WELCOMING 2017: Ilford’s Ashgrove restaurant launches NYE night

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Ilford, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH

 

 

Popular Ilford based Indian gastropub the Ashgrove Restaurant has formally announced a special New Year’s Eve night to welcome in 2017 for local partygoers to come and enjoy great music and traditional and contemporary Punjabi, Indian continental and Chinese fare, great music and visual entertainments.

The restaurant, a short walking distance from Seven Kings town centre, will have music entertainment on the night provided by DJ Kash of local outfit Kash Events, which provides party and other event planning services as well as boasting a wide music portfolio from the Bollywood, bhangra, RNB and ‘club classics’. The NYE event is currently being promoted on the restaurant’s social media page where they promise it will be an ‘amazing evening’. A finger food buffet will also be available.

Located on Green Lane, Ashgrove, which was formerly a public house, is renowned locally for its dishes, including chilli paneer (Indian cheese), lamb and chicken grills, kebabs and snacks – including vegetarian, coupled with a well-stocked bar. The restaurant is popular with local sports fans who flock to watch football matches on its many widescreen televisions. It also boasts a beer garden to round off its unique ability to combine a traditional English pub with a modern Indian restaurant.

The event will be held on 31st December 2016, with tickets costing £25 for adults and £10 for children under 12, with buffet included. People interested in attending should call +44 208 599 4181 or email info@ashgroverestaurant.co.uk. The Ashgrove Restaurant is situated at 271 Green Lane, Ilford, Redbridge, Essex, United Kingdom IG3 9TN.

 

SOURCES:
Ashgrove Restaurant, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/ashgroverestaurant/
Kash Events, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/KashEvents/
KASH EVENTS http://kashevents.co.uk/
“About” – Ashgrove Restaurant, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/pg/ashgroverestaurant/about/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“The Host” – SteFou! (Stephen Oung), Flickr (13 September 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen-oung/6268131892

HUMOUR MOMENT: Don’t do drugs, do dhal puri

 

 

Drugs are horrible substances. Whether legal or illegal, recreational narcotics usually cause harm to the body, damaging the user from the inside and out. So instead of sniffing that line or hitting that pipe, why not tuck into some Mauritian-style dhal puri instead. You’ll look a million rupees, and you won’t have to worry about the police pulling you over and busting you for illicit dhal puri possession.

For those who have never encountered the awesomeness that is dhal puri, let me explain. This is a snack popular on the island of Mauritius and an unforgettable part of my island’s culinary landscape. It is unleavened bread (rather like a chapati or thick tortilla) filled with lentils and spices, and often consumed as street food. Also known as ‘dhol/dhall puri’, this food goes great with a dollop of ‘zasar’ (pickle).

IMAGE CREDITS:
Fano Miasta.
Radio Plus – Mauritius/Ile-Maurice, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/groups/radioplusilemaurice/

VIDEO MOMENT: The Choco Kebab

 

Like most young British men (and women), I am very fond of kebabs, the Turkish, Greek and Central Asian fast food delicacy of meat and vegetables in a bread pocket. Since the doner kebab and its equally delicious siblings began appearing on the high streets here in the 1970s, the food has become a staple of pub crawls, family get-togethers and football matches.

So, when I was shown this video by my sister yesterday, which is usually kebab night for me, I just had to share this with you as a kebab fan. I’m also a chocaholic, so when this video began playing, I was shocked and pleased in equal measure that two of my greatest culinary loves had been fused into one delicious, mouth-watering and calorie-saturated snack.

Give a big round of applause to the Choco Kebab. Hailing from Italy, which has a large Afghan and Turkish populations famed for their greasy meat in rolls, this kebab replaces the spinning cylinder of processed lamb or chicken with one of white and milk chocolate. The cook shears off curls of chocolate with a special implement and packs them into a crepe, rather than the usual pitta or naan. The accompanying mayonnaise, chill sauce and ketchup is replaced with Nutella, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and other sweet treats.

This unique kebab is sold around the world, according to the video above, but I have never encountered anyone selling it here, and I live in London, one of the most adventurous cities for food in Europe. I’m now tempted to buy a van, empty the local stores of all their chocolate and party snacks, and become the richest chocolate kebab entrepreneur this side of the Adriatic.

Let me know what you think of this latest food trend.

