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Goodbye…

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They say all good things must come to an end and that’s certainly how I feel about leaving behind this little blog.

Itsmeohkathy.com started out in 2014 as a way for me to chronicle my travels, provide useful tips and showcase my writing and photography.

Along the way I connected with some amazing people, had great discussions and opened up to the world in a way that I never thought was possible.

Blogging is AMAZING!

But this site has had it’s day.

It’s time for me to move on to the next chapter and begin a new adventure.

Join me at cosmickat.org from April 7th 2018.

Cosmic Kat will be my new soul-searching blog.

Here I’ll be musing on all things spiritual, sharing events and interviews with interesting, eccentric and enlightened people in the glorious city of London.

Namaste,

See you on the other side 🙂

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10 things I learnt in 2017

Well, it’s all over. It’s time to take down the sparkly decorations, go on a diet and make some resolutions we’ll all have forgotten about by March. In a year that’s given us Trump, terror attacks and tropical storms it can be all too easy to focus on the negative.

Here’s some of the positive lessons I’ll take going into 2018,

1. Recovery from mental illness takes time

This year was bumper in terms of Mental Health awareness, with the Royals and even Lady Gaga getting in on the action. Personally, my mental health is the best it’s ever been. That’s due only to the fact that I finally took a break and accepted that I needed help. After years of looking for a quick fix I finally took my recovery seriously and didn’t put a time limit on getting better. In general, I learnt how to be a bit kinder to myself and cut myself some slack when things got tough. After all, nobody’s perfect!

2. Veganism is not just a diet, it’s a way of life

After going on a vigil to remember the lives of slaughtered animals I finally took the plunge and became 100% vegan. For about a year and a half I’d made weak excuses such as “but cheese” and “It’s too difficult to eat out.” I had to ask myself “do I want animals to suffer?” and when I answered truthfully the solution was clear. Veganism has become an integral part of my identity and I firmly believe that the future of the planet depends on it.

3. Feminism rocks!

Ok, I’ll admit that I already knew this, but in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal I was appalled by the stories of abuse that poured from Hollywood, Westminster and elsewhere. Whilst this is a disgusting example of how many women have been silenced, I take heart from the trending #Metoo as a sign of solidarity and change. Our voices will be heard and Feminism with a capital “F” is NOT a dirty word.

4. Daily meditation is a superpower

I’ve been practicing meditation for a good few years but in 2017 I established a daily routine which has really changed the way I live my life. Every morning I put on some shamanic drumming music, light a candle and take just 10-15 minutes to centre myself, direct my thinking and set my intentions for the day. When I don’t have this quiet time, I really notice the difference in my general wellbeing.

5. Doing what you love is the meaning of life

Ok, it’s maybe not the whole meaning of life but it’s a good place to start. This year I’ve really come to appreciate being able to do the things I love. Travel, writing and music are my biggest passions in life and being able to pursue these (and sometimes even get paid for them) has been a real joy. In 2017 I realised that I don’t ever want to settle for less because life’s too short to waste on apathy.

6. Caffeine withdrawal is horrendous

I’ve never denied the fact that I’m a coffee addict so this year I decided to do a caffeine detox. Little did I know that going cold turkey would lead to depression, weeping and generally feeling like shit. I do not recommend it. Also, did you know that there’s caffeine in chocolate? Me neither. If you want to cut down on your caffeine intake, be smart about it, do it gradually, replace coffee with green tea. That is all.

7. You don’t need alcohol to have fun

Last year I gave up alcohol for good and will soon be celebrating one year of sobriety. To the surprise of many I’ve found that my enjoyment of life has not dwindled. I can still go to clubs, dance, sing in public and even go to gigs without having to down a double whiskey beforehand. Who’d have thought it?

8. Cats are the best

Yes, I already knew this as well. This year however I got a new fur baby in the form of a black and white moggy called Smokey who I rescued from a shelter. He’s grumpy, fickle and has terrible table manners but he’s kept me company and opened my eyes to simple pleasures i.e rolling a jingly ball down the stairs.

9. Netflix is both a blessing and a curse

In 2017 I discovered the magic of Netflix and indulged in numerous tv episodes and films. My favourites are Bojack Horseman (animation about a hollywood has-been who is half man, half horse), Suits (drama about lawyers) and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (speaks for itself). I’ve also watched several eye-opening documentaries about outer space, happiness and veganism. But sometimes I binge watch, forget what day it is and fall prey to the mantra “one more episode.”

