Monday, 2 November 2009

From Receptionist to Manager

"So you were a receptionist before this and suddenly got your big break and now you're the general manager?" Ahh, why I felt the need to even attempt to defend myself. Yes, right before starting at the Admiral Codrington I was in fact a receptionist. A receptionist in a 1 Michelin Starred restaurant in London that has been around for 12 years and averaged around 200 covers or more a day. I was the receptionist, table planner, and sometimes most importantly, the only native English speaker in the building. I helped respond to emails, complaint letters, checked menus, and even assisted in the occasional CV writing and text messaging. "Katerina, how do you spell lingerie?" Later on, "Katerina, how do you spell naughty?" The rest of the content of that message was a mystery but I can only hope it was for his wife!
My first restaurant job was at Bibendum, around the corner from the Cod and also where Fred and I met, then to the White Swan, BORING!!
Anyways, I shall never defend myself and my past to anyone but only look forward and work on the job at hand. And that job is huge! I'm nervous, excited, terrified, happy, completely in over my head, and am so ready to show them that a former receptionist can do this bigger and better than those who came before.
I keep finding myself thinking and saying comments that were once said to me and drove me INSANE! "Can you do something about your hair?" "You need to wipe the tables in the direction of the grains in the wood." "Hold the champagne by the stem, not the glass." Things that I have held against these former managers for years and years. Things that I have found myself wanting to pass on now that I'm the manager. I have had some very successful managers from some very successful businesses and I just hope that their hard work and determination have rubbed off on me and over time I'll be looked at as the general manager rather than a former receptionist.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Aftermath

Well, after my last blog I guess I should give an update. I wasn't exactly nervous or scared to tell my mother that I had a Vespa, I guess it had just been so long that I hadn't told her about it, an omission of the truth rather than a lie, that it was just a confession that had to happen. It would have come out somehow, I had even slipped up before by saying I had driven into central London but played it off by turning "driving" into taking the bus because at least someone was driving, but I don't think she noticed at all. I didn't tell her simply because I know she worries but I was thinking the other day about telling her when I remembered that both my mother and my father had their pilot licenses when they were my age, IN FACT, they had a plane! That suddenly made my little 125 Vespa that I've never been over 55mph on pretty insignificant. I can't even drive on the motorways or carry passengers yet.

Anyways, after my "blog-fession" my mother called me and we chatted about it to which she said said she didn't even know what a Vespa was and also that she wanted to drive it next time she came to London, so there ya go.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Mother Dearest,

This confession is mainly for you as many others already know and the rest probably just don't care. It's something I've been meaning to tell you about but haven't for your own good but it will come out (like the tattoo did) and I'd rather you hear it from me, well, my blog. It's not that I thought you would disapprove because let's face it, I'm a big girl now, and it's definately not anything bad or illegal, I'm a good girl, it was more for the fact I know how you worry about me but it is a big part of my life now and something that I will probably blog, twitter, and facebook about in the future so the time is here.

(Deep breath)

As you already know, Fred got a Vespa early last year and last August my darling husband surprised me with my own matching silver Vespa. It came with the bike, a box for the back, a bike jacket with protector plates and thermal liner, bike gloves with protected fingers and knuckles, a neck warmer for when it's cold, and a balaclava for when it's really really really cold. I had to apply for a British Learners license and take a course to get my license to drive the bike and I was the only one in the class who passed!! I have had it inspected and have insurance as well and best of all my £100 a month on travel passes is now reduced to less than £20 a month on gas, I don't pay the £8 congestion charge to drive in London, and I don't pay for parking. I drive "greenly" so the gas goes further and means less emissions into the environment.

It's a great way to get around, a relief from London's public transport, and I absolutely LOVE it. Fred and I can drive around together and run errands that would have taken us over 2 hours in the past in 30 minutes, it's brilliant. So there you go, it's out there now and if you ever want to worry or fret remember YOUR "alternative" form of transportation when you were my age and just be glad I'm on the ground and not in the air!!


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

That's not my name...

Not only is that one of my favorite TingTing songs it's also the story of my life. I am constantly being called Caroline, specifically, it seems, when working in the restaurant industry. These indiviudals have been told that my name is Katherine and that I am from North Carolina which seems to equal Caroline in their eyes. I wasn't sure if it was because most of the restaurant industry in London consists of non-native English speaking people or because the people in the industry are constantly changing so they just don't bother to really learn anyone's name correctly.

It started almost 4 years ago working at Ransome's Dock where Antony started calling me Caroline. I contributed this mistake to the fact that the man drank Sambuca from 11:30 in the morning, often times starting before we had eaten staff lunch and would then take the rest of the bottle to bed with him at night, if that was me I'd probably forget my own name much less the name of some random bartender.

