Tag Archives: beauty

Velvet and chocolate

I miss Europe. The ‘other’ world, Third, Second, Developing, what ever you want to call it doesn’t always fit so well. And of course it is that unease, that ill fitting life that makes me wide eyed ( though not so bushy tailed) most of the time. We grow by leaping, or falling, through the hoops out of our comfort zone. But every now and then, I long for the Great Shiny West. And it is not all about shiny shoe shops and the perfect cappucino, nor is it a longing only for order and tameness. No. I think it is a yearning for a beauty that feels familiar.

I come from both a literature and history of art background. So keep me a way from a museum, a film house, a gallery or a good second hand book shop for too long and I start to show symptoms. Like wise I need interesting architecture, a sense of history that seeps out of bricks and monuments, alley ways and cobbled roads. Like a nun who I presume does not miss sex, having never had it, I am fine for a while without it. But then I get a taste for it, as I did in Berlin and I am all lust filled once again, with nothing to press against a wall.

So I turn and look around  for a different beauty to satisfy me.

I found a cafe that is a delicious cross between Toulouse Lutrec Paris and Arabia.  It’s all velvet and tinkling crystal and chocolate.

It helps.

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5 Beautiful Things. Much needed.

 

 

Some days you just need to be reminded of the beautiful things.

 

So on a day that has delivered some bad news, proved more frustrating than most and not shone as it should have I am looking for the beauty.

 

5 Beautiful things.

 

Princess is taking voice lessons. Last night she sang for us, warm, melodious, full of promise.

 

Queen of the night, a pungent, sweet, sexy scent that fills the air once the sun goes down. We planted it, it has wrapped itself around a tree and now sings for us every night with the strength of its scent.

 

Trooper just finished To Kill a Mockingbird. The wonder of the book is written all over her face. She is struck by the magic of a phenomenal book.

 

A new bed. Big, white, high, I sit upon it like a queen upon a plump marshmallow.

 

If you open your eyes you might see this.

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Another bit of fun? Why not…

Procrastination is always one of my favourite things to do and guess what I found? Another pleasant waste of time.  Play along if you wish.

Favourite time of day

I don’t get to enjoy my favorite time of day very often because I have to wake up too early and teach the teens but I love after midnight when the house is quiet and I can pad around and write, read, talk on the phone. I love the night, the dark. Unfortunately I am in bed long before midnight these days. So on a school day I would have to say that I love climbing under crisp, freshly washed sheets to read a book and enjoy the sensation of a day well lived.

Where and when did you meet the love of your life?

Dahab, Egypt 1992. We are still married and he is still handsome. See here for the full and rather romantic story.

What three words would your friends from outside the blogging world use to describe you?

Honest, loyal, funny and Fairy Godmother of birthdays.

What country would you like to visit and why?

Argentina. The people are beautiful, the music is beautiful and I have always wanted to learn to Tango.

What’s your favourite dish to cook?

Lasagna and brownies. They are my specialty, and my friends have come to expect and depend on them.

Salt or sugar?

Sugar, in the form of chocolate. Preferably Toblerone. I have a long and complicated relationship with Toblerone. The only thing that might get in the way of our relationship is Crème Brule. Which is cream and sugar with more sugar on top.

What are your favourite make up and beauty items?

Not long ago I  unpacked my bathroom and having spent a good long year in a Shoebox with no shelves to display my “spa” I am now shocked to see how many products I actually have. I might have a problem here that I had hidden in boxes and bags! So my favorite things are hard to choose but here is my effort:  OPI nails ( I like We’ll Always have Paris),  Bare Minerals powder foundation, Estee Launder moisturizer, Shu Uemura eye liners and Diptych perfume. Oh and I am recently addicted to Morocco Hair Oil.

What are your favourite flowers?

Orchids. I just adore how they look and how stubborn they are to grow and love.

What are your worst vices?

Can I publish that here? There are parents and teachers and students reading! Okay, I’ll find one or two. The odd cigarette, but only after dark with red wine ( I have my rules), Impatience, Handbags, hating exercise.