VIDEO CREDITS:
INSIDER, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/thisisinsider/?fref=nf
Alia Hellz Bachell.

GLUTEN-FREE DIETS: Gluten Free Centre launches new mobile app for foodies

For people who have gluten intolerances or wish to have gluten-free diets, finding the right foods when out and about can be a minefield. With many restaurants and hotels not even aware of the existence of these intolerances and gluten-free diets, diners and travellers avoiding gluten can find themselves in awkward situations. However a new mobile phone app from the Gluten Free Centre promises to change all that.

The Gluten Free Centre – the United Kingdom’s most comprehensive online directory and community hub of for all things gluten free – has launched a new app that will help those living a gluten-free life find hotels, restaurants and stores that cater to them and stock food products without gluten. To promote all kinds of businesses supplying the gluten-free market, the GFC app will feature independent shops and hotels as well as big chains.

The app is designed to help anyone live a gluten-free life and locate their nearest businesses that can cater for their needs. Completely free of charge, the app will be launched officially at the The Gluten Free Centre’s corporate stand at The Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia, London from Friday July 3 to Sunday July 5, 2015. The app will be launched by GFC founders Diana and David Murphy.

(c) The Gluten Free Centre via Journalism.co.uk

 

Of the app, Diana said “We’re very proud of the new Gluten Free Centre app which will help our fast growing gluten free audience to access important information on the go.

“Users can choose from thousands of gluten-free friendly places to eat out, stay, shop or get a take away.

“What makes our app different is we include small, independent restaurants and hotels alongside the most popular chains.

“We’re selective about the places we add to our database – only the ones offering real choice, quality and understanding of gluten-free food are included.”

Based in the small town of Brinkworth, in the English county of Wiltshire, the Murphys launched the GFC in October 2014, based on their vision of creating a comprehensive and useful resource for people on gluten-free diets to find shops, eateries and businesses that place a high emphasis on their needs and requirements, as well as a supportive online community for everyone living gluten free in the UK.

The GFC’s website, along with its highly-acclaimed directory, the first of its kind in the British Isles, also offers fun gluten-free recipes, a blog and details on gluten-free events and competitions. The site aims to provide a wealth of information for for those with coeliac disease, wheat allergy, gluten intolerance and for people eating a gluten free diet for other health reasons such as Crohn’s Disease, MS, IBS or ASD – in addition to those who choose a gluten free diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. They also aim to bring together businesses, consumers, gluten-free organisations, experts and bloggers into a supportive and informative community, while also raising awareness of coeliac diseases and other intolerances affected by gluten, which is often found in wheat-based products such as bread and breakfast cereals.

The GFC community now stretches to 22,000 members and fans on Facebook alone. Its website receives 10,000 visitors per month and its free e-magazine reaches the inboxes of 6,000 readers across the UK. According to its website, the Gluten Free Centre has been featured in numerous glossy and women’s magazines and several regional newspapers and is a recipient of the SBS (Small Business Sunday) Award for new entrepreneurs by the BBC’s Dragon’s Den judge Theo Paphitis.

About 1 per cent of the UK’s population suffers from coeliac disease in particular, according to statistics from the Kantar Worldpanel, but increasing numbers of people are cutting gluten out of their diets for health reasons. Kantar claims that in 2013, 49% of gluten free customers were new to the category. Currently 55 per cent of the British gluten-free market is made up of people opting out of gluten for health reasons.

The app is available to download from the Google Play store (for Android devices – http://bit.ly/1SJDfdX ) and from the iTunes App Store.

SOURCES:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
“The Gluten Free Centre” – The Gluten Free Centre/The Gluten Free Centre Ltd http://theglutenfreecentre.co.uk/
“UK FREEFROM MARKET” – Incredible Bakery Company/incredibleshop http://www.incrediblebakerycompany.co.uk/uk-freefrom-market/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

GIF MOMENT: Easter bunny praises spinach diet

Well, as it is the Easter weekend, I’d thought to share with you this GIF spotted on my regular current affairs haunt, the UK tabloid newspaper Metro.

It’s a cuddly rabbit.

That really loves her spinach.

She’s definitely bought into the benefits of a diet of fresh organic greens.

Strangely mesmerising too.

Om nom nom.

HAPPY EASTER!!!

