We've only just admitted to each other that whilst we enjoyed the culinary birthday I had planned we did very much feel out of place amongst these Bentley wielding, Michelin Star eating, designer clothes wearing hot shots. I'll take you to the start...
...back in May I was walking around Blackheath village with my cousin Cecillia when I told her I was at a loss with regards to what to do for my awesome husband's 30th birthday. She knew I'd bought him a couple of cook books for our first anniversary and he'd recently very successfully taken up the challenge of learning to cook; consequently, she suggested taking him out somewhere really special, somewhere known for it's culinary delights. I totally agreed - enter: the world of Michelin Stars.
I had very limited knowledge about Michelin Stars but I knew they meant "great quality food" and the more Michelin stars you had the posher your nosh. 3 michelin stars are the most you can have and the UK has only four such restaurants - the whole of the US has 11 such restaurants, this demonstrates just how very rare the accolade is.
I won't take you through all the deliberating I went through but ultimately we ended up going to:
Then the next morning, I told him.
"Remember that video we watched?"
"Yeah?" Harry said.
"Well, we're going to The Hand & Flowers for lunch!"
He smiled, "Phew, I thought you'd booked a cookery course and I wasn't up for doing any work!"
I continued, "We're also going to the 3 Michelin Star Fat Duck for dinner!"
"Two places in one day?"
"Yep." He looked happy but worried. I knew it was probably because he thought I was wasting money." We then watched these two videos which incidently were a continuation of the above series of Masterchef, The Professionals:
After watching these three videos we were officially both excited. I gave Harry his first birthday present: a white shirt that I had personally designed on iTailor.
The Hand & Flowers
Of all the places we went to this is the one I felt least out of place in. The desserts we had here were my favourite of all three restaurants because they were more hearty. The prices are also A LOT more reasonable so we'll be going back here.
Just to give you an idea of how popular the place is, the restaurant was booked up for weekends for about 12 months in advance! They also have 4 rooms to let but could I get one? Oh no, not 3 months in advance, as at May every weekend until February 2014 was fully booked!
The food in pictures:
After lunch at The Hand & Flowers we wanted to take a walk but were actually quite tired so we decided to drive to our cottage for a nap.
Clematis Cottage, Bray
When we got to Clematis Cottage I gave Harry his second birthday present: another custom designed shirt from iTailor, this time in blue.
After hanging out and posting some pictures to instagram we slept for a while before getting ready for dinner at the 3 Michelin Starred The Fat Duck; our first experience of dining at this level.
The Fat Duck
The Fat Duck's 14 course taster menu is something else. The food comes along with a fair amount of abracadabra and without someone there to explain it, you wouldn't have a clue what you were eating.
It goes without saying that the staff were all extremely polite and professional. Also, although the food was extremely complex it didn't matter who you asked, they knew exactly what it was and how it was made.
Bookings at The Fat Duck are almost impossible. They open up for booking at 09.55 a.m. exactly two months in advance. I had a friend on hand trying to get a booking from that time alongside my attempts. I failed, she succeeded after about 3 hours of trying!
I wasn't quite sure if I was "full" after the Fat Duck; there was space there for more but I decided it was because the food was so tasty rather than my stomach not being satiated. Anyway, the whole experience had lasted over three and a half hours so we were both tired.
At this point, Harry didn't even know about Le Gavroche.
The next morning after having breakfast, going for a walk and showering I presented Harry with his third and final birthday present: another iTailor shirt in a different shade of blue to the second, "One for each decade you've lived. " I said.
"Not one for every year I've lived?" he joked!
I also told him we were going to Le Gavroche. He looked unhappy:
"That's too much," he said, "I've had enough of fine dining. I feel guilty now."
To be honest, I was feeling guilty too by this point. I did think the indulgence of the day before was plenty to keep us going for months to come but I knew tonight was extra special, tonight his mum, dad, sister and brother-in-law would be there. I knew this would definitely make a difference to him and I wanted to tell him but I couldn't.
We spent the day walking along the Thames in Marlow. Some of the houses along the riverbank were insane. One private residence had a garden so large there were two gardeners on motorised mowers tending to the lawn! It could not have been a hotel because there would have been hotel patrons in the yard enjoying the river views on what was a gorgeous summer day but it was grand enough.
We left Marlow at a good time and arrived in the Mayfair area 30 minutes before the dinner booking but there was a problem: the "surprise entourage" were running late. I had to stall a very annoyed Harry for 30 minutes...Harry's sister Whatsapped us a picture complaining how late she was working and I thought, nice touch, but...
