Friday, February 20, 2009
Perhaps I should count myself lucky that I missed the heavy snowfalls in London earlier this month as my friends tell me that they hardly left the house and couldn’t even go to work on some days. It’s zero degrees when I arrive and the air is fresh-fresh.
I’m here to meet my godchild. It’s the first time that I get to hold a baby and... what a strange feeling. Little Luke looks like a baby doll; only he likes to stretch his mouth into a big toothless smile and already knows how to put on a voice that would help him get anything from his mommy. I have never seen Kim so wholly besotted over someone, except perhaps the love of her life, James.
There’s an herb garden outside Kim and James’ place in Bromley South and there, right next to it, lies a giant ball of ice – the last remains of a snowman, says Kim. When we feel like a change from cuddling Luke in front of the TV, we decide to take him for a walk around the area. Bromley South is a suburb with lots of breathing space. It’s close enough to central London to still get a spark of its energy and far enough to feel a touch of the countryside.
Luke is dressed up like an Eskimo in all the knitwear from his grannies. The pram has a cover that keeps out the cold. I guess it’s true what they say – any weather is perfectly fine if you have the right gear. We pass Woolworths on the way and I notice that it’s all closed up. Kim says it went bankrupt because of the credit crunch and that it’s not the only store in trouble. Britons really are feeling the financial cold this year and not just a bit.
By the time I have to leave again I too am besotted over Luke. I thought 100% attention 100% of the time would be too much to ask from me but I suspect that babies have a free satellite connection to that maternal instinct.
I get a bit delayed on my train back to Gatwick airport as there is a death on the railway. This is a life and death visit which makes me remember all over again what a gift it is to be born into this world, what a miracle to survive into another day and that it is important to know that it won’t last forever.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Dusseldorf International airport looks like a Christmas cake when I arrive, with snow transforming even ordinary things into something spectacular. I may be well travelled but I haven’t seen much fresh snow in my life and the experience still moves me.
Crunch, crunch, my Ugg boots tread through the ice. These shoes really are bankers that manage to keep me comfortable through the worst conditions. At least this time they are appropriate for the weather! The next day things are more slippery and the muddy ice becomes a little less pleasant to walk on.
I guess for people who live in places where snow dominates large parts of the year, it’s probably more of an inconvenience than a miracle. Yet for me it is still an extraordinary sight. I wish it were easier to keep seeing things as though for the first time since it is such an invigorating experience.
My colleagues and I walk around the Altstadt, marvelling at the frozen Rhine River and designer stores. Close by is the harbour area, which boasts contemporary architecture in contrast to the historical buildings of the Aldstadt. Almost the entire city had to be rebuilt after WWII and although the older part of the city still holds charm it is the buildings of Guggenheim museum architect Frank O. Gehry that give Dusseldorf its edge.
The cold finally takes its toll and when it starts raining we spend the rest of the afternoon inside the Kaufhof (shopping centre) where the sales manage to draw as much attention as the tourist attractions. By the time we head back to our hotel we are ready for a meal of potato cakes and quark before falling asleep to raindrop lullabies on the window pane.
With the heaviest snowfalls in 20 years in London this week, I am hoping to visit within the next few days. I want to tell my godchild that it is important to hold on to that ‘wow’ feeling. To see things with fresh eyes is what keeps us moving – and motivated. There is always something out there that deserves a ‘wow’.
In a world suffocated by the Credit Crunch, it is perhaps the perfect time to look around and notice that the simple things are really what make life worthwhile. Building a snowman with the family or watching sunlight sparkle on ice can be more significant than the money we win or lose on the stock market.