Posts Tagged ‘convenience’

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table for two.

June 16, 2012

Tonight I cleared the table (on which I keep my printer, laptop, books I’m currently reading and other paraphernalia I use on a daily basis) in order to serve up a proper dinner for two – I laid the table and served up a bowl of prawn crackers, a plate of spring rolls, a bowl of Thai green chicken curry, a bowl of Thai red chicken curry, along with some drinks. The reason why I wanted to do this tonight was because I had been doing chores on and off all day, Toby had been watching TV and playing Pokémon White on his DS for most of the time, and I felt that it would be nice to turn everything off and just eat and chat in a civilised manner for a short while. It was really nice and although it was by nature somewhat romantic, it wasn’t like I lit candles and dimmed the lights (though I did turn off the television and had some Roberto Fonseca on in the background). I just wanted to make dinnertime a time to chat and reflect on our day. To have some good conversation.

When I was younger (at a guess, about 14 years old), I remember listening to the radio on the way home after my mother had picked me up from school. There was a news item on the fact that less and less families were eating a sit-down dinner at the table. Now, apart from when we would have Sunday lunch at my nan’s (which was an infrequent affair), generally I would eat my meals in front of the television, and later on my mum would have something to eat in front of the tv, and eventually when my father would come home from work / the pub, he would eat something too.  We didn’t eat as a family very often in my youth, except for when my dad would bring home Chinese takeaway (which I always loved). Partly because our schedules rarely meshed, but also partly because we didn’t really find mealtimes conducive to talking – we didn’t have much to share with one another as a family. I was a youngster who enjoyed my privacy and I didn’t get on with my father that well in my childhood, so anything I wanted to share with my parents, I would share with my mother because generally my dad didn’t show much of an interest and I certainly didn’t want to let him in very often either. My parents were often at loggerheads with one another, and even when they weren’t, my mum didn’t really want to wait for my dad to get home just to have a meal she could prepare for herself two hours earlier, and my dad wouldn’t make much of an effort at conversation because he was already tipsy / drunk.

After my dad had his final cycling accident and decided to ultimately give up cycling (or otherwise lose his family, because my mother and I had both had enough of picking up the pieces at Frenchay hospital), he began to find more enjoyment in cooking. My mother also had a hand in this, as she was tired of my dad complaining about the food she had bought to cook with – so she essentially said “if you don’t like what I make, then make something yourself!” Fair enough – and fair play to my father, he went ahead and did it. As I became older, my tastes in food matured, and I found that the meals my father would make (albeit often quite spicy-HOT) would be quite enjoyable. So we started to eat together more often. It was ironic that as my parents needed to be less disciplined with me because I was demonstrating my own sense of self as an adult, we began to happily and willingly eat meals together and make conversation – when I was listening to that radio broadcast, what came to mind was families forced to eat together by an overbearing patriarch or matriarch while everyone else squirmed in their seats in near silence. When I was younger, that’s what a family meal meant to me. And now I am older and a grown man in my own right, I enjoy sharing a meal with loved ones, catching up about one another’s days, and making conversation and sharing opinions on a range of topics, both current and perennial. It was a symbol of each member of our small family finally learning to accept one another, learning to argue less with one another and see other points of view, and becoming close knit and more loving towards one another – although I must stress that I don’t think family dinners of this type can cause or force a family to bond – the love and understanding has to be there already!

I feel that the most important thing is not having a strict family rule to eat together – while I understand why some families do this (during our conversation tonight, Toby said that his family would always eat meals at the table together) and I think it’s a nice idea in theory, in practice I definitely feel that an eating situation should be comfortable for all concerned. If it’s not convenient to eat together, or conversation and relations are strained, then it’s better to eat in front of the TV or in your room or wherever you feel happiest and safest. Mealtimes, like all other times, should feel comfortable and flow comfortably. In life, we go through enough awkward social occasions that I don’t know if it’s really necessary or advisable to inflict more upon ourselves. But I am now old enough and happy enough to appreciate the value of good shared food, good shared conversation and an easy feeling of camaraderie. Eating at the table with Toby tonight was an absolute pleasure, and the extra few minutes of preparing the table, serving the components of the meal individually, and washing up the extra used crockery and cutlery afterwards were absolutely worth it for a relaxed meeting of minds and hearts.

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Cooking in 2012 – February: Lasagne.

February 2, 2012

So this month I made a dish that I have in fact made a couple of times in the past: lasagne. I love it, it’s perfect for the extremely cold weather we’re currently experiencing, and it’s Italian and therefore I should be able to make this in my sleep. I felt confident that I could impress Toby with this one, and be able to do it without any help.