...in the end we still arrived about a minute before our group. In fact they were metres behind us and I thought Harry would see them. I pushed him across the road to Le Gavroche and I lied that I needed the loo to buy a little more time for the crew to get to the restaurant. The toilet was downstairs near the still empty dining area. Luckily Harry used the loo too and took his time, as usual.
When he came out of the toilet I wasn't sure how everything would go down, I had always imagined us arriving at the table and the family whispering "surprise" - I don't think you shout in these types of places! I was still thinking about what to do when the waitress said:
"Would you like to be shown to the table or do you want to go to the bar for a while?" I don't even know if she knew the conundrum I was in so I said bar and Harry fortunately agreed immediately. He still looked a little unhappy (although that could have been because he'd lost his wallet earlier that morning!)
The family were at the top of the stairs at the bar and I said to Harry, "Do you want to sit there?" Pointing to an empty seat next to his dad. He looked up not recognising the four people sitting there for an instant and then he realised he was looking at his fabulous fam. We hadn't seen them for a month. He grinned the happiest grin I had seen all day and we were shown to our table.
The food was fabulous, however, the crowning moment of that event happened when Michel Roux Jr of the Roux chef dynasty came to our table. I had made a request via a waitress but didn't dare to hope.
He posed in a picture with us AND signed autographs. We were all star struck and indeed very happy.
It was a beautiful evening.
I enjoyed these two days but I am actually happy to return to my normal life. For us, being in these places was a real treat, something very special - but, what do the have mores do to get that "I'm having a treat" feeling?
For us, dinner out at the restaurant chain Giraffe is a treat so this culinary adventure was a SUPER TREAT. I am left with one desire now: to take a journey through the thoughts of a Have More to see the relative contentment of their life and lifestyle, I'm just curious.
Anyhow, to a great life with Harry and many more years.
Personally, I don't think Rihanna is showing too much flesh in this picture. If my booty was that toned it would also be out and about regularly. The image amuses and entertains me.
The fact that she got back with Chris Brown? Well the way I see it, she's a grown woman and she knew 100% what she was getting into.
People get quite heated about Rihanna and her antics but Rihanna has clearly expressed that she doesn't try to be anyone's role model, she's out having fun and being true to herself. I respect that. That said, young girls do look up to, admire and emulate her so I'm cool with her acting crazy but only to a certain extent.
If she took pictures of herself taking a class A drug and posted them to Twitter, I wouldn't be impressed. The pictures she took of herself smoking a spliff a while back are borderline, I would like to hope that any kids I had would be smart enough to know that's stupid.
What do you think? Let's let Riri have her fun or "get it together, girl!"?
Some people deserve to be super wealthy…
You all know him: Mr Bean. So this weekend he massively crashed his F1 McLaren, a car that costs £2million second-hand because of its exclusivity (it's cheaper brand new but you have to join an excruciatingly long waiting list). Some would argue that spending £600,000 or more on a car is completely wrong. In fact, there are many that would but is it really? If you've worked so hard to create something that earns you a tonne of money, shouldn't you be able to splurge guilt free. If the money were inherited or obtained by chance on a lottery, we could argue differently but here I focus on the spending of earned money.
Am I wrong to believe that some people deserve their wealth (no matter how enormous) because of their amazing contribution to this world. Humour has a huge role to play in society, it binds people and I believe Mr Bean’s humour succeeds above most because it transcends linguistic barriers, age and even ethnicity. Whether you speak English, Chichewa, French or Urdu, Mr Bean can reach you. He can get a chuckle as easily out of a five year old as he can out of an eighty-five year old. There is only one Mr Bean and though others may try, they cannot replicate the uniqueness of the Mr Bean series.
Moreover, besides buying supercars I assume (I can't find any evidence) Mr Bean probably contributes more to charity than most of us so perhaps we should not be so quick to criticise. Most people who have crazy money will splash out because the fact of the matter is, you can’t take it with you to the next life. Like as not, what you don’t spend – will get spent by someone else, someone that didn’t put the time into earning it – relatives, if you have them and the Government, if you don’t.
