Saturday, May 24, 2008


I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment by stuff.
no doubt i will surface again soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008


in between LG's departure for school and my departure for work

in between term time and holiday time - strange limbo-like lack of routine in exam time, working mainly at home, but lots of work to be done in not very much time

in between USA travel posts

in between gardening (fine weather is too good to be spent indoors) and spring cleaning. Spring cleaning between gardening and exam marking. Yeah, i know. Its been a late spring. Only half-way around the lounge so far....

in between cameras. No sign of old camera, new camera ordered eta this week. In the meantime, I still love my old old compact camera

in between hope and despair re "life". Balancing reasonably well most of the time

in between USA-blogger-visits (thats the hope talking)

in between The Summerhouse Trilogy by Alice Thomas Ellis and Beloved by Toni Morrison - previous and final book group reads but the next book group is Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Which I'm looking forward to.

in between first and second which i'm off to get now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Blimey, its 10 days since I got back home, I'd better get on with posting about my travels before its all too distantly past.

[I'm not checking the dictionary at all for "blimey", its a word I use quite a lot and I refuse to be intimidated or dictated to by a dictionary. (still wondering about that bunny though...)]

A few of my favourite things (about New York):

Fire escapes. I couldn't stop taking photos of them, especially in the sharp sunshine with their clear and complicated shadows etching stripes and angles on the buildings.

Colours and reflections. Red brick and painted brick and fire hydrants and blue blue sky and stone and steel and glass and yellow cabs, graffiti, adverts, almost-luminous spring greens, cherry blossom and redbud against brickwork, clear white dogwood brightening shade and all again reflected again... and cross-hatched by the shadows of the fire-escapes.

Buildings. Yes. Of course. Eclectic, elegant, ultra-modern and medieval-looking and encased in scaffolding, sophisticated quirky, sleek, grand and mundane, pristine and decaying. Peeling paint, I love peeling paint. And - especially all the little twiddly extra decorative fantasy embellishments, unexpected balconies,friezes, turrets, blank blank expanses of glass full of reflections.
Many of the most interesting "bits" are way way up high. Is that to make one look up? or to ensure that the penthouse gets the best view?
And then, theres the Chrysler Building. Sublime.

Water-towers. I love them! And there are so many of them! They look so incongruous and rural homespun and yet so perfectly at home in the cityscape, sticking out of near and far horizons and nestling in the tumbling blocks of roofs and towers and the corners between. This is a picture of our hotel, with water tower in the distance.

. I walked and sat and talked for a while in Central Park with dear Lynne, my first blog-date of the week - so lovely to meet face to face and talk, and like my other U.S. blog dates this felt like meeting an existing friend rather than meeting someone new. But not long enough.

Also Madison Square Park, Union Square, some fabulous community gardens... There is something very special about green spaces in a city.

Taking photos in the museums. I couldn't quite believe photography is allowed. Not so in London. I loved it not so much for taking pictures of the art, though I took a few - but watching other people taking photos of, posing for photos in front of famous art. "... and here's me and a Starry Starry Night..."
Photo on lost camera: the back of a tall young man taking a photo, very high arms stretched, very close up (macro) in front of a Rothko.
I love seeing art but also watching people interacting with art and the cameras added a new dimension to this.
Second telling off: in MOMA, not for taking photos (as I kept expecting) but for walking around in bare feet.

All seen from:

street level, walking and walking and walking. My third blog-date of the week, our personal walking-graffiti tour of the lower East side and Alphabet city with Steve & Bob. Couldn't have been more fun or more relaxed or more cool. Some of Steve's photos from that afternoon are here, uploaded about May 11th and ff.

top of the Empire state building, gobsmacking even though we've all seen it on film: I loved seeing the roof gardens and building sites and water towers (even a few chimneys!) and streets and traffic amidst all the above and stretching out all the way to the river (and on the very topmost edge a felt-penned "eeek! don't fall!";

the river - boat trip around Manhattan at dusk, breathtaking and beautiful;

Metropolitan Museum of Art's roof garden. The spring tips of the trees stretching out and away in waves and lapping at the feet of the skyscrapers, whilst behind us Jeff Koon's giant balloon dog glared outrageously fabulous gold and bright reflecting back people, faces, feet. "Us" being myself and the lovely Chedwick (date no.2) to whom lots of big thanks for all the photos in this post. And (even more) for a great few hours.

cable car across the 59th Street Bridge; (definately groovy) (also with Ched, who is also groovy)

Brooklyn Bridge. Spectacular - and different - views of the city. Loved Brooklyn. Could have spent more time there. Excellent lunch. Missed the Brooklyn museum, closed on Tuesdays. Big disappointment. Poo.

