CUWAM : London…the last hurruh…

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Jet lag, you are no friend of mine…but it seems you are a friend of this blog…and so a late night entry begins.

There is no denying that I am home….to the city of Sydney, the city that I love, to my humble home, back with Flora the cat, who is a little unsure of my return…her constant nudging, licking and need for affection, nothing out of the ordinary, but the welcome home courtship is a bit much….I am tired, not interested…yet happy to be reunited just the same.

Jet lag, and feeling of not knowing exactly with body clock to inhabit….London time, which would mean I would be eating breakfast right now, or to embrace the city of Sydney’s invitation to sleep…it is pushing midnight and it does seem like a good option….But I am interested in neither….so to blogging I turn my attention.

Hampstead Heath….October 4th…and the pilgrimage to the great romantic poet, John Keats’s house…..With the line to his poem, Bright Star’ whirling around in my head, I strolled up Keats Grove, eager to part with the 5 pound entry fee to spend time to the poets former home….only to be greeted at the gates to the home by the following message ‘ Due to an invasion of wasps, Keats House is closed today’

Wow wee….was not expecting that….Disappointed, amused, unsure of which direction to take….ironically I stumbled upon a library next door…a literary feast awaited me, and picking up a book of poetry by Keats, I walked over to a window over looking his garden, took a seat bathed in afternoon sun and started reciting aloud the poem ‘ Ode to a Nightingale’….and soon the libraries window sill was awash with spirited birds, chirping in unison with the melodic words of one of the greatest love poems ever written….

The above unfortunately did not happen…rather I imagined it or am presently swaying in an out of a jet lag lethargy that my writing style is more lucid!! Love it…But after my library dalliance…I headed to Hampstead Heath on foot, for an afternoon of good old fashioned British rambling, through forest woods, over hills, under bridges, via swimming ponds and historic homes….A beautiful way to spend any afternoon.

Rejoining civilisation ( ?) I caught the tube late afternoon, back to Covent Garden, for a coffee at Monmouth Coffee, followed by a 30 minute stint in the National Portrait Gallery. A quick glance at Trafalgar Square and then the tube ride home….

No sooner had I touched base at Canary Wharf, a phone call from Jo confirming that Yo and myself would partake in an evening movie and dinner date…. So to the cinema I went, watching a Ryan Gosling film called ”Drive’…a movie paced slower than an episode of Bold and the Beautiful, with such violence, I covered my eyes and ears for 74% of the movie….I guess you can say I did not like it….Dinner on the other hand was a lovely curry meal in a nearby Indian Restaurant.

And the morning of the my last day in London…I was sad, the London weather was too…the heatwave a distant memory now, replaced by a cool breeze, a brisk 15 degree temperature….Goodbyes to Jo and Yo before the clock had chimed 8am….an honest goodbye at an appropriate time… I will be seeing Jo and Yo over Christmas in OZ…when I have promised to make the mojito’s at a beach of their choice…my way of thanking them for the fun times they provided during my London stay….So Jo and Yo, thank you….the Bacardi is on ice till you arrive in town!!

Determined to go out in style, I headed out early….taking the train to Putney Green, bound for the Fulham Palace Drawing Room for a mid morning breakfast…The place reminded me of the Centennial Park Café in Sydney, on a grander scale….the diners predominately yummy mummies and their offspring…Feeling somewhat out of place, I was not deterred, I was just hungry and a bacon sandwich, coffee and jam shortbread cookie hit the spot.

Next stop, Kings Road Chelsea….to hit the shopping strip of the rich, very rich and very, very, very rich…Armed with a budget of 50 pounds I really should have thought twice, but I could not help myself…Kings Road was the place I first found employment when I arrived as a 22 year old backpacker to the UK…in an up market furniture shop…Heals….I can’t help but go back on each visit to the UK…for old times sake….

Shopping on Kings Road was a nice precursor to my afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington…a short 15 minute walk from the shopping strip…I arrived with a good hour up my sleeve in order to see the Postmodernism Exhibition, detailing the design and fashion movement from the late 1970’s to early 1990’s.

