Alternatives to Online Dating: Part 2

Following my venture into Speed Dating described in Part 1, here’s another instalment in the series involving… a Cooking Class for singles.

These seem to be trendy at the moment and I’m picturing the slightly cringe Match.com advert for this kind of event, where a nerdy guy is making two prawns talk to each other and finds love from a girl who doesn’t judge him, but joins in… (isn’t he just living the dream…?)

I found the event I attended on Speeddater.co.uk and my main reason for doing it was that I love cooking and I love food, and I thought it would be a great way to meet like-minded people. Included in the event was a glass of Prosecco on arrival, the meal you cook as a group (chicken saltimbocca) and a chocolate brownie dessert cooked by the chefs. I sort of thought that if I didn’t meet anyone, at least I would get to learn a new recipe and eat a (hopefully) delicious meal. At £38 I did think it was a bit pricey (compared to Tinder for example which is free!) but when I thought about what was included: the drink, the meal, the cooking class, and the opportunity to meet other single people, I thought it was worth a try.

The event was hosted at L’atelier des Chefs near Oxford St and it was a really nice venue. I enjoyed the glass of bubbles on arrival and all the staff were really friendly. There was quite a big group of singles (about 20) but I have to admit I was disappointed to find that there were quite a few more women than men. We were split into groups for cooking, and in my group there were 3 women including myself, and 1 man. This frustrated me, as I spent a lot of time interacting with the other women, and although they were all lovely and it was fun, meeting other women is not exactly what I had come for.

The cooking class itself was run by a professional chef who was good-humoured and coped well with quite a rowdy bunch of people in his kitchen, as well as our (collective) ineptitude (e.g. not following his instructions as exactly as he had hoped). It was a good laugh and I enjoyed learning the recipe; it also revealed to me that the way someone approaches cooking can tell you a lot about their general personality. For example the woman next to me seemed very meticulous in that she chopped things very slowly and finely, and was anxious about following the recipe exactly to the letter. Some people are more laid-back and if something doesn’t quite go to plan, they just brush it off. In general, the entire group seemed to really enjoy the cooking class and it was pretty straightforward, with every group member being involved.

We dished up our own meals, following the chef’s instructions, and we had also individually prepared our own chicken breast, which we then ate ourselves. I liked this as I don’t know how comfortable I would have been eating meat prepared by someone else in the group. I know that might sound really paranoid but it just made me a lot more comfortable that I was eating my own food.

We all sat around a table to eat, men on one side, women on the other, and then we could enjoy the fruits of our labour. It was nice to get a chance to meet different people in the group, and after the main meal, the men moved along one or two spaces so that we got to meet more members of the group. However, I still felt bothered by there being more women than men and I feel like I did spend too much time talking to women rather than men, facilitated by where we had been grouped for cooking and sitting down to eat.

After the event, which finished around 9.30, we had to leave the venue but it was suggested that the group could continue their evening at the pubs nearby. I, however, decided to call it a night… I just didn’t really want to spend any more time chatting to 20 people I didn’t know, and I hadn’t met any men who I wanted to spend more time with. Overall it had been fun, but it really is hard spending a long time with people you don’t really know. Although maybe it’s easier for some people, I’m not sure.

So should you try a dating cooking class? If you like cooking and you want to meet other like-minded singles then, yes. I did enjoy it and I would be keen to do it again, were it not for the lack of a 50:50 ratio and also that towards the end, I did feel like I ran out of steam a little interacting with a large group of people. On the plus side, I did eat a delicious meal AND I got to keep my apron!

The search for love continues…

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British Summer Part 3: Turkish Baths in the East End

Hello readers,

It seems that with the chilly weather, British Summer is turning into British Autumn. It feels that summer was a little short-lived and I am optimistically hoping that a surprise heat wave is on its way just to finish off the school holidays nicely… but if that doesn’t happen and you need some warmth, there is always the Thermal Spa Experience which I was extremely happy to discover last weekend.

I came across the ‘Experience’ by chance whilst looking online for ideas – Mum was visiting London for the day and had left the planning up to me. I thought it was best not to do something involving a lot of walking or anything too crowded, and somehow managed to come across a recommendation for Spa London, which is located in several different areas of the city. The website I viewed mentioned the branch at Bethnal Green (called York Hall Day Spa), and stated that you could have three hours in the thermal spa for £25.00. This sounded like the perfect relaxing day I had in mind and in just a few minutes I had booked and paid for a session for the following day. Excited, I decided not to tell Mum exactly what we were doing so it could be a nice surprise.