(c) Metro
Dedicated to the memory of Ruby and her children Rab and Bit. RIP.
IMAGE CREDIT:
“Two helpings of spinach a day can knock 11 years off you” – Alison Lynch, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (1 April 2015) http://metro.co.uk/2015/04/01/two-helpings-of-spinach-a-day-can-knock-11-years-off-you-5130024/

TESCO CUSTARD CREAM SPREAD: A new take on a nation’s favourite biscuit

The humble custard cream biscuit is a much-loved institution for teatime in the U.K. Consisting simply of a vanilla custard flavoured filling sandwiched between two elaborately-decorated oblong biscuits, the custard cream has long been loved for its wholesome flavour and its duplicity in eating methods. Many just simply take a bite out of the biscuits while a significant minority will separate the biscuits in half and lick off the filling. The custard cream biscuit also lends itself superbly to that other British teatime institution – being dunked in a cup of tea or milk.

Supermarket retailer Tesco has decided to make its own take on these homely custard delights by launching its own custard cream spread based on the filling. A single jar contains 400 grams of the sweet custardy goodness and is being retailed for the price of £1.99, according to Tesco’s website. The main ingredients of the product if you are curious are custard cream biscuits (37%), rapeseed oil, sugar, palm oil, natural vanilla flavouring, and hazelnuts. Various media outlets have already hailed the spread as a revolutionary change for the average British lunchtime.

The new product, which comes in a peanut butter style jar, has a yellow plastic lid and carries a label emblazoned with the Tesco logo on a background of the highly ornate face of a custard cream biscuit. It has already become a huge hit with the store’s customers and also has practically blown up the internet as well, with popular news feed site Buzzfeed describing the spread as “a revolution in biscuits”. The spread understandably makes a good filling for custard cream biscuits, but Twitter users have reportedly used it to stick together two Digestives too, while one particularly adventurous person added porridge oats to the jar to make a custard cream oatmeal breakfast. It has also been seen in currant buns and in bagels. It also looks like it would make a good filling for sandwiches or a dip for other kinds of biscuits as well, if Twitter is anything to go by. 

Not everyone has been so enthusiastic about the spread. Some has criticised the spread’s nutritional value and its soft consistency, while one critic claimed that the supermarket chain was trying to imitate the United States. Another described it as “all kinds of wrong”, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Tesco have also launched other spreads in its British biscuits series, including a chocolate flavoured version replicating the inviting taste of the Bourbon biscuit, which is similar to custard creams but in an entirely chocolaty format. However apparently this spread has not been as popular. You can also buy one that tastes of chocolate chip cookies or Oreos. Basic chocolate spreads made for use in sandwiches have been long established in the UK, with Nestle and Cadbury’s being leaders in the field. The Italian hazelnut concoction Nutella, manufactured by Ferrero SpA, also enjoys cult popularity among British shoppers, but Tesco are the first food manufacturer to market a spread directly influenced by the U.K.’s culinary traditions.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Tesco Is Selling Custard Cream Biscuit Spread And Life Will Never Be The Same” – Patrick Smith, Buzzfeed/BuzzFeed, Inc (31 October 2014) http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/custard-cream-biscuit-spread?bffb&utm_term=4ldqphz&utm_content=buffer219a7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#4ldqphz
“Tesco Custard Cream Spread 400G” – Tesco http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=284754252
“Is Tesco’s new custard cream biscuit spread genius or madness?” – Leah Hyslop, The Telegraph – Home – Food and Drink – Food and Drink News/Telegraph Media Group Limited (31 October 2014) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/11201987/Is-Tescos-new-custard-cream-biscuit-spread-genius-or-madness.html
“New Tesco Custard Cream Biscuit Spread” –  Katherine GG, Grocery Gems (5 September 2014) http://grocerygems.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/new-tesco-custard-cream-biscuit-spread.html
IMAGE CREDIT/TWEET:
BuzzFeed UK, Twitter/Twitter Inc. (31 October 2014) https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedUK

HUMOUR MOMENT: A cheesy joke from the Co-Operative

(c) The Co-Operative Food

 

Q. What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

A. Nacho Cheese!

This Saturday’s Humour Moment is dedicated to the cheesy joke. These are the sort of mildly hilarious jokes that make you titter and groan in equal measure. Humour-wise they smell worse than an entire overturned lorry of Stinking Bishop fromage on the North Circular, but are incredibly useful for entertaining the little ones as they grapple with their Cheestrings, Babybels and Dairylea Lunchables.

