The problem, once I’ve passed a month of not blogging, becomes finding a way to get back into the habit with an overwhelming backlog of things to write about. But pushing 8 weeks of no content, I’ve got to bite the bullet and see what I can cover in an epic recap post. Here we go….
On 12 May, not long after my mother got to experience the amazing Fulham win against Hamburg at the wonderful Craven Cottage, Fulham travelled to Germany to play Atletico Madrid in the Europa finals. The momentum of the team, the belief of the fans, the absolute impossibility that they would make it to the finals at all left Fulham fans with every assurance of a win at the end… but it was not to be. In a pub in east London, I felt a true sportsfan’s despair as Fulham played a fantastic match but couldn’t overcome Madrid to take the final trophy.
On 20 May, I attended the first tech event for a long while and made up for lost time with the very well organised Social Entertainment and Tech Breakfast at the Edelman PR firm offices in London. A great lineup of speakers talked about the role social media is playing in the entertainment space, particular in broadcast entertainment.
26 May saw my rather impromptu decision to apply for the UK Apprentice (the show made famous by Donald Trump in the States) and with the help of my Top Floor Flatmate, I whisked off an application, under the vain delusions that I am clearly better than any of the other applicants in the country (that’s the California optimism coming through!)
I’ve been keeping busy at the gym throughout the last two months with 29 May marking the date that I smashed the girls’ record for the indoor triathalon at my gym, shaving about 1/3 off the previous top time. Was quite proud of myself and got to enjoy the rest of the day of an international food celebration with Ann in honour of Eurovision, a strange European tradition where representatives from a variety of European and non-European (but nearby) countries sing terrible songs while viewers from each country vote for the countries that would probably end up on their side in a war. It’s all very strange.
By 30 May I had decided that I would have to start seriously applying myself to GMAT studies if my vague plans for “oh business school someday” were to ever become a reality – more to ensure I don’t forget any more math than because I wanted to get going on the application. I took a break on 1 June to celebrate and panic at the fact that date marked two years since I arrived in England – and to fully embrace my new-found Britishness, I spent the evening on a rainy football pitch, trying out for an 11-a-side girls’ team (translation, I tried out for a girls soccer team).
Not to make myself out to be too healthy and cultured the last couple months, as 2 June saw me indulging in the sin of gambling at a PokerStars tournament where I was seated at a table with Victoria Coren, one of the premiere female poker players in the world (who in addition to robbing us all blind is a gorgeous, talented writer of both a fantastic autobiography and a weekly column in The Guardian). Despite my competition I still ended up placing 5th overall and picked up a bit of a poker bug. Fortunately there was no buy in and no cash winnings otherwise I would have been totally hooked.
To atone for my gambling sins, I surrounded myself with incredibly talented, driven and entrepreneurial women at the Women 2.0 dinner on 4 June where I met some fantastical ladies and had a chance to catch up with a few old friends.
My terror at realizing I had been in the UK for two years was only equaled on 7 June, the date that marked 24 years since I arrived in the world. I had a low-key birthday and the opposite of a low-key cake created by the incredible Top Floor Flatmate Ann.
Although my birthday day was quiet, I was going to make up for it on 12 June with a little celebration in honour of my birth and, more importantly, the USA vs England match in the World Cup. From then on out, the World Cup and work began to dominate my life. Group rounds proved an emotional challenge as the USA was robbed of goals, saddled with horrendous refs and still managed to pull through at the last minute. England was causing heartache for their fans as well with dismal performances against the USA and Algeria.
On 15 June I got to squeeze in a visit with a friend of mine from Colby. Chris was stopping off in London on his way back to America from Austria. He had joined us for my birthday celebration and we managed to catch another World Cup match in a classic British pub for dinner on a gorgeous sunny day. I can’t for the life of me remember what match we saw but it was great to spend the evening with a friend from Colby and his lovely girlfriend in a traditional, riverside pub.