The Thermal Spa Experience at Bethnal Green is set in one of the oldest Turkish Baths in London and was restored into the spa as it is today in 2005. As part of the three-hour session, you have access to a sauna, two steam rooms, a Hammam (heated seating area), the Turkish Baths (a series of hot rooms: Tepidarium “warm room”, Caldarium “hot room”, Laconium “hottest room”), a Monsoon Shower, an Ice Fountain (for rubbing ice on the body after a heat treatment), a Plunge Pool (to stimulate circulation and to use between heat treatments), Bucket Shower (basically a bucket of cold water you can pour over yourself after a heat treatment) and a Relaxation Lounge (with loungers, sofas, and refreshments such as water, herbal tea and fruit). The spa provides customers with bath robes, towels and footwear. You can also book additional beauty treatments such as massages and facials, and they also offer packages for hen-dos and mothers-to-be.

On arrival at the spa, we were recommended to alternate hot and cold treatments for the best results. I loved the heat treatments, and in between them, I braved the Bucket Shower and Plunge Pool and really did feel the refreshing effects! After the three hour session my face was glowing, and I felt amazing! Mum was so relaxed that she even dozed off in the Relaxation Lounge 😉 It was a lovely day and we both felt great afterwards.

I was so surprised to discover these Turkish Baths in central London, and when you are in the spa, it is so peaceful and relaxing that you can forget where you are. I was also impressed by the history of the Turkish Baths themselves and I’m pleased that they have been restored so that they can still be enjoyed.

If you are interested in paying these baths a visit, find out more here. I am pretty sure that I will be going back again soon!

York Hall today (Hammam)
York Hall Turkish Baths c.1920

It’s Never Too Late…

About a year and a half ago, somewhere between spring and summer, I met a friend at Notting Hill Gate and we went to Portobello Road. We visited the famous market, had a leisurely lunch in Charlie’s cafe, and indulged our shared interests in books, travel, and baking by perusing the shelves of Books for Cooks and The Travel Bookshop (which has sadly now closed).

It was in this bookshop that I picked up a book that has been a real inspiration. I find that travel bookshops in themselves inspire me, as they get my mind wandering and dreaming about new adventures and new destinations. But this particular book is not actually about travelling (unless, perhaps, you are talking about the journey of life…)

This book is called It’s Never Too Late… 174 simple acts to change your life by Patrick Lindsay.

The book’s appearance, as shown by the picture of the cover above, is clean-cut, modest and understated. Inside there are no lengthy paragraphs or large blocks of writing. Each page contains a small poem about an act that could change your life for the better, and a famous quotation at the bottom of the page.

“Simple acts”, it claims. It is definitely simple, and, to me, beautiful in its simplicity. However, it is not to be underestimated. This has got to be one of my favourite books on the shelf. I love just picking it up, feeling the textured paper of the cover beneath my fingertips, flicking through the pages and enjoying whichever poems I come across at that moment.

I’m going to share five of the poems with you. I’m calling them poems although I’m not sure what they technically are. My reasoning is that they are arranged in verses and are written so beautifully, carefully and powerfully, that they seem like poetry to me.

It’s never too late…

to take a trip

Change the scenery of your life.
You don’t have to travel far.
It’s an adventure.
A chance to refresh. To learn. To compare.
To meet new people.
To make new friends.
To view things anew.
To grow.

“Travel broadens the mind.” Proverb

_______________________________

It’s never too late…

to take a stand

Sometimes we need to draw the line
because we know it’s right
and for our own self respect.
Your heart will tell you when the time is right.
When it does, listen.
Then fight hard.
You will respect yourself.
So will others.

“Justice is truth in action.” Benjamin Disraeli

_______________________________

It’s never too late…

to clean out a cupboard

It can be a wonderful adventure.
A great empowerment.
A journey into the past.
A chance to jettison baggage.
An opportunity to make new plans.
A fresh start.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” L. P Hartley

cupboards
It’s never too late… to clean out a cupboard (Photo credit: LizMarie_AK)

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It’s never too late…

to change your mind

Take a view.
Make a point.
Make a decision.
But always keep your mind open.
Stay flexible.
Consider the possibility that you’re wrong.
That there’s a better way.

“Like all weak men he laid exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.” W. Somerset Maugham

_______________________________

It’s never too late…

to love life

Consider the alternative.
Have the time of your life.
It’s up to you.
You can live flat out.
Or you can slowly rust.
Be the best you can.