This picture was originally published by the Co-operative group of companies from the U.K. The Co-operative Group is an ethical company that is involved in various services such as funeral care, insurance, banking and retail. It was shared on the Twitter account of the Co-operative’s Food division which runs a chain of low-cost supermarkets in Britain. The Co-Operative Food are running a competition for ‘Tell A Joke Day’ where customers are invited to contribute their own food-related jokes, with the best ‘culinary comedian’ receiving a voucher entitling them to a discount on their groceries. Employees and shoppers often affectionately call the institution the ‘Co-Op’ for short, and their supermarkets are a well-loved and long-established face on the British high street. I used to live in Forest Gate (east London) for two years and our nearest supermarket was a Somerfield branch in Woodgrange Road. The Co-Op bought the Somerfield chain in around 2009, and the Somerfield stores took on the conglomerate’s branding and shopfront design. I always found their food to be cheap and usually of high quality although there was not much choice in the Woodgrange store, due to its smaller than average size. I began following their Twitter account a year after I moved out of Forest Gate for nostalgic reasons.

While not the biggest fan of cheesy jokes, I would rarely say no to a warm bowl filled to the brim with cheesy nachos drizzled with salsa and herby sauce. When I was working at my old office in Victoria, central London, a group of us colleagues would visit a local pub, the Witton Arms, where we would share our company with a complimentary bowl of nachos infused with melted cheddar, salsa and chopped jalapenos. I relished these nachos, as the softness and creamy taste of the melted cheese was an intriguing contrast with the crunchy texture of the crisps. The salsa helped to give a Mexican taste sensation with its spicy tomato aroma contrasting the more subdued flavours of the cheesy nachos. The nachos were high in demand as the beers made us hungry and were a good conversation starter as well as a food starter – although thankfully not the inspiration for any dodgy jokes. I haven’t yet tried to make this delicious, yet simple Mexican dish at home, but I can tell you this sort of snack would be ideal for any party, especially birthdays and informal get-togethers. Goes great with movie nights too, so you can give the popcorn and microwave a rest.

Here’s a bunch of more incredibly lame cheese themed jokes that will melt your mind….:

Q: What happened after an explosion at a French cheese factory?

A: All that was left was de brie.

Q: What do you call cheese that is sad?

A: Blue cheese.

Q: How do you get a mouse to smile?

A: Say cheese! 

Q: Which genre of music appeals to most cheeses?

A: R’n’Brie

Q: When should you go on a cheese diet?

A: If you need to cheddar a few pounds

Q: What is a cannibal’s favourite cheese?

A: Limburger

Q: Which is the most religious cheese?

A: Swiss, because it is holy.

Q: What hotel do mice stay in ?

A: The Stilton

Q: What did the Cheese salesman say?

A: That cheese may be Gouda, but this one is Feta!

Q: What group of cheese has been known to fly?

A: Curds of prey! 

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter https://twitter.com/VShah1984
“Cheese Jokes” – Jokes4US.com http://www.jokes4us.com/miscellaneousjokes/foodjokes/cheesejokes.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
The Co-operativeFood, Twitter https://twitter.com/CooperativeFood

 

 

MOAF 2014: A photo collection from the Mauritian Open Air Festival

It’s that time of year again.

For the second time and after a two-year gap, the blog editor in his capacity as the official representative of the Half-Eaten Mind took a trip to Down Lane Park, in north London to visit the Mauritian Open Air Festival, the biggest outdoor celebration of Mauritian culture, music and food outside of the island itself. This is my first return visit since 2012, and what can I say, it is even better than back then.

(c) animatedimages.org

While I made my own journey there through London’s tricky weekend commuting lines, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my sisters (Anjali), my Mum, two of my aunts (Aunties Fifi and Fareeda), and my cousins Shaun and Soraya. We first did a tour of the stalls, sampling authentic food from our country, such as dhol puri (flat bread with a filling of lentils and with a curry sauce containing butter beans), napolitaine (cake-like biscuit with a covering of icing, usually pink), pudin vermicel (dry pudding made with vermicelli pasta) and the usual soft drinks, as the temperature was hitting 25 degrees Celsius. The youngers ones went off to get Mauritian flags painted on their cheeks, before my family managed to deftly secure themselves ringside seats near a pair of deafening woofers.

