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Cotswolds not in pictures

June 4, 2014

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My latest adventure outside London was of the genetic kind, i.e. I went to the Cotswolds for the long weekend with my family. This means that I got to spend four days straight with the Big Boss. Our family holiday essentially revolved around the Main Man. And so it should do. Being 15 months old and suffering from Cuteness Overload tends to elicit that kind of reaction.

The presence of my nephew, Joshua, did, however, greatly affect the outcome of ‘Cotswolds May 2014′ as stored in my picture folder. I tend to be camera happy, especially when in a new place, and usually about 90% of my photos are non-human. But this time around, I was distracted. How can you not be? He’s ginger, has minimal teeth and toddles. If faced with the choice of a quaint Cotswolds village or my nephew toddling to the latest new and exciting sight with a wide, toothless smile stretched across his face and my laptop charger in his hand, dragging between his feet, what would I choose to capture? Ginger toddler, every time. Should I click away at the vast, Cotswold countryside illuminated by a soft, post-rain sunset or my nephew, discovering a branch three times his size and repeatedly dragging it up and down the pavement, breaking only for short rests on the ground to poke the soil with said branch? Easy choice – the latter.

Added to this dilemma (not really a dilemma), it rained about half the time. I love rain but unfortunately it meant we didn’t get out and about as much as we would have liked to. But, despite the rain, we did manage to see a few, lovely villages nearby including Bourton-on-the-Water, Chipping Camden and Broadway.

We stayed in a modern house in a tiny village called Notgrove. One afternoon, we took a walk around our area. It had been raining that day but the sun chose to escape from behind the clouds at the end of the afternoon, soaking the tall, leafy trees and yellow, rapeseed fields in beautiful light. My brother promptly suggested we take advantage of the opportunity by going for a walk. We did, but unfortunately, the sun again disappeared and it was soon raining again. On the upside, my other brother and father of Joshua rescued us in his car, and transported us to the local pub. Having a toddler means often having to take the car, which worked out well for us. The benefits keep rolling in! Another afternoon, family friends from Kingham spent the afternoon with us and joined us for a braai – having my dad around usually always leads to some sort of braai (I love that man).

On the odd occasion that my camera wasn’t aimed at Josh, I did get a few shots of the yellow fields as well as ‘the most photographed tree in Notgrove’, according to a passerby.

Every time I tell an Englishperson I went to the Cotswolds, their face seems to change instantly as it takes on a dreamy, smiling expression. People love the Cotswolds and I can see why – wide, open spaces, colourful nature, peace and quiet, quaint homes and villages, pubs, dogs in pubs, dogs everywhere (always a good thing), and people who actually smile and say hello when you walk past them. No one seems too bothered if it’s raining either – they just slap on their wellies and go for a muddy stroll. And although my parents seemed a bit upset about the weather (“this is not summer!”), it did give them what they felt was a valid excuse to light the fire and get those heated towel rails going. If not, why not?! (No matter that it’s around twenty degrees outside and we’ve created a sauna – it’s England, we’ve got a fireplace and we’re going to use it).

I definitely hope to return to the Cotswolds one day and spend more time trying to capture some of its beauty. Although, if the Big Boss is around, I’m fairly sure my pictures will again be dominated by humans rather than the Cotswold’s beauty – and here’s  hoping many more ginger babies (or otherwise – I don’t discriminate) are on the way, providing me with countless more photographic opportunities.

Me vs Wall in Paris + extreme supporters

May 16, 2014

So I once famously said that I can’t help but smile when I say the sentence: “I just went to Paris for the weekend”.

I’d now like to revise that statement.

Indeed, I did recently go to Paris for the weekend, but there was nothing “just” about it. Also, on this occasion, it would be a mixture of a smile and a grimace.

It was around roughly the 30th hour of our one and a half day Parisian adventure when most of the grimacing commenced because it was about this time when I hit the proverbial wall while running my first marathon, the Paris marathon. No, that’s not a fair description. It was more of a head-on, arms flailing, crash collision. Me vs wall. Kind of like what I’d imagine a fast, hard, standing belly flop against glass to feel like…  in that you don’t know it’s there until it’s right in front of you and the pain increasingly worsens.

cindy

Now that the dramatics are over, I do spot some obvious differences in this less than perfect analogy:

- No one usually plans to crash into glass
– No one usually trains to crash into glass

Then again, I had hoped I wouldn’t hit the wall, and that by training, I definitely wouldn’t hit the wall. I did.

But on the upside, I completed it (yey!)  in about the time I was hoping for, and I now have a learning experience should I ever do another marathon again. Looking back, now that I can sit down without holding on to something, it was a great overall experience.

