Bird cage or fish tank?

You know what, I went to a training last Monday. I thought I left ice hockey behind twenty months ago but I was wrong.

I found myself, sitting on a bench in the changing room at Streatham Ice Arena and wondering how did this happen?…

I was so happy to be reunited with the teammates and the sport!

My blog was linked to my Facebook and the people who read the last entry through it left me loads of messages, telling me the door to the team and ice hockey was always open for me and it was very touching.

Ice hockey is like a tropical disease. Once you are bitten by this amazing sport, the fever never leaves you alone, EVER.

Why did I walk away from this joy, I asked myself when I was catching my breath after a drill.

Having thought that, leaving the sport and the team two seasons ago and coming back again was the right decision. After the time-off, what I am left with is a simple desire to skate and to touch a puck. My mind is clear and my expectation is realistic. I have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. I just want to enjoy myself.

My Tuesday morning ritual is back…

Leave my kits alone, Bay-Bay…

After the Monday night’s practice, it had always been customary to dry the equipments at home before re-packing them in a kit bag. The reason was because the damp kits would develop an unsavoury odour if they were left in a bag without being aired properly.

I still remember how badly one of the male hockey players smelt during an open practice session at the old Streatham ice rink. Basically, his equipments were falling apart, literally disintegrating, because he wasn’t looking after them properly. I imagine that he stuffed his wet kits with sweat and everything else in his bag as soon as the practice was over and forgot about it until the next session. I wish if he knew how antisocial his smell was! During the practice, we all stood in a queue, waiting our turn to participate in the drills and I happened to stand behind him. Oh god, how pungent he was. The smell hit me like a blast and it made me dizzy. It was like my face being surrounded by ten sweaty armpits! It was just too revolting to stand and I had to scarper all the way down to the end of the queue, as far as possible from him…

Please know that my kits will always be as fresh as a daisy because they have been maintained properly and they will be cared for as long as I play the sport.

There is a new addition to my kits though…

I have changed my full face protection from a polycarbonate shield to a titanium cage. I always preferred an unobstructed view given by the polycarbonate one. However, it had some drawbacks, such as fogging up and sound blocking. Until I discovered a brilliant anti-fogging fluid for a motorcycle visor, my shield steamed up badly towards the end of a practice and it drove me crazy. And also, I had to shout louder through the shield because the Perspex muffled my voice.

After last Monday’s training, I was awaken during the early morning by a fit of coughs. My throat was very dry and a bit sore due to too much shouting during the session. By swapping the shield to a birdcage one, it may spare my vocal cord, I thought.

Another benefit of wearing the lighter cage is how it can reduce the load on my neck. A typical stainless steel wire cage weighs 329g while my RE-AKT titanium cage by Bauer weighs 165g. Since the previous polycarbonate one weighs 256g, my head will be 91g lighter by changing the shield to the cage. 91g doesn’t sound a lot but a hockey player looks down often and the load on a neck changes dramatically by the angles of the head. For example, the weight of my head, my helmet plus a polycarbonate shield is 4,606g (4kg + 350g + 256g). While standing straight and looking ahead, my neck is loaded with only 4,606g. However, if my head is angled 45° looking down, the load to my neck will increase to a whopping 25.3kg! If I can reduce 5kg from the load my neck has to carry by shaving 91g off from my head, I will do it. It is a no-brainer.

I hope I will not be bothered too much by the grids in front of me during the next training. I am sure I will get used to it soon (I hope!)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Pre-Xmas streetscape @ Columbia Road E2

Twilight during December comes too soon, I thought as Bella and I strolled to Hiro + Wolf on Columbia Road.

Where is the hubbub of the Sunday flower market?…

The quietness of the street on weekdays’ afternoon was worlds apart from the Sunday’s hustle and bustle.

Here we are, arriving at 146 Columbia Road…

And in here, we found Hiro+Wolf.

I discovered the brand when I visited Doggie Xmas market and as a result, I commissioned them to make a lead for Bella. After about two weeks of waiting, they emailed me that the lead was ready for collection.

