One thing is for certain. Summer in the UK has been a super mini version of hot summers we got used to in the past two years.
By August, and a very wet one, I begun deliberating when the next two hour slot of timid sun would pop its head through the clouds. Even on the lucky occasions work wasn’t tying me to the desk and I caught some of it, the cooling breeze and the inconsistency of it made the decision much easier than expected. I needed out.
After two years of no international travel and no proper holiday, I had to go.
So in all good pandemic manner of things, here I was looking at green and amber options.
Still too out of habit, Amber became the elephant in the room.. Will anyone notice and switch or do I risk it?
And no, my money and time were too precious to gamble so I made the safe bet.
And what would have I known if I knew?
Stunning green covered volcanic mountains dipping straight into the sea, accompanied by plenty of flowy waters splashing on the roads from high up the dark and rocky walls.
In the Atlantic, sort of Portuguese sort of north African, Madeira was the humid medicine I didn’t know existed so close to home.
Mild temperatures, sun and warm waters make up a perfect hike to the beach, swim and hike up mix.
Locals are warm. Daily life is super affordable to many other European hotpots and I can’t think of a single thing that I miss.
If not convinced yet, take a look.
Plenty of cute little or the larger kind of surprises too
Of course, the local fresh produce offers loads of culinary delights.
Faith, culture and iconic representation:
Whether early in the morning to start the day, or in the afternoon for a little pick me up, there’s another place where locals will be seen religiously. The cafe.
And of course, lunch on, there’s always time to taste the local ‘poncha’
I believe the Madeiran experience is made up of hikes, coffee, levada walks, fish dishes and poncha. For tourists and locals, living the moment is all about these flavours.
With the subtropical climate blending it all together, the Madeiran experience makes an irresistible ‘poncha’.
Go have a taste!
A few months into the latest UK covid related lockdown it’s a good time to highlight some fantastic opportunities connected to the river Thames.
Charities AHOY Centre and London Youth Rowing both have coaching apprenticeship opportunities listed here: https://www.lifetimetraining.co.uk/apprenticeship-vacancies/sport,london,,/, supported by Coach Core.
The Thames Skills Academy support two Level 3 apprenticeships (Boatmaster and Maritime Engineering). There’s an impressive range of career opportunitiesin the Maritime sector, adding more to the economy than rail and aviation combined.
Spread the word & hopefully some teens will be perkier as a result on top of having the opportunity to experience a slice of cockney history.
10th July 2020, a Turkish Court order approved Hagia Sophia’s convertion from a museum to an operational mosque.
For many Christians around the world, aborting a historical monument that represented the centuries of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox with Ottoman faith-inspired culture in the region, to having it reclaimed as a faith space for Islam, is a vilifying act of disrespect. The region has been affected by territorial tensions for millenia and many in the Balkan and Western Asia Minor, have experienced relocations, marginalisation, faith based extradition, torture and incarceration.
It is a non surprise western Turkey struggles with their record on human rights abuses, and corruption has been developmental to the Greek economy even in modern times.
Looking past the historicity of the region, and the unsettled air Erdoğan’s latest move has created, I can attest to the following:
– Erdoğan has three years left before the next election.
– The Hagia Sofia move was his check mate to Europe beyond the Greco-Turkish spats.
– Erdoğan doesn’t want to join EU (and all the monitoring and regulations), the EU will not have Turkey as it is today, but to make sure they don’t interfere, he needed to growl over his territory.
– Putin will turn a blind eye, despite Russia’s Orthodox Church affinity. Faith is only useful when it serves one’s interests by masking transparency. Christian links to the European church history are problematic for Putin’s and Erdoğan’s dark and underhanded populist and divisionary operations.
– Unmonitored, anyone challenging Erdoğan like the Kemalists, will end up in jail or dissappear.
– Turks in Turkey, Germany and the UK love Erdoğan. He took power and water to the favelas. He is making profits from the Syrian refugees that have no labour rights but plenty of will to do whatever yet not get paid or paid scraps of peanuts when they do (a 10th of the Turkish labour rates according to reports).
Noone wants drama on their doorstep. Turning adversity to positive stories is a way for populist governments to get away with the uttermost abuse of human rights.
Minorities and culture are the capital nasty regimes use for political coercion.
Coercion to domestic opposition, and coercion in international relations contexts.
Threatening securities makes vulnerable populations anxious and puts actor resources at high risk and alert. This costs actors money and make populations more predatory between them. Double win.
Hagia Sophia is the starting line of an incredibly narcissistic performance we will expect to see from Erdoğan in the next three years.
I can only hope there will be limited loss and blood lost in the process, but not set on having any hopes at this point.
In the middle of a pandemic, reclaiming a museum to a faith institution is a bold move.
To be continued…
Cousin no. 1: what did you vote for?
Me: the ecologists
Cousin no. 2: the sexologists, both are biological
I live in Tower Hamlets and in the poling station queue I could tell which was the one guy that voted Tory.
Me at the Radisson Blu polling Station:
I remember now why we were here on our date last month.
If you had a choice between two PMs which one would you choose?
: Corbyn, he’s more disillusioned to Bojo.
Good evening the weather is looking very unsettled in the following days.
Rich kids go skint?
9pm exit poll: Shutter Island
Bercow on Sky News: Order!
