Today my Facebook feed and the nitwitterings of the office were filled with one common cry: Pancakes!
Apparently today is Shrove Tuesday, also known to the masses as Pancake Day. Another religious day taken over by food and opportunistic marketing - Huzzah! Being irreligious myself, and having been generally surrounded by other Darwin worshippers back home (apparently one of the most secular societies in the world), I was not in the least clued up on this holiday, or its connections to sweet celebrations around the world, including carnivals, bonfires, Mardi Gras, and of course, eating pancakes.
While never my favourite sweet treat, pancakes use up a bunch of kitchen staples like eggs, butter, wine, chocolate chips, chilli (yeah okay, I’ve never made pancakes), and so they are perfect for the use-it-or-lose-it night before the Big Fast of Lent.
Even I knew that Lent was all about giving something up for some vague length of time (approx. 6 weeks, or 40 days and 40 nights) in order to justify all those chocolate eggs and bunnies you’ll be eating come Easter. That or it’s your second attempt to make those failed New Years Resolutions stick.
Okay, so that’s my secular shakedown of it, but when I was asked today what I would be giving up for Lent, I did in fact think of Jesus. Because Sweet Baby Jesus, haven’t I given up enough already?
I’ve been planning a post on things you can and can’t live without when traveling, as I think it’s often a surprising dichotomy – in particular for first-time travelers – and I learn a bit more each time I head away, especially when it involves extremes of blustering snow, burninating sunshine, getsfarkingeverywheresand, or bugs of every delight. But, since I’m in London for Lent, here are the things that I have been and will be living without on my rather extended ‘city break’.
Towering stilettos, or in my case, moderate mid-height-heels, are the luxury of those who can assume decent paving on their clickety-clackety journeys. With the state of London’s pavements, even the tiniest rise of heel here leaves you in danger of an unintended moment on the ground, surrounded by belligerently oblivious ankles, or at least an embarrassing wobble and clutch at a passing stranger.
If you’re like moi, you will at least awkwardly yell ‘fark’ a little too loudly as your heart ba-dumps at the just-missed danger. Combined with the accent, the failed fashion sense, and the inherent bed-head, it just comes out a little drunk-at-9am hobo in my case. I must have fallen down a few too many times one night when I actually was drunk, as I seem to have written something about just such an occurrence that I don’t exactly remember here!
This is not the only luxury beauty item that I live without, but it is perhaps the most iconic and therefore noticeable. I call it a luxury item for a reason, but I’m sure many would disagree and call this a ‘must-have’. I only got into perfume after living with the infamous LD, whose penchant for parfum was also heavily influenced by the celebrity-perfume-obsessed LC. It started with a birthday gift, worked its way into my going-out routine, and suddenly it was just as hard to leave the house without it as with my handbag or my face on.
For traveling, I would always recommend a small, drop-proof scent-deliverer, such as the apparently-indestructible tiny glass bottle range from the Body Shop, or your fave frag in a refillable spray canister. And yet, for myself, in London, I just have to go without. It’s one of the many things that is nice-to-have but far from necessary, which requires a large outlay in one hit, and that I just can’t justify.
Decent breakfast foods
LD and KJ, who’ve both traveled extensively with me, will tell you that I’m a fussy breakfast eater. I always have been, thanks to my mild lactose intolerance (coffee: good – bowl of cereal: puke), aversion to the vast majority of jams (dear gawd don’t even show me marmalade), honeys and other sweet spreads (Nutella is delicious but for breakfast?!), and hatred of both super grainy AND white bread.
Although I was in other respects an incredibly unfussy child thanks to my mother feeding me Vegan, Dahl, Hari Krishna food, or whatever the current vogue was, I know my whole family was grateful when we discovered in my pre-teens the inimitable and apparently acceptable combo that would reign supreme forever after: Vogels Original Mixed Grain Toast bread and Promite. Never heard of Promite? Neither has anyone else. But it is the awkward younger sibling of the infamous twins Marmite and Vegemite, who the presses kindly ignore (much like that younger Olsen girl), and it is as different from them as they are from each other (i.e. probably not much). And dammit I like it. A fabulous workmate slipped me some before I left NZ and while I’ve just run out, I know that more is coming in the visiting suitcase of my mother in June. A bit of a wait I know, but nothing like the Marmite-lovers’ fiasco after the factory was badly damaged by the ChCh earthquakes and is only just spurting out the black gold again.