Hiro the Shibainu exchanges greeting with Bella…

Apparently, the lead we were supposed to pick up was mislaid and nowhere to be seen.

The brand’s designer, Amy, calling her partner, who was out for delivery, if she could find it in her van while Bella was treated with a good scratch around her tummy..

Unfortunately, the lead could not be located and Amy apologised us about wasting our time. ‘We will make another one if you don’t mind waiting for another few days.’, she suggested. ‘No problem. Let me know when it’s ready.’, I replied.

It was a shame that I had to go home empty-handed, but Columbia Street was a lovely place, especially around the Christmas time. Therefore, I didn’t mind coming back.

A Christmas tree on Columbia Road…

The shop windows were glowing like colourful lanterns…

Let’s hurry home, Bella. It’s getting rather cold…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Doggie X’mas Market @ Netil Market

Shoreditch is a fun place to live, and one of the many reasons is how dog/-friendly the area is. Especially on weekends, we see many people on the streets, enjoying their day out with their four-legged pals.

Look, even a dog is on the hand rail!

So when there was an announcement that a Christmas market for dogs was coming to London, it had to happen in Shoreditch, naturally.

Netil Market was the host of Santa Paws – A Christmas Market for Dogs and Their Owners…

It was soooo coooollldddd! The forecast was 9°C but the biting wind was so bitterly cold, it felt more like 4 or 5°C.

Bella the Social Butterfly was in her element, regardless the weather…

‘Hi! Hi! Hi!!’ Bella, they don’t know what make of you.

She just dashed towards anything four-legged and started to flirt like there would be no tomorrow…

It didn’t matter if the receiving ends of her attention appreciated her open friendliness or not, she just advanced to them with her tail wagging manically.

I call her Bella the Serial Flasher…

I don’t know why but she flashes herself to all the dogs she encounters. Yes, she is very friendly and submissive which everyone finds cute. However, she does this gesture all the time, regardless how wet, how muddy and how grubby the surface she is rolling on. No, Bella!

Stalls at the market was a pure retail heaven for doggie lovers.

This stall offered personalised soft furnishings for furry pals and their owners…

You can send an image of your four-legged friend to the designer and she will customise it to a plush cushion, etc. The end result will be a very special seasonal gift, won’t it?

How about doggie themed Christmas decorations for your tree?

Unfortunately, we can’t have them because we have decided not to have a proper tree this Christmas. Do you know why? Because I can visualise how Bella will trash the decoration, eat some bits and pieces of the tree and end up on a vet’s examination table. I will have to keep our seasonal decorations beyond her reach on the window sills so she won’t do any harm to them and to herself. *sigh*

Now, this was one thing I really loved…

A beautiful handmade dog lead by HIRO + WOLF. The main colour was turquoise blue and the effect would go very well with her neon orange harness as well as her neon pink one. I will love to use it during the summer, I thought.

The leads on display were for larger breeds and I asked the seller behind the stall if they had any option for small dogs…

She gave me a business card and suggested me to forward the details so she could customise a lead for Bella. ‘I will drop you a note as soon as I get home!’ I waved and left the market.

‘Too cold here!’ Hubbie, Bella and I hurried to Market Cafe on Broadway Market…

Despite it was after two o’clock, the place was still very busy and a manager told us that we would have to wait for about 15 minutes if we wanted a table. Still, we didn’t dither and agreed to wait because we just wanted to be indoor!

For late lunch, we ordered the same dish…

Ham hock hash with a fried egg! I had a glass of rooibos tea & apple ice tea. Hubbie had cold pressed juice of carrot, orange & ginger with his lunch.

For pudding, we shared apple & spiced plum crumble with cinnamon ice cream…

We found huge juicy plum chunks underneath the crunchy crumble top. It was very good.

At home, I measured the length of the lead…

So I can commission HIRO + WOLF to make us a new lead. Oh, I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Cité Europe

Since there was not much thing to see or could do in the old city centre, mum and I decided to spend the rest of our time in France at Cité Europe before boarding a train back to the U.K.

