I arrived in the UK from my small town in Kuwait in September 2002. My parents were as nervous leaving me for university, setting their little bird free in the big smokey London jungle full of weird and wonderful creatures, as I was starting afresh. Afresh meaning no family, no friends. They set me up, with my suitcase full of old photos, new clothes and some spices (my sweet mum thought Garam Masala was a scarce commodity in the West...little did we know Chicken Tikka Masala was nick-named the National Dish of the UK).
Some useless trivia (might be handy down at the pub quiz)
There was quite a lot of adjustment - I'm sure a lot of international students might've experienced similar. The biggest being not having my immediate 'safety net' to depend on. Luckily, I didn't have to feel this way for much longer as on my first day in the UK, my very first day in halls, my neighbour, Nina - tall, blonde, big straight teeth and bright smile, barged into my room unannounced introducing herself in her exotic British accent (I thought it was exotic, in Kuwait at least), offering a big mug of watery tea. I wasn't even a tea-drinker at the time but I was so desperate to make friends that I took up on her offer and now I love my tea watery and light with no sugar, thanks.
We fast became best friends. Living in each others' pockets kinda mates. In fact, most people that knew Nina would say she made everyone feel so comfortable and at ease the moment you met her that you'd want to live in her pocket. She also taught me a good few things:
1. Slang - 'fit' means 'hot'. Not just 'athletic', which is actually 'buff'. 'Minging' was another one. 2. Watery light milky tea + ginger nuts = match made in heaven 3. Bacon. Enough said. 4. Eating with knife + fork. My family didn't use a knife at meal times. A fork, maybe a spoon if feeling adventurous. But knife was a whole new cutlery-dimension. 5. Cocktails. I was plunged into a world of Mojitos and Pina Coladas for the first time ever. OMG!
The best thing I learnt from her was how to bring light to the darkest of times. Nina was diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of 2009. Throughout her time battling the disease, with incredible bravery, positivity, her big bouncy Joie de Vivre out-shone any darkness. She didn't let the big C stop her - she continued work as a doctor, she travelled, she fund-raised for various cancer charities, she loved and she laughed all the way.
Ladybug & Beetlejuice - Halloween 2006
As of earlier this year she is no longer with us. Her love of life, laughter, friends, family, and that big bouncy Joie de Vivre remains imprinted on me and it provided the inspiration for our #MacaronsforMacmillan fund-raiser - a Limited Edition gift box of 7 oozy boozy cocktail flavoured macarons such as Mojito, Pina Colada (but of course!) and Cosmopolitan, set for launch this October.
To show-case this very special range, I drew from Nina's personality and my wonderful memories of our time together to produce a visually vivid photo shoot. Bright colours, Beetlejuice stripes, lethal punches (of the liquid fruity sort), outdoorsy, and above all, FUN. I had a fantastic team of suppliers to help realise this shoot:
Anneli from Anneli Marinovich Photography, Jodie from Boutique Blooms Floral Design, Erin from BerinMade (packaging and stationery) and Andri from Always Andri Wedding Planning & Styling. Here's a sneaky peek of what we got upto on the day.
We will be dishing out some fab DIY tips on styling and décor and scrummy cocktail recipes to make a laid-back wedding reception, backyard BBQ or cocktail party instantly cool! And of course, we will announce when the cocktail macaron gift box is officially launched for sale in the UK, as well as special fund-raising #MacaronsforMacmillan events where we shall be hosting cocktail and macaron pairing parties.
In the mean-time, please check out Macmillan Cancer Support's website to see how anyone and everyone can help raise funds. There are so many different and fun ways to get involved - coffee mornings, good nights in, running, walking (okay, so the latter two may be ranking lower on my personal fun-radar but hey, different strokes for different folks! Coffee, Cocktails and Macarons for me please). I'm hoping our efforts to aid the invaluable work Macmillan Cancer Support does to help patients and their families fighting cancer would've made Nina beam that big bright smile that I miss so very much.Reshmi xoxo