10. Trying new things makes you feel alive

This year I tried lots of new things from Aerial hoop classes to Swedish massage. It’s true that variety is the spice of life but sometimes fear can hold us back from doing something different. So in 2018, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little!

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Giving up doesn’t equal failure

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My cat Smokey at the train station when we moved home.

Fear, indecision, anxiety, excitement, anger, embarrassment, disappointment.

Over the past few months I’ve experienced all of these; a myriad of emotions and moods from soul-crushing self-deprecation to the dizzying heights of unbridled optimism where anything seems possible.

This is because I recently made the decision to quit my job for the sake of my mental health.

When I put it like that it seems so simple.

I couldn’t cope so I quit – it was definitely the wisest choice I could have made.

But this is coming from someone whose unabashed pride and ambition means I’d sooner rather walk over hot coals than admit defeat.

I’m a cutting off your nose to spite your face kind of person.

Once I set my sights on a goal I reach for it at all costs, seemingly blind to the fact that I’m being reckless with my health and sanity.

Of course most things that are worth having come at a cost but that goes for my health as well.

Now I’m living with my dad and having had time to rest, recuperate, travel a little and visit friends, I definitely feel a lot better.

At first I thought that quitting a job I’d worked so hard to get meant I’d failed.

But that’s not true at all.

It takes immense courage to achieve your goals but sometimes we’re aiming for all the wrong targets.

For too long I’d been living life in the fast lane and running on an invisible treadmill as I sprang from one thing to another, never taking the time to properly look after myself.

It maybe doesn’t have to be something as drastic as quitting your job but today, do something different, take a break, say “no” to someone, or “yes” to an opportunity.

Do something for yourself, protect your mental health, stand by your decisions and accept change.

Now that takes real courage.

 

 

 

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New Year, new me, same old clichés

Now that I’ve eaten my weight in chocolate, binge-watched a few box sets and argued over the rules of Scrabble, Christmas has come to a close and it’s time to bid adieu to 2016.

And what a year it’s been.

We’ve seen war and conflict, the wrath of ISIS,the triumph of a tangerine-faced tycoon and the fall of Harambe.

From David Bowie to Princess Leia, stars have dropped like the value of the pound and Brexit meant Brexit which meant nothing at all.

Oh, and for some reason people started running around dressed as killer clowns.

So yeah, it’s been a pretty bizarre year.

On a personal level however 2016 hasn’t been too shabby.

I climbed the highest mountain in North Africa, got a degree, sampled veganism, met Basil Brush, rode in a hot air balloon, reached 100wpm at shorthand and quit alcohol for good.

I made new friends, travelled, laughed, cried, sang and danced.

I saw the sunrise in the Sahara and Elton John in concert.

I had my heart broken and I made mistakes.

But in the end, through all of these ups and downs, I’ve grown as a person and inched one fumbling step closer to finding my place in this crazy world.

Then again, it’s New Year’s Eve so really I should forget all of this, focus on my faults, draft some resolutions and set about making 2017 my “best year yet.”

I’m not usually cynical about New Year’s resolutions.

After all I’m the kind of person who actually writes down life goals and approaches tidying with colour-coded post-it notes.

But as the saying goes “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, Hell in this case being the sofa which most return to one month into an annual gym membership.

So this year I’m not going to go for the same old “new year, new me” spiel.

As Gloria Gaynor sang “I am what I am”, so even though I maybe would like to have the body of a supermodel, the motivation of an Olympic athlete and the grace and beauty of a film star, I realise that such goals are unattainable.

So instead of making my New Year’s resolutions things which I would like to change about myself, I’m going to propose three things.

One thing I want to achieve, one thing I want to try and one philosophy I want to live my life by:

1.) Learn how to drive – not because all my friends are doing it or because someone told me to, but because it’s pretty essential for journalists and I’d like to have fewer public transport nightmares.

2.) Try dance classes – not because I want to get fit, or lose weight, or meet a sexy dance partner, but because it should be a laugh (if only for the other people in the class.)

3.) Embrace being single – not because I’m uber confident and don’t need anyone or because I want to have a Sex and the City-esque lifestyle but because I’m wasting too much time wishing that I was in a relationship (or pretending that I’m not) when I should just be enjoying life as it is.