What made the whole thing even better was the fact that lovely Ruth and lovely Cindy accompanied me to the wonderful city of Paris. We drove, via the Channel (this has been a subject of confusion for me), and took our time driving from Calais to Paris. The wondrous invention of Tripadvisor came to good use – after posting a question asking what to do along the way, without having to make much of a detour, someone responded suggesting we stop off at Arras and Senlis. At Arras, we wandered around the market and had coffee at a little café in the large square. We really enjoyed the medieval town of Senlis with its cobbled streets and beautiful gothic cathedral. My friends were such great supporters that they even carbo-loaded with me. Needless to say, we had a lot to work off the next day. And so we did.

Although during the marathon, I spent at least the final hour thinking, ”never do this to yourself again, this is a stupid idea, everyone here is crazy’, I can in retrospect say that I am very thankful for the opportunity I had – to run a race in such a vibrant city while supported by great friends and family. And the literal cherry on top? I am truly thankful that I was able to eat the likes of pretzels, bagels and copious amounts of sweet potato on a two-hour schedule without being judged.

Dorset, not Dover

May 8, 2014

For some reason, in the past, I have confused the names of Devon, Dorset and Dover.

‘But how?’ You may ask.

Well, all three start with the letter ‘D’.

‘But one is a county in the South West, another in the South very West, and the third is a port town in the South East?’ You may persist.

Well, they all have a coastline.

‘But..’

OK fine, I have no idea. My brain is odd like that. It’s the same brain that, when asked by a friend what the EuroTunnel actually is, after I’d physically been on the EuroTunnel, went blank. Wikipedia is probably my most visited site.

But moving swiftly on…  I’ve recently returned from Dorset and now, with a good visual of this county firmly imprinted in my mind for at least one month, I hope to no longer confuse it with any other destination.

The first bank holiday weekend of May, I joined five other friends for three nights in a lovely cottage in Beaminster. Over that time, we covered a good amount of ground and also had the chance to enjoy the peace and beauty; to relax and soak up the almost continuous sun rays. We went for beautiful walks along the Jurassic Coast overlooking Chesil Beach, sunk our feet into pebbles next to the seaside, visited quaint villages such as Abbotsbury and Lyme Regis and hunted for fossils. Food, being a vitally important part of any trip, consisted mostly of delicious, fresh seafood and home-cooked meals balanced with plenty of ice cream and fudge.

Returning with a vague sunburn, as per usual, but feeling refreshed, I’m thankful that I’ve had the privilege to discover another beautiful part of the UK with wonderful company and I’m now fairly certain (though of course you can never be sure) that I will no longer mix Dorset up with any other ‘D’s, be it Denver, Dover or Dorking.

 

Exchanging shower cap for bike helmet (cycling London to Ashtead)

April 25, 2014

Making the switch from smart phone to ’80s slim-brick has changed my life.

Two things on that statement:

1) It’s a little dramatic

2) I realise that, as well as the title of this post, doesn’t cast me in the best light and I now sound like boring old fart

Bear with…

Really, it is rather exciting not being connected to the world wide web those few hours I’m away from a computer (there aren’t many).

Not having access to Google maps, for example, was a pretty scary thought considering my disappointing navigational abilities. How would I cope without knowing the exact distance from the station to my destination? How would I recognise the destination without little street view man showing me first?

However, I’m pleased to say that I have managed without Google maps and, funny thing, the streets of London and her outskirts are plastered with road signs.

So taking advantage of the extra days off work over the Easter weekend, I embarked on my longest cycle trip yet – 30 miles to Ashtead Park and back.

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday. On reaching the park, I was one of the few people there and had an entire pond to myself. Unfortunately it got a bit chilly and I regretted not bringing a blanket with me to stay longer.

What a treat it was to be able to cycle to a beautiful park just outside London and have such beautiful sights and sounds of nature all to myself. It reminded me that you don’t need loads of time, planning or money to get away and enjoy a new experience. Having a bike has been a huge help, of course, and I’m really grateful for it. It’s opened up opportunities like my little day trip to Ashtead and hopefully many more to come.

I think I’ve become way less spontaneous in my old age but it’s time for that to change – at least where mini adventures are concerned. As for my regular cups of tea, getting incredibly excited at the thought of a night in and eating the same breakfast every day for years…. well, then I’ll happily be boring.

PS: I don’t, in fact, wear a shower cap, even after years of my mother’s insistence. Sorry bumsy!

