Gemmawatson's Blog

Since i found myself in the vibrant but dusty streets of India, the Indian takeaway down the road, once my guilty treat, has never tasted quite the same.

It’s true what they say, in India you have curry for breakfast, lunch, and tea and oh yes, it is spicy! Somehow after a month not only did i crave some kind of Western food, but i had built up this incredible spice tolerance, allowing me to appreciate every full flavor that each dish i tasted had to offer.

I left India a veteran, no kind of street food could phase me now, but on coming back to England, i realised it would be the most authentic taste of India i would ever have.

Until i stumbled on the Aagrah Sheffield. It’s located in Leopold Square, renowned for having some of the nicer chains of restaurants in Sheffield. It is nestles down some stairs, which somehow make it always appear empty.
When my boyfriend told me he had booked a table there, i couldn’t help but frown slightly as it has a reputation for not being cheap, but then he announced Sundays to Thursdays they offer 20% of your final bill, and it was a done deal.On entering the restaurant you realise it is huge. The decor is a dark red, with the waiting staffs dress resembling traditional Indian clothing. We were shown to a table, and our drinks order taken straight away, each drink costing around £5 each for a medium glass of wine and a 660ml bottle of beer.

As i said before, when it comes to spice, i cannot be defeated, on the other hand, we have found from previous experience that my boyfriend has a really issue with hot food; his tongue swells up, and he needs vast amounts of milk to get through a dish. The Indian waiter listen to his concern, and  promised to make his Chicken Balti less spicy, where as i kept my  Lamb Bindhi Gosht at the full two spices, and we ordered Peshwari Nanns to accompny the dishes.
Our food was on the table within fifteen minutes and i was pleasantly surprised. The food was beautiful, all fresh ingredients and not a hint of grease usually associated with our English version of the native Indian dishes.
As promised, the chefs had catered to my other half’s needs and he enjoyed the dishes as much as i, inhaling his first taste of Peshwari Nann and a authentic Indian taste.For all of our food and drinks, the bill came to just under £40. For the quality of the food and service we both appreciated that this was excellent value for money, and we left merry and with very satisfied, full tummys.

 

For the full menu and offers check out the restaurants website http://www.aagrah.com/index.php?Itemid=27

The Awesome Aagrah

Daniel is 23 year old. Wearing a smart suit and shiny shoes, he has just finished a day at work.  His mobile rings. He answers: “One hundred and eighty? One fifty mate that’s my final price.” Hanging up abruptly, he turns to me and apologises, turning his phone off. We are sat in an understated house in Sheffield. Daniel has already offered me a brew, as I sip it, I enquire to the deal,

“He wants to charge me one eighty for Mandy, he’s having a laugh.” Mandy is a form of ecstasy known as MDMA, D is a drug dealer.

“If someone over dosed off my product, I would feel responsible even though I didn’t make them do it.”

At just 16 Daniel stopped following his dream of becoming a footballer, and fell into a world of alcohol and drugs. You would think that as he got kicked out of home and his usage of narcotics became more regular; that his world would spiral out of control. But even as a teenager D proved himself to be an innovative entrepreneur, turning his habit in to a business when times became hard.

“What started off as going down to the pub with my mates, taking a few pills on a Friday, turned into buying 50 pills and selling them at a profit.”

Selling ecstasy was just the start. Daniel was soon being pushed into selling cocaine. “The guy didn’t really give me a choice. He gave it to me for free, and I whispered into the right ears at the pub and before I knew it, it was gone. I’d made £80 and then I was buying two and a quarter ounces, putting  the quarter ounce (seven grams) aside for myself and was making £1200 profit a week.”

This carried on for about a year before Daniel down scaled his dealing, realizing the high risks involved in his activity. In the UK you can receive a maximum of seven years for possession of cocaine, and if you are found guilty of intent to supply, you could face life imprisonment.

