amy, my daughter – mitch winehouse

Amy, My Daughter

This time next week, it will be the first anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s tragic death.

I’m not generally a particularly soft-hearted person, and although I have felt a tinge of sadness when a celebrity has died, I am not one of those to get all weepy and claim that I loved them, and that their very existence changed my life etc etc.

I remember it was late on a Saturday afternoon and I had been having a bit of a doze before going for a night over the pub, when I first saw the messages coming through on Twitter that she had died. I remember quickly turning on the news channels and flicking from Sky to BBC and back again. It was a story that felt inevitable and yet it was still shocking. She was just 27. She was amazingly talented.

I was stunned. I was even more surprised when I realised that I was crying. I sent a text to The Man who was already over the pub, and then I put my Back To Black album. Followed by Frank. I cried some more. Such a waste.

I also remember that there were a lot of people who tried to belittle her death as the day before had seen the absolutely shocking murders of 69 people by Anders Behring Breivik. Many people were posting on various social network sites saying things like, “Get it in perspective, this is one druggie girl as against a huge number of innocents!”

I found that particularly hard to deal with. Why did one have to be weighed up against the other? Why couldn’t people be upset about both events?

Personally, I think that the reason that Amy’s death struck a chord with me that day in a different way to the Norway murders was because the murders were just too catastrophic, sickening and difficult to even comprehend. Whereas the loss of a young, talented, troubled girl was far more easy to picture, understand and believe. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t as disgusted and shocked by the murders at all, and my heart went out to every one of the victims and their families – and those poor kids who will have to live with that memory for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, this is meant to be a review.

I got this from Audible as an audiobook. The foreward and the epilogue are narrated by Mitch himself, but it is understandable that he wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the book, so that is done by Rupert Farley – and he did a commendable job…I imagine he was picked because he sounds somewhat like Mitch, and he managed to read with what sounded like so much pride and emotion that during a lot of it, I forgot that it wasn’t Mitch!

This whole book is heart-wrenchingly full of love. You can feel it with every story. From Amy’s childhood, as a precocious, funny, impossible-to-teach child where she found school a bit of a bore, and longed to perform to her well-reported rise and subsequent fall and tragic end.

There were particular moments that must have been difficult for him to write – the time that she met Blake who he quickly realised was a bad influence on her and the moment he finally realised that Amy was actually doing Class A drugs and had a habit. This wasn’t any old father-daughter relationship, they were a tight-knit unit and not a day seemed to go by that he didn’t speak to her.

From the moment he realised she had a habit, he kept diaries and documented Amy’s life – the highs of Frank and Back to Black, various live performances and her Ivor Novello awards to the soul-destroying years of trying to get her to give up the drugs and her subsequent descent into alcoholism.

Hearing Mitch’s side of the various tabloid stories, Blake’s imprisonment, Amy’s stage-fright, the fights with Blake’s family and the fact that she had been off of Class A’s for three years before her death were quite eye-opening.

On the last day that I was listening to this, I was wandering around Camden (where I have worked for 5 years) and I took a different route to usual and walked past Amy’s old house while I was listening to Mitch telling the tale of when he found it for her – and it all just felt so poignant.

Everything feels laid bare, and I doubt if anyone could read this without wanting to give Mitch Winehouse a massive hug while they shed a few tears.

possibly the best ice cream in london?

Very classy and subtle!

I had been thinking extremely hard all morning, and come up with an absolute corker of an idea for the sector in which I work, which even my boss was dead impressed with (although it wouldn’t make us any money).

After using so much brain-power (and after a pretty good amount of drinking at the Walthamstow Tweet Up last night), I felt in need of a little pick-me-up at lunchtime.

So I wandered down to the seventh circle of hell that is Camden Lock to hunt down a place of mythical legend – somewhere that I had heard tell of, but never actually known of anyone personally who could vouch for its existence.

Chin Chin Labs is as unpretentious in its shop front and signage as its website!  This is quite unusual in Camden Lock where the general marketing ploy is to be as loud and gaudy as possible really!

