Drinks, Delectables And Discussion At Dandelyan

My first girl date of February was actually my third time hanging out with the glorious Jennifer. I relish any opportunity I get to spend time with her so I was very excited see her after nearly four months of separation.

I’m having a bit of a love affair with purple at the moment so I had to put this combo together. Both the dress and cardigan are from Vivien of Holloway. I added a vintage brooch for a bit of sparkle.

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To begin with, we had a walk round the Tate Modern. While I waited for Jennifer, I had a go on the swings (an installation by Superflex) and chatted to a few tourists. It was a fun experience – both new and nostalgic. Together, we took in the likes of Bruce Nauman, Guerilla Girls and Barbara Kruger – as well as chilly views of London.

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From the gallery, we strolled over to Dandelyan Bar located in the Mondrian hotel. I have to say it is a particularly gorgeous place to have afternoon tea. The decor gives off serious Wes Anderson vibes and I love the colours. A great photo shoot spot.

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On to the afternoon tea itself – we opted for the Wyld Tea, which is an afternoon tea paired with four cocktails. It kicked off with a zingy lime and prosecco concoction that was greatly appreciated by both of us (I liked the marshmallow too). As the savouries arrived, we moved on to a palate-cleansing melon and cardamom spritz. As well as the usual sarnies, there was some moreish cheese on toast and a pastry swirl too. Jennifer had the veggie option and she was definitely a happy bunny.

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Not long after, we moved onto the cakes and boy, were they beautiful! We also got another cocktail – a dinky vodka number. I really loved the cake selection. The Battenburg was yummy in spite of the marzipan and the rose blancmange was sat upon such a buttery shortbread. My favourite of all the patisserie had to be the nutmeg custard tart; caramel, vanilla, custard and crisp pastry are always a stellar combo. Jennifer had a nut-free selection that reminded me of a pixie village. We both had clean plates at the end, ready for our final fruity tipple.

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I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I’m usually weary of drink pairings as they’re not always to my taste. This selection worked really well though! If I could change anything about the afternoon tea, I’d add in scones. This was my first afternoon tea without them and it just didn’t feel quite right – I need clotted cream and jam in my life. That aside, I’ll be heading back for sure. Post-tea, we opted for ‘Lonely Heart Killers’ cocktails as we chatted (another yummy choice).

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One of the best things about our friendship is that we can talk about literally everything; we rarely have a quiet moment between us. I feel like we put the world to rights and lift each other up. Obviously we’ve not known one another long but that doesn’t really matter – we intend doing this kind of thing well into old age!

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Papow Ponders #16: The Sari And Me

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I’d get a new sari (one that wasn’t a hand-me-down from older generations in my family; one that was truly mine). On Wednesday night, I made my selection on a website. As I was just about to pay, I stopped. I’ve previously touched on my relationship with my race and culture in a previous blog post. Trying to buy a sari brought a lot of those feelings back.

When my grandparents came to this country from Fiji, they did what they could to assimilate. As well as having their given names, they also had anglicised names – this was also the case for my mum and her siblings. Even I anglicised my name for the majority of my childhood, going by Cherie rather than Chereeka. Assimilation also impacted the way my family dressed. There are some pictures of female family members wearing saris in the UK (most around the sixties and seventies) but as the years have gone by these images have become scarce. In my lifetime, I cannot remember seeing  any woman in my family in a sari. I’ve only every seen close family friends in them or strangers going about their own business. With all this in mind, it made me wonder whether I should be buying a sari if they hadn’t been worn for such a long time. Would I be able to put it on without my mum’s help? Would it look wrong on me? Would people question what I’m wearing?

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My mum in a sari in her late teens

Another thought that made me pause was my own background. I’ve only ever worn my mother’s sari. I wear it rarely but when I do, I feel a greater connection to her and the older generation of women in my family. Should I be able to wear it more often? I’ve been brought up in majority white neighbourhoods and educational institutions. On several occasions, I’ve been referred to as a coconut or Oreo – not brown enough. Also Fijians are such a tiny ethnic group in the UK, it’s hard to find someone from the same background to discuss this stuff with. I know I’m waffling at this point but what I’m trying to say is do I have enough connection with Desi culture to wear it? I want to take pride in my ancestry but I don’t want to be disrespectful or disingenuous either.

I know it’s not the biggest issue to be discussing but it is something that I worry about. Maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned with other people’s opinions. Maybe I should already know the answer. However, I still ask myself: should I buy the sari?

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Drag Nights: #1 Sasha Velour

To cut a long story short, I fell in love with drag around three years ago when I first started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since then, I’ve been been following the journeys of several queens and branched out to seek other forms of drag. The Boulet Brothers (including everything Dragula) and Creme Fatale are particular favourites of mine.

Even though I’d been enjoying drag for quite a while, I’d not been to an actual show. I’m not a fan of being out really late and I hate public transport at night so the natural timing of a drag show isn’t all that ideal for me. This all changed when I found out that Sasha Velour was coming to Reading university – I knew I could cope with a twenty minute journey. Excited at the prospect of finally seeing some fabulous queens up close, I asked Becky if she fancied coming along and she happily said yes.

On the night, I opted a Velour-inspired outfit: bold colour, velvet and a leather jacket.

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My other half dropped me off at Becky’s and then we made our way to the union (which I hadn’t visited since 2011). Neither of us knew what to expect.

A mix of UK drag queens and dancers strutted their stuff on the stage as the DJ got the audience warmed up. I’m in no doubt that Becky was in awe of my masterful dance moves. Everyone in the room seemed to be enjoying themselves – even though it was a Monday in January.

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After some time of boogying on down, the time had come for Sasha to come on stage. It was bloody amazing. I won’t say too much but Marlene Dietrich, Golem, Kate Bush and Le Tigre were involved – along with some stunning costumes.

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The final act had Becky and I holding hands, swaying and singing. Totally unforgettable. Afterwards, we headed upstairs for out Meet and Greet. Sasha turned up in the most glamorous vagina outfit. It was wonderful. When it came to my turn, I just told her that she was brilliant, that I was out on a school night and that I loved her views on education. It was a blur of smiles and happiness.

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Despite it being nearly two in the morning, Becky and I left the union buzzing – we’re definitely going to more drag shows together.

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Mustard And Teal With Susan Phelps Photography

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I have always adored teal – not quite green, not quite blue but completely beautiful. Lately though, I’ve been having a bit of a love affair with mustard. Any shade seems to satisfy my need for warmth, sunshine and a little sophistication.

When Susan Phelps and I decided to do another shoot, I knew I had the perfect combo. First of all, I grabbed my newest dress from Vivien of Holloway. The Runaround Sue is one of their staple styles but the latest batch are made from an easy-to-wear crepe fabric. I had to go for the petrol version, which is a darker teal colour. Pockets included – definitely a winner!

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Now when I saw this jacket on the House Of Foxy website, I knew I’d eventually end up with it. It’s got to be one of my favourite purchases; great quality fabric and a perfect fit. Mustard is quite a bold colour but it goes nicely with quite a few bits from my wardrobe.

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My talented little sister knitted me a mustard hat and scarf set for Christmas. The scarf made a great accessory for my dress!

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Thanks again to Susan Phelps for creating these gorgeous shots – here’s to the next shoot!

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