Occupying the stage was local Mauritian talent DJ Vish who played a succession of classic and new sega and soca hits in between acts. We also got to see live performances by Synergy, Belgian rapper Supershane, Mauritian singers and husband-and-wife team Laura Beg and Alain Ramanisum, who are like chalk and cheese in looks and personalities, but actually compliment each other very well in their mission to keep Mauritian musical culture as relevant as ever. Alongside them was Jean-Claude Gaspard. His longevity and back catalogue could easily make him the Mauritian equivalent of James Brown, but with less of the exuberant shouting and booty-shaking. He and Alain spellbound the hundreds-strong crowd with faithful and peppy renditions of the kind of classic songs like ‘Bhai Abou’ that my mother grew up listening to. Other highlights were the gorgeous and very elastic members of the Jalsa des Iles sega dance troupe (a reliable MOAF fixture) and the superbly breathtaking Omaz Sega Band, as well as a meet-and-greet with Mr. and Miss England. All of this plus a funfair amidst the serenity and tranquility of a inner London park. Just like myself, MOAF is a diverse and awe-inspiring amalgamation of the best of England and Mauritius. Well maybe not so much myself.

There were some funny and downright strange moments. The distinctive smell of cannabis wafting through the air at a couple of points, a malfunctioning turntable, unicorn balloons floating off into the stratosphere, crazy family dance-offs, arms stacked to the top with plates of food and a drunken fat concertgoer in a red t-shirt and Switzerland cap who couldn’t help but invade people’s personal space with his inebriated attempts at the sensuality of sega dancing. All this while a drone armed with cameras hovered across the ecstatic flag-waving crowd. It is probably no coincidence that ‘Mauritian’ and ‘madness’ both begin with the same two letters. I kid, I kid!!.

Though I nearly lost my hearing because of standing too close to the speakers, it was a great day to be had. It’s not often that I get chance to really involve myself in Mauritian culture but MOAF is the perfect time to do so. Us Mauritians certainly know how to party. This event is the latest reincarnation in a long tradition of outdoors cultural events for the UK’s Mauritian community, and I would say it is the best such event yet, that really makes me glad to have Mauritian heritage and to be a part of a very unique and positive-minded people and island. Plus you get tonnes of freebies. Everyone loves freebies.

 

To celebrate MOAF and all good things Mauritian, we have brought you exclusive and perfected photos of the event, taken by myself and Anjali and edited/improved using our reliable fixture, the pizap website. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to be at this spectacular festival, this will give you an idea of what it is like to be right there.

 

Nissa la monte!!!

  • The special MOAF flyer and CD of sega songs sent to me via post. This was a free thank you gift for ordering a couple of tickets online for this event.

  • A stylised view of apartment blocks near Tottenham Hale station on my way to Down Lane Park. Tottenham, in north London is home to many Mauritians and is the venue for MOAF every year in August.

  • My lunch – Mauritian style. Dhol puri (like a tortilla stuffed slightly with dried lentils), a can of soft drink and ‘napolitaines’ bought from a stall run by ‘Mauritian Temple’ volunteers.

  • Me and my younger sister waving the four-colour flag proudly.

  • All smiles at MOAF 2014!!

  • Selfie of my sister with my cousin – with obligatory Instagram filter. So sweet these family snaps!

  • What is life without some random Mauritians to rub shoulders with.

  • An infographic explaining the meanings of the colours in the Mauritian flag.

  • We were fortunate to meet one of the guest singers from Mauritius backstage. Jean-Claude Gaspard has been in the industry for decades and is highly respected on the island.

  • Sega dancers from the group “Jalsa des Iles” strutting their stuff on the purpose built stage.

  • Popular modern sega singer Alain Ramanisum speaks to the audience.

  • Mr. Ramanisum was quite the talker and really got the spectators fired up!

  • Laura Beg, romantic chanteuse and dearly beloved of Alain, also got her chance to warm up the audience.

  • Jean-Claude Gaspard – an old-school sega stalwart made two appearances on stage, singing several classic songs beloved of my mum’s and aunts’ generation.

  • Bright and sensual, the swirling dresses and fluid movements of the sega dancers brightened up the stage. All eyes were on their story in motion.

  • Even the singer was an explosion of tropical hues, like a million Hawai’ian flowers had clustered together to lend a burst of riotous colour to his vibrant vocals.

