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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day Three: Cambridge/London

28°C Sunny
Southwark, London
Nathan’s Birthday
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This morning, after a short recovery moment from last nights celebrations, it wasn't long before a group of us (three Australians and a Brit) were in a punt on the river Cams, with a can of Pimms. Now let's just stop for a moment and talk about this, as it has been quite life changing. For £1.90 ($3.80) one can purchase a pre-mix can of Pimms, that although missing the fruit, is extremely convenient and delicious. In addition, the drinking of these beverages (which can be picked up from your local) doesn't seemed to be frowned upon in public, and like the punting experience, prior 12 noon.

Punted (??) around by a lovely chap (both personality wise and on the eyes) I learnt quite a bit about Cambridge University - the rivalry between Kings College and Trinity College; that every college consisted of "a place to eat, a place to sleep, a place to study and a place to pray" - and I enjoyed the serenity of Cambridge. The images of studying at a prestigious university running around cobblestone-streets in gowns and enjoying strawberry's and cream with many bottles of champagne in the sun didn't seem too far removed. In fact, it was hard to not picture the opening scenes of Brideshead Revisited. 

After our punting experience we enjoyed a beverage in a rooftop bar, before heading back to London via train (where canned Gin and Tonics from the station supermarket were purchased to enjoy along the way). Back in London I departed from the group, farewelling the Birthday boy and ventured into Soho. Where I mainly walked the streets and soaked up the atmosphere, before picking a burger joint to enjoy an early dinner. Contemplating going for a second beverage at the Chesterfield or possibly catching one of the Proms concerts, I decided to head back to my quarters for a quick rest. Well, the next thing I know it was 10pm! 

Taking the last opportunity to explore, before my 7am train trip to Edinburgh tomorrow, I walked to the Tower Bridge and around the Tower of London. Both landmarks that I was surprised to learn are nowhere near the main areas of London city. In fact, I was slightly disappointed on my first day here to find that the Tower Bridge is not in view from the Big Ben and visa versa - a perception I had of London from movies growing up.

Although I have enjoyed my time in London, I must admit: on every level it was not what I was expecting. It is placed as one of the top cities along side New York, Paris and Tokyo - controversial, I know - but I don't see it. For me, it has been a city too far removed from my expectations. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Day Two: London/Cambridge

31°C Late Thunderstorms
Cambridge

Most of my day was spent wandering through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Being a hot day I started to wonder if I would get sunburnt and if I should have packed a hat: nope.

I always find the urban green space says a lot about a city - the upkeep, the way the park is utilised on a council level and how the public interact with the space.

Walking around it was not hard to notice that the park required some TLC, which surprised me since this was the main park of London. I do wonder if this was a bias view coming from Canberra though - where green spaces in and around the city is always kept neat and tidy, for no other reason than aligning to values we place on a capital city and, in essence, city vanity. I remember the first time I noticed how prestigious Canberra was when I first holiday with an Aunt in Geelong, I would have been about twelve, and was shocked to see streets with no curbs! - still, there did seem a lot of grass that requires mowing.

In the grounds of Kensington Gardens is the Serpentine Gallery and Serpentine Sackler Gallery. These were the main motivation for visiting the Parks, and I can not fault them as gallery spaces. Nor their involvement of interacting art with the green space, with each summer seeing a selection of “summer houses” erected in the parkland designed by famous architects. My favourite from this summer was by Barkow Leibinger.

The Sackler Gallery - an old military gunpowder store, called the Magazine building - was repurposed as a gallery and had an extension placed on the side, home to The Magazine restaurant, by Zara Hadid. I'm not going to try and describe the restaurant, as I could not do it justice. Though I must remark that it was a fabulous building that created an amazing atmosphere: it was light and fresh, and gave focus to the stunning brick wall of the original Magazine building. Although modern, and in some lights futuristic in style, it did not jar nor take away from the Magazine.

The mere thought of how Hadid came up with the concept for the design mesmerised me as I enjoyed morning tea (thinking 11am too early for a beverage), and stayed well past midday (and enjoyed a glass of Chardonnay).

There were many people in the park - walking dogs, entertaining children, running and cycling, lying in the grass, picnicking and enjoying the sunshine.

