Sunday, 28 November 2010

Oh my, how time flies

Last week marked three years of my living in Clapham - London, England.

After thirty six months I can now walk into the office in the morning and say 'Alright Mike' without feeling like a complete fool.

I know off the top of my head that probably the best way, of the many, to get from Blackfriars to Battersea is to walk to Temple, take the District line to Victoria, and then take the Victoria Line, southbound, to Vauxhall. Walk to the bus station and get the 344 which will drop you right on Battersea High Street.

On a really cold Saturday afternoon I just crave a good cup of tea. And after a long day at work, it's very nice to walk across the bridge and go to the slightly rundown local for a pint (or two) of London Pride.

There are rituals and traditions now. Pub quiz on a Sunday; Pancake Day; craft nights; carrying the Christmas tree home on one shoulder at the start of Advent; our fabulous catered parties...

The longer I stay here, the faster the years go by. Slowly what was once new and novel grows to be everyday, but not necessarily in a bad way; and it becomes more and more difficult to remember life without Clapham - London, England.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A small nation of great strength

Tragedy hits the world in its own way every day, but sometimes it comes too close to home.

I don't really follow the All Blacks' progress; I live through my family for significant political updates; news of the NZ weather comes to me via facebook updates; and it seems to take me many hours to get the news on local natural disasters. But when an underground explosion left 29 West Coast of New Zealand miners underground, I was right there.

You wake in the morning, and check on the miners. On the bus to work, you read about miners. Last thing at night, look for any updates on the miners. All the time hoping for a miracle.

29 different faces, 29 different mothers, 29 different favourite foods.

29 different lives. All lost.

New Zealand is just a little country. Usually sheltered from significant sorrow, this kind of disaster rocks it to the core. But just a colony of penguins in the bitterest of Antarctic winters, this great country will pull together so very tightly to make sure that everyone is ok in the end.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Winter wonderful

In my little town in Japan, you could always tell when winter was properly on its way. The trees that stood in all the gardens and parks would, seemingly overnight, be decorated with a complicated system of ropes to stabilise each and every branch. This defence was to brace them for the impending heavy snow which would inevitably want to rest awhile in the arms of the trees.

The yearly construction of this armour would always bring on a sense of foreboding in me, but was also a reminder of the immense beauty of winter in Japan.

My overwhelming memory of winter there, is one of quiet. Of all the seasons, winter was the most silent. Just the squeak of your shoes on the surface of the snow as you walked to your car in the morning.

Here in London, winter's yearly entrance isn't quite so obtrusive. She sneaks up, giving you just small clues, which only after you start to put them all together, do you realise she is well and truly on her way.

Firstly the clocks go back, then there are more red, orange and yellow leaves on the ground than on the trees. Then you switch the heating on and all of a sudden, someone mentions that snow has been forecast somewhere in the country. That's when you add up everything and realise winter has settled in for the long haul.

She brings with her crystal clear days (like today) where you wonder if the sky might just smash into a million pieces; spicy mulled wine from paper cups at Christmas markets; a dusting off of your collection of brightly coloured hats, scarves and gloves; stews, pies and soups; and a nice stretch of indoor time that is slower and more relaxed than other times of year, filled with films, craft, and a lot of good books.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fading memories

My Wednesday run this week wasn't much like my Wednesday run last week.

Tonight I ran in long trousers, a thermal and a bright coloured rain jacket to protect myself from the cold, dark and rain.

Last Wednesday my run was barefoot along a seven mile Caribbean beach. "Let's run to the Ritz-Carlton and then back to our condo for a swim in the crystal clear, blue water".


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hole-in-one cover

In a fit of pre-travel paranoia, I thought I'd check the terms and conditions of my super cheap travel insurance to check that it covered, well... anything really.

In actual fact, I discovered on close examination, that it covers quite a lot.

Over and above all of the normal things (diving, snorkeling, snowboarding, hijacking) my travel insurance policy also specifies that it will cover me for: sledging, swimming with dolphins, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, riding in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, wheelchair basketball, and ice cricket.

But the best bit was my 'golf insurance'. If I happened to be participating in a golf competition, and also happened to get a hole in one (I do understand the odds of both of these occurring are only slightly better than my witnessing an alien landing) then my insurance would cover me for "all customary bar expenses incurred as a result of, and immediately subsequent to, achieving a hole-in-one during a competition round".

And here was me wondered about how I was going to cover the bar tab at the 19th hole, after a big day of ice cricket. Phew.