There is a choice of just three ice creams – madagascan vanilla, Valrhona chocolate and the ‘flavour of the week’.  this week it is Jaffa cake – and I wasn’t passing that opportunity up!

Ahrash, the guy serving was fantastic, was happy to let me take photos (he must be SO used to it) and explained to me how the ice cream was so much smoother than the conventional stuff, and that they didn’t have to use preservatives or emulsifiers, so it was far more natural and he also told me how much liquid nitrogen they get through.

The mad scientist at work

My chosen Jaffa Cake ice cream has a base of orange marmalade ice cream with added dark chcoolate chunks and sponge pieces.  Yummy.  they all went into the mixing bowl and then the liquid nitrogen was slowly added.

In goes the LN2

Obviously when handling liquid nitrogen, the ‘scooper’ has to be completely safety-weared up!  The protective goggles and big gloves that he donned upon me ordering completed the real ‘lab’ feeling 🙂 (As well as everything being in measuring beakers, conical flasks and test tubes!)

Mixy mixy!

This really is the moment of drama, as the ice cream mixes.  It was fantastic! you then get a choice of one sauce and one topping.  I went for valrhona chcoolate sauce and popping candy!  A winning combination.

At £3.95  (there is only one size available), it isn’t the cheapest ice cream in London, but the theatre of it, the portion size and the absolutely sublime smoothness, freshness and flavour – it is WELL worth it!  It’s even worth battling the crowds at Camden Lock for! (Check out the video below).

Jaffa Cake ice cream with valrhona chocolate sauce & shiny popping candy!

grand union, camden

I just spotted a couple of photos that I’d taken and realised that I had forgotten to post about my trip to Grand Union with my mate earlier this month.

As with my trip to The Montcalm at the weekend, I had a Groupon voucher that was rapidly coming to its expiry date.  I had paid £12 for a £35 voucher to be spent on burgers, pizzas or cocktails.  I had never been in a Grand Union, even though I pass by the one in Camden almost every day.

I’d booked ‘an area’ online as per the Groupon instructions – which felt a bit weird for 2 people, but there was actually a really nice, rather large table reserved for us, ready and waiting when we got there.  it was out the back, which I hadn’t realised was there, and was a lovely space with big comfy chairs, dark tables and gorgeous mismatched lamps lighting it.

We got a HUGE jug of ‘Gingerly Does It’ which was a gorgeous concoction of Finlandia Vodka, Chambord, ginger beer, passionfruit,
strawberries and lime.  A hell of a lot better than the Celtic Warriors I had been drinking the night before.

Gingerly Does It - much yumminess!

We decided to opt for burgers.  It seemed rather steep to pay £6.45 – £10.45 for a burger (without chips!) in what was essentially a bar, but that was the beauty of having the voucher!

I opted for a ‘Fully Loaded’ – Beef patty, mature Cheddar,bacon, onion rings, BBQ sauce, £8.95 and my mate had a New Yorker – Beef patty, salami, Monterey Jack cheese, pickles, £8.45.

We sat, relaxed and chatted in the lovely atmosphere and THIS is what was brought out to us!

That's not a burger it's a mountain!!

The burgers were moist and cooked to medium and the toppings were fresh (although my onion rings were a bit pedestrian).  The fries were fry-ey and we were pretty happy with our lot – especially at OUR price.

There was a fab atmosphere, the food was nice enough, but I’m not sure I’d pay full whack for what is essentially just a burger.  I’d definitely go for cocktails and they do have offers on the burgers frequently, so I’d have them then 🙂

reasons to be cheerful – part 10

Essensuals in Camden

OK – so this is the last one (for now!).

Good customer service.

I mentioned before about the fantastic customer service I think I got from Amazon, when replacing my slightly damaged Kindle.

Well, last night, I went to get my hair cut.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it really is a big deal to me.

I last got my hair cut about 16 months ago.  yes, really.  and it was about the same length of time before that.  There are many things I hate about going to the hairdressers.  (a) People touching me  (b) Not knowing where to look  (c)  Hairdressers that don’t talk to you, that makes you feel uncomfortable  (d)  Hairdressers that talk to you a lot, and ask you loads of questions.

