At last, I am able to bring you some travel photos. I did a lot of travelling in 2017, particularly to the Netherlands, including two trips to Rotterdam. It is NL’s second largest city and Europe’s biggest port.
Rotterdam was bombed very badly in WW2. Consequently, there are lots of sculptures and pieces of public art which memorialise that event.
You sometimes see red lights in the ground and these mark the exact spots where bombs fell during the war.
The war also explains Rotterdam’s famous abundance of modern architecture and even its wide roads which were once canals. Before that, Rotterdam would have looked more like Amsterdam.
A mix of modern and historic architecture exactly captures the appearance of Rotterdam.
It’s easy to find the cool district of Rotterdam, simply go to the self-titled Cool District (this is such a practical, Dutch thing to do). It has shopping, art, bars & restaurants etc.
Cool District Shopping
Check out the animatronic penguins at the Xmas shop.
This is a very fashionable contemporary art museum. I was there in August and there was an exhibition about the relationship between hip hop, minority groups and architecture in Rotterdam. I’m now a particular fan of Dutch artist Navin Thakoer, aka Nafer Loves You.
An impressive, if oddly-curated, collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present.
Markthalis a spectacular achievement of design and architecture in the Cool District and the place to go for foodie snacks and speciality items to take home. There’s also an Albert Heijn supermarket directly downstairs for more everyday groceries.
More Food & Drink
The Fenix Food Factory is a great place for an evening meal and has interesting independent shops, selling food, a huge range of beers and ciders and also books. It is in a converted warehouse in what was once the red light district.
It’s New Year’s Day already and that means it’s time to do our annual Year In Review. At this time last year I had almost completely freed myself from a terrible, punishing job at the World’s Worst Company – I was almost at the end of my contract, slogging through the last of a huge pile of paperwork and looking forward to being formally released mid-January. I was in love with a Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with during the second half of 2015 and much of 2016 but by the time 2017 materialised it seemed to be really over, at last, and I formed a new and more worthwhile relationship with my Playstation that I had for Christmas.
By the end of 2017 I had visited 5 countries and set up home with someone new, in my first serious relationship since this blog began.
January arrived, as it is wont to do. I handed back my keys at the World’s Worst Company, left the building and returned to full-time self-employment. This was definitely the high point of the month. I was in terrible physical shape due to being overworked for a long time but I was optimistic for the year ahead. I joined a local community choir, to give my lungs some exercise and to provide an opportunity to keep dressing up in outrageous, huge-skirted, 1950s frocks, a habit I formed during the last few months of going to work. Check out this little number, it has dinosaurs, which turned out to be rather a theme for January.
I went to the British Museum again, to look at John Dee’s crystal ball. Dee was a 16th-century mystic who advised Elizabeth I. Then I went a third time, to see the South Africa exhibition, which was amazing. I felt relatively well-informed about South Africa, having visited in 2016 and learned as much as possible about its history while I was there.
I went to an exhibition of board games at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London, which is an extension of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In February I conceived the idea of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, an organised programme of console gaming, in which I lined up a total of 14 console games to be played at a rate of one a month. This programme continued well for the first three quarters of the year. Game of the Month for February was ARK: Survival Evolved, which was awesome and turned out to be my favourite game of 2017. I will definitely return to it. I will do a separate post about my 2018 plans for gaming.
I went to the gym and caught two colds, which was so predictable. At least I was trying.
I continued to be excited about music and went to hear the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Stravinsky’s Firebird. The below clip shows Stravinsky conducting the last three scenes of The Firebird himself, it was recorded in 1960.
The story of The Firebird comes from Slavic folklore, a theme which held my attention for the rest of the month while I was reading The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden.
I fulfilled a lifetime ambition by seeing the wonderful Marc Almond perform live in Camden.
Dress of the month was this turquoise Ophelia by LindyBop.
Game of the Month of was God of War III: Remastered.
My interested in classical music continued in April and I went to Royal Festival Hall yet again to hear Mahler 5. I’d been in hospital with cellulitis, having had a run of bad health for about three months, and they let me out just in time to go to the concert.
I also went to the Royal Opera House to see a performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The production took my breath away with its scale and beauty and I cried at the end. 10/10, would go again.
Then my interest turned from opera to ballet and I went to see George Ballanchine’s 20th-century ballet Jewels, performed by the Royal Ballet. It was glittering, as one might expect.
Game of the Month was Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
A fabulous month. There was more opera and ballet. I went on holiday to Spain and France. I fell in love twice, latterly with Harry, who was about to change my life by becoming my first serious partner in several years and moving in with me before the year was over.
