Tag Archives: london

Lazy days of summer

I am back. I am not sure if I haven’t lost my faithful readers of 3limes during my summer hiatus, it was the longest break in the the 3 years I have been writing. 3 years that has seen me through Trinidad, the Uganda years and now here we are in Bahrain. 3 years, 3 moves, 3limes.

But before we say hello to Bahrain I think we need a look back at the Summer of 2011.

 

 

London Montreal San Francisco Montreal London

8 flights

15 beds

Oh Canada

Canadian lakes

canoes and docks

fishing and champagne

sisterhood

forest walks

Montreal dining

sushi and cappucino

I love America

Toe dipping in the Pacific

girls surfing

wine tasting

California driving

family reunions

God Save London

London days

theatre

cousin love

country walks

pub lunches and old friends

Art, red buses and pavement pounding

From the Pacific to the Thames, icy Quebec lakes to the warm Bahrain sea, this summer has crossed time and memory. I have slipped through the shadow of years, made a tiny chink in the wall of time, visited the past before diving into the future.

And nearly 2 months without writing, reflecting and giving pause for thought. I have missed blogging but needed that in between space, the freedom to live unconnected with no screen and no keys to tap my days.

 

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, La belle ville, Photography, Travel

Great Shiny West I miss you.

I was hoping for the delivery of a package today from London and sadly it has not come. Over here in Uganda we count the days between our care packages and so it is with some disappointment that I sense it is  time for a good old fashioned Great Shiny West whine. I have not been back to the Great Shiny West for 7 months now and although I have cajoled numerous people to bring me M&S bras and Boots eye make-up remover this is no replacement for the real thing. So here is my bi-annual winge; get ready for it.

  1. A leg wax that does not take 1 hour. Today I sat and nearly bit off all my finger nails while a highly incompetent woman spread hot wax, millimeter by millimeter on my legs, then slowly, as slowly as could be, she pressed tiny bits of muslin onto my legs which she then rubbed, oh, say 100 times before slowly ripping it off. The whole process was akin to the type of punishment inflicted for treason. I did not deserve it and I nearly wept for those in and out 10 min legs waxes they have in the Great Shiny West.
  2. M&S. Yes. My personal shrine. I’d like some pretty underthings, maybe a sports sock or two, and a perusal of the shoe department. I could be in and out in an hour.
  3. Boots. My other shrine. Honestly there is nothing much I need, I just feel like touching pretty shampoos and looking. I have a problem, admittedly, and the longer I am out of a Boots the worse it gets. Last time I was in London my sister lost me in Boots and when she finally found me drooling in the Conditioner aisle she had to drag me out with promises of Sushi.
  4. Sushi. Enough said.
  5. A goat cheese salad accompanied by a chilled crisp white wine, served to me in a shiny White on White restaurant with starched white table cloths and handsome Scandinavian waiters. We all have our fantasies.
  6. A whole week without a power cut. And throw some good TV in there that I can watch with no fear of the power cutting during one of the best bits.
  7. A newspaper. Please. And a Starbucks to drink while reading it. I have come to believe that it is not about the coffee, Starbucks is not the best, it is a scam, it is all about the cup and the funny white cap with the space to sip out of. They have us wrapped in their outrageous ploy to drink $4.99 mediocre lattes because it is the adult equivalent of a baby bottle of milk. That is my theory anyway.
  8. Magazines. The greatest waste of money but such fun. Mine’s a New Yorker and an Oprah please.
  9. An old fashioned smelly cheese shop. I want cheese, with more cheese and then a little more on top.
  10. Super fast internet service. They call it Broadband here but that is more silky marketing than any sort of truth. What we have here is something slightly faster than dial up. Remember dial up, you lucky Great Shiny West surfers out there?
  11. Sidewalks/pavements/ what ever you want to call them. Just a scrap of concrete beside a road that I can walk on. Please.
  12. A bus. I would like a bus to take me from A to B. I will gladly pay for the privilege.
  13. A museum. Doesn’t have to be a big one. Just somewhere I can sit and gaze at art on a wall.
  14. Ok this one is very non politically correct so apologies in advance. If you are sensitive to such things as the cultural tradition to let the body odour simply be, please do not read on.  I would like waiters who do not smell. Please. Waiters who wear deodorant. So that when they lean over to place the pizza in front of you, you are not knocked backwards by the sharp smell of Man Sweat. I apologize for my cultural insensitivity but my olfactory sense is rather sensitive too.

    I think we are done here. I have drooled over the food while writing this and I have, in my mind at least visited a few shiny shops, read a paper and rode a bus, so I feel a bit better.

Onward.

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A little quiz to help you on your way

How do you know that you are living in Kampala? And not London or Montreal? Or even Trinidad?

Let’s do a quiz.