I had a slight break from football on 21 June when Wimbledon kicked off in earnest with Roger Federer coming dangerously close to losing in the first round but fortunately he hung in long enough for me to turn my attention back to USA and England’s performances and on 23 June they both eeked through to the next round of the World Cup, USA amazingly leading the group and set to play Ghana in the match ahead. Landon Donovan’s goal with less than four minutes left to play was probably one of the top 10 sporting moments I’ve ever experiences, right up there with Fulham beating Hamburg and the Red Sox winning the 2004 playoff series against the Yankees.
Poor England was stuck with Germany and not even the loyal fans, generally ready to forgive them early performances, had much hope for the outcome of that pairing. The day wasn’t over yet as this also marked arguably the most epic Wimbledon match in history, the 10+ hour marathon of Mahut and Isner which began before the football and, as I incredulously followed on my phone, continued during my commute, through my walk home, until I got back to my television and so late that they had to postpone the match into the next day (the third day of play).
Sports continued to play a dominate theme in the month. While I was looking forward to the USA v Ghana match, I got some bad news about Fulham – it seemed their manager, Roy Hodgson, had performed so well with the team the season before, and so well as a pundit during the world cup, he was getting eyed by the bigger, and wealthier teams in the league. Rumours were flying that he’d soon be off to Liverpool, leaving us Cottagers behind.
Rumours were still unconfirmed heading into the weekend of the USA v Ghana match but before I could focus on football, I first had a visit from Nina, a close friend from high school who was in London for a few days between Oxford and Cambridge jaunts. Selecting some favourites from my London in 48 Hours tour, we raced around the city on her first day, then took advantage of the sunny weather to head out to Greenwich on 26 June. That evening, while Nina opted for a different kind of British culture (she was off to the Globe for a production of Macbeth) I returned to my local pub for an evening of white-knuckled USA supporting.
The eventual defeat of the Americans shouldn’t have come as a surprise but I was devastated when their World Cup trip ended. My only consolation was that, less than 24 hours later, on 27 June, Englanders would feel my pain (times four) as Germany beat the England team 4-1. A weekend of rubbish refs, the crippling confirmation that Fulham was to lose Roy, and too much pub food was balanced with how fantastic it was to have Nina visiting, and the glorious California weather she brought with her.
With all of the sports of June, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I had done very little work but despite my sports fixation, in fact 90% of my mental capacity was focused solely on Spoonfed and the upcoming product launch for Bullseyehub, our fantastic new bit of software which allows companies in the entertainment space to better communicate with their customers. My role at the company transformed into full-time bug tester as we barreled our way through June and to the looming launch party date, by which we needed to have tested, perfected and released Bullseyehub to the world.
I needn’t have worried as our incredible team pulled it off without a hitch and on 30 June, we got to show friends, family and London press what we’d been working on for the last 12 months. The launch night was incredible and something I’ll never forget – one of my proudest moments. I was so rewarding to have been involved in the project from start to finish and to be able to share that with the Spoonfed team as well as the attendees of our launch event.
The good news at Spoonfed didn’t end there. On 1 July, New Media Age, one of the top trade publications for marketing and advertising, published an article about listings websites that heavily featured Spoonfed and some of the great work we’d done with advertisers in the past.
The whole team was ready to celebrate and as a reward for all of our hard work, on 3 July the company directors had arranged a special day out at the horse races (yes, more gambling!). Ladies dressed to the nines (with hats that looked more like small allotment gardens than headwear) strolled through the green paddock while the nation’s top horses prepped for their sprints. The Spoonfed team, of course, celebrated in a private box overlooking the finish line, quaffing champagne, losing unfortunate amounts of money and generally having a wonderful time.
The 4th of July didn’t register on my American holiday radar until I got a text in the morning wishing me a happy Independence Day. I was more distracted by the Sunday Times, which featured Spoonfed once again – a whole article on grads making good with a big picture of our Spoonfed offices. The weather seemed to be celebrating as well and I got to take advantage of the sun with a tennis match on a clay court (the first time I’d played on anything other than a hard court) with Spoonfed director Alex before we gave up our own attempts at tennis greatness to watch the end of the Wimbledon final.