Opera of the month was Mozart’s Magic Flute. I enjoyed it so much, I saw it twice. It was performed by the Charles Court company in the back of a pub in London’s Islington. The second time, I was with Harry and it was our second date.
Ballet of the month was Casanova, a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, performed by the Northern Ballet Company.
I went on holiday to Spain, where there was a resort and a beach, then I went to Paris, where there was wine.
Game of the Month was Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. It was glorious and I particularly enjoyed sailing ships and fighting at sea.
There were terrorist attacks in London and Londoners were annoyed. I went to the historic Black Friar pub in London, which was built in 1875 and has stained glass windows.
Then we had still another date and went to London’s Kew Gardens. The summer weather was beautiful, we had weeks of sunshine, not to be underestimated in the UK.
Dress of the month: Nadia, by LindyBop, in a nice guitar print.
I cleaned my house magnificently because of being in love. I had new, matching tableware from Portmeirion, the first of two sets this year.
Game of the Month was Red Dead Redemption.
July saw two things happen: Harry started cooking at my house, revealing fantastic cooking skills, and I went on a health kick. I purchased a Nutribullet, made smoothies twice a day and started doing a lot of exercise. I felt v healthy and only stopped with the hours of punishing cardio because my hair was falling out (I am not good at doing things in moderation).
There were some nice walks on Hampstead Heath.
We had an interesting meal at the Carousel restaurant at Tate Modern, including green matcha cake.
The restaurant has this view across the Thames. That’s St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side.
While we were at Tate, we also went to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (and finally blogged about it in September).
George Romero died and I wept.
Game of the Month was Battlefield 1.
My business life heated up. I had to blog far less and do less video gaming but I travelled more. In August I went to Rotterdam, Den Bosch and had my 51st birthday in Amsterdam. This is the point where I suddenly had a lot of photos and no time to post them, so you are still waiting for pictures of all these destinations. Here are some teasers.
Harry and I managed to squeeze in a date at London’s Camden Lock.
Game of the Month was Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Work was in full swing. By this point I was right in the middle of the busiest four months of 2017. There were no more fun dates around London or outdoor exercise sessions. I just worked and focused on meeting deadlines. I don’t even have any photos from that whole month.
Harry was supportive while I got all my work done.
Game of the Month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, arguably the greatest of the GTA series.
This turned out to be the last month of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming that I could fit into my diary. We are reviving the programme this January.
We celebrated the blog’s 7th birthday.
I went to Rotterdam again. Here are a couple more teaser photos. I’ll do detailed travel photo posts in due course.
I then went to India. Managed to get this quite nice snap out of the window on the plane.
Spent a few days in Bangalore.
Managed to carve out a very small amount of time to see some art, of which more later.
Finished working in India, went straight to Orange County in California.
Really nice weather, was like a British summer.
Back in London, Harry and I went shopping at The Japan Centre to celebrate his birthday.
Continued to work at a breakneck pace during the first half the month, then gradually began to slow down long enough to do a few Xmas things.
Harry and I went to see The Nutcracker performed by the English National Ballet.
Then, quite suddenly and very near the end of December, I finished work for real, cleaned my house, visited some relatives and settled in for a slightly delayed Christmas Day in London with Harry.
And that was 2017. I wish everybody a very happy and prosperous year to come. I wanted to say that before hitting publish last night but someone was very keen for me to get off my PC and come to bed. Anyway, happy new year.
Harry made an amazing Xmas breakfast with lemon goujons and salmon.
As you can see, I have my longed-for Holly & Ivy tableware – there was a 50% off sale at Portmeirion before Xmas, so I bought just enough china for two place settings. It looks so pretty and makes me so happy.
Then Harry cooked again and made Xmas dinner with roast chicken, Yorkshire puddings, vegetables, pigs in blankets and the best cauliflower cheese I’ve ever tasted. He made the cheese sauce from scratch and it had loads of cheese in it.
I made cocktails. The ingredients are white rum, Baileys, coffee, ice cream (vanilla or chocolate), whipped cream, fudge sauce and raspberries. You can also include chocolate milk if you have any.
Harry had a chess set for Xmas – actually, he bought the pieces himself and I supplied the board, which is made of inlaid wood and is very large and heavy. The pieces are models of the Lewis Chessmen which were probably made in the 12th century and which are in the British Museum.
My breath was taken away by Harry’s present to me, he got me a glockenspiel. I love xylophones, vibraphones and all that family of instruments, yet have never owned so much as a chime bar, so I was bowled over to receive an actual glockenspiel. I love it and I don’t think it will be too hard to learn how to play.
The glockenspiel has a rather magical sound, like tinkling bells, and plays a part in Mozart’s Magic Flute, which is ‘our’ opera because we went to it on our second date. Here’s the glockenspiel scene, it is an excerpt from a 1971 production of The Magic Flute by the Hamburg State Opera.
