Every year, at the height of summer, Canary Wharf is set abuzz with scores of the very best automobiles congregating around its center with the most luxurious of all housed in One Canada Square. This year is no exception. Lotus, McLaren, Aston Martin, GVE London, Radical, Mercedes-Benz are just some of the names crammed in the confined area vying for car enthusiasts' attention.
London Motoexpo 2013 is running till 16th June (Sunday) 5pm. So there's still time if you want to have a go at the driver's seats.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Sunday, June 9, 2013
My earliest memory of dimsum is my dad bringing us to Tai Zi Lou (太子楼) at Selegie Road when I was a kid. We used to have dimsum brunches at the restaurant quite often.
It didn't do quite well in the nineties as full fledged dim sum brunches gave way to fuss free hash browns and breakfast baps as fast food restaurants started sprouting up all around the isle. Tai Zi Lou soon went out of business and the building itself was demolished a couple of years back.
But whenever I tucked into a charsiew (roast pork) bun, the memories of balancing precariously over the chair in middle of the crowded Tai Zi Lou while Dad gestured frantically to the staff pushing metallic dim sum carts came flooding back. I didn't really care for any other dim sum so long as I had my charsiew buns.
It must be in the genes because LO can only be placated with one of those fluffy charsiew buns whenever we are at Royal China. At one point, she insisted on having it for breakfast every single morning.
I got those frozen charsiew buns (six in a pack) from the Chinatown supermarkets. Simply steam them for a couple of minutes and they ate good to go. But they are nothing compared to the ones served in restaurants. Not only is the dough denser and thus less fluffy, the meat fillings tasted flat.
A foodie pal pointed me to "name" instead. Just three in a pack, the Royal Gourmet Dim Sum charsiew buns are currently sold at Loon Fung for £2.09. Not the cheapest but they are vastly better. Thinner layer of loose dough aside, the generous fillings tasted less artificial. LO just laps them up so I'm happy.
Just a note on its preparation. Try getting one of those small bamboo steamers (those that your dimsum are served in at restaurants). Pop these buns into them and set the steamer in a deep wok with some water. Turn the heat up for around 15min and the buns will be all ready. Enjoy!
Thursday, June 6, 2013
I first heard of the Green Card Lottery during my initial months in London. It came up in a conversation over dinner with a friend. "You should give it a go," she quipped. It turned out that she has been doing the same for the past few years. Essentially, the United States run an annual lottery to give out 55,000 permanent residencies to people all round the world in a bid to diversify its immigrants.
Everyone, save for those from a handful of ineligible countries, can apply. The catch is that even if you win it, you must fulfill a set of education and work experience criteria, and sit for an interview in order to be issued the Green Card. It doesn't help that the application process is tedious to say the least. Miss out a field in the forms and there goes your chance for that year. Fortunately, there are services with Green Card advice that will guide you through the entire process with minimal fuss for a fee.
No such luck for those heading to the UK though. Even work visa rules have tightened quite a bit since the Coalition government took over in 2010. The avenues through which you can apply for the right to work in the UK decreased drastically; most of the remaining apply to those who are already in the UK. If you are not from the EU, it would be even more difficult.
It's not impossible though. I thought that it would be useful to go through some of the more common remaining UK work visas you can apply if you are currently out of the UK. For the latest information, check out UK Border Agency.
1. Skilled workers
This category (also known as Tier 2) is probably the most popular work visas after the High Value Migrants (Tier 1) - General category has closed to those currently outside the UK. There are four sub-categories under this: Minister of Religion, Sportsperson, General and Intra-company transfer. For the purpose of this post, I'll touch on the last two. Both of these require the approval and sponsorship of a UK company that you are currently working in or going to work for.
This is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. In order to fulfill this criterion, companies looking to recruit from overseas will have to prove that they have put up the job postings within the UK and are not able to find suitable candidates.
Currently, there are only 20,700 (earning less than £152,100) outside of European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland allowed in under this sub-category per year. There is no limit to visa issued for those whose earnings exceed £152,100 per year.
As the name implies, this is for those who are already working in an overseas office of a UK company and looking to relocate to the UK. This is made up of four main groups:
a. Long term staff: for more than 12 months
b. Short term staff: less than 12 months
c. Graduate Trainee: as part of graduate training program
d. Skills transfer: either to impart/learn skills to/from the local workforce
for more information, refer to UKBA Skilled Workers visa
2. Temporary Workers
The visa (also known as Tier 5) is primarily for those who are looking to work in the UK for a short period of time. Again, you must already have a job offer by a licensed sponsor.
There are a total of six sub-categories for this group of workers: creative and sportspeople, religious workers, charity workers, government authorised exchange, international agreement and Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS). I am going to spend a bit more time to talk about YMS here.
Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS)
YMS (formerly known as Working Holidaymaker Scheme) allows young people to spend up to two years in the UK while working on a part time basis. This is a godsend for those looking to spend a gap year in the UK and part-timing to earn their keep while traveling. I have a friend who did just that when Singapore was part of the scheme. She spent most of her time backpacking in Europe and counted that as her most memorable years.