At what time of your life were you happiest and why?

Hardest question of them all. I believe that life is like a pearl necklace and we collect perfect moments as pearls as we move through time. I have had extraordinary moments of joy which may arise in a pretty dark period. I was very happy when I was 22 and traveling, having my babies, beach days in Trinidad, vacations just the four of us, my 40th birthday party in Montreal, surrounded by my sisterhood, this past summer in London, driving in the passenger seat of a 1973 VW orange Beetle through the Manitoba prairies, laughing in the Trini Sin room with good friends. When I am with the people I love in beautiful surroundings I am happy.

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Finally back to words: On City Walking and Beauty

I haven’t written much these last few weeks. I have immersed myself in the fictional world of London, fictional because in a matter of some days I will leave central London where I have played and return to the real world of life, hard work and Kampala days. I have had my fill of the Great Shiny West and have had the wonderful opportunity to re connect with old friends, family and even a school teacher who I had not seen since I was 14!

Walking in a city has been a true highlight, as has been making full use of London transport and British Rail. As my pictures hopefully showed I have always looked up, around and under to see what delights London has offered. Occasionally I came home and wrote about it, especially after a very special 3 days in Amsterdam. But nothing but photos could be published until now. So here below are some Great Shiny West thoughts.

There are few things I enjoy as much as walking in a city. I am not the treadmill sort, but give me a city with windows and people and architecture and I can walk for hours. Amsterdam is the perfect walking city and during my 3 days there I walked most of it. And if I stopped for a glass of wine, a Manchego or goat cheese salad or even a few hours passed happily in a coffee shop, then I was even happier. Everything that I had been missing about the Great Big Shiny West was satisfied in those three days. The city is not only beautiful but I have never seen a population of more attractive people. Yes, they are mainly young and on bikes, and yes I had just come out of a severe drought in the eye candy department, but even so, this is a city of very good looking people. Even the waiters and taxi drivers and ticket sellers at the museums are well turned out with a dose of style.I actually assumed that our taxi driver was a guest our hotel when I saw him adjusting his tie in the hallway mirror. He was dressed in grey trousers, a while linen shirt and a positively pink tie. Men in Amsterdam are not shy to don pink socks, a linen jacket in a shade of lime or trousers rolled up at the ankles. The girls have exchanged jeans for simple frocks that flip just suggestively when they ride their bikes. Lipstick and flowing locks are de rigueur.

I need the pretty, the beautiful, the art, the man made architectural icon. I studied History of Art and consider myself an esthete. I have always considered that there is no need for anything functional to be ugly. In fact there is no need, at all, for the ugly. And this is not a question of money, rather one of attitude and consideration of ones environment. In Kampala recently, on a small street I saw a house with flowers in pots all along the line marking where the house ended and the next one began. As I looked, I realized how rare it was to have taken that decision to beautify the living area. I also realized how much I had taken for granted that every body did that.  Uganda is abundant in physical beauty. I have  a hard time with the lack of man made beauty. For those naysayers who ask “ who has time to worry over aesthetics when we are just surviving?” I say first look at look at India and second no one in Kampala is starving.

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Photo # 14. Serenity in Central London

One of the best things about London is that it has lots of wonderful parks where one can easily forget that we are in a raging polluted Metropolis. This spot is in the lovely Regent’s Park. Note the Heron on the bridge ahead.

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Photo # 13 Always Look Up

When one is walking the streets of London it is very important to look up. Half the magic is above the tree tops.

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Photo # 8. Amsterdam moment.

Amsterdam, city of the bike, city of the beautiful.

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Great Shiny West Photo Challenge # 2

A brief  walk through a small London park.  The feet were very tired but I had to stop and admire this corner of quiet, old charm.