  • The singer owns the stage while young men with the distinctive and hefty Mauritian drum or ‘ravanne’ tap out some percussion beats. The ravanne is a signature instrument in the sega tradition.

  •  He belts out a classic while the accompanying singers take to the ‘catwalk’ promenade of the stage. No, they are not doing zombie impressions!

  • A closer look at the ravanne quartet. The drumming was incredibly intense in that way that Mauritians know how to be.

  • The lead singer from a band, Synergy. He sang soulful English numbers over a Mauri-style backing beat. I remarked to my sister that he did look rather like a Mauritian Bruno Mars. Also reminds me of that unfortunate sergeant from the Police Academy films.

  • Two of the Jalsa dancers in a sort of sega ‘waltz’.

  • A traditional singer with a modern twist.

  • Mr. and Miss. England 2014 also put in an appearance. They had recently visited Mauritius and the Miss even spoke some accented but good French.

  • A wide-view of the attendees at MOAF 2014 looking towards the Ashley Road end of the park. The crowd was several hundred by around 5:00 pm.

The Half-Eaten Mind visited the Mauritian Open Air Festival, in Down Lane Park, Tottenham on the Sunday 3rd August 2014.

 

If you wish to see the pictures from the Mauritian Open Air festival in better and higher resolution, then visit this link to the Mauritian Open Air Festival 2014” album on the Half-Eaten Mind Flickr page.

Further links and info:

IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap www.pizap.com
“Mauritius Flag: Animated Images & Gifs” – animatedimages.org www.animatedimages.org/cat-mauritius-flag-826.htm
…and of course, Vijay and Anjali Shah, siblings and photo-geniuses!

 

FOURTH OF OCTOBER: My special day

By Vijay Shah

(c) Funniest Corner
(c) Funniest Corner

 

You have probably landed on this blog post wondering why I would go to the length of writing an article saying that there is something special about the 4th of October. Well, to most people it is just another day in the calendar. Another long dreary few hours at work, or doing the housework. The usual stress, the usual headaches, the usual ‘life’s got to go on’.  

For me however, the 4th day of the tenth month of the year has a very personal and special importance. It happens to be the day of my birth.

On the 4th of October, 1984 – at around 11:00 am, in the now-closed maternity ward of the Barking Hospital in Essex, I left the sanctuary of my mother’s womb and inhaled my first breath of the chlorine flavoured air in the big bad world.

I do like birthday parties. There is an excitable buzz about getting dressed up/suited and booted, driving down to the party place with some friends and/or family and gorging yourself silly on birthday cake, crisps, snacks, trifle etc. Then there is the inescapable compulsion to dance strangely to that ‘Celebration’ song from the Seventies – which is ubiquitous for birthday bashes here in London.  The alcohol or soft drinks flow freely and the drunken uncles and dads never fail to abysmally outperform each other in the terrible body-popping competitions.

Normally I tend not to make a big deal about my birthday. Mainly because when I was a child, I never had a birthday party really. My father was not bothered about organising a party to celebrate his son’s birth, but then, he never was particularly that bothered about his son. My first celebration was when I turned eight at the women’s refuge where we ended up at. I received with unbridled joy  my first ever birthday presents (unfortunately, I do not remember what they were) and there was a gorgeous sponge cake specially made for me. The other children in the refuge, Upkar and her brother Brahmy, Arjun, and the other women living and working there (Serpil, Narinder, Dipa, Ruby, Gina, Zara etc) alongside my amazing family – helped truly make my eighth year in this life special. By and large, they were wonderful people and I have never forgotten them.

Twenty years later, I am now at the grand old age of 28. This year, 2012, my birthday fell on a Thursday – which was the day I was born on incidentally. I kept it a a low-key affair as one of my family was meant to go into UCL Hospital for a scan because she had very high blood pressure and leg pains. As a result, I was worrying about her a lot, and that worry did dampen the mood significantly.

On the day itself, I was at my day job. As a treat for my team, I picked up a deep rich chocolate cake from the Sainsbury’s beneath our office which set me back just over £5. It had to be one of the richest, tastiest and heaviest cakes I have ever had the fortune to grace my lips. Just layers of thick chocolate buttercream and fondant. The chocolate sponge between those layers must have felt very insignificant. I really enjoyed that cake…the only thing that would have topped it was seeing it baked by Nigella Lawson in a little black dress. That would have made my day right there.

