Sunday, November 29, 2009
Public parks and gardens are what make big world cities liveable. Yet too often we become so absorbed in modern life that no thought is spared for the greenery that breathes life into our world.
Of course, nature isn't always green. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere with four seasons, you'll be spoilt with autumn leaves and spring blossoms. These are delightful for the soul and mine feels especially lifted to experience London's red and yellow (and all the shades in between) oak leaves this year.
Kim and I are taking her son, who is also my godchild, for a stroll through a small park around the corner from their house in South Bromley (yes, I finally got my visa!). There are lots of mommies with prams around in this London suburb and I think it's an absolute blessing to be able to raise kids close to nature, even when living in a big city.
Nature not only aids healing, reduces stress and improves brain functions and vitality - but it also makes people nicer, recent studies at the University of Rocester in the US prove. Simply looking at a "painting of roses" improves the psychological wellbeing of a human being. The study also shows that artificial environments make people more selfish and focused on wealth and fame.
We can't always get away from the industrialised modern world but it makes sense that we need nature to be soothed and healed from the daily grind. Life these days always requires a bit of compromise but it's great when the government of a country looks out for the wellbeing of their people by creating natural spaces for all generations to relish.
Now go, get out and contemplate a patch of nature. You may just find yourself thoroughly nicefied!
Monday, November 23, 2009
London is hardly a food lovers paradise and after paying too much for everything in Dubai I'm not keen on a Conran cliché. So my friend Kim suggests tapas and in an attempt not to disappoint, her fiancé asks around at work for some recommendations.
When we pass by James' office Kim makes sure to cross question his colleague. He stands by Café Espana in Soho, "I've been going there for years and if you're in it for the food and the atmosphere and not the salmon coloured table cloths you will love it. The house wine is not bad either. "
There's already a small queue by the time we arrive at the tapas bar in Old Compton Street, around the corner from Picadilly Circus. We decide to squeeze inside and share a bottle of Spanish rosé while we wait. The tables are arranged cosily and plates of simple sardines, calamari, patatas bravas and bread are abundant. It's loud with laughter and typically Spanish waiters.
Soon our table is ready and we give in to what arrives at our table plentifully including the communal favourites of spanish omelette with chorizo, garlic calamari and, of course, wine. Everything is very informal and homely. Suddenly it feels like we're not in a big world city at all but somewhere at a small, even backwards town - where the waiters still laugh at everyone's drunken jokes and nobody is trying to be fanciful about the food.
I didn't know it was possible to have such a hearty budget meal right in the centre of London. How refreshing to find real old fashioned value.
Of course, if you're into perfect hygiene, up-to-the-minute service and the space to push your chair back then rather don't bother with Café Espana. The rest of us will be happy to take your seat.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The evil forces in Dubai have been managing to keep me and my personal internet connection separate. Petrified that I might tell the truth? Hm, let’s keep that for another blog post.
I’ve been very afraid over the last few months so when Halloween came, I was like, yeah, bring on those witches! Far away from some real scary experiences, my friend Andrea put me on the back of her moped and off we went in search of mushrooms and movie magic in Notting Hill’s Portobello Road.
The market is already buzzing at 11am and she admits that we should have jumped out of bed before the tourists. However we manage to push our way through the crowds, past the flower and vegetable stalls that seem to gain even more freshness from the slight drizzle. Antique silver, fur, handmade jewellery and then those giant namesake mushrooms…
“I’ll make chicken pie,” she says, picking leeks, fennel and mushrooms from the selection. Pie is the most loving food in the world (ok, cupcakes are a close second) and since love always conquers fear it becomes less and less likely that Halloween or any amount of evil that the Middle East can conjure up will even have an effect on me again.
Happily Portobello’d we follow our internal GPS back to the moped, past The Travel Bookshop that was made famous by the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts silver screen romance. This is definitely a me-place and I’d like to linger but the chicken pie is calling louder.
And so it was; the girls laughing off their demons in London over a loving meal and an abundance of good red wine. That’s it then, if I can feel this much better out of Dubai, I’d have to say its ‘sorry but goodbye’.