Hah!

I used this recipe as a basis, but it was kinda confusing. My first big stumbling block was “crush the garlic to a paste with the edge of a knife”. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried this, but it’s fucking difficult. I got irritated (because chopping the vegetables and preparing everything had taken a surprisingly long time), ranted on twitter, had a cigarette, and then just decided to chop the garlic cloves into really small pieces, smoosh them up, and call it sufficient.

My next issue was the completely unclear nature of the recipe. You put the carrot in after everything has been cooking for quite a long time? Huh? And you stir in the oregano practically at the end? Why? Most importantly, it never tells you to take the fried mince off the warm plate and back in a saucepan to mix it with the rest of the ingredients for the meat sauce. It leaves this completely to your imagination. Now, common sense dictates you would eventually reach the conclusion that this is what you have to do (and with Toby’s reassurance, I got there) – but I am far from a confident cook. Even though I have made this recipe before, I don’t ever remember it being so complicated or confusing, and recipes not spelling everything out for me explicitly is A BIG PROBLEM.

But we got there. I cheated and bought some white sauce rather than making it from scratch – this was probably a good move because as it was, we didn’t end up eating the finished lasagne until 9:45pm. Which is late. But it was very very nice – and better than a shop-bought one! I was proud!

With a night’s perspective on the whole matter, I can now ask myself the big question: Was it worth all the money I spent on ingredients, and all the time I spent stressing and preparing and cooking and washing up? I am very hesitant to say “yes”, to be honest. I did learn a lot from the experience, such as:

  • as much as I want to be independent, sometimes it’s vital to ask for help.
  • as time-consuming as cooking and preparing ingredients can be, you can always do chores / errands in the interim while the food is cooking / baking. Which is satisfying.
  • I take after my mother, as the Italian side of me is clearly a fashionista rather than a foodie (though my waistline lately might disagree). Oh well.

I am trying really hard with this cooking thing, and it is a resolution that I made so I will see it through for the whole year. And I sincerely hope that as I gain more experience with cooking, it will be less traumatic. But at this point, I genuinely hate it. I can’t lie – as good as my lasagne tasted, and as convenient as it was that I got two meals’ worth out of it (I finished the leftovers off tonight), I would have much preferred to have bought a ready-made lasagne from a supermarket and warmed it up. Less stress, more time to enjoy my evening with Toby, and less money wasted on ingredients – the remnants of which are now sitting in my fridge until I throw them away in a few days’ time. Perhaps if my circumstances change in the future, I will have more motivation to cook a meal for two more often – and perhaps a better kitchen to cook them in! But for now, at least Toby seemed to enjoy the meal (which is a big plus), and my family sounded impressed when I told them on the phone.

Next, I want to attempt to make Toby a moussaka the way my nan makes it – which is amazing. I don’t expect to live up to her lofty standards, but I will give it a go! Eep.

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switch off and breathe.

May 17, 2010

For all of the time that I do spend on my Macbook, texting on my phone, and attached to my iPod, lately I’ve started feeling that my personal reliance on technology, as well as our dependence on it as a society, is getting on my nerves a little bit.  I freely admit I could not live without my iPod, but to me that is an addiction to music rather than an addiction to electronics; music is something I know I could never give up, as I’ve always been around music since I can remember. As a child, if it wasn’t on TV, radio or the stereo as my mother and I danced around the living room to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, then I was singing it.

Even though I had my first mobile phone at 14, I can remember not even wanting one initially – I got it for my 14th birthday with a sparkly cover (my penchant for shiny things has always been well known) and I said to my dad “I told you I didn’t need one!”.  I didn’t really use it until I started my first part-time job at WHSmith when I was 16, and suddenly I had an exciting, interesting friendship group outside of school – people who were cool, who hadn’t known me for the last 5 years and had therefore formed preconceptions and misconceptions about me, and with whom I could socialise.  Suddenly I was texting and spending my credit like water, and my mobile phone seemed to come into its own.  Today, again I couldn’t be without one, and I use it to tweet, send messages, call people if necessary, record song ideas on the go and generally kill time.  But then, life simply seems to have changed in the last 10 years; it’s just expected for everyone to have a mobile phone, it’s convenient for meeting people (in the days before texts to say you’re running late or there’s been a change of plan / venue, you had to arrange meets in advance and be where you said you were gonna be, when you said you were gonna be there!), they can come in invaluable in unforeseen circumstances or emergencies… they’re a logistical and social necessity.  And yet we survived fine without them 10 years ago… Well, I’m glad in that instance that we’ve come 10 years further.