Whew! I knew I’d get there in the end! I’m all up to date with the exciting things that have been happening lately. While I hope to get a full commentary on World Cup mayhem from an England perspective, my most lasting and proudest memories from the last 8 weeks will be related to Bullseyehub, the Spoonfed Media team and our successes as a company. I’m so excited for what the next six months will bring us and am looking forward to the rest of my British summer.
Hopefully there’ll be quite a bit more time to keep my blog up to date.
On my way back from Fulham Palace, I happened to notice a tiny cafe tucked away on North End Road. It wouldn’t have caught my eye except for the sign which promised authentic Ethiopian food. I had tried Ethiopian food once before, at a restaurant by Kings Cross, but it had been almost two years and I was excited to give it another go.
I coerced Top Floor Flatmate, Ann, into coming along with me, warning her that the possibility was high that this would be a disastrous meal. For starters, the cafe itself looked more like a greasy spoon than a location for a fine meal out, and that was just the outside. Upon walking in we were greeted by some aluminum-topped tables, a rather dingy interior and, fittingly, a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony which included a circle of low wicker stools, a central heating unit and a lot of incense.
Odd decor aside, we were warmly welcomed by an incredibly friendly woman who seemed to be in charge – she certainly took charge, waving away the staff’s apparent surprise at our desire to dine there, sitting us down and proceeding to talk us through the menu and, when we showed some hesitation, ordering for us.
A traditional Ethiopian meal is typically a spicy and flavourful meat or veggie dish served on a large flat round of bitter bread called injera. There are no utensils and the porous bread is used to scoop up, sop up and otherwise consume the meat or veggies, which are a stew-like consistency. While the bread isn’t too appealing alone, with the intense flavours of the meat and spices of the sauce, it’s a perfect balance and the Ethiopian style of food was just as delicious as I remembered. I had a lamb dish while Ann went with the vegetarian option but we both agreed it was a) amazingly tasty and b) way more than we could comfortably eat (though not for lack of trying).
The Ghion Cafe was certainly not a looker – and if you want ambiance, this is not your best bet. But don’t be put off by the simple surroundings. The food was authentic, rich and delicious; the service uncharacteristically friendly for London and the food arrived almost instantaneously (although we ended up having to ask twice for the bill before getting up to pay at the counter – a long, drawn out and well-enjoyed meal seemed to be encouraged) and it was an excellent opportunity to further discover food of another culture. Plus at under £10 per person for an incredibly filling meal and drink, it’s an unbeatable price. The perfect combination.
248 North End Road
Fulham, London, SW6 7RS
020 7385 1287
The Affordable Art Fair in London occurs twice yearly and offers the chance to take home a piece of quality artwork from both up and coming and established artists for anywhere from £20 to £3000. With pieces ranging from prints to paintings to pottery and with over 120 galleries displaying work, it’s a huge event and for the first time this weekend, I had a chance to visit the fair with our Spoonfed arts editor Tom.
While I didn’t end up leaving with any affordable art (seeing as their definition of affordable and mine don’t entirely match up), there were a number of pieces that caught my eye and I would have loved to own – along with a number of pieces so hideous I wondered if it was some sort of joke. All in all, it was a fantastic art fair with the whole range of pieces to laugh at, gaze at in wonder and covet. And butterflies. There were lots and lots of butterflies.
Here are some snapshots (in appalling quality) of some of my favourite pieces. Embarrassingly, I managed not to get the artist, title and gallery name in all cases, so if you like it as well but I haven’t listed the details, sorry, can’t help you out there!
“Old Books and a Porcelain Jug” from The Framers Gallery in London
“History of England” by Thurle Wright
“Octosub” by Graham Carter at Boxbird Gallery
“Magic Benni” by Hilary Twiselton
By far my favourite gallery was the Boxbird Gallery in Hove (just near Brighton). I didn’t end up buying any prints or pieces which I am just beginning to regret although Tom took home a cute piece by one of their artists, Zara Wood, and I had to talk myself out of spending £250 on a print by Graham Carter.
