I'd also been off piste in areas I didn't know where accessible and did one particularly well-known face that I thought was well out of my grasp. In short, I did all that I set out to and more with a week to spare. Not only is that quite a good feeling, but now after a week of work, the euphoria of time off now faded, I am able to look back at the extended period away and know that it was put to good use.

My secondary aim of a longer period away was to clear my head to get some perspective. I've not quit my job to stay in the snow or anything, but I did see quite quickly how people settle into routine and so much of it is familiar regardless of setting. Whether in a corporate meeting or in a group of people out skiing for the day, there are always different personalities, some that clash, others that bond, and lots in between. You still have to get out of bed and occupy your time, put in effort in various places, and generally manage yourself.

I have learned or reconfirmed a few things about myself and about life. I enjoyed my time in a small space with only the bare essentials; indeed my first reaction upon returning to my flat in London was I don't need the space or so much stuff (and my flat isn't big). It came as no surprise that food remained important; I ate simply but I had to eat well. I'm grateful for all the social engagements I was invited to, but I also needed to find time to be alone to maintain my balance. Drinking definitely affects my mood and sleep and is something I should be more mindful of now and in the future. I was sick for a few days and occupied myself by ploughing through a big book which I really enjoyed, so maybe that's something I should start to make time for in my life.

My progress skiing shows what can be done with a bit of focus and lack of distractions. I went out there to do one thing, and that's what I did. I still have the same struggles I've detailed well through the years here, and those were brought into focus from the moment I was back at work. I'm still me, I still need to continually remind myself to keep going and have a hard time staying focused. But with nothing else to do, it was much more simple. And any anxiety was immediately relieved by fresh air and movement.

In the context of my friends an colleagues, I am pretty unique in having been able to take this time for myself. However, out there I met several others that arranged their lives to enable them to ski for one season or several. Another good reminder to not be constrained; dare to think big because anything is possible if you really want it.

My girlfriend joined me for the first week. We were fine on holiday together for 10 days, sharing a small space. Always a good test. She really took to the sport, which is not only a relief but also satisfying for me to be able to pass what I have grown to love on to someone else, in the same way my ex-wife passed it on to me. I also missed my girlfriend after she left, with moments throughout the following weeks I wished she could have shared with me. I need time to myself, but I don't want to be alone.

I saw this opportunity and made it happen, but I do feel fortunate for the support I've had from work. And now that I'm back, yes I was missed, but nothing fell to pieces and the same piles and same struggles and same people are all still in place. I'm back in the thick of it, but I can look back and see what I've achieved and know that the trip was worth it.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Music: Hedkandi Apres House

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 11:52 pm

Christmas as we know it is, and always has been, a time of extravagance. From the three kings visiting the Little Baby Jesus with their rare gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to my erstwhile goddaughter with so many gifts under the tree she got bored opening them.

Origins and religion notwithstanding, the yule time is about celebrating that which is a gift of life in an effort to connect us to our fellow man. From the Germanic Pagans through the English Victorians via the Roman Catholics, our traditions are a collection of rituals that were relevant to the times and adapted through the ages. Rather than blindly following what we think should be done I would suggest, as always, to consider what is important to ourselves as individuals and why, and practice that which enriches us and those around us.

Why roasted nuts and fresh tangerines? Because in an overcast island nation, they are rare and precious. Large birds? Meat is a luxury. Salmon? Hard to come by when fishing is the only source. Christmas pudding? Sugar, dried fruit, almonds and booze and spices gathered from the far corners of the world. Champagne? Well....

Let us not ingest all this for the sake of it -- unless that's your thing -- instead contemplate what is special to you. Don't have nuts in a bowl that go to waste. If Twiglets are the taste of your childhood Christmases, scatter them everywhere in your home.

For me, it's aged French red wine I need a very good excuse to buy. It's extravagant or seasonal meat with a nod to the Victorians, like this year's partridge or dry aged rib of beef or a fatty goose stuffed with brandy-soaked prunes. It's Champagne before noon and salmon I've cured myself.

I appreciate every card I receive and display them in my flat; handwriting and postage stamps are a rare display of effort in the digital age. I give gifts that the other person should have, not to fill the space under the tree. I spend time with people who are important in my life.

I've been blessed with amazing Christmases the last few years. We've all experienced the wonder of Christmas Day as a child. It is up to us to carry the Magic into adulthood.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Music: Liz Story - The Gift

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 11:13 am

For years I've been wanting to share a fine dining meal with my favourite cousin. He's spent his life in restaurants and besides which, we're kindred spirits and don't get to spend much time together. I wanted to take him out last year for his 50th but couldn't make it happen, so this year I thought maybe we could do it for my 40th. Originally I was going to use my air miles to fly to NYC for a weekend, but after talking to him, we hatched the much better plan to use them to fly him to me in London. So last month I had the pleasure to show him around the city I love, a place he's never had the inclination to visit. My plan was simple: to eat really well, to show him a little of the London I adore, and to drink and talk about life.