This takes me to my new job working in an Italian restaurant where there seems to be two extremes of my name. Not only do I get called Caroline on occasion, which I just accept and respond to, there are a few individuals on staff who refer to all 4 receptionists as Katerina (said with a thick Italian accent), even the head receptionist, Olga, who has worked there for 6 years. I only recently discovered this as I assumed whenever they said Katerina they were speaking to me but the french receptionist named Aurelia would also respond telling me, "Oh, they call all of us Katerina" and it seems as in my Caroline they've given up on correcting the mistake.

Fred seems to think that this is almost a sign of respect that in 3 months of working there it's my name they have choosen to refer to all the females with. And in the mean time I am taking this opportunity to teach the Italians more about North Carolina. Recently I saw that Miss North Carolina won the Miss America pagent which went into my curriculum and also explaining the difference between North and South Carolina. I also refered to the Miss America pagent again by showing them the infamous response by Miss South Carolina in which she turned an answer that should have showcased the inability for Americans to locate the US on a world map into how we should help countries such as Asia, South Africa, and "the Iraq" with their education, seems maybe the Iraq could offer her a few pointers.

Anyways, Katherine Duke Forehand Smith is my name but you can call me what you like, except for Kathy.

Friday, 20 February 2009

My "I can't wait to do that" List

So I haven't seen "The Bucketlist" and I haven't been issued any sort of death sentence but was inspired by an old friend who made her own "not a bucket" list. I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit in my life, taking off after university and working and traveling around the world and still "living abroad" except London is home now. I used to hate it when people said, "I wish I could do that," cause I always thought, "well, you can!" I wasn't stopped so why would anyone else be. All you needed was a plane ticket and a working visa and once you got somewhere you got a job and supported your travels. That's why I don't think anything on my list is out of my reach and they are all things I've really wanted to do but it was much harder thinking of them than I realized. Let's get started!!

1. Learn to knit

2. Frame some of my photography

3. Read War and Peace

4. Get a Chanel bag

5. Learn sign language

6. Go kayaking on the Thames

7. Volunteer in London

8. Run a 10k

9. Bake my own bread

10. Pick one thing to do in Time Out each month

11. See Avenue Q

12. Finish a G2 crossword puzzle

13. Win the G2 photo competition

14. Go mountain biking

15. Have my own garden

16. Adopt a child

17. Buy a house

18. Make pickles

19. Host my family for Christmas in London

20. Get my French back

21. Write a book

22. Send Christmas cards

23. Swim with dolphins

24. Rent the funny bikes in Battersea Park

25. Have my 30th birthday and 5th anniversary in VEGAS!!

26. Hike part of the Appalachain Trail with my dad

27. Go on Safari in Africa with my mom

28. Rent a old school red convertible and drive up the coast of California

29. Have a pet gecko

30. Work on a ranch

31. Take a yoga class more than once

32. Go to the opera

33. Eat sushi in Japan

34. Get a meaningful tattoo

35. Learn to wear high heels

36. Hold a baby tiger/lion/jaguar/elephant/etc

37. Donate my hair to charity

38. Learn my family history

39. Have a library

40. Write a letter to David Sedaris telling him how much I love his books

41. Apply for my British passport

42. Eat a currie in India

43. Stay in a hut on the beach in Thailand

44. Take a dog sled ride

45. Learn about different types of flowers and plants

46. Meet Dante Calabria

47. Have a quilt made from my old t-shirts

48. Have a huge 69th birthday party with all my friends from my life

49. Work in a stall in a market

50. Update my blog and keep adding to it as I mark things off

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

As much of the world was aware, London recently got a giant hug from the North Pole and was completely snowed under. It was the most wonderful surprise as, while it will snow in London, it a) is more in slushy form as it falls and b) just doesn't stick past sunrise. I sat in my flat staring in awe out the window as the sun went down and the snow came in thicker and thicker. It was real snow, perfect ski weather snow. I quickly took to my facebook account to set my status only to see that I was not the only one, n'er a status in sight that didn't pertain to the snow. I suddenly felt 8 years old again. When Fred got home that night he said he couldn't remember the last time it snowed like that in London and the news was saying it was a good 20 years.

I had nothing to get up for the next morning but at 7am natured called so while I was up it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't looked out the window in a good 5 hours, who knew what would await me. I ran to the window and I never could have imagined what was before my eyes. It was perfect "snow day" weather, there was a pristine white blanket covering everything. I sprinted to tell Fred who just reponded with a grunt and went back to sleep. Why didn't he want to celebrate this joyous occassion with me at 7:05am?!?!

I think I may have gotten back into bed with the intention of going back to sleep but at around 7:07am I sprang from my bed, donned my boots, grabbed my camera, and headed into the snow. For some reason the whole thing was very emotional and I felt a bit silly feeling on the verge of tears as I walked towards the park. Walking down Park Gate road I litterally felt like I was walking down the streets of Aspen. I was so glad that I did get up early because the snow was virtually untouched and as I got to Battersea Park walking through the gates was a bit like walking into Narnia, just minus the wardrobe. I certainly wasn't the only one in the park though, there were tons of photographers as this was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity for pictures in London.