It was a great afternoon and I really enjoyed the event – I’m looking forward to the Autumn AAF and who knows… maybe next time I’ll even go home with some art!
“Polkabrella” by Graham Carter at the Boxbird Gallery
Can I just say that I love Courvoisier and their venue, The Future Gallery? While I was first introduced to the cognac brand and their Future 500 network through our Spoonfed directors who are part of the network, I’ve now had the opportunity to experience first hand three of the events that Courvoisier has hosted and boy, do these guys know how to throw a party (and make punch). First was the Mixology Event which saw top bartenders from London helping us create the ultimate Courvoisier-based cocktail. Second was the rather epic giant Punch Bowl Experience which saw me floating across a giant cocktail on a wooden orange slice.
Continuing in the tradition of events that at first cause visitors to ask “what’s the point of this” and see them leaving asking “when can we do this again?” this weekend Courvoisier is hosting the Cafe du Pique-Nique at the Future Gallery in central London. Described as follows:
From the 13th to 20th March, The Future Gallery will be transformed into a vast indoor picnic area. For just one week, while the wind, rain (and most likely snow) rage outside, you can enjoy your indoor picnic, in a perfect grassy setting, in contented warmth.
Exactly as described, we stepped into the Future Gallery which, rumour has it, was jointly designed with SAD experts who advised on the optimal amount of sun lights needed for the perfect cheery summer effect, to discover a carpet of fake grass, a room of fake sunshine and a really great summertime feel. Dozens of visitors sat on picnic blankets in summer dresses, enjoying the Courvoisier punch, nibbling finger sandwiches. Our group grabbed a drink and stretched out in the artificial sunlight. My coworker immediately started sneezing, his apparent reaction to the nice weather and anticipation of pollen, and we all agreed we were feeling much more cheerful – the pique-nique was certainly having the desired affect (or was that the punch?).
Regardless, it was an excellent opportunity to relax after a very long week and I can’t wait until Courvoisier’s next event.
Finding a place for a quiet drink after work was proving to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined – the issue was the friendly between England and Egypt which meant that any pub with a screen would be packed with punters eagerly awaiting the first of England’s efforts as we move towards the summer World Cup. This meant that I had to find a place off the beaten path, without a television and with easy transport access. Where else to look than Notting Hill in West London?
After a few false starts (both of the original pub choices had TV screens and, in an indication of how noisy it would be, numerous England flags already hung in anticipation of the match) we decided on the gastropub/wine bar The Mall Tavern which, while only a few metres from the Notting Hill Gate tube station, felt quite removed from the busy high street.
As far as a gastopub goes, The Mall Tavern was much what you’d expect, comfortable tables, dimly lit, nice wine – my friend was at first impressed at their range of imported beers on tap, then less so when it turned out they were out of nearly all of them. It would have been a fairly average pub-going experience had it not been for one thing: the free scotch eggs and pork pies.
For whatever, reason, the kitchen decided that this was the day they would provide all punters with some of these traditional British delicacies. Having never had either a pork pie or a scotch egg before, this was an opportunity to expand my British horizons. A scotch egg is a rather hideous creation of a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage, wrapped in bread crumbs. With an off the charts calorie, fat and salt count, it’s probably not something you’d want to eat more than once a year but having heard so much about them, I figured I might as well give them a try (that and my friend was in shock I’d never had one before).
While I can’t say I’ll be ordering a scotch egg again any time soon (for health reasons much moreso than taste) nor was it, according to my friend, the best example of a scotch egg that Britain might provide, I will certainly be returning to The Mall Tavern. It’s quiet, friendly, provides decent drinks and, best of all, bribed us to return with free food. Works for me!
The Mall Tavern
71 Palace Gardens Terrace
London W8 4RU
020 7727 3805