I also have extremely wild hair that refuses to do what it is told.  This has been aggravated over recent years, because I have hypothyroidism, and a trait of that (because, yes, I do still forget to take my pills half the time) is the fact that my hair is thinning on top.  I always have to explain this to them, because it does make a lot of difference as to how they view my hair.

So, I popped along to Essensuals in Camden (they’re a Toni & Guy run branch now) and was dreading it as I usually do.  However, even from the moment I walked in, the girls seemed very friendly and relaxed.  The stylist I had (Aaron) is VERY good with curly hair (and yes, he really was), and he was also just the right blend of smiley and friendly without talking loads – and he really listened to what I told him!

Even better, the girl that washed my hair said to me “So, you’ve not been working today then?” and I told her I had, but I only work in the next road along, and she said “Oh great – so you’ve got your discount then?” which I knew nothing about.  Apparently people who work locally get 15% off! bargain!  And once I’d finished, she had already gone and taken it off of my bill – and let me know that she had!

Now SHE gets my non-existent Customer Service award for February 🙂

york and albany, camden

The York & Albany restaurant area

For Christmas , me and a couple of my mates decided that we wouldn’t buy each other presents, but go our for a nice meal in January.  So, we chose to go to York & Albany, as none of us had been, and we’d heard good things about it.

It was a good chance to take advantage of their ‘Early Supper’ menu too – which is available 6-7pm and is £18 for 2 courses or £21 for 3.  I thought it was a pretty good deal, considering.

I only realised afterwards that both of my mates chose exactly the same three courses, whereas I had something completely different!

I had:
Chicken liver and foie gras parfait, quince chutney
Parmesan gnocchi, field mushrooms cream, truffle butter sauce
Vanilla cream, rhubarb infused with gin and juniper, ginger ice-cream

They had:
Smoked haddock and horseradish scotch eggs, tartare sauce
Braised pigs cheeks, confit shoulder, kohlrabi purée, red wine shallots
Dark chocolate ganache, caramelised bananas, honeycomb

My starter was absolutely gorgeous – the chicken liver & foie gras parfait was rich but light and the quice chutney was beautifully spiced and a perfect accompaniment.  Gnocchi is one of those things that when it os done right, it is a thing of beauty, but when it’s wrong, it’s just bearable.  This was luckily the former, with a selection of different mushrooms, and a sauce of some sort that I couldn’t really place but was totally yummy.  And my dessert was fresh, the vanilla cream a perfect boob-wobble, the rhubarb sharp but not bitter and the ginger ice-cream to die for!

In contrast, one of my mates complained that while his starter was yummy, it was rather on the small side, his main wa snice, but both of them needed to order a side (tenderstem broccoli with orange and honeyed parsnips – the parsnips were gorgeous!), which added to the bill, and that the dessert was disappointing – it was literally a quinelle of chocolate ganache, bananas and honeycomb.  The ganache was REALLY rich.  The honeycomb was yummy!  He felt that considering it’s a ‘Ramsay’, it didn’t seem anything that special.

I, however, had a lovely time and thought it was well worth it 🙂  I loved the atmosphere – it was pleasant without being pretentious, and the service was impeccable without being over-bearing.  I thoroughly recommend it!

totally chugged

Chugger = "charity mugger"

I was out taking photos of charity shops around Camden earlier (as you do!) and I (ironically) walked past a couple of Save the Children chuggers.

The first one came up to me and I just said “No thanks” and he went away.  all well and good, so I just had to get past the second one.

He stood right in front of me, looking me straight in the eye and smiling.  Obviously it helped that he was pretty cute.

Chugger:  Can I have a moment of your time?
Me:  No, I give to enough charities thanks…and always in my own time!
Chugger:  Do you know about Save the Children
Me:  I know a LOT about Save the Children thank you
Chugger:  How about a hug then?  That’s free!
Me:  Oh, OK then.

And yes.  I did.  I hugged the chugger.  And it did indeed make me smile, and gave me a little warm feeling without needing to give to charity.

