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27 March 2010

Assorted--and Sometimes Surprising--Pleasures

From my radar this week:

1. Pretending I'm in New York. Although living in London (rather than the sticks) can usually ward off my New York cravings for quite some time, once I start getting close to six months since my last visit (as I am now), I start getting antsy, especially given that my parents are going in a few weeks. I want to wander through the West Village and run in Central Park. I also want to shop. Luckily, of the three American shops in which I spend most money, two of them (Banana Republic and Anthropologie) have Regent Street branches, both of which are staffed partly by Yanks. This means I can amble up Regent Street on a Saturday afternoon and I could almost be in NYC. The prices of the clothes are, of course, way higher than in New York but today I discovered the sale room at Anthropologie where I picked up a gorgeous, colourful top on sale for £9.95, reduced from £60. Both the sales assistant and the woman behind me in the queue commented on what a great bargain it was.

2. Random London eateries. If I can't be discovering fun new places in the Big Apple, random restaus in London almost make up for it. Yesterday, there was Paolina's a cheap and low-key Thai restaurant near King's Cross, with very tasty food, friendly staff and a ski chalet-like decor. The other night, it was the Posh Banger Boys in Borough Market, which is basically a guy with a barbecue in an unheated, candle-lit garage, decorated with sparse furniture that looks like it's just been salvaged from a skip. The burgers were very tasty, though, and I speak from experience. Mori, meanwhile, is a smart new Asian takeaway on Marylebone High Street with a range of reasonably priced sushi, salads and other Asian goodies. I haven't eaten there yet but next time I need a quick bite to eat in the quartier, I will probably check it out.

3. The Blind Side. I went to see this film, like many people, to see whether Sandy B really deserved that Oscar. Also, I had a voucher for a free Cineworld ticket for which I only paid £1 so I decided to use it on a film I might not otherwise have seen. Two things surprised me: 1) there were far more men than women in the audience and 2) I liked it, despite the fact it was corny as hell. And yes, Sandra Bullock was very good, although I still think Carey Mulligan should have won. The premise is like The OC meets Friday Night Lights. Rich, seemingly perfect, BMW-driving family come across underprivileged boy from bad neighbourhood, take him in and under their watch, he flourishes (in The OC, Ryan is from Chino, is white and goes on to be a great architect, as opposed to Michael, in The Blind Side, who is black and very good at football, but otherwise, the concept is very similar). The family even has a slightly geeky, sarcastic sun who tries to help Michael out--a son who, despite being about ten years younger than The OC's Seth Cohen in the movie, reminds me a lot of him. Of course, The Blind Side is not borrowing from The OC as it is based on the true story of NFL football player Michael Oher. I genuinely enjoyed the film, anyway, although I wasn't expecting to.

4. RunKeeper. I really like my Nike +iPod sensor. It tracks the speed, distance and pace of my runs and syncs automatically with the Nike+ website, allowing me to track my training over time. Unfortunately, I've been having problems getting accurate recordings almost as long as I've had the sensor. Most of the time, it works fine but sometimes, if I pause the app while I stretch or try to change the music, it gives up and only records the time of the rest of the run and not the speed or distance. Also, the Nike system requires that I bring the sensor with me and as I regularly use two pairs of trainers, this is a hassle. Enter RunKeeper. This is an iPhone app that performs a similar function to Nike+ but using the GPS on the iPhone; this means it also automatically maps my routes on Google Maps and sends the information to the RunKeeper site without me even having to hook up my iPhone with a computer. I'm not sure which of the two is more accurate (RK's distances and paces are worse than the Nike+ ones I'm used to) but RK could potentially be a good back up and/or alternative to Nike+ -- and it's free!

5. Walking home from work. Yesterday was the first time I've walked home from my new office. It's less than 2.5 miles but a combination of really bad weather and the sun setting too early has meant walking wasn't a very appealing prospect until yesterday. It only took me 35 minutes and I was home while it was (just about) still light. Walking is also much less stressful than getting the Tube or waiting too long for buses. In the mornings, I usually get a bus to work but when you factor in the walking to and from the bus stops, waiting for a bus to arrive and getting stuck in traffic, I usually get into work 20-40 minutes later so perhaps I will walk in more often. On those days when it's not raining or snowing, I'm not running late and I'm not wearing high heels, anyway. The route isn't the most pleasant in London (unless you are a fan of the Euston Road) but at Great Portland Street, I cut up into Regent's Park and walk the rest of the way buffered from most of the traffic and enjoying the spring flowers).

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