You are walking along the road and you trip. Not realizing what caused you to fall, it is early and there was no Baileys in the morning coffee, you look down and see one of the following.

a)     A discarded rum bottle, empty and left to roll inconveniently into the path of pedestrian traffic

b)    A baby goat, sleeping and unaware that his mother has climbed the grassy bank to chomp on some grass

c)     A greasy half eaten slouvaki roll

d)    A huge chunk of ice that has been spat out from under the wheel of a passing car.

You are awoken early in the morning by a strange sound. You have no idea what it is until you lift you head up from under the pillow and remember where you live.

a)     A pack of cats fighting over a pile of flying fish that leapt with no rhyme or reason out of the water and landed in an unfortunate pile in the garden behind the house.

b)    The clanging of metal pots and pans joined with the serenading of a boisterous and horny rooster from the garden next door. Simultaneously there is the distance echo of some China men singing early morning Lionel Richie Karaoke.

c)     The squeaking and lurching of 20 buses that have all arrived at the bus stop at exactly the same time, angering the cold, shivering, commuters who have been waiting for that one bus for the past 42 minutes.

d)    A huge chunk of ice slipping of the roof and crashing onto the roof of your car.

It is a Friday night and you feel like going out for dinner. What do the restaurants have to offer?

a)     A healthy assortment of Chinese, American and Indian. Or, if you like, all the choices under the same roof and possibly rolled into a warm and buttery thick slab of pastry. Either way, everything would be eaten with a chaser of rum and a very loud thumping soundtrack.

b)    Indian, Thai, Indian, Indian and some Pizza. The service will be painfully slow and the waitress will visit your table 4 times in the first 30 minutes before you even order. Once because she didn’t understand the order, once to verify what kind of Gin you want, once for the ice that you had asked for the first time and once more to tell you that there is no Gin and the ice machine is broken.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    A cosy warm bistro featuring the imaginative creation of one young trendy dude, considered the “latest thing.” His hair will be spiky, the cafe will be warm and feature alternative music and mildly out of focus black and white photographs. There will be just as many people having a cigarette outside in the snow as there are drinking good wine at the bar waiting for a table, ‘cause they don’t take reservations.

Time to go grocery shopping. What do you find?

a)     Hot spices, plenty plenty hot sauce, Amos Chocolate chip cookies, Ribena and Mangos. And rum.

b)    Nearly everything but you will have to go to 4 different stores. One for the eggs with the yellow, not white yolks, one for skimmed milk, one for whole milk, one for cheese, one for chick peas, one for fruit. Oh it goes on and on and on.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    Everything, in supermarkets with super wide aisles. The music will be muzac but the cheese and bread is good. You will bump into many people you know.

It is Sunday and you have plans for a great day out. What do you do?

a)      Beach. Body surfing in the waves, bake and shark for lunch, Carib beer and friends to lime with. You will go home sticky with salt and sand, sun burnt and happy.

b)      A day spent by the pool with some scrabble on the side.

c)       Well you have the option of the latest offering at a world renown museum, a walk in the park, a bike ride on a Boris Bike, lunch with friends, a stroll by the river or a lazy day at home with a pile of newspapers and some good food. It will be bloody cold.

d)      Skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, movie, brunch, walk the dog on the mountain or home with newspapers and good food. It will be seriously bloody cold.

 

How did you do?

Mostly a)s and you are in Trinidad.

Mostly b)s and you are in Kampala.

Mostly c)s and you are in London

Mostly d)s and you are in Montreal.

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, La belle ville, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

My patchwork summer

When I look back on my month in London it feels sort of like a giant patch work quilt; each quilt being a person from a chapter in my past. I had the great fortune, with thanks on the whole to facebook, of reuniting with some very special friends that I had not seen in a long while. I zigzagged London and the Home Counties on trains, tube and bus to see people, share fabulous meals, laughter and memories.

On one square of the quilt we have a friend who was my bestest friend in the whole world when I was 5 and living in Hong Kong. I wish I lived in the next village to her so I could sit at her kitchen table and talk about life, children and the chaos of having too many animals. On another, a teacher, in fact the best teacher I ever had who I had not seen since I was 13. It was a pretty awesome experience to meet up and have lunch with her. She has the same smile and energy she has always had and when we met and hugged on the street under her umbrella in the rain she said she would always have recognized me on the street, likewise me to her.  Another square holds my best male friend from University. We met in the Law faculty ( yes, I was very nearly a lawyer) at the age of 19 and shared many a meal together over those 4 years, both in my family home and in some fancy spots in London. We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years and like true friends it felt like yesterday. A pretty colourful square is filled with university friends; we spent a whole weekend together enjoying their tiny children and trying to remember names of songs we liked back in 1988. We were all convinced that we hadn’t changed a bit, and it certainly felt like we hadn’t despite the little naked children running around the garden.

