“Dirty Martini, Dirty Bastard.”

Ever since Samantha Jones threw a Dirty Martini in Richard Wright’s face in Series 5 of Sex and the City, managing to relatively cool off after catching him eating another woman’s “sushi” and probably receiving a lot of “Yeah, Samantha!” praises from the women watching from behind the screen, the said drink has somehow been top of mind – should I ever need to throw something in a guy’s face and get even – for a variety of reasons – or simply get a drink.

And so it happens that I managed to get a first sip of the vindictive liquor in the American town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, last autumn, as I went out for dinner with a close friend and her fiancé. I was told they made good Martinis in the respective restaurant – and indeed the glass that was offered included the right proportion of vodka, vermouth, olive brine, not to mention the adequate olive. My Martini was alcoholic enough to be … well, alcoholic, and bitter-y enough to make sure I didn’t get drunk straight away, which is always a 10 out of 10 probability given my infantile consumption of alcohol. The Brits find it shocking.

This first experience was enough to make me want to take additional sips of this dirty drink, which I managed to do just fine on a recent party in Shoreditch, when I consumed a whopping! two glasses. Though I have to confess, that on this occasion there was perhaps a little too much vodka and the olive brine was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it did not want to get in the glass, who knows? Hm.

And most recently, I am pleased to say that I have started my 2018 with a somehow late brunch at The Hoxton near Holborn. Food and flat white almond latte later, I felt like a drink to wash down the calories and sophisticatedly welcome in the New Year. Therefore, I went for – you guessed it – a Dirty Martini with gin instead of vodka. I will most likely not repeat the spirits combo again and keep to the traditional vodka – I am surprised with myself right there – but one thing is for sure.

There are plenty of Dirty Martinis in this girl’s future social opportunities. Let’s just hope the potential men will not give me the opportunity to throw it in their face. Yes, I did just say that. And yes, you should take it literally.

In the event of this (unlikely?) situation, as flight attendants would put it, let’s allow Sam to show us how it’s done.

Men + white socks = Big “No-no”, please.

They say fashion is always changing, but aren’t we supposed to learn from our mistakes? Or does that apply to our personal and professional lives only?

I beg to differ I am hereby typing out loud a question that has been on my mind for a couple of months now: where have all these young men in their white socks come from?

We have been telling men for the past twenty something years that the colour of their socks should ideally match that of their trousers, jeans or shoes and be, the occasional exception aside, non-white.

Is there some sort of an 80s revolution (should I say, involution) happening in the world right now, with men rebelling against the non-white rule and sporting white socks ideally with above-the-ankle jeans and Nikes, just so you see all of that sock and all of that whiteness? Kind of like in a Colgate commercial? (Shot in Shoreditch?)

Could we go back to black and manhood, please? The John Travolta Grease age is so over and you’re no Andy Murray on the courts at Wimbledon sweating it out for a world tennis championship title either.

Sorry. Not sorry.

In the words of a friend who recently told me she lost it at the sight of a Whole Foods opening up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, “I can’t even deal”. She’s American, so in British English that translates as “It is very upsetting” or even “Quite troubling”. Which means it is really serious business, indeed.

Avenues of Bones.

In my many walks around London this spring and summer, I have come across a forgotten part of this city. Its disused cemeteries.

These cemeteries were used from medieval times and up to the 18th century, when they became overflown and the administration ordered them closed and others built outside of the central part of town.

Cemeteries pushed outside of Central London aside, the reality is that the city is sprinkled with the graves of the past. There are graves sprinkled randomly in between two residential buildings near Blackfriars Bridge. I wouldn’t like to see them if I looked outside my window at night. There are some other graves and mortuary stones sprinkled in a garden not far from St Paul’s Cathedral (again, to give residents something fun to look at night). For sure, graves are under our feet when we walk down the street. It is just that there is no stone to mark them as such.

Back to the old cemeteries for now and to the places that have captured my attention.

Bunhill Row, near Old Street. The resting place of William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan, of another 150,000 souls and possibly the most spoiled pigeons and squirrels in the world.

Cross Bones, Southwark. A fence full of mortuary memorabilia signals the presence of this cemetery: cards, photos, ribbons left by those who have lost someone greet visitors at the gate. Cross Bones has been disused for some time now as well, however it is known in London as the cemetery of the destitute. Throughout medieval times and later centuries, it became a burial place for those who society could not bury in “mainstream” places: prostitutes, their babies, and thieves. Of all the cemeteries I have seen this year, this one seemed the saddest. 