So that was Christmas chez Gloria. We had Boxing Day today and tonight’s dinner is slices of turkey with broccoli and roast potatoes, cooked (okay, heated up) by me. I feel like we are now caught up with the rest of the world and are all ready for New Year’s Eve tomorrow. We are planning to make a cheese fondue and I cannot wait.
Merry Christmas, readers. I hope you had or are having a wonderful break.
Been to the supermarket for the remaining ingredients for Xmas dinner
I may have over-compensated with Xmas food as the fridge is rather full and there is a large chocolate cake that I think we will struggle to finish. Tomorrow we are going to roast a chicken because Harry is around to help me cook – in previous years I’ve been content with pre-cooked slices. There is chicken gravy and all the veg and stuffing. Pudding will be a choice of traditional Christmas pudding or else there’s a pumpkin spice sponge pudding, both with custard. We have wine.
I remembered to get ice for cocktails and we have this year’s Christmas flowers too, there were still a few bunches left in the supermarket. I’ll post a picture of the flowers tomorrow, in daylight.
Things I still need to do (quickly!):
Clean the small bathroom
Put a table cloth and flowers on the dining table
Weave in the ends on this scarf and wrap it up
Have a shower and make myself more presentable
In the supermarket, there were heavily-discounted gift wrap and tags so I bought a couple for next year.
I was passing through King’s Cross between business meetings, and happened across the Real Food Market.
Bread, cheese and cheesy bread formed the basis of a couple of delicious meals with Harry. I was completely enchanted by the doughnuts and bought several, which I then realised I could not sanely eat, as I am already the size of Mariah Carey and I am supposed to be trying to look attractive for my new boyfriend, albeit not in a spangly leotard, so I took them downstairs to my neighbours.
Here’s a link to the official website. Recommended if you are in the neighbourhood.
Dear old Mariah. Here she is, in fine voice in 1990. I didn’t listen to this kind of music back in the day, I wanted Biggie Smalls, Snoop and Ice Cube, but in retrospect I can appreciate what a great voice she had and that she was only about 20 or 21 at the time of this recording.
Apparently she has a new single out tomorrow.
Mariah Carey: Vision of Love (1990)
I have been travelling and there will be more food and travel news soon.
Food is a huge part of my life since I met Harry. We eat out. We cook at home and try out recipes. He is a good cook and is encouraging me and giving me confidence. This afternoon, I cooked and he wasn’t even there. You don’t see that happen too often outside of Xmas.
At work, I am learning about Holland so I had a go at making Stamppot, which is a Dutch dish. Stamppot roughly translates as ‘pot of mashed vegetables’. Here’s my amateurish cooking. The results were quite good and I even put some in plastic tubs in the freezer for later consumption. I felt very domesticated and quite victorious, even though I made plenty of mistakes and cooking has never been my strong point.
The essence of a stamppot recipe is this: get some root vegetables, eg potatoes, boil and mash them; get some green, leafy vegetables, eg kale, boil and stir into the mash; stir in fried onion and bacon pieces. Season and serve with pieces of smoked sausage.
Here’s my amateurish version that I did today, with extra bacon instead of sausage.
Realised that I needed to use up a bunch of interesting-looking vegetables from the farmer’s market, including these carrots.
Chopped up a potato. Chopped up a red onion. Vaguely fried everything in butter in the saucepan for a while, with no clear idea of what I was doing, then developed a sense of purpose and transferred the onions to a frying pan. Left the carrots and potatoes in the saucepan for boiling.
Looked around for more of the market vegetables to throw in the boiling pan. Cauliflower. Red cabbage.
Chopped up another onion and fried with some bacon pieces and too much oil. I always use too much grease and have much to learn about frying.
Don’t forget to boil some kale. Later realised I should have put the cabbage in with the kale, note for next time.
Make sure everything’s cooked.
Mash the potato (cauliflower, carrots, etc), add milk and seasoning – big spoonful of Dijon mustard gives it a kick. Stir in the leafy veg, bacon and onions. Yum.
I loved everything about this recipe and will definitely make some different versions of it to try out various combinations of ingredients and also to get good at cooking bacon and smoked sausage, a subject of which I know little.
There will be more food posts soon. As I mentioned, it’s a big part of this romantic relationship I’m suddenly having. We are cooking and eating while getting to know each other. I’m quite fat but that’s not really Harry’s fault and is mainly because I secretly eat cake when he’s not around.
Gloria Startover achieves some life goals, chats about dating, travel, art & gaming, plays some righteous reggae & hip-hop.