Family of the Year

April 3, 2014

I often forget the many reasons that make it a privilege to call London home. Topping this list is the incredible access to live music, from decades-old bands with names known across generations to up and coming artists, slowly gaining recognition. These bands and artists encompass different genres, styles, origins and backgrounds, satisfying the city’s great variety of tastes from jazz to ska.

I was recently reminded of London’s great music diversity after hearing the Los Angeles based indie rock band, Family of the Year, for the first time, and within days, learning that they were playing a gig in Camden. I bought a ticket without hesitation. Yes, this was a solo mission.

For a South African, discovering an international band you think is awesome and then attending one of their gigs in an intimate venue a week later, is pretty phenomenal.

Beginning their current tour at The Black Heart in Camden, Family of the Year played to a small but crowded room. Made up of brothers Joseph (vocals/guitar) and Sebastian Keefe (drums/vocals), Christina Schroeter (keyboard/vocals) and James Buckey (guitar/vocals), the band played a mix of their fans’ firm favourites, including ‘Hero’ and ‘Never Enough’, as well as some of their latest music.

True to their name, the band’s casual and easy-going interaction with one another gave their gig a relaxed atmosphere with brotherly teasing added for good measure. In a way, it felt like we were watching our friends entertain us in our lounge – a lounge that happened to have a bar, surround sound and fun lighting. The best kind of gig, some (I) would say.

During their performance, the band mentioned their last gig in Hoxton in 2012, saying they hoped they hadn’t been forgotten. Judging from the crowd’s response and the serious fan behind me who warmly breathed his favourite lyrics against my neck, I know with certainty that was not the case.

Family of the Year’s tour takes them on the Netherlands, France, Germany and other European destinations. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they return to their fans in London.

As for me, this experience has inspired me to explore London’s gig scene with renewed fervour. It seems a real shame to live in a place where the music scene is unparalleled in choice and diversity, and not take advantage of that.

Home

April 3, 2014

What is the meaning of ‘home’? For me, true home is still to come. I don’t know when and I can’t describe the details, but I do know that true home will come like a thief in the night; it is imminent and very, very real. Amidst talk of fairy tales, white clouds and a figure encompassing either love without judgement or judgement without love, in reality, this home is physical, just and symbolic of the purest and greatest love.

While I await this home, true home, I am blessed to call a few different places home. Temporary homes.

My current home enjoys a seemingly permanent buzz – a place of the old and young; a place of diversity, from countries of origin to the pronunciation of “perfect”. London, this temporary home, is a place like no other. It is a place that has given me an appreciation of history, city life and the word, “lovely”.

Another temporary home – New York. A jewel of music and films, a place connoting glamour and inventiveness. New York was my temporary home for a year; an important year of growing up and beginning to notice the ugliness of my heart. New York was a home of new experiences, new people, new friendship and many mistakes.

But the longest temporary home I’ve had is the home of my childhood; a home to five plus Lila, Jenna, Brutus, Sky, Goldie and unfortunate pet ants. A home of phenomenal sunsets, seas of different colours and temperaments. A home of snow-capped mountains, 0 degrees celsius, terrific thunderstorms, summer rain, winter rain, monkeys’ weddings, mild sun, hot sun and scorching sun. A home of painful history with scars that remain today but a home of friendliness and joy despite hardship and suffering. My temporary home, South Africa.

It was to this home that I recently returned for the second time in three years. This holiday represented another change of temporary homes – saying goodbye to a home symbolising childhood and saying hello to a new home with no symbolism at all.

Not yet anyway.

But I’ve started making my memories in this new temporary home. Here are some of them.

 

Diverse London: Soho and surrounds

March 16, 2014

IMG_5304I love practical gifts and my brother is very good at giving them. On one occasion, he gave me a box of 50 London walks a.k.a “adventures on foot”.

Cindy and I recently took two of these cards into London to get better acquainted with Soho and its surrounds including Chinatown and Carnaby Street.

Three years ago, one of the big reasons prompting my move to London was the desire to travel. Hence the blog! While I still have a great love for travelling, I have come to realise that beauty and originality is everywhere.

London in itself is a breathtaking city, full of diversity and secret corners. My cycle to work has given me a greater appreciation of this and an even deeper love for the city. For example; on exiting the serene Hyde Park, I am at once confronted by typical London rush hour traffic, only to turn left into Queensway and immediately feel as though I am on holiday. This may have something to do with the vast quantity of souvenir shops or the fact that Queensway was the first London street I set foot on when arriving here, but I still maintain that sometimes, by simply turning a corner, the atmosphere can change completely, and this is hugely down to the great variety of this great city.

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