Archive for August, 2013


 I’ve never been drawn to self-help or motivational books and usually discount them as needless psycho-babble. Life is for living – not for over-analysing and fretting. How to raise a child, how to have a good marriage, how to be happy – surely the best way is to figure it out for yourself and learn from your own mistakes.

There is however nothing harmful in having a few helpful tips along the way, from someone who has been there and done it – in my case normally my family or good friends. “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, feels a bit like getting such advice. Careers advice (often delivered through the use of personal stories) specifically for women, and particularly useful for the women who think they don’t really need it. I am riveted by it.

„Done is better than perfect“ – this mission statement shared by theFacebook COO is certainly one that I plan to use a bit more of in my life.


The tea I was brought up on most probably came from the Nilgiri tea plantations in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. ‘A dark, intensely aromatic fragrant and flavoured tea’ says Wikipedia. Hard to tell with the large serving of full fat milk in which the tea was boiled in before being drained and served with a generous dosing of sugar – the way traditionally enjoyed in India.

 Getting accustomed to English life however, meant getting accustomed with the tea culture. And along came Tetley tea. Historically set up by the brothers Joseph and Edward Tetley in 1837 and well, really rather English. Suddenly the tea was watery, the measure of milk was reduced and added cold, but sugar was still the norm.

imageTime spent at university with ‘northern’ friends taught me the joys of Yorkshire tea. Study days with flatmates fueled by an unending supply of tea. The phrase ‘cup of tea anyone?’ was rarely negatively answered and the next round of tea was in. Tea bags quickly dunked in water, a splash of milk – done in 30 seconds (by this time health consciousness meant no added sugar).

In mainland Europe people generally drink coffee. But when tea is drunk, it  tends to be done well – freshly brewed delicate Darjeeling first flush, exotic Ayurvedic mixtures or freshly cut ginger with orange and mint. Added to that the optimal brewing time and the appropriate homemade cake to go.

Some of this has sort of rubbed off on me. My collection at home now looks something like this…


Once a tea girl, always a tea girl. But oh how things have changed.


Just a little over a 2-hour drive on an end-of-summer Friday evening, crossing over from Germany into Holland and finally across the Belgian border brought us to Brussels for the weekend.




 In itself, the city doesn’t jump at you with its beauty or irresistible charm, but it certainly has something about it: Flemish town houses, Parisien standard bakeries, a maze of one way streets and a hotch potch of residents. More than half of the city’s residents are immigrants, and you can feel this as you traverse its streets and stroll through its parks.


 We spent the majority of our time on the wonderful terrace of our host, close to the European Quarter. Lazy tourism but also a wonderful kind. Sipping red wine by candlelight late into the night (with only the occasional sprinkle of light rain) whilst conversing with a table full of guests, naturally from all over Europe.

Brussels seems to be the ERASMUS for grown-ups. And I just about remember how much fun that looked like at university.


There are many reasons for insomnia: some which are short-lived (stressful life events, an uncomfortable hotel bed, the party next door) some which are to be expected and unavoidable (the loss of circadian rhythm due to shift-work) and still others which run a longer course and tend to be complex.

Insomnia which persists may be due to an underlying psychiatric or medical condition, to side-effects from medication, movement disorders (such as restless legs syndrome), poor sleep hygiene (i.e drinking that second glass of wine whilst watching tv before going to be) or learnt sleep preventing behaviours (intrusive thoughts and worry which prevent sleep).

I admitted a 74 year old gentleman into our sleep lab this week, who told me that he had trouble falling asleep, woke up several times in the night and had difficulty falling back to sleep. Typical complaints of someone suffering from insomnia. When quizzed further, he admitted that this had been the case for the last 20 years.  Asked if he could think of a reason for this, he frankly concluded that it was probably due to marriage problems. He felt constantly under stress due to his wife and did not get on with her anymore. He felt he was too old to break-up from her. In fact, the only nights where he did sleep well now, were when she was away on holiday. He had never sought counselling or help regarding this, which was my obvious suggestion to him.

If counselling will help him and his wife remains to be seen. A marriage so unhappy, that it has deprived sleep for 20 years. Truly a sad case of insomnia.

Hearing Manu Chao on the radio this morning reminded me of a special period in my life. My mind drifted from the usual drive to work to the start of my time at university – a place where I finally realised that I am not after all the only outsider in the world. A year spent overwhelmingly with Erasmus and international students. Where I mingled and became friends with students from Kenya, Israel, Bangladesh, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland. Despite my pretty successful integration into the British way of life, my dark-skin and Indian upbringing had to that point made me feel (at times painfully) different from my English school mates. But in this year I finally appreciated the cultural differences and nuances which exist even between European countries which lie so close together on the map. We were all somehow different, and that was a good thing.

With his laid back guitar riffs and lyrics in portuguese, french, english and spanish, Manu Chau represented all of the good things that can come from travel, diversity and an open mind. King of the Bongo indeed.

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