He totally put the ‘hug’ into ‘chugger’.

caponata, camden

We were out the back, living wall on the left!

Today, one of the girls at work left after 8 years with the company.  I’ve mentioned before that we’re only a tiny company, so it’s quite a big deal.

Her husband has been quite ill, and had to stop working, and so they have decided to go and live out in Ibiza where they spend a lot of time and have an apartment anyway – so she was still really upset to be leaving, as she’s put everything into her role for years.

Anyway, our Directors said they;d take us all out for lunch, and it was down to me to find somewhere suitable in Camden.  First choice was York & Albany, simply because it sounds good to have gone to a Ramsey for your leaving do (and she’d like that), but they were fully booked, so I had the chance to suggest a restaurant I have heard nothing but good things about – Caponata.

We were out in the courtyard, which has a glass roof and a ‘living wall’ of plants.  A gorgeous space – you’d never know you were just off of Camden High Street.

I didn’t get the chance to take pics (as there were so many of us), but we all had three courses (from the wonderful set menu – £21 or £15 for two courses), and there was only one person who wasn’t too keen on one of their courses (she felt her pasta dish was slightly too dry).

I had the barley ‘risotto’ with spring veg and parmesan (gorgeous and light but creamy), followed by the rump of lamb (cooked to perfection) with artichoke and a rosemary sauce, and then tiramisu which came in a ‘wall’ of thin, crisp chocolate with a little chocolate lid and a pot of espresso served with it, so you could add as much as you like.  I’m so glad I skipped breakfast – and I’m not having any dinner.

Lots of people had fish of various types (mackerel, sardines, sea bass, skate, sea bream) and they all said it was fantastic.  Make sure you check out their menu if you’re ever near Camden.

They do jazz and other live music on various nights, and so I will definitely be going again!  Can’t wait!!

sometime…it’s for your spirit and your mind

Sound of de Groove Armada, we're SUPERSTYLIN'!!

Groove Armada are my absolute favouritest band, and have been for many many years.  I love the way that all of their records sound so different.  I love the way that they have so many different ‘guest artists’ to sing on their tracks, which gives them such a different feel.  I love MC MAD who sings Superstylin’ (and also my favourite EVER GA track Madder, which is never ever played – apart from almost every week in my flat!).  I love the way they just seem to keep getting stronger and stronger.  And most of all, I love the way that their live shows are absolutely amazing.  They have presence that you wouldn’t expect from a dance/techno duo.  The light shows are fantastic, and they PLAY instruments (not twiddle knobs) – and OMG do they know how to play their crowd!

So – even though I saw them at the Coronet back in October introducing some of the stuff from their new album Black Light, I of course HAD to go and see them at The Forum on Wednesday for the album launch.  And it was brilliant.  From the intro medley and SaintSaviour’s brilliant vocals and entrancing movements on Look Me In The Eye Sister to the triple-climaxing of Superstylin’ that NEVER fails to get everyone jumping.

And yes, I jumped, I bopped, I swayed.  I could barely walk home afterwards and thought I’d given my leg a setback I wouldn’t recover from.  But in the morning it was fine.  Phew!  I’ve even chucked away my stick (well, metaphorically – it’s actually on the floor next to my desk!).

So, a fantastic gig, a fantastic night (preceded by a brilliant Ethiopian meal with my mate), and the gig has received rave reviews.  This will be the first year GA aren’t playing Lovebox, which depressed me when I found out before they headlined last year, but I’ve already managed to see them twice since then – so all is good.

If you love dance music, make sure you get to see Groove Armada!  Black Light is fantastic!

bang to rights?

Drunk and disorderly perhaps?

For the past 3 weeks, I have walked past this little Christmas tree on my way into work every day.

It makes me feel a bit sad, to be honest.

It looks like it has been locked up for drinking a couple of cans of lager (bottom left of the photo), and has drunkenly slumped against the wall, no longer able to stand up straight.

It’s slowly fading too, its vibrant green has dulled dramatically – although it’s obviously a non-drop as there are barely any needles on the floor.  Which is more than you can say for a lot of doorways in Camden!

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