Brighton: Babes, Boys and Birthdays

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This weekend, I went away to Brighton for my friends birthday. Josh is now the grand old age of 24 and we celebrated in style, with wine on the beach, trips to The Lanes and some of the best falafel I have ever had.

I had only ever been to Brighton in the rain before. It’s such an ‘English thing’ to be so dependent on the weather, but the sun really did make such a difference to our trip. I had never even seen The Lanes before this weekend, only the back – ends of the shopping centre and the beach when I was around ten, and got frustrated with the stones not making the perfect castle with my bucket and spade.

If like me and Josh, you are a fan of vintage clothing and one – off finds (that my parents often mistake for ‘garbage’), then you will love Snoopers Paradise in the centre of the North Laines, ideal for finding old magazines, furniture and clothing. Brighton Flea Market is also good – located down Upper Saint Jame’s street, nearby to trendy jazz bars, cafes and a short walk away from the pier.

Our weekend went far too quickly and I know that there is far more of Brighton I want to see/ sea (!) – this sunny weather has certainly given me a new – found love for the city, and I can’t wait to hop back on the train and flock there again. This time though, I will bring my sun cream. All that sitting on the beach did nothing for my Albino – esque complexion.

Dreaming of the Big Apple

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When I left New York, I had powerful, vivid dreams that made me sleep so deep and still feel tired when I woke up from 12 hour ‘naps’. At first, I put it down to jet lag, but this lasted for six months. I later realised it was homesickness. It is silly really, to even think that you could be homesick from being somewhere for such a short amount of time. But it was the truth. I don’t believe in looking back at the past, but this was something that proved far more difficult than any other transition in my life. I put it down to the power of the city.

I’m not sure if I believe in the cliche of magic, but there is certainly some kind of spell that is cast over New York. One day, I hope to go back and stay. Stay for longer than the three months I was allowed, but the immigration laws will need to change before that happens.

I had always wanted to move to New York, and a younger, more naive me believed it would be as simple as buying a plane ticket with some savings, and going off ski. At the time of deciding to go, I was in a difficult place in my life. I had graduated and previously worked abroad for a year, and was in two minds whether to go back and travel some more, or get a stable job and build a life with a savings fund for a house in the city, similar to the rest of my friends. After trying the latter, and most probably applying far too optimistically for roles such as ‘Editor’ and ‘Director’, I  decided that even when realising what level I was really at, I was just not experienced enough to compete with the celebrity offspring, who still are – in my opinion, getting all of the good roles.

Knowing that it wasn’t possible to get a working visa in the States in my own situation, I looked at other ways in which I could go there for a long period of time on a budget, with the aim of finding writing work out there and building a more solid portfolio – something you will be pleased to know, I did! This resulted in me making plans to move to a boat. That’s right, a boat.

Living on a boat sounded anything but ideal, but it would cost nothing to live on. I had found it on one of those sites, where you can get free accommodation if you work for free, and for New York, it was the only and far better option of the two – the other helping out a magician in Times Square dressed as a clown everyday – not at all sketchy…

It was only when a few other facts came to light about the reality of living on the boat for three months that I stopped in my excited tracks and resorted in going back to the drawing board. As well as smaller things, like the location being very far out, I found out, two days before going, that I would be sharing my room with eight others. Eight. I am all for adventure, but this put another dimension to the expression ‘cabin fever’.

In between answering the phone at a temp job which was funding some of my trip, I frantically searched the world wide web for an affordable room, something far more difficult that I had ever imagined. When I did find a room, in my price range and available during the time of my stay, I felt like singing hallelujah sister liberty. Instead, I panicked – because it was in Harlem. So I told my parents I was moving to the Upper West Side, and prayed it was better than the papers made it out to be.

 

(Taken from my travel blog – The Grass is Greener).

My Favourite 3 Cafes Near Waterloo, London

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Waterloo – made world famous by ABBA. The mainline commuter station for anyone living in the South West is a five minute walk away from South Bank, Big Ben and The London Eye. Woven in between the iconic tourist attractions lies a treasure trove of independent cafes that are not only very Instagrammable (new word?), but won’t break your bank either. Here are my favourite spots, all tried and tested many a time by yours truly.

Scooter Caffè

Enter back in time to your grandmothers living room, with dim lighting, rustic decor and beautiful coffee art. Here, you can bring your own lunch, buy a drink for under £5 and relax in a comfy armchair. Oh, and if you like cats then this place is definitely for you. There are two wondering around.

