I had just finished my exams, celebrated my birthday and got on a flight London to Seattle.
I found myself arriving at a 22 buck a night air bnb in Highline on the outskirts of Seattle with a quarter full suitcase and lots of time to absorb my new home, write my dissertation, and quickly explore the city in five days before catching the greyhound to Portland.
I loved where I was staying instantly. A wooden structure, shared between three of us, just the right dynamics of chats, learning about our differences and expectations en transit, keeping sweet vibes throughout and respecting each other’s time needs and privacy. I loved waking up surrounded by the alpine greenness of pnw. Got my Orca loaded, and picked my daily trips between jumping on the 35min bus journey to the city centre, or 35 min walk to the coast.
Seattle is where my journey begun, and where it ended.
I got caught on the rising tide on a private beach, I studied in the most quaint little library in Fremont, strolled in unexpected familiarity up and down University Way and experienced the awe of Japanese tourists in Suzzallo and Allen Libraries the setting of some of the Harry Potter scenes.
Seattle is the uber cool without the forced coolness. It is grounded, down to earth, green, gorgeous, creative and blatant.
I couldn’t have ever imagined Seattle would have made such a fundamental mark and given me so many beautiful memories from this two month trip, and without sparing any important details, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Other than to return, again and again to soak up the atmosphere before I move on again.
I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.
It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.
Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.
Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.
Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.
Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.
Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.
As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.
This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.
The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.
Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.
Just visited the Oregon Historical Society, where the disappointment turned into contempt and anger.
A state with around 200 years of history.
The first thing that I noticed is how everything was presented as a story of ‘doing’ instead of a series of histories emerging in equal importance on the narrative of what is new America.
The natives, the African Americans, the Asians presented as sharing the same space in an assumptive scenario that puts them in the otherness of America’s existence.
No narrative of their histories, just the acknowledgment they exist.
The pioneers who made this land in the forefront. The dislocations of indigenous people to securitize vast areas of land. The securitization agenda in its earliest form.
Securitise from what? This word serves the interests of those who are pursuing the agenda without equitable considerations for those marginalized in the process.
A history of half-hearted stories, incomplete narratives, equalization said but not existing in any form or story in real life.
The marketization of ideas, becoming ideas in themselves and accepted as currency fueling development, without any fundamental structure for emerging cooperation.
Forcibly changing a world that doesn’t want to change and presenting it as de facto.
I can dig a thousand words to describe the disappointment in American history. Mostly, because whoever took the lead in making this the common reality, had not thought through all they lost in the process of focusing on the small detail of the multiplicity the size of land has offered them.
Agrarian change for who, and to feed who?
The land of the amble, producing less for less.
The establishment of fake stories as a level of understanding of what might have been better imaginable.
Two years ago I came accross the documentary called Men of the Thames. The film is a journey of watermen and lightermen working in businesses on the Liquid Highway of London.
The story is narrated through the family histories of people with long associations to the London docks, the changes that have shaped their local industry since and their closeness to rowing.
Rowing for them is a family affair, taken up to continue the tradition of family participation in competitions, or as a means of rehabilitation from severe injury in pursue of ‘bringing those who stray back into a much supportive community’. It also highlights how tragedy is reflected upon and the power of responsibility owned by those working on the river.
The second documentary zooms in on the Doggetts Coat and Badge race.
Introduced and funded by Thomas Doggetts, the film takes us into the community within one of the oldest livery companies in London, housed at the Watermen’s Hall.
This is a single sculling race for apprentices in the lightermen and watermen sectors of London, traditionally originating East from the Tower of London.
Rowing in these parts of London was a far cry from the associations of today to university crews and the boat race.
Oared vessels were used to transport people by the river, and the importance of understanding the tides, steering in the streams and the elements in these wider parts of Thames were key to safe and time efficient passage.
Many of the references point to rowing facilities in the east of London. The London Youth Rowing, next to the City Airport is a more recent addition utilised by many regional clubs. Poplar and Blackwall District Rowing Club hosts exhibits from generations of Doggetts winners, many of whom trained from the club. Further athletes went on to row competitively in high performance national, international and Olympic events.
The Eastend is a place of transience and evolving histories, still unfolding to date.
Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.
Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.
Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.
Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.
Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.
Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.
You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.
Westward from the ferry port for destinations to the Cyclades and Crete, the port of Pireaus has a few hidden surprises.
Boats get larger and the space wider, abandoned warehouses as a backdrop, grafitti and murals galore.
The Chinese Road and Belt initiative will be redeveloping this area and on a beautifully sunny autumnal Sunday morning, I could not find an excuse to not document the blue of the sea with the yellows and blues of the ferries and the brownish grey concrete warehouses overshadowing the port streets.
I can’t predict what the port will look like in the future development, however I know for sure, the colourful ferries will still be floating on the beautiful coloured sea all the same.
We are aware London is the haven for money laundering and a gateway to tax free heavens, but is it becoming more like Dubai than we are aware of?
I walked out at 6am to unchain my bike to find a maclaren left on the curve of my street.
I live in a nice part of the east end near the wharf non excluding drug dealing and rowdiness vibes depending the time and night of the week.
Last night, there was a party of very affluent Chinese kids on one end of the street, and a joint smoking around the cars dub party at the other.
Seeing the Maclaren in the morning came as no surprise, either of the groups can afford to scrape enough to hire or buy one.
Yes alone the car was impounded, just as I returned at 9.30am, slowly gathering a small crowd of early risers and security guards.
The parking attendant was as surprised. In his whole career, he’d never seen anything like it.
That brought me to an article I had read about Dubai’s airport doubling up as a super expensive car cemetery. Hundreds of cars left in a rush, for one way flights out of the country, often for very dodgy reasons.
My question in all of this is simple. Why dodgy men have a thing about super expensive and fast cars, beyond the bling factor.
Is there a club of angry men that buys and dumps super expensive cars, like a society, encouraging others to do so? And if so, how do I shut this thing down?
I’m conscious that they are a bad example, for both groups that were partying last night on my road.