Then there is a boarding school friend. We shared a dorm back when we were 14, now we were eating lunch while her toddler doodled, her baby slept and her teenage son played computer games. She had been at my wedding, I at her first wedding, many years had passed and we were still special friends. Another square holds yet another school friend (and fellow blogger) and her 4 year old daughter. It was a funny relief knowing that thanks to 3limes we could dispense with all the catching up, so to speak. We spent an afternoon at the Tate Modern and an evening drinking wine. She is an impressive and brilliant writer and business woman and it was great to listen and giggle together.

I realized, again,  how many of my friends have had children later than me when I met another University friend and her 5 year old son. This girl was the first person I met when I was a fresh faced fresher out on my first night in University. Now I live in Uganda and she is a clever scientist and mother living in London. A special square holds a precious piece of Montreal. Since I couldn’t make it there this summer and wonderful friend and godmother to Clea who I call my “big sister” flew to London for two weeks. It was simply amazing particularly seeing how quickly she and my mother became friends.

Another square from my more recent past in Trinidad holds a special colleague and friend from school there. We had an unexpected but lovely few hours in central London chatting about our favourite students, the past, the future and beyond. I never imagined a piece of Trinidad would come to London this summer, nor two pieces of Uganda, one whom I met for lunch and a few stolen minutes of quick shopping and another in my mother’s living room. In the last square my whole world collided when one old childhood friend met one Indiana from Kampala in the middle of my mother’s house. A loud ringing seemed to pass through my ears as time crashed into a small moment on a sofa.

My patchwork quilt proved that time is elastic and real friends stay true. It was something exceptional that I imagine my gypsy life needed. If I don’t know where in the world I really belong, I do know that there are people out there that tie my past together.

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Filed under Family Stuff

Meet Irma

Photo not in the slightest bit relevant but it was taken in London by Princess, and I think it is gorgeous.

What kind of crazy person drinks strong expresso at 6.30pm?  Of course I only remembered drinking the coffee with a sort of “ohhhhh…” feeling when I still couldn’t sleep at 1am. So here I am downstairs typing in the dark in the middle of the night. I am safely back in Kampala and after a month away very content to be a family again. Handsome Husband stayed behind to work while we were all off playing in the Great Shiny West and it was a happy reunion at the airport, which is a strange sort of symmetry was also the exact 1 year anniversary of our first arrival in Uganda.  What a difference a year makes, and what a difference a month away makes too. I have been thinking about how different places make one feel like different people. I generally feel quite good about myself here, I even have days when I feel a tinge of glamour. In London, however I tended to feel like a country bumpkin, especially in the first weeks. After a while I started to recover my composure, or perhaps that was the shopping.

In any case this is something wrote early on in my month long sojurn. Welcome to Irma. ( with apologies to any seriously Glam Irma’s out there. It was the first name that seemed to fit the way I felt. Doesn’t everybody name their alter egos?)

After about a week in London I start to feel like Irma. She is the name I have given to a fictional character in my head. A slightly frumpy school librarian whose daughters are at camp for the summer so she has decided to come to London to visit her glamorous and sophisticated friends. Wearing too much linen, Birkinstocks and with the ubiquitous Coach bag slung over her chest she screams of a comfortable existence in the American backwater. Irma, lives in my mind, and an Irma day comes from spending too much time with my very thin and fashionable Mother and Sister.  When I wake up feeling like Irma my Handsome Husband always reassures me that I am no Irma and that I must take myself off, head high, to buy some shoes. He knows the therapy I need.

So Irma, did indeed head off for a day of retail therapy in Selfridges with said thin and glamourous mother and sister. By the end of the day Irma was beginning to shed and my inner city self, hidden for too long, began to emerge. Honestly there isn nothing like a Chanel red lipstick and a pair of heels to shake Irma away. Now what am I to do with heels and red lips in Kampala, I have no idea. There in a nutshell do we find, once again the in-between world of 3limes.

Irma hasn’t surfaced for awhile. She seems not to visit Kampala that often.

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Filed under Might be funny, personal

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Yes. Leaving today and heading home to the real world of Kampala after a whole month in London! It has been the dose of the west I needed and I am returning with renewed vigour, good spirits and hope for a good year. I have eaten my fill of cheese and Waitrose food,  shopped ’till I dropped, coveted soft leather handbags, bought red lipstick, been to the doctor for an all over check up and out, spent good times with special people, loved up my nieces and nephew,  laughed with Sophisticated Chelsea Girl, my sister, and stared at good art. I am happy, satiated and content. And now back to Africa.

I will post more London memories in the coming days but for now I leave London with a last few pictures. Next time….from Uganda.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, Photography

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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