So that’s it.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye 2016.

May 2017 bring you all that your heart desires.

Live long and prosper 🙂

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Treats and Tribulations: Part 3

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I quit my job.

It’s all over.

I’ve blended my last milkshake, wiped my last table and made my last waffle.

Well for now at least.

I can’t say I’ll miss Treats.

My last shift was a hellish 10 hours long (3pm – 1am) without a single break.

We’d just started doing home delivery via Just Eat but Yasser had given Lucia the day off and Mohammed was sick so we had twice the workload with half the staff.

Talk about a sticky situation.

At one point I thought I was going to faint so I just sat on the toilet for ten minutes and had a micro nap.

The whole thing was a shambles really.

Since old Mohammed had gone home we had no chef to make hot food so I had to run next door to buy a chicken burger to send for delivery and when the waffle mix ran out I had to do likewise and sprint to neighbouring Delight’s (their poor use of apostrophe not mine).

As I walked home that night I felt absolutely knackered but also elated at the thought I’d never have to go back.

I made sure to say a final farewell to the cockroach that lives inside the microwave but I wasn’t able to tell Yasser to his face that I quit and rather took the coward’s way out by sending him a text the next day.

He’s since tried to offer me a better deal and has been ringing me but I’ve just ignored it.

He told me before I left that the owner has decided to go with Sprinkles for the new name so I suppose that’ll be my “legacy.”

In the end though, as bad as this job has been it’s taught me something about the value of hard work, the multicultural web of Manchester’s Muslim community and the art of making a perfect crepe.

But I deserve something better

As the French chef Jacques Torres once said,

-“Life is short. Eat dessert first.

 

 

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Treats and Tribulations: Part 2

 

“Work is the meat of life, pleasure the dessert” – B.C. Forbes 

But what happens when dessert is your work?

Even though my job often leaves me feeling like a sunken soufflé it still has its perks, ie. FREE CAKE!

Since I’m allowed this one pleasure I usually find myself planning what cake I’m going to sample on my break before I’ve even arrived for my shift.

To date my favourite is still the homemade red velvet but the fruit cake with vanilla icing comes in at a close second.

So yeah it’s not all that bad.

Since my first installment there’s been a bit of a change up to our staff at Treats.

We’re now a fully multicultural team since we’ve been joined by Senna who’s from Eritrea and a Slovakian girl called Lucia.

Sadly Luis has quit for reasons unknown.

Lucia thinks he had an argument with Yasser but he’s since been in to visit and even though I can’t understand Arabic, the laughter and manly handshakes would suggest no lingering animosity.

I imagine he just got fed up of working for a pittance.

Coincidentally Lucia, a stunning blonde of supermodel proportions, also has a degree in Business and is just trying to improve her English for a year.

I wonder how long it will be before young Mohammed tries to propose to her.

There was a French girl called Mailys who worked with us for a couple of weeks but she left, not only because the pay is a bit shit but also because Mohammed kept trying to arrange a date with her and asked her when she’d like to get married.

Senna  has an education from her home country and is frustrated by the fact that she has had to start from the bottom and re-do college since moving to the UK – somewhere she will stay for the foreseeable future since she recently married a guy from here. (at least she doesn’t have to worry about Mohammed’s advances.)

Other interesting developments are that I’ve actually been given the responsibility of renaming the business!

Since I’m the only native English speaker who works at Treats, Yasser decided to consult me on my ideas for new names.

So far I’ve suggested Temptations, Sugar Stop, Sweet Shack and Sprinkles.

Yasser liked Temptations although questioned whether it had any double entendre, i.e could infer desire for a woman.

I said “not really” but he didn’t seem convinced.

I’ve also had the pleasant task of writing the names of the ice creams in pretty fonts on wipe clean labels which was a nice change from unclogging the sink and picking stray hairs out of the custard.

The other day I actually tried to tell Yasser that I wanted to leave and find a better paid job but he practically begged me to stay, telling me that I was “very precious” to him and that “he’d kill me” if I left.

He was joking of course…I hope.

Anyway, since I seem to be stuck in this job for the foreseeable future I’ve devised a little game to make each six or nine hour shift more bearable.

From now on I’ll award myself points for certain things and see how high I can score – maybe I’ll even let Senna and Lucia in on the game….