“Life is short and time is swift.” Proverb

Sun Pillar
It’s never too late… to love life (Photo credit: tomhe)

It was really difficult to choose which five poems I wanted to share, as they are all wonderfully short but sweet, with a powerful and potentially life changing message. So many times when people get stuck in a rut, they feel that drastic action is needed for their lives to improve. Perhaps they feel that they should leave their job, or go travelling round the world. Although I’m not suggesting these things aren’t helpful or rewarding in the right situation, they may be completely unnecessary, and these drastic changes might not help you to find what you are really looking for.

Kite landboarding
It’s never too late… to fly a kite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes the biggest benefits can come from the smallest of changes. Saying sorry, forgiving someone, reconnecting with an old friend, smiling, learning to paint, flying a kite, laughing at yourself, praising someone, being fair, being silent, allowing yourself to fail, changing your routine — all of these things are featured in this book, and any one of these things could help you to breath fresh air into your life, if you feel that you are in need of change.

If you have enjoyed reading the poems, and like the sound of this book, you might like to know that there are also two others by the same author, which take the same simple format. These are Now is the Time and Be Happy.

For some reason, I feel comforted by It’s Never Too Late…, and feel at peace when I read the small poems. I hope you enjoyed the ones I shared, and thank you for reading.

Jo

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Flathunting, a negative experience?

A multi segment panoramic image of the London ...

It feels like I haven’t written for a long time, and I have been regretting the lack of blogging. But for most of August, I was preoccupied with my impending move to London and spent a lot of time searching for flats, setting up viewings, travelling across London, only to be disappointed by much of what I saw. And my final decision was to move in with my aunt, and I’m really grateful that the offer was there.

Flathunting in London is difficult to describe. Words that spring to mind are “rollercoaster”,  “whirlwind”, “minefield”. I learnt some harsh realities and started to resent the money-grabbing nature of landlords who will charge £500-600 a month for a room but not even bother to make sure it’s clean or that the furnishings are an acceptable standard. One house I went to with my sister, we envisaged falling down the stairs on the uneven (and grey-when-it’s-meant-to-be-white) carpet. Another one was £450 a month for a tiny room which only just managed to fit the pull-out bed. Another room I saw just smelt so bad, I had to cover my face! Other issues were the rude people we met. A landlady who snapped at us for not remembering the exact ad details, a future housemate who displayed anger issues, the ones who said we’d wasted their time when we didn’t take the rooms.

Landlord?
Looks like I’m not the only one who’s ever harboured feelings of anger and resentment towards money-grabbing landlords…

I didn’t think I was naive before I started the flat hunt. I thought I knew what to expect. But the reality did shock me. The price of sub-standard rooms appalled me. But landlords know that even if you don’t take the room, someone else will.

When I started the flathunt, I felt really positive and confident that I could find what I wanted. But it quickly dawned on me how difficult that was going to be. I didn’t like feeling so negative and resentful, but I felt that people everywhere were trying to rip other people off. I felt that people were selfish and that everyone was just out for themselves.

A stack of pound coins
It’s all about the money, money, money…

As someone who is supposedly writing a blog which aims to appreciate life and celebrate positivity, I felt that if I wrote about my experience of flathunting, it wouldn’t fit with my blog and the intentions I have. I also thought it might reveal that I was naive and that people might react with, “Well, it’s London. What did you expect?”

But the thing about positivity and aiming for a positive outlook doesn’t mean that you have to feel positive all the time. This is unnatural. Allowing ourselves to express our full range of emotions, including the negative ones such as anger and resentment is healthy and stops things from getting bottled up. Because emotions which have been suppressed will always find a way of surfacing in the end. Sometimes this could be with a violent outburst, sometimes it will manifest as depression or other mental illness, sometimes as a physical illness, this list is not definitive. But you can be sure that emotions you try to hide will come out eventually.

So in light of this, I have allowed myself to write this post. I know that flathunting did not bring out the best in me. It made me negative, stressed, angry, hopeless. But that is not to say that I don’t appreciate the experience. It was a learning curve. One that will come in useful for future flat hunts. It also made me quickly get to know London. A month ago I had a vague picture of London in my head. Now I am more familiar with where places are and how to get around. What I didn’t like about the experience was that it revealed to me a horrible selfish side to human nature, where money is all-important, and quality of living conditions comes secondary, if that.

Finally, I am really grateful to my aunt and uncle for offering me to live with them. I’m going to move in next weekend. Since making this decision, I have started to look forward to the new experience that awaits me. Starting a new course will bring new challenges. Meeting new people means new friends. And I’m also closer to friends and family I could only see every so often when I was working abroad.

So, in answer to the question of the blog’s title? Flathunting was difficult. Sometimes it was negative. But that’s OK.