What was interesting about this exhibition was the fact that I was a young child, early teen during the late 80’s- early 90’s….I had lived through this era…But I had little awareness of the issues, ideas, fashion movements, design themes that had influenced this part of history…Did the Post-modern movement ever make it to South Coast of NSW, Australia….I should have asked someone at the V& A Museum….for I am left wondering….puzzled even….That time in history looked like fun….

Feeling a bit cheated when I left exhibition and even less keen to return home than I was prior to a thought processes crystallising that my home town was always going to be a step or two behind the movements that spread like wildfire through Europe and the United States…it took some coaxing for me to board the London Underground…nothing a chocolate bar can’t fix though

And the beginning of the end, the pre flight shower, the bag packing, struggling to fit in the new purchases, the item culling ( Jo and Yo, I hope you put the Colgate Toothpaste to use!!), the tube ride, boarder security, duty free browsing and then plane boarding.

There is little joy in long haul flights….especially if you have done them before, the discomfort experienced as you are sandwiched into a seat, squashed either side by strangers…soon to be nameless friends, who, like you, flick through the in-flight entertainment system, looking for something to offset the boredom, eat plane food so bland you at the end of each feeding session you are left wondering if you ate the beef option, or was it chicken?….

And then with a great thud you land right back where you started…and question if the holiday happened at all…..And jut like that I am back on home soil….Sydney, it is time to show me some love……

CUWAM- London photo essay

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A photo essay which details the last few hours in Bristol, my arrival in London and the beginning of what was to be wonderful 5 days in the city capable of igniting my’ homing instinct’

Due to an extreme case of jet lag ( yep, I am home…enough said) I am yet to detail the last 48 hours of my holiday….but I am eager relay the story to you….So as I sip my 5th coffee for the day, in the vain attempt to jolt my system into accepting my new time zone, I urge you to be patient….though my holiday may be over,  like all good Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, my story does have the happiest of endings….which will be told in good time (ie a minimum of 15 hours sleep!!)

CUWAM- The Homing Instinct

The homing instinct is a term I am borrowing from a work colleague….a concept my workmate termed which I am a true believer in.

The homing instinct, somewhere in the world that you feel most at home, a place that you might be lucky enough to live in on a permanent basis, or a suburb, town or city, that each time you visit, you feel an instant connection.

After 7 years of living in Sydney, the cities Eastern Suburbs are where I feel most at home ( unfortunate that to actually OWN that home you would need to be a millionaire!!), and when I travel London is where my homing instinct kicks in ( although I would have to say that NYC is almost on par, followed by Paris)…actually, homing instincts are not exlusive…you can have a few!!

London…what can I say…I left behind Bristol, basking in sunshine and summer time temperatures, to find you also enjoying record-breaking heat….29.9 degrees on the 1st of October…..The city was on heat.

In every city park, Londoners stripped off, bikini clad women, men in swim shorts, lapping up the last of the summer rays….A site to behold, for the locals told me they did not get a chance to much sun baking  during what was meant to be summer ( June to August)….Summer had been, quote unquote ‘ rubbish’….

London, and the chance to catch up with my good friends Jo* and Yo* ( * real names withheld at subjects request…plus I think it adds literary merit to my blog…a bit of intrigue) Jo and Yo live in Canary Wharf, right on the Thames River, and on Friday night, I had the place to myself, so I cooked myself dinner, drank white wine, read the London Time Out guide and enjoyed the stunning views from their apartment.

On Saturday, I endeavoured to keep up with the pace of life that Jo and Yo lead….it is a lifestyle with no stop bottom, no pause, no rewind….just fast forward!! You go hard or you go home…..Dream big or leave…something like that…It is a lifestyle I admire but know that I do not have the energy for….I am happy to get involved when I visit, I love it…for it is a lifestyle far removed from the ‘ slow’ pace of Sydney…So to Saturday…

I excused myself from an 11am movie screening in Covent Garden, instead opting for breakfast at Burrough Markets, coffee from Monmouth Coffee company…I accepted Jo and Yo’s kind offer of lunch with friends in the city, and we sipped Champagne and ate in a Belgian Beer Hall for lunch….a city stroll, installation art viewing and then off Jo and Yo went into the sultry summer evening,…to a house party, a charity function in Mayfair, a house party, a kitchen tea and then a rave.