***

After many miles (another thing, why does the UK still use imperial measurements??) of walking I decided it was time for a beverage, and headed to the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair for a Gin and Tonic. Where I type these words. Heading up to Cambridge for the night to have dinner with a friend for his Birthday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day One: London

27°C Sunny
Southwark, London
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5.55am. Arrived at London Heathrow via SQ322, after what seems in retrospect a very good flight. With that said, when I boarded the flight in Singapore I was delighted to have been allocated one of the two seats in the middle section at the back of the upper deck (A380) - leg room galore! - though was very quickly alarmed when a British backpacker sat next to me in a state that can only be described as “shower required”. Fortunately, he wrapped himself in the provided blanket soon after take off, and as crap as those little blankets seem, I can report they do wonders in dampening smell. 

8.00am. Checked into my quarters in Southwark.

8.10am. Set off for a large walk, in the general direction of the National Portrait Gallery. Wandering through many lanes and streets that lived up to my impression of the Great Britain: rows of identical terrace housing each with matching rows of chimneys. This impression was further strengthened with the sighting of red telephone booths (I do wonder if their use and presence is in decay much like Telstra booths back home), red-rounded postal boxes with a black cap, double decker buses, black taxis, and the red Royal Mail Van (that immediately got me singing the Postman Pat Theme Song).

10.20am. After a breakfast stop (yes, totally awful coffee) visited the National Portrait Gallery. Many walls full of Sirs, Ladies, Kings, Queens, Esquires, Lords and a few other notable figures. Was interested to view the portrait of Chevalier d’Eon, Joseph Banks and an unfinished sketch of Jane Austen.

1.18pm. Found myself in a craft beer bar, enjoying a beverage. The heat suddenly dawned on me, with the sense that enjoying a nice cold beer while watching people pass by on the street captured the mere essence of Summer. Suddenly realised I had placed “heat” and “England” in the same thought process, to then notice that the sky was blue! 

2.00pm. British Museum. With such a large collection it became apparent that one required a theme or two to focus on through the the ages. I chose money, after viewing a small exhibition on a brief overview of money through the time, and food and beverage service (silverware, platters, serving implements, glassware and pottery). I also took a great deal of interest in the clocks. I must admit, that although there is a view on the British Museum and its collection, it was great to be able to see such a vast amount of history in one place.

4.30pm. Walked to Buckingham Palace, and along with many other tourists leered into the gates. It must get awfully tiring to have hundreds if not thousands of people a year leaning against one’s front gates. Though I do wonder how many nights Betty does reside in London, as I couldn't help but notice the Royal Standard was not in flight. Was fortunate enough to watch the changing of the guards - all very tedious. 

6.13pm. Dinner: burger and beer, followed by further walking back to my quarters.

7.30pm. May have fallen asleep. Awoke 12 hours later.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Last night I was fortunate enough to see Paul Capsis perform Resident Alien at The Street Theatre. It was a fabulous performance (and if it is coming to a theatre near you I would strongly recommend seeing it). But this is not a review, instead a moment to take insight from some words by Quentin Crisp:

It's no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years while saying, 'Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer.' By then, pigs will be your style. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Tuesday evening I decided to stay back late at work to set-up everything for a function on Thursday. In doing this it allowed me to take Wednesday off, giving me time to catch up on some much needed house chores and various other things. Around 11am, after vacuuming the house and well on to the second load of washing @noooonie arrived home and states: you have a parking fine. 

I lost it - words not being repeated here were thrown across the room and heavy footsteps echoed through the house as I went and collect that nasty yellow envelope. $108! For parking outside my own house! Outrage!

Compare that to only moments ago, when I was called into the kitchen to find that one of my small pottery dishes, which had a lovely dragonfly design on it and was gifted to me by our elderly neighbour, had been broken in an accident. My reaction: oh well, things break.

It is interesting to note what one gets mad about. 

In the larger scheme of things getting a parking fine has little to no impact on my life - yes its a tad inconvenient, and yes maybe I won't be able to have that extra two dry martini at the St Regis. But, it has no ongoing effect. Therefore, instead of cursing and stomping off next time (and we all know there will be one), I've decided that making a cup of tea is a much better use of my time and energy. Because, life it too short. 
In retrospect I can't help but laugh at the parking incident: it would have been cheaper to have gone to work and paid someone to clean my house. If anything, that's a valuable lesson to learn.