Daniel insists he has only one close call with the law, and although the legal consequences of what he is doing are always at the back of his mind, he has had other experiences that have also put him off being as heavily involved in the future: “I’ve been beaten up a fair few times, stabbed, robbed; I’m paranoid, looking out of my window as soon as I hear any suspicious noise, always having to watch my back.”

When you think of the description “drug dealer”, you conjure up your own image. Whether this be some unemployed skin head from up North, or Denzel Washington’s portrayal of a wealthy drug Barron in American Gangster, their story never seems to go smoothly.

“I’ve been beaten up a fair few times, stabbed, robbed; I’m paranoid, looking out of my window as soon as I hear any suspicious noise, always having to watch my back.”

Just a glance at the website of the most infamous drugs help charity FRANK, you can see it is riddled with stories from people whose lives have been consumed from addiction to cocaine.

Sam who is 25, and her husband who is 26, both use cocaine on a regular basis. She writes “This addiction is ruining my life, not financially, because as it happens we both have good jobs and can afford it, but mentally.”

I asked Daniel if he feels any responsibility to those who buy drugs off him, “If I knew someone was in a delicate situation, calling me at 9am, sweating and shaking, then I would tell them to go home.”

“If someone over dosed off my product, I would feel responsible even though I didn’t make them do it.”

So apart from his the £50,000 a year; cash, and nice watches, are the risks that D takes everyday worth it?

“Your lifestyle stops you from spending the money on relevant things. I don’t have much to show for it, some nice clothes but that’s about it. Bit of a waste really.”

If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and want help, go to www.talktofrank.com for confidential help and advice.

No real names have been used in this piece.

Approaching the end of my university life, I find myself with little money, little time and after three years of pastry, pizza and burgers, little taste for fast food.

My second trip to Southeast Asia last summer, left me skint and with a taste for noodles. Searching to find a replica of the food that I had eaten in Thailand and Bali has proved fairly frivolous, with the closest replica being ‘Indomee’ noodles, which I could purchase at my local Tesco, but didn’t quite satisfy my need.

However, this week i found myself in the rain, with a friend searching for somewhere to eat and we stumbled across Harmony Cafe on Westfield Terrace Sheffield. Although the name doesn’t imply it, this cafe specialises in Japanese food, and was full of oriental customers, which to me is a sign of good grub.

On opening the menu I immediately thought “oh no!”

Now you may misread that as something negative towards Harmony Cafe, in fact it was more to do with the huge variety on the menu, and my eating partners inability to make a decision. Food from all over the continent is available, from Vietnamese Clay Pots, to Thailand’s famous Pad Thai, and every type of stir fry and rice dish imaginable!

We both decided on noodle soup. I chose the Thai fish balls and fish cake variety, and my partner chose the duck. The food came quickly in huge bowls, with loads of noodles and aromatic smell of spices, taking me back to the streets of Thailand (without the roaming dogs).

The food is excellent value for money, costing just over £5 for each dish, with enough food to last for two sittings. The duck was all meat, no fat, which is often the case with duck dishes, and the service incredible.

For quick, good, wholesome food, that’s excellent value for money; start at Harmony Cafe for a Taste of Asia.

Proof that the idea of sexism still exists in the twenty-first century. This was a comment made by a fellow a student at a networking dinner, hosted by the British Council, whilst he was waiting to be served. He instead decided one of the girls should have a go. She was served straight away, but that isn’t the point here! When it came to music selection, the boys chose it, when it came to taking over the party with’ Hallam karaoke’, the boys had the mike. Why do females still sit back in a male dominated situations?

This is the beauty of netball, no men. We are able to see the talent of women, without them being over shadowed by the mens version of the sport. Whilst I’ve been here, I have had the chance to watch the best netball from every country being play in their own way. Caribbean players are feisty and have passion, Australian and New Zealand players are cool calm and collected, Pacific Island players are fast and Indian players are… well their unique.