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Walking with my camera

On the way to Sipi falls we passed through Graduation day at the nearby Islamic University. Proud graduates in gaudy outfits that peeped out from beneath their gowns were having their photos taken in portable photo booths resplendent in shiny back drop, flowers and tacky signage. Photographers were plying their trade by showing framed protratits of previous graduates to anyone of the hundred or so people that walked past. It was a colorful and busy scene and I felt like an observer to a totally foreign world.

The chasm between our world and theirs is wide. It can be heartbreaking to walk past such poverty and to repeatedly hear the appeals for sweets or money, to see young boys whose trousers are more holes than anything, whose shoes are broken plastic. By virtue of necessity our hearts form a thicker layer as we pass their mud huts where they tend chickens and goats or carry firewood to cook their one meal of the day. We live here so we cannot afford to be sad everyday, and we cannot fall into the trap of handing out shillings to each and every child. It is complicated; this us and them reality is something I face every day.

It felt like Chameleon weekend at times. In total Princess asked me 6 times if we could take “just this one” home and keep it as a pet.

Have I mentioned how pretty it was?

Like water nymphs, they frolicked in the spray.

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The beauty of Sipi.

Sipi falls is 5 hours East of Kampala. It is a place for hiking, relaxing and gazing at the splendid scenery.

When we reached Sipi the first thing that struck us was the view. Thankfully, there are no mosquitos in Sipi as it is 4000 meters high, the air is clean and the sound of running water is always present. Three nights and four days is the perfect amount of time for a mini get away. You return to the regular life restored. How long that feeling lasts is another story..

There are three main falls in Sipi and they are not magnificent for their strength, power or sheer volume but rather they are very pretty by virtue of the extreme height of their fall. Our lodge was perched on the very edge of one of the falls. Our room, made simply in a rustic style, had beds built high enough to see the view from the comfort of our bed, it was not luxurious, but, it was all one really needed.  Like a little log cabin with thatch roof and knotty logs of wood for beds, each Banda was a brown dot in an otherwise stunning cliff top ridge. The falls were tucked under us, so, hard to see but we heard them and all Bandas and the restaurant faced an enormous valley hugged loosely by two tall cliffs. It was as if child, had, in an inventive moment laid a soft map of the world over two upturned chairs . The sky became huge as it spread itself above this valley, occasionally forming square shadows with it’s clouds.

When we arrived we set off immediately on hike number one. It is an hour and half hike to the bottom of the falls directly under the room we were staying in. But with three children 10, 12 and 12 who wanted to stop and admire, pick up and adopt every chameleon we passed and then stand under the spray of the falls , it took closer to three hours. The path took a winding route that passed a few mud homes, some cows and down past caves that looked like giant and deep scars in the face of the cliff. We then passed coffee trees that gave us some cool shelter before we came out and climbed down a giant steep ladder, kindly constructed so that between a choice of sliding on one’s bottom down a 90 degree mud wall or walk backwards down a shaky and steep ladder, we could choose the latter. By this point in the walk a few local children had decided to tag on. When we finally got to the bottom of the ladder after and slow and careful walk down, one of them just walked frontwards down the ladder as if it were a simple and dull flight of stairs. His friend chose the mud wall option, only he ran gracefully down.

Soon we arrived at the foot of the falls. Having passed through grass, mud, rocks and ladder we were now in a tall grassy field. As we passed through, the falls began to roar. We could see them before we felt them but once we climbed down some cool rocks we could feel the spray that came so suddenly, with a gust of air that literally took my breath away.

The walk back up the cliff hurt, and still hurt the next day. Shows how dreadfully unfit I am. Shameful, especially considering the number of women we passed who climbed that path and that ladder daily, with huge stacks of wood on their heads.

Children become completely  alive and vibrant under a waterfall. The joy of such abandonment is a thrilling thing. It is rare that I feel such unmitigated joy, such freedom to live completely in the moment without a care for tomorrow or even today. They are so lucky my children. In the past few days they have laughed with friends, had tickle fights in a tent, climbed hills, twirled in the spray of a beautiful waterfall, captured chameleons, run in nature and played. Played with each other and the space around them.

Kampala is a far life from here.

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