I adore my Macbook, and I couldn’t imagine getting through my university degrees without it.  I remember when my dad gave me his black ex-work laptop to take with me to university; I felt so grown up, 18 years old in a new city with my very own laptop!  When I knocked water all over that laptop approximately 3 weeks later and destroyed it beyond repair, I had to survive two weeks (!!!, though this felt like an eternity at the time) completing essays by hand, watching DVDs on my friend’s computer, and checking emails in the communal computer room.  It was a massive inconvenience, and it really made me appreciate just how much easier computers have made my working life.  In terms of pleasure, music allows me to keep up with (and download) all of the music that I’m interested in.  It allows me to write this blog and share it with you all.  It allows me to produce and record my songs and create albums like Quiet Storm which is my pride and joy, and I’ve felt so privileged to be able to share that with all of you.  It’s allowed me to make new friends through myspace and twitter, some of whom I now hold very dear to me.  I wouldn’t have gotten to know my boyfriend and realise just how compatible we are without MSN.

And yet, despite all of these obvious considerable pluses, I’ve felt myself getting a teensy bit annoyed.  I deleted my facebook a week and a half ago because all of the constant notifications (most of which I had turned off, except then they were clogged up on my profile every time I logged in), the tension between having high privacy settings and resulting awkwardness from restricting certain people who believe they have more of a right to my life than they actually do, the user-unfriendly profile format updates and general invasiveness of it all had just got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.  Unlike twitter, which is quick, easy and on-the-go, I found that facebook was becoming a cumbersome site which does everything very well (and I will miss the photo-sharing facilities it had), but sorta places an onus on you to join in with every single aspect of it.  I like that only a select few of my friends have twitter; it allows me to have a little in-crowd, without having to either censor myself or let everyone in the whole world know exactly what’s going on with me.  On facebook, I found that people whom I barely knew were adding me as friends, and after a short period of rejecting them, eventually I just acquiesced because if they were that desperate to be my friend, they might as well inflate my friend count.  In short, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

And yet, I felt scared to delete it, because it’s become such an institution.  When deactivating my account, facebook’s last stand was to show me pictures of my closest friends along with “Nana will miss you.” “Sarah will miss you.” “Nathalie will miss you.” “Hannah will miss you.” “Toby will miss you.” “Mike will miss you.” My heart panged for a fraction of a second, and then I realised: all of these people have my mobile number, my email, my address.  If they really wanna talk to me, or I really wanna talk to them, I will make an effort to do so in a more personal way than facebook offers.  At that point, I got pissed off by facebook’s attempt to emotionally blackmail me into using their service, and decisively deactivated my account.  That was a week and a half ago, and I haven’t really missed it nor felt tempted to return.  I feel emancipated… I’ll let you know how I get on and if I eventually return to the fold!  But I’d like to say that I won’t 😉

I spend a lot of my weekends with my laptop taking advantage of the wi-fi in Starbucks in Cabot Circus.  Usually I’m getting work done that I can’t get done at home, but sometimes I’m blogging or doing various other things.  I remember having to steal neighbours’ wireless internet at home, and the signal constantly cutting out because I would move my laptop a fraction out of range.  I appreciate now how lucky and how convenient it is to have a stable internet at my fingertips.  But sometimes, if I don’t need to do work, dragging my laptop everywhere is somewhat cumbersome (and my laptop’s not exactly huge!).  Between laptop and power adaptor, it takes up a lot of space in my bag (leaving less for necessary cosmetics, obviously) and gets quite heavy.  So the last two weekends I’ve made a point of leaving my computer at home.  I use my Macbook most evenings, I usually fire it up in the morning while I’m getting ready for uni / work / placement / whatever I’m up to.  So in retrospect, I don’t need to carry it wherever I go (especially since half the point of my most recent mobile phone was that it has mobile internet browsing).  And that’s exactly it.  Technology is a massive convenience, a fantastically useful tool that has revolutionised my life exactly as it’s revolutionised yours.  Or if not exactly, then in similar ways.  I appreciate it and I can remember enough instances of it failing that I generally don’t take it for granted, despite being under 25 and therefore a “digital native” (if you’re over 25, you’re a “digital immigrant”, so now you know!!! 😛 ).  But I don’t want to turn into somebody who doesn’t know how to live without technology.  I used to be happy just singing songs, doing jigsaw puzzles, watching TV and reading books – no internet, no cell, no computer, no iPod, no Playstation.  I could spend days doing simple things like that, and while I’m sure that these days I’d get bored after a while, I want to know from time to time that I’m still capable of living independent of these things that I feel I need, that we’ve all become used to thinking that we need, but we don’t really.  We may need them to survive in our contemporary social landscape, but our lives won’t physically end without them.  I’m currently trying to teach myself that.

