Autumnal English hews

Noticing the small changes in the way the air’s scent carries cooking smells, perfumes and sound vibrations…

The light moisture chilling the edges off living things…

The light mist flowing through the land, thickening and lightening as it absorbs the wind.

Victoria Park, London

Wood burning in the city, logs burning in the fireplace, smoke climbing up from canal boat chimneys into the gaps of the urban air channels.

The yellowy orange with blues of the sunsets and the sunrises. A sun blessed season eclipsing into the vibrancy of the next. Nature signalling for a final celebration before it returns next year in spring.

Leafy kisses, giggles in the air

The cozyness of the orange, greys, dark purples, bronze and blacks decorating cozy corners energised by alchemy, alcohol and warmth.

Hiking in the UK

For outdoorsy adventurers, hiking is a much-loved choice of activity taken close to one’s place of habitat or place of visit.

The subtle differences between hiking in different parts of the world are on the type the equipment, the style of the hike like the intensity of the walk, and the distance covered. This reveals a lot about the flora and fauna, the weather conditions expected in general and the end objective for the hike.

This article presents a short oversight of hiking in the south of the United Kingdom, and towards the end of the winter. The overall equipment relevant message is to wear comfortable waterproof boots, bring a change of cotton t-shirts, carry 1-2 litres of water, prepare lunch snacks and carry cash for group saver fares, the pub lunch option and pub celebration at the end.

I have hiked in India, the Pacific North West in the US, in Scotland, in Bali, in Italy, in the Arctic part of Norway, in Morocco, on the north coast of Trinidad and in Tobago and in Fuerteventura and every single hike was different on many aspects.

In the south of the UK, hikes tend to be longer, often including a couple of very steep climbs up hills and the same dissent. The most recent hike took me up and down Pitch Hill in Surrey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, twice climbed it on the same day, a near-vertical and rather muddy aspect, and over a distance of 30km round trip on foot.

Walking sticks were encouraged whereas in other parts of the world they are prohibited as it can attract lightning strikes in tundra conditions. UK’s well known cloudy skies, even in winter, require sunblock as there is still plenty of exposure doing outdoor sports to cause skin damage.

20 min stops every two hours are also encouraged to take in the views from higher viewpoints. In contrast, stopping for this long or any period of time longer to a couple of minutes, in the middle of the winter, in the northernmost part of Norway, will cause your body temperature to drop really quickly and dramatically and make the focus of the latter part of your hike an effort to warm up instead of watching the path or scenery. This can make the body feel very uncomfortable, and rather demoralising, in severe sub minus C conditions.

The photos in this post are from my hike in Surrey this week.

It looks mud messy but it was a great all round exercise. I could not recommend anything else more satisfactory to do outdoors this time of the year. Hiking engages people in community spirited discussions, recharges the body with a full-on exercise uptake, and in the UK, it is rewarded with log fires in the pub, local bitter brews, and new memories and vistas to take away.

Seattle, chief Seattle

So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.

 

Driving around in Westfalen

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.

Christmas in Germany

Christmas markets in Germany date back to 15th century.

Every town hosts their own. Cologne has the biggest with seven markets merging into one. In Dortmund’s market (see my earlier blog about Christmas around the globe https://cowboysandeffigies.com/2017/12/16/christmas-through-my-friends-eyes/) you can find the biggest Christmas tree in the whole of Germany.

Castrop-rauxel decorations

The tradition has proven that even though many hire the markets for a festive season abroad, the Glühwein tastes million times better in its place of origin. It may be the humidity and fog, I am not expert in this, however I can attest to it as after years of tasting it in Britain: there is nothing that compares to the taste in the source of origin.

Wetten street market

In Rothenburg you will find the prettiest ever, jumping in a fairy tale adventure.

Spending time in North Germany this Christmas, you will see some of the ideas and festive cheer, sugar, sausages, cane, mushrooms, hot dogs, crafts, beads, logs, mineral rocks and a load of trees.

The bestest was in the Fredenbaum woods: log fires, masonry and fairy lights galore at Phantastischer mittelalterlicher lichter weihnachts markt (Fantastic Medieval Lights Christmas market). A full immersive experience of drifters dressed in handcrafted furs, leathers, wearing traditionally crafted bows, arrows, knifes in a wooden fairground made for adults.

Fredenbaum

Traditional craft maker stalls in Fredenbaum

In a nutshell,  Germans get top marks all the way.

Merry Christmas folks, have a good one.