By some miracle, I have also just found that my local Budgens stocks my Vogels (albeit a slightly different shape and colouring) in a randomised pattern throughout the week that reminds me of learning the Boss levels on Sonic the Hedgehog II as a ten year old: I know there’s a pattern, and dammit if I’m not gonna keep trying ’til I figure it out!
More than one blanket
You know how I mentioned I look like a hobo sometimes? Sometimes I also feel like one as I do a caterpillar roll in bed to try to tuck the edges of my one thin blanket about me. One of the biggest expenses of moving to the other side of the world (excluding the flights of course) is setting up shop in a new house. Of course there’s the bond and rent up front, but there’s also the basics of daily life. Luckily it is absolutely standard in London for a room to come furnished, usually with a bed, chest of drawers, wardrobe, and maybe a bedside table, bookshelf and lamp.
But on the very day I moved into my first London flat (for that gloriously absurd month that resulted in a court case in our favour but no money – and I could really use that £800!) I had to go straight out to buy duvet, duvet cover, pillows, pillow cases, sheets, and towels. Naturally, I went to cheap-as-chips Argos, where you order from a catalogue, pay, and wait for your goods to be brought up from the basement (it’s too late at this point to care if they’re any good). Although I’ve been here over eight months now, and it has become A LOT colder over that time, there has never been a point at which I had enough spare cash to go and buy a second duvet. Instead, the also-cheap-as-chips sleeping bag that I inherited from a friend who was going to throw it out (non-hobo equivalent of dumpster-diving) lies over the end of my bed like a loyal dog, and my hottie (hot water bottle, don’t get excited) snuggles up to me sans-cover and always pushing the boundary between pleasure and pain.
After 11 years of continuous work, except for one brief spell of ‘I’ve got a job starting in six weeks, so… yeah…‘ and an actual career path potentially laid out in front of me, I threw it all away to gallivant about the world. That sounds terribly negative, but of course I thought long and hard about it and decided that the unknown was a necessary evil to achieve adventure and enlightenment and life experience and who knows what other tropes. As much as I know these goals outweigh their counterparts, it’s not exactly fun to go through periods of unemployment, however brief, or to be in a job you enjoy but where the boss can’t tell you how long your role will continue. Right at this very moment I have a secure and depressing offer to consider over an interesting and unsure opportunity. I have a tendency towards the sensible, but I think I must for my sanity go the other way!
If you’re a long time listener, first time caller, you’ll have heard me lament the lack of personal space in London before. This is something that I just can’t get used to, as much as I thought I might. I can accept not getting a sorry for a mild shoulder bump in a crowded space, and am borderline on not offering up the apology myself, it it’s clearly not required. I’ve even noted some Kiwi friends’ over-sorry-ing, which somehow becomes as annoying as the unintended shove if it’s just plain unnecessary. What I can’t stand is when someone invades my personal bubble when there’s miles of space about. When they touch me not by virtue of being pressed to me by the unsympathetic crowd, but when they just hover and echo about me on an empty platform. When they cross my path on a pavement and cut me off to the point of having to stand still to let them by, and there’s no-one about either of us. LD will attest that the only resolution to this bubble-infiltration and lack of basic graces is to mutter, too-loud for politeness, not enough for arrest… PHILISTINE!
I promised I would have a whinge again since I’ve been mightily too positive lately (shout out to Eliza, who requested the diatribes keep a-coming!). But I must say, to keep my detractors at bay, that of course one very important factor that I’ve given up since coming to London is boredom. I don’t know how it would feel if I was still at home and had never left. I don’t know how it would feel if I went home right now. And I don’t know how it will feel when I’m turfed outa the country in approx. 15 months (I’ve just added a count-down on the blog for extra morbidity).
But I do know, that no matter how much I whinge and whine, I choose to be here, and I do so for a reason: for the opportunities, for the excitement, for the history, for the life lessons, for the difference in surroundings and people, and perhaps most obviously and most surprisingly at once, for the difference in me.
Please do share: what have you given up for Lent, or, what have you given up for London?
- Pancake Day (englishelxnb1.wordpress.com)
- Pancake Day (smarksthespots.wordpress.com)
- Shrove Tuesday. (1catholicsalmon.com)
- Shrove Tuesday/PANCAKES (shivonthemic.wordpress.com)
- Happy Pancake Day! (jim506.wordpress.com)
- Pancake flipping time! (onefinestay.com)
- What’s your vice? (greenermums.wordpress.com)
- Confession Time… (thebusyteapot.com)
- Pancake Tuesday tradition falls flat (irishtimes.com)
- Time to Celebrate Mardi Gras! Pancakes, anyone? (munchomom.com)