Shammal’s London Diaries

Day 1. 29th June

God, finally in London. This has been a hell of a ride. Nine hours in a plane with a very pregnant wife is stressful; and this is just the beginning. We got back to the flat and I helped wifey unpack. I settled in and got ready and met up with some of my old friends. We went to Wahaca, this amazing Mexican restaurant in Waterloo, but too tired to stay for long. Headed home to sleep off the jet lag

Day 2. 30th June

I love London. And Redah is still up for going out so today we went to Camden Town market, which is one of the funnest most hip places I know. For a stylist it’s interesting; we saw a bunch of cool underground hair and make-up punk stuff, bought some cool lip stickers (something different, never seen before) that I can’t wait to use in shoots that I have already conceptualised. We spent the morning checking out the hustling bustling market stocking vintage pieces of furniture, clothes by local designers and one of statement jewellery pieces. Finally, we ate lunch by the riverside at the market and spent the rest of the day picnicking at Regents Park.

Day 3. 1st July

Work never stops. It’s Monday and I had an appointment with Toni&Guy to computerise our systems at the salon back in Lahore. We’re growing and need to make our internal systems stronger to deal with the future. Besides, it’s pretty cool. Work, work, work.

Day 4. 2nd July

Today was a quiet day. We went across to Angel Islington where we walked around the quaint markets that had really funky art galleries featuring upcoming artists and Japanese prints. Visited a few record stores with Redah, Anam and her friend Xenia who lives around there. I have to give it to Redah; she’s bursting, but she’s also still up for doing things every day. Don’t know if I’d have the strength, but she’s happy, which means I’m stressed. Still, it doesn’t get better than this. Xenia took us to her studio to see how she makes and photographs food for a living for England’s top chefs. She’s a food stylist (and who knew that even existed?). But apparently it’s a necessary job. We had lunch at a concept cafe called Rttolenghi that had the most amazing selection of desserts. I’ve decided I like cheesecake!

Day 5. 3rd July

Tense day. We had lunch at The Giraffe in South Bank and after that we went to the doctors at the Lindo wing for Redah’s first appointment since we came back. It was a massive relief to find out that the baby is healthy and well; alive and kicking. Not that we had any doubts but this stuff get’s on your mind. The doctor said it was a ‘big baby’. I was really happy to hear that, although Redah’s expressions were a bit funny. The doctor told us we had to attend anti-natal classes where we would learn all the things that first-time parents should know about labour and taking care of the baby. I have mixed feelings about this.

Day 6. 4th July

Woke up early to get ready for my first day back at the Toni&Guy academy. Fun to be back here after what seems like a long time. I learnt about new product formulations about Label.m and all the wicked new products for the coming year. We were given samples of testing products to approve. I don’t want to reveal much, except that my male clients should be prepared for something really exciting. Home late, dinner and an early night because tomorrow is going to be hectic again.

Day 7. 5th July

Another day back at the academy; this time for some hands-on training. Registered myself for a hair up/session editorial class; just the thing I wanted to work on. Such an interesting day: we went through different looks and techniques from London Fashion Week and I intend to bring my newfound knowledge back with me. This is the best part of Toni&Guy; we’re a part of a global fashion movement, and it rocks.

Day 8. 6th July

It’s finally the weekend! I forgot how hard it can be when you don’t run your own business and have to be places. I woke up mid afternoon and decided to enjoy the sun. My sister is also in town so she, wifey and I went for lunch to my favourite spot in St. Christopher’s place: Sophra, a lovely Middle Eastern/Lebanese restaurant. I ordered grilled cubes of lamb with rice and It was just how I remembered it; succulent, juicy and full of joy. Good thing we got our strength up because at night it was time to party. We got together with some old friends and went to this insane club called Fire where some of my favourite DJs like Tube and Berger, and DJ Finabassen were spinning. I don’t remember too much after that but I know it was fun.