He landed Thursday evening and I took him to a pub nearby to try the award-winning Weird Beard ales, brewed less than a mile from my flat. Then off to bed to recover from the journey and be rested for our big lunch the next day.

Friday was the centrepiece for the visit. I'd booked the Ledbury for the two of us. Two Michelin stars, on the World's Best list, and constantly tops all the reader and journalist polls for London. More importantly, it's refined cooking but ultimately with respect for the ingredients. To start the journey into town we stopped for a coffee at my favourite local cafe where they source and roast their own beans. Then on to wander the streets of Notting Hill for our 1pm reservation. We enjoyed a Pimms cup whilst deciding on what to eat, both of us drawn to the same dishes. We negotiated what each of us would order and settled on a bottle of pinot gris from Alsace to accompany the meal. The amuse bouche arrived, and he was blown away: "How did they do that?!" As we enjoyed each course, we both thought the meal had peaked. But no, each plate managed to build on the previous. Everything up to mains was fancy, tricksy, and impressive. Then what I consider a very clever slight have hand by the restaurant, the mains were simply perfectly prepared protein and two veg (pork cheek for him, turbot for me); show me what you got, then feed me. We saw another table get a dessert we didn't see on the menu and it looked incredible. I tried to switch my order but the server wouldn't let me saying, "You ordered the burnt sugar tart and I think you should taste that because it's the best." So they brought the other dessert on the side for us both to share! Three and a half hours after starting we walked out, satisfied and totally blown away.

After lunch -- if you can call it that -- we walked off some of the meal by trekking from Notting Hill to Baker Street (of Sherlock Holmes fame) to catch the 453 Routemaster bus which goes through central London to catch the signs of Piccadilly Circus and down past 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. We hopped off for the requisite photo by Big Ben then walked off more of the lunch into Soho to meet a close friend and my girlfriend at the London Gin Club at the Star at Night - a must stop for any of my boozy guests. We had the best seat in the house, chatted to the owner and had one too many G&Ts, as always. Several hours and drinks after our lunch, the four of us fell into Meat Liquor for a very late burger. It hit the spot, the food and atmosphere getting much praise from my American cousin.

Saturday I took him to another food hotspot for those in the know, the Bermondsey rope walk. We stopped for a sherry at Jose and both enjoying it so much ended up staying for tapas and a few more, appreciating the fine produce and talking about our experiences with divorce. We enjoyed a little wander around the stalls afterwards, stopping for another drink on the street and a chat to some of the vendors. We continued our discussions as we walked along the Thames and crossed Tower Bridge on foot for another photo. On the other side we walked around St Paul's to appreciate it's scale then hopped in a Black Cab to Gordon's Wine Bar, another regular on my personal tour. I'm not sure, but I think he enjoyed that almost as much as the lunch. "You know, we might have a place that looks like this in NYC, but this is the real deal. I can imagine being here 100 years ago. Perfecto!" More chatting on the ups and downs of life over some decent red then home via the excellent fish & chip shop next to my flat, where he observed the method to see where the cooks at his restaurant go wrong. He was appreciative of trying proper fish & chips, but still concluded that even done right, he's just not into fried food. He was more appreciative of the Nytimber I opened, seeing how well it went with the meal and tasting English sparkling wine for the first time.

Sunday we relaxed. Lunch was at the local pizzaria, Santa Maria. Always mentioned in the Best Of lists for pizza in London, the owners are true Neapolitans. My cousin knows a lot about pizza and was quizzing the guys on the wood they use. He approved of the oven, the wood, and the pizza (which was a relief!) He likes to check out the local grocery stores when travelling, so we stopped in for something for dinner and made another stop at the Polish shop next to me to see the sausages before heading back to mine to watch the Wimbledon final. When the tennis was over, he started dinner while I made us Sazeracs. Once the meat was in the oven, we met my gf at my local pub (another must-do) for a quick pint. She came home to eat with us. He finished preparing the squash, cavalo nero and veal shoulder. Noting that he wanted a Nebbiolo with his pizza, I opened a 2006 Barolo from my cellar to enjoy with the dinner he'd prepared. To end the meal, my gf (who loves to bake) brought one of the most British of desserts, steamed sponge pudding. "I didn't know you could steam a sponge."