Me (in thinking bubble): waiting to hear something funnier
Bercow: spare us the theatrics
Me (in thinking bubble): you got it
Bercow: The state of my throat which is very temporary is not down to the consumption of a gangrenous testicle.
Sky news: what are you going to do now you are out of politics?
Bercow: have some fun
Me: mic drop
Glasgow door incorporated. 🏴
Fact: Jo Swinson still knocked on that door 😭😭😭
I went to the UK launch of the Judy & Punch movie at the Picturehouse Central near Picadilly Circus.
The event had a live puppet show and actors portraying the audience husslers you’d get in the 17th century pre show crowds.
Drinks flowing, the pre movie event was comic, dark and intense with high pitched call outs and bashing noises, floating between comedy, with hints of tragedy, to fairy tale like medieval perkiness.
Now onto the movie.
Set in the mountain village of Seaside, the scenes are made in 17th century English/western European surroundings with a forest, unwavering views over the mountains and further away and filled with all the weird and wonderful characters you’d find in the dark streets of London mid century.
The story of the name Seaside goes like that. The villagers believed the sea would rise to near the top of the mountain, making their village a seaside settlement. They went on as far as building boats, which coincidentally and comically the housekeeper of Judy & Punch wonders what happened to them.
The script takes you through the success of a puppeteer couple who have returned to Seaside after the money and drink thirsty husband burned through their earnings from the big shows in the Big Smoke.
They start very successful shows at the village, waiting on the day talent spotters will come through and open up a new chance for a show in the city.
Whilst all of this rolls out, the husband keeps on failing. Whilst the wife (Judy and female puppeteer) goes out for the day, he gets drunk, nearly forgets a crawling baby to the fireplace, chases a dog for stealing his breakfast sausages and trips over throwing the baby out of the window into the dense thick forest down the mountain.
The wife returns (Judy) and the fight kicks off where he leaves her for dead in the forest. Nearby travellers/White witches find her, bring her back to health and before they move on their next journey, go back to the village to tell some truths about Mr Punch, who is about to hang the elderly housekeepers to clear his name of his wife’s and baby’s disappearance.
I won’t spoil the finale. From second to second I couldn’t predict what would happen. All I can reveal is that’s the first movie that I watched mesmerised without noticing how the time went past.
Go check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.
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.
Christmas in Germany, through the markets and shops, the streets decorated with pine trees, lights out letting the natural phenomena shed light as clouds, day and dusk allow.
Yet the most fascinating part in the journey is driving from place to place.
Unlike the English quintessential village feel, the countryside in Westfalia is a mix of wild growth areas and farmed fields, wind turbines and easyness, in the sense of a down to earth grounded kind.
So I decided to pull this guide together after having visited Bath and the wider Wiltshire a number of times over the last two years, visiting friends who moved there from London, for a change of lifestyle.
Wiltshire is a true representation of rolling English countryside, opening up to create the setting for the landscape of fields further afield in Devon and Cornwall, and to the end of the land of the British Isle. Scenic drives, quaint old cotsworld like villages dot the landscape, however note these are increasingly interrupted by new housing developments.
The area is knows for its afluent resident demographics. Housing is as expensive as it is in London, and Bath is a catwalk of contemporary design options, found in inoffensive gorgeously lit boutique shops. There are a lot of options to choose from, and an equal amount of cafes and foodie options to satisfy the pickiest of the souls out there.
Some of my favourite moments are both in Bath and the surrounding Somersetian countryside. When I get there, on a Friday, we head for the Star, the only – I believe – authentic pub, a mix of old and new, music or not, regulars and all embraced in a coffin shaped building. The walk there is equally cool, strolling past residential windows of yellow brick roman dwellings, sitting on the rustic raised walkway above the passing traffic passing below.
On days out, more recently I discovered Corsham. The walk through the tiny village, or the walk of the green space outside the stately home, are true to form of cutiness. The home itself and the gardens are architectural highlights so pick based on the season, trusting both will be a very rewarding experience.
Castle Combe is another little wonder to check out. I loved the walk from the car park to the village itself, hanging branches of tall trees canopying over the road. Prettily decorated door fronts, stone buildings, stone brick bridges, and water streams would have you thinking you are visiting Smurf land. It is not too far off that, hoping no offense caused by this description.
My earlier experience of Wiltshire was visiting Avebury stone circle. If you haven’t, this is a piece of british ancient history that equals Stonehedge. Avebury stone circle is the largest, with a village in the middle of it, supported by numerous super natural stories. I think my dream home is also in that village. Walk around the circle, but also do go for a walk through the village. I am sure you will get lost.
Box is known for the train tunnell and Thomas the tank. There is an underground town down there built out of sight to evacuate local residents on occassion of need.
Devizes has an eerie story of its own. The Black Swan is known to harbour ghosts of past times, and I did stay in room no 4 where numerous signtings and disturbances are known to take place. I must say I did not enjoy neither slept much and things happenned that I can not explain. The landlord soon sold the pub and moved on, like many others. However can’t fault the pub food and the atmosphere – warm, cozy and lively.
Devizes is also known for another trouble – that of its locks. If you own a riverboat, you will know the ladder of locks one has to wait through to get one side to another. A friend that did it told me that it took them around 9 hours to do Caen Hill. Not a feat for the lighthearted boat dwellers.
There is a lot more to see in this wonderful area however I will leave you with these pointers to begin with. I am sure you will be soon returning for more.