I work in the international team of my company, so the clients of the projects I work on are all not based in the UK. It is the director or associate who deal with the client most of the time. A small potato like me normally stays in the office, dealing with the construction team and with other small potatoes on the client’s side.
Despite that, I have had some opportunities to go out of the office for work. Some enjoyable tasks included going to art galleries and museums to do “research” on paintings on the client’s behalf, and also to Waterstone at Piccadily Circus, the biggest bookstore in the UK.
Today, I had an opportunity to tag along to a client’s meeting out of the office. What was exciting about the meeting was that it was held in the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair. Those who are familiar with UK monopoly will recognise Mayfair as the most expensive property on the board, and in real life as well, it is also the priciest real estate in London.
As we entered the hotel lobby, we were welcomed with the fragance of fresh flowers, and our gaze was naturally drawn to the two huge bouquets of beautiful flowers placed on either side of the entrance, each bouquet taller than a door. The afternoon tea room was beautiful, and the ambience was calm, gentle and utterly delightful. The soft light casted diffuse shadows of soft edges, each overlaying harmoniously on the walls and beams. The capitals of the Corinthian columns are gilded and delicately ornate . The hotel staff somehow reminded me of characters in The Sims game; they all looked smart, well-presented and polished. And the hotel served delicious cookies during the meeting!
As shallow and superficial my observations might be, it is a luxury hotel used by the truly weathly people. The standard room price starts from £500 during the mid-season; it is still affordable for normal people who decide to splurge, but a suite can cost up to £11,000 (RM55,000) per night! It goes without saying that designer bags are a common sight, but they also wear designer clothing. While more and more people on the street can afford or are willing to afford designer bags nowadays, not many choose to spend on luxury designer clothing, as they are often seen as not worthy to invest in, unlike bags and shoes. So that answers my question of who would buy designer blouses that costs half of my salary. The hotel residents sure do resemble the people seen in luxury lifestyle adverts.
After all, they are staying at one of the most expensive and well-known five-star hotel in London with an impeccable reputation. Of course, the even wealthier oligarchs and sheiks will stay in their private penthouses in Belgravia, London’s wealthiest residential area. It is an area where the average price of a 4 bedroom flat goes for £15 million (RM 70 million).
I managed to hold the urge to take my phone out to snap lots of photos. The quality of the marble tiles is the finest quality I have ever seen, and I considered sneaking to the washroom and take a photo. I didn’t do it eventually, but it wouldn’t hurt to attach a photo from the internet for illustration purposes.
For normal people like me, client meetings and enjoying their afternoon high-tea which cost a minimum of £60 (RM300) per person is probably the closest I can get to actually experiencing their facilities. I can of course order just a cup of tea and spend the whole day here, but there will be no fun doing that!
Photo credit: Polliweb
While I only had two short trips to Singapore in the beginning and end of 2012, Alex and I have not travelled at all last year. We had to stay focus on our job hunting, wait for the possible unexpected interview calls, and manage our finance wisely to survive the unemployment period.
London is a vibrant city that Alex and I would never feel bored of. Each neighbourhood has their own distinctive characteristics, so much so that walking and exploring in an unfamiliar neighbourhood is an interesting experience. It is not a city that can be fully absorbed in a few days of travelling (at least not from the eyes of an architect), hence it was the reason we chose to stay back a full two years to continue exploring. To be able to work in London is a blessing, and we consider that as being able to travel in London for two years!
Alex and I attended Wendy’s ROM in London last summer. She was my senior back in college and to be honest, we’ve never really spoke to each other before the wedding. Leaving comments on each other’s Facebook wall doesn’t count. =) It was from there how we got closer and started to know each other. This is how things work when staying abroad. We meet people with different backgrounds randomly. It’s a mystery how it works!
This time last year, I was still trying to secure a job in London. The past year was an exciting but tough journey. Alex and I were the only ones among our batch who chose to stay behind after our graduation. The construction industry in UK was extremely bad and chances for a job were low. Our parents were not happy with our choices, and many around us thought it would be difficult and not worth the time and effort. We had our doubts and insecurities, and considered all the alternatives which made more sense at that time. In the end, we decided to try our luck rather than being haunted with the ‘what if’ question in the future. There might be chances we could waste our time of a year and money on the living cost, but sometimes we have to deal with risks in our lives.
This journey has instilled a great life lesson on us, and we have had to grasp the skills of patience, persistence, hard work, staying positive and being strong on a deeper emotional level. It’s not that we didn’t apply these values all the while, but the journey enabled us to learn how all these positive values work together. There is indeed a fine line between persistence and stubbornness, but we have to learn how to measure and weigh it according to the circumstances.
I have finally updated the ‘about me‘ page on this blog. It was so difficult to write that it took me nearly 3 years. The last one I wrote was during my year out, so obviously, it was no longer relevant since things have changed so much. I think the ‘about me’ page is overrated, but it is important for anyone to know briefly about me before they really get to know who I am! At least it gives a foresight of what type of nonsense to expect from this blog.
The first camera that I brought with me to the UK was a Panasonic Lumix compact camera. Unfortunately, in less than a year, I dropped it on the ground. So that was that, a very dignified death in the middle of the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium. But not quite – a few months later, I sent it back to Malaysia for repair and managed to get it back to working order. My dad became the new owner.
After its untimely demise and before sending it back for repair, I bought a Fujifilm F100fd compact camera to use. The colour of the photos was rich and I really loved it. The photos didn’t need much tone and colour adjustments, and the only downside was its weak performance in low lighting conditions. This time around, I purchased an extended warranty of three years. Within that three years, I sent the camera back for repair five times! (Due to countless drops and carelessness for not using a camera case half of the time). Warranty well used!
Two years later, Alex and I got a DSLR camera together. That is the Nikon D90 which we are still using now.
In 2011 I got my Iphone 4s, and started using cameras lesser and lesser. I even left my Fujifilm camera with my dad back in Malaysia. His Panasonic camera (originally mine) has reached the end of its renewed life. A few days before I flew back to the UK, he asked if I was taking the camera with me. His body language made it clear that he wasn’t expecting me to do so. And that was how my relationship with my second compact camera ended…
I always thought that with my iPhone and D90, it’s perfectly fine not to have a compact camera. With photo editing apps and many filter choices, who needs a camera? Nevertheless my tolerance with the noise on Iphone photos eventually reached its limit and I made the decision to get my third compact camera.
So now, I would like to introduce the Sony RX-100. A colleague who is also a professional photographer recommended it. The new camera is much really lightweight but has a bigger sensor compared to other cameras of the same range. Most importantly, it performs really well under low lighting, one of the essentials for dinners, parties and UK gloomy weathers!