We stopped at my local caffe for a fryup before heading to the airport to see him off Monday afternoon. I could not have asked for a better weekend with him. We've never had a whole weekend just the two of us. He enjoyed the places I took him and as a result, he enjoyed London much more than he expected. I enjoyed his perspective on life. We both enjoyed our joint birthday lunch. It was a special weekend for me, a realisation of a long held dream, and I hope something he will also remember forever.

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Monday, August 10th, 2015 10:20 pm

I needed a festival. It's been a couple years. I also needed the break from work.

Wilderness did not disappoint.

I'm glad we dressed up, which is odd for me to say. Something about having the vision, about my girlfriend making the outfit and bringing the vision to life, and playing around in a field as a Satyr with my Nymph. And it does add to the atmosphere to see others' creativity in how they've dressed.

Speaking of girlfriend... to me, this has pushed my relationship with her forward. Camping, spending that much time together, drinking and talking about Stuff, and of course all the shared experiences of what she and I both enjoy. It's one of the things that makes her special, and she feels the same about me. She's so open and appreciates art, music, experiences and people for what they are.

I've never been to anything which such variety of music. Bjork played a challenging set. I didn't catch the other headliners on the main stage, but I understand whatever went on late after (or with?) George Clinton was crazy - some sort of giant marionette from cranes. Highlights for me were Asgeir, Nils Frahm, Opera North's Devil's Jukebox, Hannah Sanders, Beats & Pieces, Isfar Sarabski Trio.

The perfume making workshop was great and I love the scent I made. It smells of Satyr and Wilderness :) White oudh, Orris, rosewood, leaf oil and the special no. 1 molecule base she calls unicorn juice. The Niklas Ekstedt banquet was also well worth taking my gf to. The food, the atmosphere, the experience all something special to savour. And as for the rest of the food, I didn't eat a single thing over the festival that was meh; all the vendors were excellent.

I was excited about going to some talks, and it turned out to be an important part of the festival for me. Highlights were Paul Dolan on happiness and Dr Tamara Russell on the art of mindfulness in everyday life. One of my favourite events of the weekend was Spark London's sessions, with audience members telling their worst relationship stories and a general open mic with stories and poetry.

Then there was the dancing gazebo. How it started and how many hours it went, we'll never know. When we ducked in, there was a man crowd surfing. It will go down in legend.

There's more for sure (like the outdoor spa) and things I missed out on (gong bath). There's no way to do it all, which just means I'll have to go back. :)

And as I say, I needed that.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Mood: cleansed

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 06:36 pm

Oh LJ there's lots to catch you up on as always.

In the meantime, I must make note that I was having a flat and disconcerted week about ten days ago. I reacted by getting more sleep, not having a drink at night, and doing more cycling and exercise. I had that good sore feeling and felt rejuvenated. As always, the trick is remembering that feeling after when you can barely make yourself move off the sofa.

Also worth noting is part of the exercise was pullups, chinups and pushups which I haven't done for months. I could barely get my nose to the bar. I've done the routine again maybe twice more and today when I did them this afternoon it was no problem getting my chin all the way up.

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danouche
danouche
danouche
Sunday, March 15th, 2015 03:06 pm

Last night I took the girl I'm seeing (more on that sometime soon) to her first opera. The first time the Royal Opera has put on Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mohagonny.

As has been throughout the history of opera, for me, it is as much about being out and being seen as the production itself. The Royal Opera House is a stunning venue to be inside. I was accompanied by the most beautiful woman in the room. I had dressed for the occasion in a my charcoal Savile Row suit, a purple twill shirt, and the purple striped bow tie I got for my friend's wedding a couple weeks ago. My date wore an eye-turning form-fitted digital print dress, very low cut, with spaghetti straps and had smoky eyes and dark nail polish. She tends to stand out anyway with red dyed curly hair and petite frame, but this was something else. Standing at the bar drinking Champagne with her made me feel on top of the world.

I normally sit up in the amphitheatre but for this production I got orchestra circle seats. The view from up top is really very good, but this was definitely better (not all the expensive seats are). Great seats... beautiful date... I think I would have even enjoyed a poor production.

The reviews of the opera have been poor, but I really liked it; importantly, so did she. It got a little heavy-handed in the last act, but what I most enjoyed was the music. There was something very nostalgic in the early 20th century harmonies and melodies that engaged me from start to finish. It pulled at the piece of my soul that spent 5 years getting a degree in music.

We had a light dinner beforehand of modern tapas and enjoyed a glass of sweet Medeira at a venerable old wine bar on the way home. The time spent together in my flat was also rewarding.

I've not done much else this weekend, in fact I did much of nothing at all the rest of Saturday. But as a centerpiece, this is an event I will remember. The only improvement I could have made was to get a photo of us together.

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Current Location: sofa
Current Music: Appalachian Spring (original version)

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