Love and Scandal

Delicious breakfasts, sandwiches and cakes that are positively healthy, Love and Scandal is a great place to stop for a wholesome lunch. The scandinavian style decor, mixed with small quirky twists (old golden syrup tins are used for the sugar) give the cafe a great vibe and is somewhere I have on my ‘to go’ list, whenever I am in London.

Riverfront Bar & Kitchen

Located in the BFI (British Film Institute), this place is great to sit in on a summers day, with stunning views of the Thames and the effortless ability to people watch. Their breakfasts are out of this world as are the cocktails that are served all day.

 

(Taken from my travel blog – The Grass is Greener).

 

Ultimate New York Nostalgia

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It has been a year since I first left the UK to go to New York, packing a tiny suitcase with me with five outfits, one bag, three pairs of shoes and a whole lotta dollar (well, not quite). My expectations of the city were very different to the reality. It was hard living there – especially in the humid heat. I stood out for the better and the worse with my posh British accent, got far too annoyed with tourists and found myself becoming far more direct and brash ‘New Yorker style’ towards the end of my stay (it didn’t last long – don’t worry).

I wrote a post about leaving last August and I wanted to re – post it to share. It defines my trip and my opinion and my experience of the city.

I’ve been waking up early a lot these last few days. The heat is so humid that I often wonder if I have been kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness of the jungle. Sometimes I think I really have. It’s just more concrete and less wilderness. There are similarities though. Looking around, there are beasts everywhere, both figuratively and literally. Rats, mice, humans – the most animalistic of them all. There is a fight for survival, the weak don’t stand a chance. Pushing your way around the subway crowds without smiling is a good method.

Unlike the real jungle, it is fairly easy to get out of here. There is nothing forcing you to stay, in fact most will say please go – there’s one less person to compete with in finding a place to stay, a subway seat, a table at a $20 bottomless brunch.

Yet there is something so beautifully gritty about this city. So repulsive but compelling, so crowded yet so peaceful. People come here from all over the world to settle. Seek refuge.

Why? Because it accepts everyone and everything. It might swallow you up some days, but it will spit you back out and allow you to see it’s unconventional beauty with a fresh eye. On these days, the days I hate New York and then suddenly see it again in new eyes, I realise how sad I will be when I have to leave.

A Bella Trip to Bologna

I recently went to Bologna, Italy to go and visit my friend Vittoria. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know Vittoria from my chaotic and wonderful adventures in New York. I met her while we were both living there last summer and we bonded instantly over our clumsy, unlucky everyday life – even the day we met we were waiting at different Starbucks’ the opposite sides of Harlem.

Bologna is beautiful and I had a wonderful time. It is famous for Bolognese don’t you know. I love the laid back European lifestyle that Britain seems to have missed out on. Drinking wine at lunchtime with a cigarette while watching the world go by, going for aperitif and eating a small plate of fresh Italian food (so dreamy) – despite the fact it is all you eat are just some of the things I love about the culture. And don’t even get me started on the coffee. Or the pasta. Or the Bolognese sauce.

Take me back!

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The Definition of ‘Home’

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Pictured is me, age five in my favourite Spice Girls t – shirt in my restaurant/ house/ cafe/ den in the back garden. Excuse my facial expression, I think I was caught mid – sneeze.

My parents home is currently up for sale and they are relocating to the countryside. I get asked a lot how I feel about that. Don’t I feel sad? Surely I must – those bricks and water that sheltered me from the age of three to now (on and off) will be taken over by a new family.

The answer is no. Not really. To me, it isn’t really ‘home’ anymore. However, it does mean that I will have to find somewhere permanent to live myself. No more ‘going back home’ for months at a time to the safety blanket of my childhood bedroom.

This got me thinking of all my other ‘homes’ that I have had in the last five years – where I have gone off to with the confidence of knowing that if I happen to boomerang back to Surrey, I will have somewhere to stay.

I have had seven bedrooms in the past five years. Three in Cardiff, one in Aarhus, Denmark, one in France, two in New York and the bedroom at my parents house. I find if funny how easily I settle somewhere new, and how hard it is when I have to leave. The familiar is never permanent in life, and this is something I learnt as soon as I moved out of university halls. Your bedroom, daily routine, corner shop, neighbours – all everyday fixtures in your life, are things that suddenly change. I feel a small part of my soul is still in every one of the bedrooms I have stayed in, the ‘me’ then being slightly different to the ‘me now – simply because I have a new routine, a new ‘local’ and a very different view from my bedroom window. Mountains in France, sky scrapers in New York, hills in Denmark and  residential rubbish – trodden streets in Cardiff were once background scenes in my day – to – day life. Now I think about them in the past tense.