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disinterest.

August 21, 2009

In the dating game over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about men, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  It has yet to really get me anywhere, but as much as dating should be about romance, about clicking with someone, about personalities coming together, sparks flying and the potential for love, it seems to be more of a transaction.  What am I to you?  Who am I to you?  What can I do for you?  What opportunities do I provide, what I can I get in return?  I’m not interested in relationships of convenience, and perhaps that is why I haven’t really had much dating success.  I either become blinded by my feelings, or jaded and clinical about the whole affair.  Here’s a brief examination of what people seem to what from me:

Sex : Most of the time, a promising exchange of ideas all seems to dissipate once you get me into your bed.  If they haven’t lost interest after the first night (I’m not that easy, and have only given it up once on the first date), then they suddenly disappear once they finally get some sexual interaction.  Not because I’m not any good (I am confident of this – I’m sure I’m not the best lover ever, but I know what I am doing well enough to elicit… the desired response), but just because I’ve fulfilled their need.  People tell me I am sexy, I am beautiful, I am this or that, but once we’ve done the deed, I apparently stop being those things and become “just another guy” or another conquest.  So silly me for thinking that there might have been something more, that I’m more than a mouth or a body to you.  I tell myself time and again that I should just use people for sex myself, but I can’t roll that way – I can’t do it.  Perhaps I’m not that jaded yet.

Trophy boyfriend : I am not bad-looking, I have some designer clothes and jewellery, I have plenty of friends and a couple of guys have enjoyed the fact that I seem to be reasonably popular and ‘cool’ (whatever that means).  Yes, I listen to music, I read books, I go to clubs, I am pretty sociable.  I also work hard, am educated and have thoughts in my head, but that seems to pass certain guys by.  They want to buy me things (far too soon, in one guy’s case – one meeting and he buys me something from the Britney concert he went to – I never found out what it was because I decided to end it once I found out; it was too intense for me! He was a bit of a stalker anyway…) and show me off, but I’m not going to be paraded as your ‘better half’ just to give you extra social clout.  Step your game up and take an interest in me for who I am, because I do the same for you.

Friendship : Obviously, a big part of a relationship is establishing a firm friendship between the two of you. But one of the things I find most difficult is when I date people who suddenly reveal they already have partners and just want to be friends.  By this time, I am the kind of person who might have fallen for them and am inventing scenarios in my head (of course, I keep that part to myself).  To have this shot down, when I reasonably assumed that because we were on a date, we were both single (!!!), means I need to majorly readjust my priorities and my attitude.  I manage to do it, but it bruises my heart somewhat because I get my hopes up (perhaps, again, I should know better by now) only to have them dashed.  Usually, it’s the perfect-seeming ones who already turn out to be attached – it figures, I guess.  Does that say anything about me being single though, that I am not that good a catch?  I like to think that of course it doesn’t, but sometimes it niggles away at me.

Emotional crutch : All too often, I find that guys quickly reveal that they have certain problems in their lives and they share what is going on.  More than once, I’ve dealt with guys with mental health problems, and I like to think I’m a pretty good listener and pretty compassionate.  I try to be there for them and understand as much as I can.  I give space when needed, I am ready to talk when they’re ready to talk.  But after a while, I begin to feel that “I’m depressed” is being used as an excuse to pick me up when they want me, and then drop me when they don’t.  I find myself wondering, “What about my needs?  There are two of us here… why are you waiting for me to text you?  Why does it take me asking you how you are?  Why can’t you pick up the phone, I have feelings too.  Just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean that I am happy 100% of the time.”  I apologise if it sounds slightly childish, but at the end of the day it is true.  It takes two to make a relationship work, and if there’s no room for me beyond being an agony uncle / sounding board for all your problems (however valid they might be), then I’m sorry but that just isn’t enough for me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to not let myself be sucked in by different guys, but it seems like every few months I learn a new trick – the hard way.  There are lots of ruses and games that people play in order to get what they want from you.  I have learned to lose interest more quickly and cut guys off if their play becomes too desperate / blatant, but is there any advice for being able to spot the bad ones more quickly?  It would save a lot of drama and some heartache too if everyone just wore a badge saying “Hi! I am looking for… I am interested in… I am not seeking…”  At least it would be honest.  But then, as they say, sometimes it’s all about the chase…