As this is a reciprocal arrangement between UK and the participant countries, it is currently limited to the Australia (35,000), New Zealand (10,000), Japan (1,000), Monaco (1,000), Taiwan (1,000) and South Korea (1,000).
Other than proving that you have at least £1,800 in available cash funds for self-maintenance, you have to be between the age of 18 and 31 at the time of application with no dependents under the age of 18. Also, you must not have gained entry to the UK before under a similar scheme.
On the flipside, you must leave the UK once the two years are up. In other words, being in the YMS void you from extending your stay by applying for any other visa. That said, you can always apply for a non-YMS visa once you are out of the UK.
For more information on this, refer to UKBA Temporary Workers visa
3. UK ancestry
For those who are from one of the 54 Commonwealth countries, you can apply for the right to work in the UK if you can prove that at least one of your (legitimate or not) grandparent who is a from the UK. While you cannot claim UK ancestry through step-parents, adopted parents are allowed provided you have the relevant adoption documents.
Once granted, you have the right the live and work in the UK for up to five years. You will be able to apply for permanent residency after that.
For more information, refer to claiming UK ancestry.
Here are the three of the more popular work visas that you can go for if you are currently based outside the UK. For other tips on what to look out for, check out tips on moving to London.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Just about to spot the Shard and London Eye in the horizon
Londoners love to complain about the weather. I lost count of how many times conversations at the water cooler start with "not the best of weather, is it?"
I know it doesn't feel like it these days but we did have a couple of sunny days over the last bank holiday. In fact, there was brilliant sunshine all round from Saturday all through Monday.
No, I didn't take the train out to the countryside like I planned to. Instead, we headed to Hyde Park. So here are some photos to remind ourselves the next time we gripe that there are good days after all. Even in London.
Hyde Park Italian Gardens, next to Lancaster Gate Tube station
All we need is some water sprouting from the vessel
Even the flowers looked a bit parched under the sun
Deckchairs out in force
Believe it or not, I headed for some shelter after an hour or so under the sun
Now, the Serpentine does remind me of Singapore's MacRitchie
A cheerful sight near Paddington
... and if you duck into one of the alleyways...
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
"Tell no one" says the email confirmation from Secret Cinema. We didn't know the location until a few days before the event. We weren't told the movie that would be played. Curiously, everyone who turned up were encouraged to take photos and video clips, and post them on social media on the spot. I guess publicity trumps secrecy at the end of the day.
After booking a matinee show on a weekend only to have it cancelled "due to licensing issues", we were given an exchange of tickets for only sessions that ends late into the night. We decided to go for that anyway, got a babysitter and ended up paying her cab fare after that - travel to that remote location takes around 90 min one way. After all, everyone who has been to Secret Cinema's earlier sessions say that we should try it at least once.
It started off badly
It didn't started well. We were halfway there when I realised that we were supposed to bring along certain items. We made a frantic search for them amongst the few shops still opened on a late Sunday afternoon. While queuing in one of the five entrances, I noticed that there was a mention of a pen on the ticket. A quick dash to the Tesco Metro resolved that - its security guard lent me his.
The it became apparent that there was a dress code. Everyone was in formal office wear. The men came decked in suits and ties, and the women in high heels with some sporting one of those Ascot hats. Me? I was in a sweater and jeans. I don't suppose Tesco Metro stock suits, do they?
Anyway, Wife went in through a seperate entrance. That didn't matter because everyone whipped out their mobile phones the chance they have to link up within the building.
And the experience begins...
Depending on how we responded to an earlier survey, we were allocated to different details and given different tasks. In a way, the entire thing was well thought out with different rooms, corners and activities depicting particular scenes on the movie that would be shown later.
The baby making factory
Make way for the dancers!
We went into the dark room and this despairing scene greeted us
Chat with the machine, shout out your order and drop your money in
The entire setup looked like a more coordinated freshman orientation with a theme run very motivated people. Throughout the entire session, there were people dressed up as characters in the movie performing antics to drum up the atmosphere. There were two women catfighting (apparently over a man) and a few others trying to break them up, "security" staff patrolling, men in suits running down the hallways, a man in his boxers surrounded by shreds of paper lamenting his loss, just to name a few. There were a number of interactive activities as well. One of which saw two actors acting out your dreams (which you had written down on a slip of paper), whatever they might be.
Some scenes were even hidden from plain view. I chanced upon a few people dressed in hazard suits playing volleyball (a fleeting scene in the movie) behind a door that said "Do Not Open". Halfway through my exploration, I was "arrested" by a security personnel in riot gear and was black bagged only to be paraded through the entire building and finally released on the 10th floor because of mistaken identity.
Is it all worth it? Well...
If you are looking for a slick setup for the £43.50 ticket you bought, you'd be in for a huge disappointment. Your experience would vary from the next person and depends on your willingness to participate. Wife had her nails painted in the process while I sat through a vulva sale (seriously!) after a shoulder massage. It came to the point where the movie didn't matter anymore.
Everything cost though. I would have thought at least the first round of drinks was free. Nope, even the popcorn went for £2 per bag. And if you fancy a soft drink from the talking vending machine, that would be £1.50.