I haven’t watched Mr Bean for fifteen plus years but I still remember those days with warmth. I completely disagree with ill gotten gains, however, would you not agree that Mr Bean is very much entitled to spend his wealth in whatever way he chooses? There are more examples of people who have done something so different or so interesting that we just want to throw our hard earned dosh at them: Bill Gates – what would I do without my oh-so-affordable laptop and the internet; Steve Jobs at Apple – where would I be without my iPhone?
These guys have gotten mega-rich because we give our money to them. They haven’t stolen it and rather than criticise the luxury goods they have afforded themselves we should applaud their contributions. If you want money – do something interesting or different; do something that will make someone’s day-to-day existence easier or better. When you do, the cash will come rolling in and you’ll see how you won’t appreciate commentary on your expenditure choices.
This is a topic that is very close to my heart. First of all, if you have never witnessed real African poverty first hand, I think, and many would agree with me, that you have no right to express your opinion on this topic, period.
I have not met a single Malawian who thinks that this was a bad thing. This was one of the best things that could have happened for this child. However, many people have expressed several dynamics to this situation that need to be addressed:
“But the boy had a father. Surely it should stay close to its parent?” The father left that child in an orphanage. He clearly did not want it and the only reason he back-tracked was because he realised that he could have made some mula. He realised that Madonna had big bucks too late. Also, a certain aspect of Malawian tradition needs to be explained. I don’t really understand it myself because my parents raised me in a semi-western fashion but basically, in the southern region of Malawi children belong to the mother and are the mother’s responsibility. The opposite is true in the north. So, if parents in the south of Malawi split up for whatever reason, the children remain the mother’s responsibility. We don’t go to courts. The average Malawian is illiterate (i.e. can not read or write) and does not understand the law. Some follow tradition closely, others don’t. I cannot speak for Yohanne Banda but as he is a villager from the South of Malawi he would not have enough exposure to not follow his tradition. Sorry about the double negative.
“But Madonna was doing it as a publicity stunt.” So what? Whatever your reasons for doing something charitable, charity remains a good thing. You may do it to keep yourself in the public eye or because it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. End of the day, you have helped a less privileged individual. [added 5-Mar-11: Some research suggests that a lot of of charitable giving is driven by a desire to be perceived as giving and kind-hearted by one's peers]
“But Madonna is 48, she is far too old to adopt a child.” Hallooo? Her life expectancy is at least 80. She’s going to be there for David for a good long time yet. And at 48, you are still capable of reproducing yourself so surely you should be able to adopt, it’s less risky!
“But what’s the point of her adopting a child if she can never spend any time with him?” How much time do you spend with your kids? Also, Madonna can afford to fly her child to wherever she is. And on the point of spending time with offspring, in today’s modern society, even non-celebrity parents spend less and less time with their children because they are so busy. Loads of children spend more time with the computer or in front of the Tele than with Mummy and Daddy.
The advantage of a celebrity adopting. I think, because they are always in the public eye, the child is safer because we would know in a millisecond if something was wrong. If an unknown foreigner adopts a child, it is hard to verify their intentions. They may be recruiting people for the sex trade. You just don’t and can't know for sure.
Finally, what would David Banda’s life have been like had he not been adopted? It’s hard to explain Malawian poverty. It’s best for one to witness it. There’s a 10% chance that David would have died before he is one and a 20% chance that he would have died before he’s 5. Most Malawian orphanages don’t have funds to look after kids after they have grown. So once David was old enough to beg or produce things he can sell, e.g. cars made out of old clothes hangers and coke cans etc etc, that may be what he would have been doing. He may have been fortunate enough to go to school but the free education system is a shambles. Classes are too large, classrooms may hold more than 100 students. Some sit on the floor as there aren’t enough desks. Roofs are probably leaking. Some lessons are taught under a tree because there aren’t enough classrooms. There are very few teaching resources e.g. text and exercise books, pens, pencils. At times, only the teacher will have the core text book and the students will write what she has to teach on scraps of paper. I once tutored maths to a kid who was meant to be in her second year of high school. It really tested my patience, she didn’t know even the most basic mathematical principals – times tables, basic mental maths. And she went to a fee-paying school, so what hope do the state schools have?
What about access to medical facilities. Hmm, not so good. Now this I CANNOT explain. You need to see it for yourself. Even if I did try to explain it, you could not fully comprehend how poor the facilities are. Basically, as a poor boy in Malawi, David would have had very few opportunities in life. Frankly, anyone who fails to see the goodness of Madonna’s act: a) does not know what it means to be poor; or b) is jealous of little David; or c) is selfish.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.