Tag Archives: city

Kampala: ground and sky

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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 # 16 London City of Parks

Scenes from a London Park.

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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 # 6. A very London moment

Blond, cafe, cell phone, London. So Europe.

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A cure for the grumps.

Yesterday was a most frustrating day. I suddenly felt trapped, overwhelmed and generally in need of a Starbucks, a decent shoe shop and a group of girl friends all piled into a living room, wine and laughter a- plenty. I know there will be days like this, I am aware that my rose tinted glasses may smudge now and again, I just need to distract myself until the ennui passes.

My extremely patient husband offered an excellent distraction by way of a drive around the neighbourhood. Between work, the grocery stores and home, I haven’t let myself out of the cage much recently. And this drive was an eye opener. When I lived in Trinidad one of the greatest frustrations was my inability to walk anywhere. I was car bound, and (and here it is: confession time) I was a total wimp about driving there so really I was house bound and dependant on rides. Terrible.  Anyway here my frustrations are similar in that Kampala is not a walking city. Whenever we want to go out, we need to take the Beast.  Anyone from the burbs will be familiar with this concept, but as a true inner city girl, this hurts.

So back to the point. Yesterday I carried my bad mood into the car and as we drove around and observed life around us, the mood slowly started to slip off. Mere minutes from our house, life is very non urban. In fact, it closely resembles an African village and it is easy to see how anyone who has made the move from the country side to Kampala could feel instantly at home.  It emphasizes my previous point about Kampala being a place of two cities.

Turning left outside our gates the road continued on its bumpy route for a very long way. So long in fact that we needed to turn the Beast around rather than continue and risk getting lost.  Without pause there were small shops, stalls and many children lining the road, alongside sleeping dogs and the odd bemused looking horned cow. The little girls here, who mainly wear the clothes that children in the Big West neither want nor fit, were by and large attired in what seemed to be old party frocks. The clothes that we saved so lovingly for that special occasion are now mud splattered yet happily worn by smiling children who yell “Hello Muzungu!” to each and every foreigner that drives past.

By the time I got home, I felt refreshingly alive and freed from the dusty cobwebs of my grumpy mood. I was reminded that I live in Africa, and no matter how cross I may get, I love the fact that each and every day an eye opening world exists right outside my gate.

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London, my love.

London is a transport jungle. I have crisscrossed this city by bus, tube and car so many times in the past week and I have barely covered more than 8 square miles.  I will always know these streets as my own, having walked them countless times, but I now know for certain that big city living is not for me. Having said that, my Trini existence tends to operate within 100 steps either side of my house and that is too narrow a life for this city girl.  I was raised on concrete not grass and my feet crave the steady pounding of a city street.  Those feet have tracked many steps here in London, steps that have been surprised by snow, ancient cobbled streets, slick marble, gentle carpet and rooms filled with history. 


I love London. Its walls that whisper as we pass, its sophistication, the cabs with drivers listening to interviews with their mayor, coffee shops that you need to squeeze through to get served, boutiques selling the softest cashmere beside the coldest stone, the temptations of shoes, silk, art and chocolate, the sounds of any languages except English, heard on a double decker bus. It is an enormous bulging noisy thriving crowded and often dirty and frustrating place. It is familiar but foreign, forever changing yet staying true to my memories. It is frankly too large. I have had a broken fountain pen in need of care for 10 years but the shop is just too far to get it fixed. By the end of the week, I am too tired of traipsing around, and too cross that I haven’t yet seen a single painting. I had let down friends and relatives for not seeing them more often, if at all, and yet I have enjoyed the warmth of my sister’s kitchen, visited doctors, book shops, the shrine of Marks&Spencers and got myself a job.


Every time I come home the love affair continues. A love affair filled with anger, lust, frustration, nostalgia, heartbreak, disappointment, inspiration and sadness.  London lives in my heart.

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