Day 9. 7th July

Somehow managed to drag myself out of bed early and get off to an early start. We spent the day recovering at Covent Garden devouring Shake Shack burgers and enjoying the local theatrics and walking through the famous Jubilee Market enjoying all it had to offer. That was pretty much the day. We went home and went to bed early that night because tomorrow will be the first day of my intensive 3-month make-up course!

Day 10. 8th July

First day of class – felt like going back to high school; my wife is packing my bags and my sister is making us breakfast. Wore my best shirt (which I changed twice!) and just as we leave Redah takes a picture of the two of us and off we went in the bus! Hectic day learning about new techniques, back early to my wife and an early bedtime.

Day 11. 9th July

Day 2 of school; the class is small with about 10 people, but that’s good because everyone gets just the right amount of attention that they need. I am really pleased that I decided to take the course because I feel that it would help further strengthen my already solid make-up team at Toni&Guy, and also build up my portfolio. The school that I am attending is one of the best in the world and has churned out some of the best make-up artists. I always enjoy working with people who know what they are doing; it gives me so much inspiration. And these people really know what they’re doing. I love this academy.

Day 12. 10th July

School again, but today Redah came to meet us after we were done and Anam took us out to an underground stand-up comedy at Leicester Square. The guys were hilarious and we all had a good laugh. Just the thing we needed for a midweek break. We then walked around the famous square where we sang and danced along with all the performers. Just before we went back home we decided to grab some macaroons from Laduree; one of the oldest and most famous Parisian patisseries. Stuff like this always reminds me why I love London so much.

Day 13. 11th July

Back to school. It’s really something to be going together to school with my baby sister because a) we haven’t lived together since high school before she shifted to Switzerland and b) I have never actually been in the same course let alone the same school as her ever. Thankfully, we make a really good team! I’m worried that she’s going to become a better stylist than me. I might have to hire her then and she’s going to outpace me eventually. Well, it’s all in the family.

Day 14. 12th July

I look at Anam and see that she is a natural at make-up. This is great because Anam will now be heading the Peng’s (my mother’s salons) artistic team in Karachi and I am confident that she will do a great job! We headed out after class and Redah joined us at this wonderful eatery by the canal overlooking the park next to Maida Vale and we spent the evening with some good company and wonderful food

Day 15. 13th July 

Redah and I spend the day baby shopping. It is way more fun than I thought it would be. Warning: it is very addictive. I realised that baby fashion is the same as adult fashion. We got some really cool stuff from a store called Mamas and Papas. Parents to be, better watch out this is a bottomless pit with no end in sight. After spending the day with my wife I decided one good turn deserves another and took Redah on a date night for a romantic dinner to The Hutch in Mayfair where we enjoyed a wonderful four-course meal. Lucky for us it was a theme night so we listened to some live 1920s music while we dined. I think I scored a lot of points that night. This will come in handy later.

Day 16. 14th July

Today was window shopping day. London is full of summer sales so Redah and I hit the high street. This is one of the things I love doing most when I’m in London. Just walking around looking at window displays. To me it is like walking though a gallery admiring great artists work because they put so much thought and care into them. The H&M store does a display and collection this season inspired by music and festivals. They have some very funky stuff this year. Selfridges does denim street fashion. They just opened up the new contemporary section and its cool, with a live DJ booth. It literally feels like you’re walking into a club! The DJ was playing some serious beats and the space was fitted with some massive speakers. In terms of fashion we are seeing a lot of dark and ripped denim coming back in. While walking along the streets of east London and the high streets I couldn’t help but notice the street fashion as well; there were a lot of women wearing their hair in knots. For men, hair was side swept and gelled back in very low graduations. Vintage and cool. You can take the stylist out of the salon but not the salon out of the stylist.

Day 17. 15th July

School again .Today we went through the history of make-up and different trends in each period and how they keep recurring in different versions today. We started from the 1920s and all the iconic looks. This was really exciting for me because I just did a similar topic at the Toni&Guy academy and it was really interesting getting the hair and make-up history together in my head. I was also pleased to know that we will be going through all the make-up looks in the course. I think my favourite period looks will be the disco 70s and the 1950s flick. Get ready Lahore!