There is one team here who have particularly tugged at my heart-strings. This is the team from Malawi. It is the first time they have played the top four, coming from no  money, they rely on their government to fund them. Everytime we speak to them, the proud Malawi players tell us how it is instrumental that the government intervenes and helps them. Currently they have nowhere to practice that even resembles the state of the art stadium they are playing in here.

Their minister for sport has been in Delhi, attending all of the teams games, which has left them with hope for more funding. The Malawi coach Edith Kaliati commented:  ‘ This has given us the chance to play the top teams. Malawi has failed to travel to play them before. Our government minister for sport has been to watch and seen what the other teams are doing – hopefully he will give us a chance to play more friendlies with those teams.’

Day 2 of the Commonwealth Games 2010 and once again the stands are empty. Netball may not be a sport played on a large-scale by Indians, but surely there’s some ‘Netball Nuts’ out there?

Finally our hopes are lifted when midway through the England (ENG), South Africa (RSA) match, a lot of people are shown to their seats. We soon realise that these well-groomed, uniformed, young men, are in fact some of the ‘underprivileged’ school pupils, who have recieved free tickets.

Despite their limited knowledge of the sport, their excitement soon breaks through, with cheering and clapping every time ENG or RSA score erupting from either side of the stadium.

Those sat behind the ENG net take a shine to our lovely Jo HARTEN (GS), and Pamela COOKEY (GA), chatting their names each time they get the ball.

It may have been the atmosphere that had finally been created that spurred the usual quiet HARTEN into being vocal, cheering her team mates on.

With big matches finally hitting the court, (New Zealand V England and Australia V Jamaica) on Thursday, will the lack of crowd effect the team’s performance? Or are the High Commission going to find us some netball fans?

Our fist training session was cut short, just in time for us to rush back to the YMCA and pop on our glad rags in preparation for meeting the British High Commissioner in India. after witnessing Brian Tweedale running down the street the wrong way looking for the bus, it finally arrived and we all hopped on not really knowing what we were in for.

We arrived at the High Commissioner and Lady Stags’ house in plenty of time, greeted with what can only be described as endless glasses of wine, (the waiters never allowed them to be empty) and a free bar. It was the perfect chance for us to ‘mingle’, but my excuse is the dutch courage needed to obtained from somewhere first. So supplied with canapes and wine, along came my meeting with the BBC Producer for Sport, several England Athletes and many more. I have finally met someone who did journalistic work experience in F1  so my hopes have been.

James Huckle was the main England Athlete that i met. Since our meeting, he has won a Silver and a Bronze medal in the mens shooting. and invited me to go visit the Athletes Village, which unfortunately due to the ridiculous security seems very unlikely. On further exploration of the Commissioners garden, I met the head of security who is responsible for looking after Prince Charles when he attends the opening ceremony.

The reception ended with ruddy faces and a swaying departure, the only negative point was the undercurrent chatter of a potential media strike, because of how much trouble security have caused them.

Two days into the games and my life has gone crazy. The opening ceremony went without a hitch, despite the insane security and the Netball began even though the umpires got to the day before without receiving any uniform.

It would be easy for me to use this blog as a moan, a chance to get everything that is wrong with these games and the condition that I am expected to work in off my chest, but I think you’d find that pretty dull. All you need to know is Indians have a very different work ethic to mine.

Getting quotes from Athletes and Coaches, probably is easier than I thought. It just takes the right questions, and the confidence to ask them. The quote of the day yesterday was one Coreena received from the Barbados Coach-Jacquelyn Elaine Forde-Brome. She told her how she ‘Puts her team through psychological testing, which obviously worked because they got into double figuers.’ 

Occasionally the nerves get to me, when I feel like I can’t get anything out of them, or they do not want to speak to me, which is what happened when i spoke to the England Co Captain Sonia Mkloma. This girl is tall, seriously tall, and after her impressive performance on court shes also intimidating. I got a few words from her, but i could have done better, but it is easier said than done sometimes.

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