But - we went instead into the Botanical gardens next to the museum and that was more than compensation. The gardens were awash with cherry blossoms, masses of luxurious pink and white pom poms, delicate wisteria-like weeping cherries, blue skies, green grass, little heaps of blissful turtles sunning themselves in the Japanese garden. The gardens were also full of families enjoying the blossom, families with little heaps of children - siblings dressed in matching outfits - running, playing, laughing, climbing trees - orthodox Jewish families dressed so beautifully for the holidays mainly in black and white amidst the pink and white frothiness; truly wonderful atmosphere and visually stunning. Judy Chicago and Georgia will still be in the museum next time, and I'm quite sure, I will be back.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I heart New York

yeah, i know its corny, but thats kind of what it felt like being in NYC.

Well, not exactly corny maybe but... hmmmm, what on earth do I mean?
It felt the way I expected it to feel from all those iconic images and film & TV sequences: glamorous and exciting, buzzing, familiar whilst also being foreign, full of energy - tall loud lairy and all lit up.

Actually, I've just googled "lairy" as I'm never sure whether to spell it lairy or lairey.
And I have doubts now about whether this is an appropriate word as all the definitions seem rather negative. I didn't mean it at all in a negative way: I meant "in your face", up-front, self-assured, full of energy, non-apologetic, a little stroppy maybe... [lets not get started on definitions of stroppiness]...but in a good way
My google search defined lairy as to do with lurking and hairiness. Well, thats a revelation to me.
"mis-behaving and prone to deceit". Oh dear, thats not at all what I meant.
"My bunny is a bad lairy-sauce." ???? I have no idea what that means. Bunny? what bunny????

Well, even after a brief discussion with M - who understands the term as primarily negative - I'm keeping it in. I am a native speaker of English, and my usage partly defines meaning.
So there.
Is that lairy of me, or what?

We arrived at the hotel at around 9pm and though it was around 2am for our London body clocks, we had a preliminary wander around the streets, picking up on the way delicious home-made burgers from a little place around the corner. Betty had some kind of salmon burger, and I had a portabello mushroom burger which was absolutely delish. We walked a few blocks, ooo-ing and aaah-ing over the not-too-distant Chrysler building and the actually-pretty-close Empire State building. Me more than Betty, who'd been here before.

Evening was a great time to arrive in NYC, the city looks so impressive at night. During the week we took a Circle Line evening cruise around the island, watching dusk fall over the Statue of Liberty, transfixed by the golden evening sun shining back from the thousands of bright towering windows - and gradually all the lights coming on and reflecting on the water. Impressive and also beautiful.

Day 1 we had some booked "events" - it was great to be partly "led" on our first day. Especially as I had woken up rather early, in accord with British summertime, and stayed awake...
In the morning we joined a walking&food tour of Greenwich village - 3 hours of walking and tasting and looping round about and back again to Bleecker St. Highly recommended.

We ate canoli for the first time, the last of a series of samplings of local and typical and cross-cultural specialities. We compared notes (Betty and I, not the whole group) on the conformity of other tourists in the group to their national stereotypes - by which I mean, of course, our stereotyping of their nationalities. We thought we could have identified the other 3 Brits as Brits from some considerable distance. I wonder if they thought the same about us?

We'd walked to the meeting point from our midtown hotel and walked back after the tour - we walked and walked so much in our 4 days, its hard to imagine a better way to see New York - and I just loved the diversity of the city.

Which does seem like a prosaic and obvious thing to say, I suppose any city is diverse - its certainly one of the things I love about London. Maybe its something to do with the way the city is contained by the river, combined with the "image" of New York, which makes it seem particularly notable.
I'm sure some Brits, at least, think of NYC only in terms of Times Square and, maybe, 5th Avenue. Greenwich Village is so different, and Madison Square park - and Alphabet city and Tribeca and and and..

...and I just opened my NYC guide to check how to spell Tribeca, and an unexpected dogwood petal fell out...

which has me remembering all the blossoms and trees and colours of the city in Spring sunshine. A few of my favourite things.... but i'll save favourite things for another post, this one is getting rather lengthy.

To finish though, I do have a few pictures - from my trusty little compact camera. Being so compact, it was in my bag on the plane and hence not left behind and, being so compact, it was the camera I took to Broadway on the Monday evening where Gary had left tickets for us, bless his sweet heart.

We saw this:

I was told off - along with many many other people - for taking photos inside the theatre. I received 3 tellings-off during my trip, this was the first.

I had no trouble staying awake or getting to sleep that night. Or waking at British-summer-breakfast-time the following morning...

adrenalin can be a great thing and I have no doubt that NYC is one of its primary catalysts.
[i mean that in a good way.....]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

family and family

Wednesday was the anniversary of my mum's death, a year ago.