Points are awarded as follows: 

Kill a cockroach                                                50pts

Kill a fly                                                              100pts (notably more difficult)

Receive a customer complaint                      30pts (though not on purpose)

Yasser says “tables, please”                         20pts

A fly dies in the Insectaflash                        40pts (a horrible sizzling sound)

Find a hair in the ice cream                           200pts

Find a hair in the custard                               80pts

Make a perfect crêpe                                      60pts

 

The list could go on.

Other recent events of interest are that a guy came in and randomly stole one of the fake roses from a display in the front window.

Mohammed chased him down the road where he quickly got into a getaway car with his girlfriend and bolted the door – all Mohammed could do was give him the finger and a few choice expletives.

I was confused since I mistook him for one of the people who randomly sell flowers up and down the curry mile like the Chinese woman who always comes in to harass the customers and offer them three roses for a fiver.

They’ve also installed security cameras so the owner can watch our every move from Saudi Arabia and report our wrongdoings to Yasser like some sort of Middle Eastern Big Brother.

Other than that there’s not much to report.

Each time I go to work I quickly fall into the rhythm of making milkshakes, cleaning the dishes, wiping the tables and repeating the process again and again in almost contented resignation.

The work could definitely be worse and I enjoy the simple things like seeing a child smile as they pick out an ice cream flavour or watching the cookie dough rise and expand in the microwave.

For now this job is the meat of my life, the cake that I eat there, the dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

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Treats and Tribulations: Part 1

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I’ve just started working in a dessert parlour called Treats on Manchester’s Curry Mile.

It’s not the worst job in the world but right now I’ve just come home from a 9hr shift and the thought of doing it all again tomorrow is bringing me out in a rash.

Still, a job’s a job and I really am in desperate need of the dollar.

My career development loan is taking so long to come through I’m beginning to wonder if all of the Co-op bank’s admin is done by carrier pigeons (at least it would be 0% emissions.)

Anyway, the author Philip Roth once said “Nothing bad can happen to a writer; It’s all material” so here is the first installment in a series where I shall chronicle the trials and tribulations of working at Treats.

First of all you should know that The Curry Mile is basically the hub of the Asian community in Manchester; a long strip of curry houses, shisha bars and the odd dessert place.

Treats is one of these and is positioned next to Afghan Cuisine and opposite our fierce rivals Gelato Passion.

One day I channelled my inner Bond-Bon girl as I was sent on a spy mission to buy a waffle from Gelato Passion so we could compare and contrast.

All I needed to disguise myself was to remove the plastic gloves and apron.

It was the perfect ruse.

My boss concluded that ours is better value but I decided not to point out that since we charge extra for strawberries and ice cream it works out at the same price.

Sorry, I’m waffling.

My manager Yasser is Syrian, as are my co-workers Luis,Mohammed, Einad and the younger Mohammed (who we call Moha) is half Syrian half Lebanese.

With the exception of Yasser and the older Mohammed, my co-workers aren’t very good at English and only ever speak Arabic to each other which often leaves me trying to figure out what’s being said from context and hand gestures.

I’ve also learnt to just smile and nod when they’re all laughing about something which I don’t understand.

Still, being a native English speaker does have its advantages since I’m able to advise on the spelling of labels for the cakes and other items. Eg. You can get a “shot” from the chocolate fountain not a “chocolate shut.”

We sell a wide range of cakes ice-cream, milkshakes, waffles and crepes as well as some things I’d never come across before like a pink Pakistani tea called Kashmiri chai and a dessert called Falooda (rose syrup, ice cream, vermicelli, milk and basil seeds) which is popular on the Indian sub-continent.

I’m paid below minimum wage at £5/hr when at 22 years old I should be earning at least £6.70.

When I tried to broach the subject with Yasser he just said “£5 is good for Curry Mile” and explained that the other guys get paid even less!

I know it’s not ideal but I’ve found it hard to find any other job and I know it’s not forever.

I also know that some of the others are in a much worse position.

Luis, for example has a degree in Financial Analysis which he completed in Jordan before he came to the UK.

He needed to improve his English in order to do a Masters but due to the conflict which broke out in Syria he has been unable to return home to visit his family and misses them a lot.

When he told me this it helped me to put things in perspective a little and made me grateful for the fact that even though I’ve moved away from home, I always know that my family are safe and well.

As a wise man once said:

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Forrest Gump