Monday, 30 June 2014

Accidental Visits: The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Last Sunday I caught up with my most legitimately London friend. She was born here in the city, and has lived here all her life; besides brief interludes at the school we both attended in Gloucestershire, and the university we also shared up in the North East. We met on Sunday in Kensington (she's such a Londoner that her 'hood is properly central) and took a sunny stroll down to Holland Park. For my friend, Holland Park was a familiar feature of her childhood - and the location of school sports days, she recalled with a shudder. I haven't spent much time in this park at all, bar a brief stay in the brutally hideous youth hostel that sits in the middle of the far prettier gardens, whilst training for an overseas zoological expedition.  

It was a pleasure to return with a local. My friend steered me swiftly past the hoards of toddlers on scooters and picnic-ers, and led me towards the park's hidden Kyoto Garden. The garden has been part of the park since 1991, and was funded (and then maintained annually by a special globe-trotting team of Japanese gardeners for 20 years) by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto. It underwent a large replanting and refurbishment in 2001, and in 2012, a year after the catastrophic nuclear disaster at Fukushima, a new section was added to commemorate the event.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Moving on - from a job and a particular corner of London

I moved to London seven years ago this autumn. The January following my move, after an internship and a brief spell of job-hunting and sleeping in various family members' spare rooms, I got my first full-time, no-break-for-university-terms, this-is-what-I'm-now-doing-with-my-time job. It wasn't in my industry of choice, but it would supposedly set me up with some basic office skills that I could later transfer across into my preferred field. Long story short, I still work for the company that first gave me a shot in this city. Three different jobs, six and a half years, seven or eight different desks, and countless projects. Working in one place for several years it is remarkable how easy it becomes to spend the days on autopilot, how quickly one can repeat familiar tasks and make the necessary calls. You can coast through tasks bounded by established processes and management systems. I could have stayed here forever.

And that is one reason why I handed in my resignation last month.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Things I have realised while running

I went for a run the other Saturday night. (I know, right?!) While everyone else in Amsterdam was busy eating and drinking, flirting, dancing and generally carousing, I eschewed a glass of wine, took off my make-up and put on a clingy turquoise running shirt. Then my friend, Lou, and I trekked out to the city's Olympic Stadium, and we prepared to run the Nike We Own the Night 10k. With several thousand other women, we stretched and warmed up in a spot of light drizzle, grimaced at the insanitary portaloos, and then lined up in our numbered pen ready for the off. We then stood around, swiftly cooling, as the dancers and DJ who had been motivating the pre-race warm up, frantically vamped to cover a problem at the starting line. But then, finally, sometime before 11pm, the first few runners set off. Almost 20 minutes later we followed them.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Accidental Reads: Swimming London

I will freely admit that swimming has never been a favourite sport of mine. Public swimming pools always remind me of school swimming lessons, pointlessly diving to retrieve rubber bricks whilst clad in old pyjamas, and being whistled at by a dry teacher wearing real clothes on the sidelines. And then there were the hideous changing rooms. The anti-verucca foot-baths of sloshing brown water, the uncomfortable slatted benches down which your clothes and towel always fell, and that feeling of clamminess after rushing to get your clothes back on before you were actually dry again. Eurgh. I never much enjoyed swimming outside either, thanks to a terrifying encounter when I was about 10 or 11 with a monstrous crab in a seaweedy Scottish loch.

Since moving to London however I've made a number of new friends who have declared themselves swimming fans. And not just pool aficionados either. People in London swim outdoors. Who knew?! They hop into the Serpentine, and in the sunshine they flock to Brockwell Lido. They take a bracing dip in the Hampstead Bathing Ponds, where there is is even a an annual Christmas Day Swim for the most committed of watery masochists. *shiver* In fact, when you start to look for them, there are spots to swim (and people hopping in and out of them) all over the city.
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