Day 18. 16th July

After a long day of class in the heat we decided to cool off after and go to Aqua in Soho and meet up with our friends Adnan and Salman. It’s a really cool rooftop lounge and I recommend it to anyone looking to just chill out over a few cocktails. Afterwards we went to this über contemporary Chinese restaurant Yauatcha round the corner from Aqua. The food was great and we ate so much that it was home early and pass-out time before we even realised it.

Day 19. 17th July

I just found out Charlotte Tilbury, Hannah Murray and Lisa Haughton all graduated from the make-up school I’m in; if you don’t know them then Google their work if you’re a make-up fanatic. It is such an honour to be graduating from the same school. After class we decided to watch Pacific Rim at the IMAX. Was a first-timer for me at this mammoth of a cinema and I can tell you it was a GREAT experience. It has the largest screen in Europe and has a sound system with over 12,000 watts of bass. Talk about next level.

Day 20. 18th July

School, lunch, out of school. After class we went to our midweek doctor and midwife appointments. Later, we attended our first anti-natal class. Slightly terrifying but I was very impressed with the way things are handled here. They really put all our worries to rest and now I’m feeling quite excited and as prepared as possible for the baby to come!

Day 21. 19th July!

TGIF! I don’t know if you’ve heard but London has been going through a heat wave and its getting really hot! At first we were really enjoying it, but now I just want it to cool down a little bit. I get enough heat in Lahore, thank you. Class ends and I’m feeling pretty chuffed since I had a really good day. I was told in front of the class that my make-up look today was absolutely balanced and that our instructor was impressed with the fact that a guy could do so well! I feel like a ten year old who gets a star on his homework!

We decided to celebrate, not really needing an excuse anyway, and went for dinner to Daphnis on Charlotte Street. The MOST amazing cuisine! We had chicken ‘adbo’ – a Phillipino special, steamed fish stuffed with lemon grass and ginger and Phillipino spices, and lotus flower and water chestnuts with peanut sauce. Absolutely divine! Charlotte Street is known for restaurants and I saw a few more I’m definitely going to try out. Note to self: have to try Hot Roka – a kick ass Japanese restaurant and Koba for some Korean BBQ next time.

Stuffed and sleepy we head to bed. Anam’s husband Danny is coming to visit from Switzerland tomorrow morning and super exited to see him. We haven’t met each other in almost a year and it will be good to catch up with him. Good God I’m tired!

Day 22. 20th July

Woke up and called work back home to make sure things are going smoothly with our new salon launch in Islamabad. I am so glad that I have a team that I can rely on. Thankfully things aren’t going badly and my mind can rest at ease. It hasn’t been easy focusing on the course and work back home at the same time. Secretly I’m glad that my baby Zoay timed herself perfectly so that I could beat the Lahore heat.

Got done with the duties just in time for Danny (brother-in-law) to arrive from Switzerland for 2 days. Anam doesn’t know but I have planned with him and my friend Habib from back home to go and hit this electronic music festival called Electric Daisy. It’s an amazing lineup with Axwell, Tiesto, Avicii, plus many more. The music is a little too commercial for me, but it’s a daytime party and I’m very excited to be going out.

Day 23. 21st July

Did I say very excited yesterday? Should have said super duper uber excited because that was a spectacular party yesterday. There were over 10,000 people there! Fun in the sun barely begins to describe it. Today isn’t a day for rest and recuperation. Got up around 1 and went to Bubble Dog in Charlotte Street for brunch. It was amazing with a humongous selection of hotdogs to choose from. After that we hit V&A Museum to look at an exhibition of David Bowie memorabilia. Then off to a couple manicures and pedicures session at Aveda and finally an evening spent on a friend’s pent house overlooking amazing views. This is called a full and happy life.

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