I had thought that I wouldn't blog about it at all. I spent the day quietly doing this and that, thinking and feeling. Also not thinking or feeling.

It wasn't so much worse than some of the other days have been.
There are all sorts of unsuspected triggers.
Grief doesn't conform to rules or expectations.

I decided to mention it, after all, since emailing a couple of bloggers who had written messages of love, knowing the anniversary - and especially in the light of my USA visit.
These are all connected.

My mother was a great letter writer. She sent long letters, little notes, cards, photos, gifts. It was a way of extending her love, care and hospitality far beyond her home. There were a lot of people around the world who loved her, many of them loved her like a mother. She was also trying to get the hang of texting, to keep in touch with her grandchildren.

She was becoming a keen emailer, before it became too uncomfortable to sit at the computer, though I don't think she'd ever have wanted to give up paper and pen.

Well into her illness, her priority for the mornings was to write - she responded to every card, letter, delivery of flowers as long as she was able to.

Given a few more years, she might have become a blogger. She had the instincts, but might have had too little time; she was always busy, active, involved, visiting, looking after guests. Writing.

I showed her my blog, after we knew about her cancer, as another way of sharing with her and she loved it - the chat and the commenting, the connections. She recognised the sense of community, the friendship. Family.

My trip to the USA was financed by money she gave me, before she died. The same was true for Betty, who was with me in NYC, whose mother died just a couple of weeks after mine.
So, it was a kind of Mother-Memorial trip for each of us.

And she would have just loved to hear about my trip and about those of you I was able to meet face to face; about the welcome, hospitality and love I was given, about the sense of comfortable familiarity and acceptance I felt.
It really hurts that I can't share that with her, it bloody hurts so much.
But there is also a huge comfort in recognising the operations and realities of "family" and friendship so far from home and in knowing that she would have recognised it too. It was fitting.

I'm glad to have written this, after all, and to acknowledge the anniversary here where I received such a lot of support and comfort at the time.

Also, writing this has rather effectively cleared my sinuses.

Travel diaries of some kind should emerge before too long.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

safe & (un)sound

...back at home, safe and sound, sat at my own computer with the sound of the washing machine churning in the background...

i arrived in London soon after 7 am. yesterday morning, amazed and happy to meet weather which almost matched the warmth and sunshine of New York and Washington
(having left in 9', the current 19'is barmybalmy)
(i switched surprisingly rather effortlessly to USA fahrenheit but now I am back in centigrade-land)

happier to meet my dad, who had volunteered to meet me at Heathrow and drive me home

somewhat foggy-brained after almost 20 hours without sleep

which may excuse me for my dopey stupidity in leaving my camera on the plane.

Not that I'm looking for excuses or blame; it seems to me that blame is most often a waste of time and I've learned a lot in the last few years about regret and why and how to live without it.
So, I am not down-hearted. It has not found its way through lost property so far, but though it may still appear I prefer, at this stage, to think of it as lost for good.

And thats okay.

I'm a little surprised but rather pleased at how easily I have been able to say that - to take the decision that this will not cast any kind of negative pall over my time in the States. The camera itself is not an issue, of course its the memory cards. But the pictures I took are by no means even close to being the most important thing about my visit.

The best things about my visit were meeting up and spending time with old friends and with new and less new blogger friends. Reya's post about blog kin and family expressed this so well - those of you I was able to meet with did seem like good friends and/or family, the sense of easy familiarity and prior understanding and acceptance were wonderful.

Other best things include walking and looking - walking around your cities and streets (and a bit of countryside) looking, absorbing, experiencing.

Yes, I was looking forward to sorting through my photos, showing them to friends and family, posting them - and I spent some time looking through them on the plane. But, you know - taking the pictures contributed a good deal to my visit but having them is something I can let go of.

Taking photos has broadened and sharpened the way I look, the things I notice, the depth in which I experience things, and it encourages me to take time to see, feel and absorb - and all that is a part of my experience which can't be lost.

So there.

Of course, this could be partly the jet-lag speaking. Maybe in a few days when I am back in London time I will be stamping my feet, kicking myself and spitting. Not a pretty picture, eh? especially if I do all those at once.

I managed to stay awake till about 9.30 last night - so thats close to a sleepless 36 hours. I nearly dozed off even whilst catching up on new Dr. Who (yes, i am ashamed to admit it, even with my pretty good excuse). I slept well last night but today feel leaden, sluggish... my bed is calling, but I will resist. So if I post odd comments on your blogs, please put it down to my unsound brain and body-rhythms which don't quite know where they are.

I will post more about my trip which was ALL WONDERFUL but also have work to get down to, bills to sort out, UK friends to catch up with, garden spring-mayhem to enjoy...... so it may be a few days.

Monday, May 05, 2008