St Anne’s Church, Soho. The interesting part about this cemetery is that it lies 2m above ground level due to the high number of people that have been interred here. There are no mortuary stones to signal its existence, only a serene patch of green turf to cover its grounds. As such, it is one of the places that you pass by without much awareness of what lies beneath the ground.

“Going To See The David.”

There is a lot of hype around Florence and its cultural treasures. Rightfully so, as the city was the home of the Renaissance and of all its creative minds and they have left a living treasure behind.

For this reason, every morning is a cultural rush around the streets of Florence and an attempt to grab a spot at the front of the queues that align outside of the Accademia, the Gallery of the Uffizi, and all other significant locations in the city.

For the same reason, every one who joins in the queues shares the same feeling of excitement that, at the end of an hour’s wait or at the end of two hours’ wait, there will be at least a piece of internationally acclaimed art to look at.

The one that did it for me was the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. It is a masterpiece in its own right and the shining star of the Accademia. It is waiting for visitors on its own pedestal and graces them with its presence from afar and close by. They say that the Gioconda looks like she is looking at you from every angle. With “The David”, as the Italians refer to it, it feels like you want to look at it from every angle. – And you want to go around and around it lots of times.

Face to Face with The Grand Master.

I decided several years ago that Salvador Dali was going to be my favourite painter for life. What does “for life” mean? It means for as long as I live.

There is a certain fluidity to his art, with all the different shapes flowing not only into one another but also into the background and all else on the canvas. This fluidity means that you can never stop interpreting his work, which is exactly what you need when you interpret art.

And it is this fluidity that draws me in, keeps me interested and also gets me confused. I swear Dali paintings play with your mind as much as they play with your artistic eye, which only adds to their beauty and to the interest they trigger in people.

On my recent visit to Tate Modern, I came face to face with three of the master’s works – and I was flabbergasted. The only reason I moved away from them was to let other people take them in, too.

A Black & White Welcome.

We don’t usually like to say or think that things are black and white. It feels like we are leaving a lot of options behind and we are being pristine about our choices. So we move in between the black and the white and we choose some shades of grey and then some shades of other colours to give us choices until we feel we have a complete spectrum.

I didn’t feel the need for additional colour options at Tate Modern. The building of one of the most representative art institutions in the UK is black and white. The halls, the corridors, the exhibition rooms all have high walls and high ceilings, making the monochrome set-up even brighter. It is true that the way finding around the gallery is in a variety of colours, but it only punctuates the blackness and the whiteness. It does not take away from it.

Probably one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen, the Tate Modern also reminded me of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It is a good idea to use black and white in museums. It invites people in and puts the focus on the art.

I Have Developed A Pavlovian Relationship With Italian Food.

Courtesy of my recent trip to Florence and of the splendid food I experienced on the occasion, my salivary glands go into overdrive whenever I hear or see words such as “Italian Food”, “Italian Restaurant”, or “Tagliatelle al salmone” in my proximity.

I was planning on a relatively innocent weekend, at least in as much as going out and eating out is concerned. Saturday lunchtime yoga class done and dusted, subsequent sauna session done and dusted, I underwent a quick decision-making process as to what I should be doing with the rest of the day. And The Other Art Fair on Brick Lane came out a winner.

On my way there on Aldgate High Street, a lovely restaurant window caught my eye. It sported some finely cured meats and jars full of delicacies. You know the kind I am talking about: those jars with carefully and simply-executed packaging that make you think that the goose and all its golden eggs are tucked in inside.

Then my eyes rolled onto the inside of this mysterious place, through the window, falling on a sign that read “Tagliatelle” and something else. Bells went ringing and the whole digestive alarm went off when I actually noticed that I had been inspecting an Italian restaurant.

Satyrio opens at 5pm on Saturdays, so my visit at The Other Art Fair was a mix between taking in all the beautifully talented work that was on display and asking myself “Is it 5 o’clock yet?”.

Alas, it finally struck 5pm and I made my way decisively and intently towards the restaurant that I could not get out of my head and that was promising to delight my taste buds. I can say for sure that I was their first client this Saturday afternoon, as I arrived promptly around 5 and a half and already had my mind set on a serving of tagliatelle with whatever they had on the menu.

I opted for tagliatelle with king prawns and truffles, which washed down beautifully thanks to a lovely glass of white. I loved the flavours on the plate, the juiciness and the softness of the prawns and the taste of the truffles, although in hindsight the only thing I would have liked done differently is for all of this goodness to arrive in a bigger-sized dish.