I took myself to St James’s Park and lay down..I was tired…Hard to keep up with the yo-yo pace of life of Jo and Yo…..But I soon gathered the strength to walk to the Young Vic theatre in Waterloo to watch an American Opera  called ‘ Street Scene’….This play was quiet special…Whilst in NYC I had visited the Tenements Musuem…an immigration muesum….at the play was based on immigrant life to NYC in the 1920’s…It was an out of the ordinary production…and as it was closing night……I was lucky to be part of the audience.

Sunday….Columbia Flower Markets, Brick Lane and Old Spitalfields Markets…Overground and underground tube and rail trackwork threatened to ruin my morning….but a cab ride and a strong coffee got me back on track…..Home early afternoon to touch base with Jo and Yo…who had both been taking it easy that morning….home renovations, bill paying, gym sessions…..With the temperature in the high 20’s , we took to the streets, for a late lunch and a stroll along Canary Wharf…collecting friend along the way, we drank Pims at Gordon Ramsey’s Pub, The Narrow….and then continued along to the oldest riverside pub in London, circa 1520, the Prospect of Whitby….for more Pims, and conversation…..

Jo and Yo are both bankers, they move in a social circle far removed from mine….I have been friend with Jo since Primary School…when as a young 12-year-old, Jo declared to our Year 6 class he wanted to be Prime Minister of Australia…..Jo was praised by our teacher for his big dreams,…me on the other hand….I think I said I wanted to be a teacher ( and my then teacher rolled her eyes and told me to sit down!!)

Despite the passing of time, home addresses, friendship circles and job titles, Jo and my friendship has a solid foundation….for growing up on the South Coast of NSW seems to ensure that most friendships are for life ( if you can survive the Gong…you can survive anything!!)

Anyway, back to the story, so Jo and Yo move in high circles….an example being that over the fourth glass of Pims, friend Antonio mentioned his dinner date with Gwyneth, scheduled for Tuesday at her house in St Johns Wood….Yes, dinner with Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin..Apple, Moses, the whole family….Despite the fact that Jo, Yo and their friends are banking elite, this was what I most impressed by…dinner with Gwyn..would she cook from her new cook book I asked….only time will tell….on my return to Oz I will have to ask Jo and or Yo for an update from their friend Antonio.

I left the Prospect of Whitby, bound for Loungelover in the East….to catch up with my Scottish friend Jill…..for a girly evening over cocktails, Turkish Food and Indian sweets.

Monday up at 8am and on a bike…Jo was determined to see me ride to Liverpool Street with the daily work commuters….ok….might no have the clothes for it…but up for the challenge….With flat tire, and lots of huffing and puffing, I eventually made it to Jo’s work….’ Have a great day dear’ I said, as I waved him off to work….

A breakfast date with Jill in Soho followed,  at the lovely coffee shop, Flat White on Berrick Street, Soho…A yummy breakfast of a strong coffee and avocado and hommus on toast….Delish!! Parting at 11am with Jill, who is Australia bound in early 2012….Yay!!…I hit the shops…..Oxford Street, Covent Garden….but I soon realised that I indeed was shopped out…London being my last destination….I had no energy left, and energy is a must for Oxford street, so I took refuge in DuckSoup, Soho…a devine little tapas bar on Dean Street… it has only been open one week…A glass of wine and some squid, tomato and bread and I was rev ivied….I took the tube home….shopped for dinner ingredients and cooked up a meal for Jo and Yo….

Over discussions of skinny/fat people we ate together…somewhat later than I would normally call dinner time…but that is the life of Jo and Yo…out the door and 8am, home by 8pm at the earliest…and in there spare time remaining socially active or aggressive travelling….

And today is Tuesday…Tuesday the 4th of October…and I have about 36 hours left in the city that is capable of bringing out the best in me…Today I will visit John Keat’s home in Hampstead Heath and tomorrow the V & A museum and the Chelsea shopping strip…and then my time is up and it is back to OZ on that big jet plane…

But no time for tears, time to go out there and get amongst it….it is what Jo and Yo would want….it is what I want too!!

Photo essay on London to follow over the next couple of days, including London summer soundtrack ( well homage to the October heatwave soundtrack)….xx

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