In my office, we have this birth anniversary tradition, where an empty envelope is passed around to everyone at their desks. They put in what spare silver change or pound coins they can spare, and later,  at lunchtime someone is nominated to go out and purchase a small gift or two. Anyone who adds a 1-penny or 2-pence piece is instantly sent into exile or more likely, gains an unsavoury reputation as a ‘cheapskate’. For the girls, the ‘cadeaux du jour’ are usually earrings or other jewellery and bath sets, scarfs sometimes. For the guys, the standard is aftershave sets or clothes. It is really heartwarming to receive little gifts like that from your colleagues. I received a Next Custom Blend No. 1 set of eau de toilette, facial moisturiser and a shampoo/shower gel thang. It was a quality present; elegant in all the right places. The product even self-described as “a custom blend of precious woods, warm amber and aromatic spices”. That will keep any sneaking body odours at bay!

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

Next day, Friday,  was a little get-together at my sister’s place with some mutual friends, brother and brother-in-law. Her Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Zeus, jumpstarted the festive vibe by escaping from his room in the back of my sister’s kitchen. He charged into the living room and devoured a cupcake that had been left out for my niece. Within a minute, little Zeus had ended that cupcake’s existence. My niece was not pleased.

It was a little celebration, with a little chocolate cake complete with traditional candles and Party Poppers exploding everywhere. I also got a dinner treat: my sister’s special homemade chicken & potato curry – the best in the business. I cannot get enough of my sister’s cooking. Her lamb keema curry (‘keema’ is mincemeat) has to be tasted to be believed.  I spent the rest of the evening sitting around with everyone in the kitchen, twitching and getting paranoid because I could see them plotting to surround me and give me ‘birthday beats’.

That is the best thing about birthdays. They are your own unique celebration, a moment that is special and dear to you. The best way to spend them, in my opinion anyway, is in the company of the people who care for you the most – friends and family. It is nice to feel and be the centre of attention, even for a modest, behind-the-scenes fellow like me. It just leaves you with a warm and fuzzy glow inside. Even if your nearest and dearest give you a ribbing – “you’re a granddad now”.

Just to round this limited-edition birthday post on the Half-Eaten Mind here is a list of events that took place on the 4th October 1984:

  • Elena Katina, singer/songwriter from Russia was born on this day as well. She used to be a member of the band T.A.T.U.
  • Also born on this day was the US Major League Baseball player Drew Stubbs. A very productive player, he currently plies his trade with the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Tim Macartney-Snape and his associate Greg Mortimer become the first Australians to climb and reach the summit of Mount Everest/Chomolumgma in the Himalayas.
  • The government of the United States of America closes down due to budgeting problems.
  • “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by US singer Stevie Wonder makes it to the top of the UK pop music charts.
  • Hurricane Polo strikes the coast of Baja California, a peninsula off Mexico’s western coast.
  • The rapist and killer Victor Dewayne Taylor, who slaughtered 2 students from the Trinity High school in Louisville USA, was apprehended by local police after a week-long manhunt. He was sentenced to death two years later.
  • “Sambad”, the largest circulating vernacular newspaper in India’s Orissa state begins trading for the first time. Sambad was the first publication to use offset printing technology and revolutionised the Oriya-language newspaper industry.
  • The Abu Musa organisation, a group of terrorists, detonates a car bomb in the grounds of the Israeli embassy in the Cyprus capital, Nicosia. The building sustains heavy damage, but no fatalities are reported at that time.

 

SOURCES:

“Lena Katina” – Wikipedia LINK

“1984” – Wikipedia LINK

“Today in History for 4th October 1984” – HistoryOrb LINK

“October 4th, 1984…Today is Thursday” – Kakorama/Kakophone LINK

“Hurricane Polo – October 1-4, 1984” – Nat’l Weather Service Hydrometeorological Prediction Center  LINK

“Drew Stubbs” – Wikipedia LINK

“Victor Dewayne TAYLOR” – Juan Ignacio Blanco, Murderpedia LINK:

Orissa Sambad LINK

“Suspected Lebanese Terrorist Arrested in Limassol – Report” – Sarah Fenwick, CyprusNewsReport LINK

IMAGE CREDITS:

“Funny B-Day Cakes” Funniest Corner/GRUKAR LINK