Cité Europe was a shopping centre situated next to the Channel Tunnel terminal. The complex contained over 140 shops, a hypermarket, a 12-screen cinema complex and around 20 restaurants. The shopping centre opened on March 21, 1995, about 10 months after the completion of the tunnel.

I still remember the hype the shopping centre had created in the U.K. The Brits en masses flocked to Calais in their cars, and they laden their car boots with cheap booze and cigarettes at the shopping centre before heading home.

After more than two decades, the place looked a little dated and tired…

By the way, the lamp posts of the shopping centre car park remind you something?…

Don’t you agree that the curve of the lamp post looks like the Martian’s craft’s red-eye heat-ray gun in The War of the World’s (1953)?

The car park was huge – spaces for more than 4000 cars, therefore, we must make a note near which entrance our car was parked…

The shopping centre was designed by a French architect, Paul Andreu…

The architect is famous for being in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
So when was the last time I used the airport?
Since Eurostar connected London with French capital in May 1994, I have been using the train only. That means I haven’t been to the place for nearly 25 years!

Large skylights introduced abundant natural light into the interior of the shopping centre…

We found the shop floors very quiet. It must have been because the famous annual summer sale – Les soldes d’été was still a few days away and probably the shoppers didn’t see the point of paying full prices.

Children’s play area near Carrefour…

We did some grocery shopping at the hypermarket, buying cheese and sweets to take home. I must say, the Carrefour branch at Cité Europe was humongous! The floor area was enormous and the selections were stupendous.

Mum was happy (and tired) after shopping at Carrefour…

Ok, shall we go back to our car?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Thank you, John Lewis!

It is so nice to be able to do the laundry at home again. The sound of the water in the drum, which was swashed around with a steady rhythm, was a comforting reminder that my life with a laundrette and the pungent smell of unfamiliar washing powder had finally ended.

When my last NEFF packed up precisely a month ago, I expected it to be replaced straight away. Waiting for a week would be the max, I thought. How wrong I was. Despite the fact I bought a new Bosch on the day when the old one had had it, I ended up having to wait for a replacement for 31 days!

It was not entirely John Lewis’s fault, however. The old NEFF was an integrated one and had a stainless steel door in front of it. Naturally, I wanted to keep the same appearance on the new washer dryer, therefore, I ordered an integrated model by Bosch.

After one week’s waiting, the machine arrived at our door, accompanied by two engineers from John Lewis. They pulled out the old unit and tried to install the new one. Then, we discovered a problem. The replacement could not be pushed in all the way because a waste pipe from the kitchen sink got in the way! The old machine did not have a flat back like the new one, therefore, it accommodated the pipe and the front of the unit door ended up being flush with the rest of doors.

Oh noooo! I wept (in my head) while the engineers scratched their heads. ‘Madam, if we attach the existing door to the unit, it will stick out 10 cm from the rest of the unit.’, one of them delivered the bad news.

What should I do? Is there any alternative? Apparently, all washer+dryer models tended to be larger than washer alone units. And I did need a washer dryer. ‘How about a freestanding one?’ The engineers scrolled the screen of their smartphones and showed me the one they thought it would be suitable. ‘ This LG washer dryer is silver and it goes very well with your stainless steel kitchen unit.’

I was very much relieved to find the alternative but there was a catch. The model I wanted was out of stock.

Still, that particular model by LG was the only one which fitted the bill, therefore, I had to wait another three and half weeks until it was installed.

All in all, I was very happy with the way John Lewis handled my order. Especially, their delivery was punctual and installation and instruction were very customer-friendly.

Look, Bella! A newbie in our kitchen!

Bella wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I can’t wait to use it tomorrow!

Hubbie was very happy with the way the washer dryer fitted into the kitchen unit. ‘It looks well!’ Yeah, I’m over the moon.
Now, I have to find a carpenter to make new skirting boards to fit around the washer dryer…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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