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Treats and Tribulations: Part 1

Image result for waffle

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

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1

Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey)

There's no place like Downton Abbey

There’s no place like Downton Abbey

On the 21st of August 2014 Lady Katherine and her Mother, the Countess of Londonderry paid a visit to Downton abbey in Berkshire….

Walking down the long gravel driveway to Highclere castle was just like stepping into a dream, or more specifically, an episode of the hit BBC period drama Downton Abbey. I must admit that when I agreed to visit this wonderful house with my mum I felt like a bit of a fraud as I wasn’t as much of a die hard fan as she was, having only seen the odd Christmas special. Since visiting Highclere however I have been watching the boxsets on repeat and am already on series three!

Highclere castle is situated just an hour outside of London so we caught the train to Newbury and then a taxi took us the extra few miles to the house itself. The taxi driver was very well informed and told us that he had on occasion given a lift to Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) himself a few times.

Dowton Girl

Downton Girl

There was plenty of time for pictures as we had to wait until the afternoon session began to enter the house. Once we got inside there was a very relaxed atmosphere and we were able to walk freely from room to room with very little being cordoned off and friendly guides were scattered about in case we had any questions. Naturally many people were asking about the filming of Downton and it was interesting to know that camera angles and the repositioning of furniture plays a huge part in altering the version of Highclere which we see on screen. Most of the series is filmed at Highclere but all of the downstairs scenes are set in Ealing studios. What I also found interesting is that Highclere castle is still a family home and is lived in by the current Lord and Lady Carnavon and their children, of whom photgraphs can be seen around the house.

me and mum downtown

Every room in Highclere is charming and has its own character but the most impressive part of the house is definitely the central hall which is overlooked by the stone balustrade on the first floor. I also loved walking down the main staircase and allowed myself to imagine for a moment that I really was Lady Katherine, and the year was 1920.

After we visited the house we took a look at the Egyptian exhibition. It is now the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb which was realised by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and his colleague Howard Carter and many of the genuine Egyptain artefacts which Lord Carnavon both discovered and purchased are on display. I found this part of our visit extremely fascinating and would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of visiting Highclere.

highclere grounds highclere back viewThe weather wasn’t on our side so we didn’t see much of the grounds but I did manage to get a nice shot of the lawn, wildflower meadow and sprawling woods which can be seen behind the castle.

To conclude, Highclere is one of the most elegant, charming and grand stately homes I have ever visited, both inside and out and as the Dowager Grantham (Maggie Smith) said “The truth is neither here nor there. It’s the look of the thing that matters”

2

LONDON – Waxworks and Window Shopping

I’ve been super busy so I haven’t had time to do a proper post about London until now so here is the first installment!

baker street londonMy mum and I caught a 6am flight to London so by the time we arrived we were pretty exhausted. Nevertheless we headed to Madame Tussauds because we had booked tickets online and weren’t able to check into the hotel for a while anyway. The last time I’d been to this famous waxwork museum I think I was six and the only things I remember were getting my picture taken with the likenesses of Sadam Hussain and Manuel from Fawlty Towers and the fact that my Mum had asked a waxwork the way to the toilets. (oh the shame) This time, being a bit older, I think I appreciated it a lot more and of course was excited to see so many new wax versions of my favourite famous icons. A particularly poignant moment was when I came face to face with an eerily life-like version of Robin Williams. Following his recent tragic suicide I wasn’t surprised that so many people were crowding around his waxwork and I think that although he clearly suffered with depression, his easy-going and suggestive pose is the perfect lasting tribute to his comic genius.

me and the a listers london

Just hanging with Colin and Helen

A true legend. R.I.P

A true legend. R.I.P

This time my mum didn’t make the embarrassing mistake of actually speaking to a waxwork but we were both taken in by a fake member of the paparazzi who we thought was taking a ridiculously long time to photograph Ryan Gosling.

He cut my ear off!

He cut my ear off!

After perusing the different sections and posing for funny photographs with various celebs from Cheryl Cole to Vincent Van Gogh (with both ears entact) it was time for us to enter the Chamber of Horrors. This entailed a walk through a reconstructed version of Newgate Prison in which actors pretending to be serial killers leer at and scare you from the shadows. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be but the edge was taken off slightly by the exchange I heard just before between a little kid and the man playing the part of the prison warden:

Child- “Serial killers?? Does that mean they kill cereals?”

Actor- “Yes! And all of you are Kelloggs Cornflakes” (in a very sinister tone)

In the end it wasn’t all that scary because the actors weren’t allowed to touch you and the build up made it out to be so much worse but my mum and I still made our way through it at a fairly brisk pace!

london porotbello rdlondon portobello 2

london portobello 3london portobello 4On another day we decided to head to Notting Hill and check out the market on Portobello road. I absolutely love this part of London because it is so quaint (picture the houses in the Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts film) and has so many interesting little shops where you can be sure to bag a bargain. I ended up buying two lovely dresses and a cute baby grow with a London bus on it for a relative who is expecting.

sweets harrods london

Mmmmm

Later we decided get a glimpse of how the other half live and went on a tour of Harvey Nichols and Harrods; two of London’s most highly reputed luxury department stores. In Harvey Nichols there were so many gorgeous designer dresses and items but when I looked at the price labels I suddenly became afraid to even look at them, never mind touch them!  Walking around Harrods was a much more enjoyable experience because normal non-rich people also visit there due to its reputation so I didn’t feel as though I was a peasant wearing rags.

I splashed out and bought some chocolates (£7.50 for 100g) but I think it was worth it because they were easily the best I’ve ever tasted (seriously, an instant euphoric, melt in your mouth feeling). I also enjoyed visiting the Diana and Dodi memorial which is a fitting tribute since Dodi Al Fayed actually owned Harrods. My favourite item in the whole shop however was easily the antique piano which dates from 1875 and costs £250,000. Suddenly I allowed my mind to wander as I daydreamed about being a successful singer/songwriter and playing this piano with Elton John who had just popped round to my mansion for tea and a duet.

me and piano london

Well, a girl can dream!

Later that same day my mum and I went to see the Phantom of the opera at the theatre because it would be a shame to go to London and not see a show (the last time we saw Wicked). As usual the West End stage did not disappoint. We were both enchanted by a hauntingly beautiful performance of this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic and I found myself still humming the songs long after we’d left the theatre.

The Phantom of the opera

The Phantom of the opera

I still have more London adventures to talk about but I’ll leave this for another day so stay posted everyone! That’s all I ask of you…

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London Calling

London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls

– “London Calling” – The Clash 1979

Red buses, red telephone boxes, the bustle and the buzz; there really is no other city like London. I spent 4 days here with my mum and saw and did so many things so more posts will follow. I just thought I’d start off documenting my London experience by posting a few of my best photos and revealing my inner punk!

london- goth

Full of attitude

london NHM

The Natural History museum

London calling

Portobello rd.

London the mall

The Mall