I suddenly desperately wanted to make a snow angel and was taken back to past snows in my life. For some reason the number one event that stuck in my head was the time I was about 7 years old and was greeted with a tightly packed snowball to the face as I got off the bus to go home. I had snow in my eyes, down my coat, and I was so distressed that I wet my pants. Not the most pleasant of memories but a memory none the less. I remembered blizzards in Colorado, ski trips to Winterplace, and watching desperately for our school's name to scroll across the TV screen to announce a snow day.

Skiing is very much an activity of my past and hopefully of my future but it's such an expensive hobby that it's just put on hold right now. Living in Colorado when I was young was great because it was where I learned to ski and without inhibitions. My mom said I would join her after ski school and just tear down the mountain while she swished right to left. She watched as her 4 year old got smaller and smaller in the distance. I've also always been very proud of the fact that it's the one sport I have completely excelled in and dominated compared to past boyfriends and current husbands. Some (Fred) say I have a slight competitive streak when it comes to playing sports and refuse to play games like tennis with me but the tables are turned when it comes to skiing. One ex insisted on snowboarding in the hopes that we'd be on a more even playing ground but I still kicked his ass.

So, the snow made the memories swirl around in my head and it was fun walking around the park watching others create their own memories as most certainly there'll be comments like, "This is nothing like the snow of 2009," and "You call this snow?" being made for years to come. It was hilarious to watch the people with their dogs though. Since London is such a metropolitan place and big dogs don't have room to roam the small dog is the norm. But the small dog disappeared in the untouched snow, much to their owners distress. The park was suddenly a huge game of hide-n-seek between the small dogs and their owners. I helped point out one elderly couple's dog who'd ran into the snow covered brush and they were greatful. But when they went to pick up their dog he looked like he'd recently gotten white dredlocks and they were not coming off. These dogs must have melted like Frosty on the way home.

I so desperately wanted Fred to come out and play in the snow with me and as I was getting nearer to home he called my phone asking where I was. Apparently in my excitment of the snow I had left my keys in the front door, whoopsie!! Well, despite no buses running anywhere in London and the tubes running every 4 hours he still had to go to work. I got a call from somewhere in Hyde Park saying he was walking and was almost there. No snow days for chefs, apparently people still have to eat and eat they did, they wound up having one of their busiest lunch services ever and it was only a Monday.

The snow stuck around for a few more days, particularly in ice form on the sidewalks which was a bit trecherous for some. Someone on our floor had built a tiny snowman and put a baby carrot for a nose and some peas for eyes which eventually just layed on their own on the ground. I rode a bus past Green Park which looked like an overcrowded graveyard for snowmen and women, all half melted and leaning to one side, spooky in a way. It's now gone and the facebook statuses are back to normal but I'm glad I took full advantage of the snow!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saint Valentine

My lovely Valentines night was certainly a perfect evening for me. One thing I love about it is that it wasn't really too different from a normal night but we don't get to spend too many nights together so every "normal" night is a special one, this one just had cards and special champagne to add too it to make it extra special.

I gave Fred his card in the morning before heading to work as it had a big, nice, shiny Valentines button on it and like a good husband he pinned it to his shirt and off to work he went. Of course once at work he changes into chef whites and I think it's a pretty safe bet he did not transfer the button but he wore it the rest of the night once he got home.

As most people know, the stereotypes in our little family are slightly confused and while I do all the driving when we rent cars on holiday, Fred is the chef and prepared me a wonderful dinner. I always have intentions of learning and helping but somehow wind up sitting on the sofa while he pushes on without me. My excuse? The onions hurt my eyes.

Well, my Valentines dinner had my two favorites, a massive piece of fois gras and a whole lobster in both claw and home-made ravioli form with lobster sauce, mmmmmmmmmmmmm. I will happily admit I'm spoiled on the food front and I love it. I devoured all my delicious dinner with a mental side note of doing a bit of excersize again. One day. When the weather's nicer. So, that'll be never. But I'm greedily looking forward to my next lobe of fois gras.

Friday, 13 February 2009

My new blog

On the advice of a good friend I'm starting my very own blog. I'm very excited and I really enjoy writing and I love reading other people's blogs but I'm also a bit nervous. In a way it's kinda like getting a new pet and I can't even keep plants alive, so far I've killed 5. This new blog will require patience, attention, determination, care, and most of all commitment but I think I'm up for the challenge. At least if I do wind up "killing my blog" like I've killed my tomato plant, my mint plant, and 3 other plants that I never even knew their type, it'll just wind up in cyberspace heaven or I'm sure I can cancel the account which seems more like getting an annulement, just pretend it never happened.

My mind is always turning with new ideas of things to write about but I certainly hope that I'll also have some personal twists and turns to add as so far 2009 hasn't been a bowl of Marshmallow Blasted Fruit Loops. Instead it's been more like stale Kashi with sour milk, OK, a little extreme as I'm always surrounded by my amazing husband and wonderful friends but it can only really go up from there can't it?

And now, as said husband has come home and has the evening off with me which is a rare occasion we're heading to the pub across the street.