I even went for dessert and a decaf espresso after my meal, which transported me back to August and to the mornings I spent at La Menagere sipping my coffee and taking in the life of the nearby streets.

In addition to making and selling Italian food, Satyrio is also a wine shop. Its wall full of bottles of “Bacchus’s finest liquor” is something else. Pity their sommelier was off duty when I visited – I would have picked his brains about some of their wines.

I left Satyrio feeling happy with my overall experience and wanting to return. Now I just need to work out how to marry my love for dining out, Italian dining out, and instant gratification with a sense of moderation. It sounds very Marcus Aurelius of me, but when in Rome…

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D-Pod, Personable Design & Retail.

One of the most beautiful things about a beautifully designed object is that it can make you feel unique. You look at it, at its colour and its shape, and immediately its functional and emotional attributes transfer onto you.

You feel current, in the know, and modern. You feel you have good taste in the world around you and you feel that it is only the beautiful and meaningful things that seduce your senses. You look at a beautifully designed object and you feel like you are looking at a work of art.

This is the feeling I got while I was looking at all the objects that were displayed at the D-Pod Store, close to the Blackfriars Station.

The place is a space where independent designers can hire a small pod to display their creations. The overall shop is smaller than 5-7 square meters, but it manages to host creations from over thirty designers. “Most of them are from around London; some are from outside of the UK and they work in London, while others work from Europe altogether”, said James, a former advertising photographer who now supports the D-Pod Store and who was looking after it on the Saturday that I visited.

“The D-Pod is a place where these designers can display their work. We sell it for them in exchange for a monthly rental cost. Because they are independent designers and everything is made by hand, their output is relatively small and fits nicely into the space that is available in each of the pods”, said James as I was marvelling at some of the soy candles on display.

Their manufacturer is a designer who travels regularly to the South of France to pick the flowers and the scents he uses in his work. It is this level of attention and care that goes into the making of these candles – and of the jewellery and handbags on display, among other things – that wins you over. You hear the story of the designer who travels to France to pick his flowers; of the Italian girl who spends a lot of time in Tuscany to create the handsomely crafted Bucklesbury bags; you are transported to the place and time the products are created, identify them as unique and immediately have to have one of them.

There is no doubt that a lot of attention, care, and craft go into the products that are sold as part of mass-production and large, traditional retail shops and I am often their customer. But on this particular Saturday afternoon, as I was strolling down the Southbank and taking things in slowly, I appreciated the opportunity of “getting to know” a couple of designers and their work at a slightly milder pace.

More on the D-Pod at dpod.co.uk.

Simbiosi, Partnering With Food.

There is another restaurant in Florence that stole my heart, took my time and some of my lunch and dinner money. Simbiosi was a couple of streets down from my hotel and greatly accessible whenever I needed a bite at lunch or dinnertime.

The most memorable plates I have had there were of course plates full of pasta. The former was a plate of pasta con i funghi and the funghi were so fresh and juicy that I remember them to this day. I remember thinking “damn, these folks are so lucky to be able to enjoy all these fresh ingredients every day”. I considered myself blessed to be able to enjoy that restaurant and that meal on that day, too. The latter plate was a plate of spaghetti aglio e olio (otherwise known as garlic and oil). There was something so primeval about this dish, so simple, that it felt like I had been born sucking on a strand of spaghetti moistened in garlic and oil. Truth be told, I have always liked garlic and it was a true pleasure to see it “elevated into a dish”, as Gordon would put it.   

Excerpt from Option B, Failing and Learning At Work, Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant.

“When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. Just look at any resume; I have never seen one with a section called Things I Do Poorly. Scientist Melanie Stefan wrote an article challenging her peers to be more honest in their CVs. Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer took her up on it and posted his failure resume – a list that went on for two pages of rejections from degree programmes, job openings, academic journals, fellowships, and scholarships. He later noted, “This darn CV of failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work.”

Convincing people to be more open about failures is not easy. Kim Malone Scott, who worked with me at Google, used to bring a stuffed monkey named Whoops to her team’s weekly meetings. She would ask colleagues to share mistakes from the week and then they’d all vote for the biggest screw-up. The “winner” got to keep the stuffed monkey on their desk where everyone could see it until the next week, when someone else earned the honour. Nothing could have been a better reminder to try hard things and discuss failures openly. Probably the only member of the team who didn’t feel good about this exercise was Whoops, who never got a week off from being the symbol of imperfection.”