With my parents impending departure from the ‘familiar’ family home, I am spending every spare second looking at rooms to move to. As a freelance writer, I have the flexibility to move around the world – anywhere with a plug and a Wi-Fi code. Sometimes I think about moving back to one of my old homes. But I’m scared that going back will ruin the memories I have. People make places, not concrete and bricks.

And so the quest continues to find a place to settle where I will feel asa ‘at home ‘as I have done in the other bedrooms I have had so far in my life. How so very, very grown up.

A Trip to Petersham Nurseries – Nearly…

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My friend Josh is brave. He drives and doesn’t get lost, ever – unlike me. We both had the same driving instructor. He shouted at me so I sacked him. He shouted at me because I nearly drove into a post. Fair play to him when you think about it now, my 18 year old self was a lot more sensitive. Even now though, I try and avoid driving when possible. It isn’t really something that comes natural to me and if anything has become a fear. People find this weird, but I think it is far more reasonable to be scared of potentially running someone over, than a small spider that can do you no harm (spiders in the UK that is).

Anyway, as the title of this post suggests, I didn’t come on here to chat about driving. Josh – brave at driving – took us out to Richmond in the car on Sunday, found a golden ‘free parking’ spot and showed me the way to Petersham Nurseries (which from now on will be abbreviated to PN)- “you will like it, I promise”, he said as I reluctantly agreed to walk across a field of cows and horses to what I could only assume was going to be a high class Nottcutts. Wrong!

From what I saw of PN, it looked lovely. Everyone was dressed so swish, everyone being over 50 or American or very, very wealthy. I asked Josh if he felt poor and he said “well no, we live nearby too” – darn right we do! Of course, being our luck and all, PN was closed for a private function, meaning we couldn’t actually go in. However, we ended up following a large group of people down a side alleyway to Petersham village, where all the gardens were open to view. It was so sweet and I have made a mental note to A, always listen to Josh when he suggests somewhere to go, B, take my Grandma there sometime soon and C, take any international visitors to Petersham – the definition of ‘great’ Britishness.

Returning To One Of My Many Homes

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I like the small pleasure of being somewhere long enough to be in the ‘know’. These stairs are not only the gateway to the beautiful Bute Park, but a shortcut to the city centre. I count Cardiff as one of my many homes. Studying there for three significant years of my life, it feels far more familiar than the town I grew up in.

I went there for a few days last week to visit a friend and reminisce about old times. While it was a nice time, it was the first time I had gone back there that I didn’t really feel so at home. There were so many new places, old haunts had shut down, and the students were suddenly babies, rather than being my age or older.

There is something quite haunting when you find that the familiar is slowly changing, when time interferes and injects more recent memories that somewhat overshadow those that were once held so significant. Your head can play powerful tricks on you, and nostalgia can be dangerous. In order to stop disappointment, it is so very important to create new memories so that you don’t live your life relying on the past to make your everyday seem special. As chances are, if you were to go back, it wouldn’t be as great as you would have imagined.

I’m Back

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I got a severe telling – off from a friend the other night for the lack of posts on my blog of late. Number one – if you are reading this Josh, hey look at me I am updating it. Number two, I apologise, but life has been hectic and busy and a bundle of stress and ridiculousness all in one flood wave and alas, I just haven’t felt inspired to document it.

My life in New York was exciting and fun and I mourn it everyday. However, it wasn’t reality because well, I was never really going to be able to stay. I long for the day that we can all live wherever we like and nobody no longer gives two hoots about visa control and immigration laws. My heart is still pumping around that big apple but now my head is well and truely back to the present and my new old life (or old new life) in England.

I have done a few picture – worthy things in the weeks I have been absent which I will post in a minute incase any of you wish to take a peek into my rock and roll lifestyle. I’ve refrained for documenting my daily working week of answering the phone in a posh (er) voice and being in charge of the tea and coffee cabinet.

Talking of pictures, I am now a little obsessed with drawing. I used to love art when I was at school but gave it up a good five years ago when I realised I would never get a job in such a competitive field, opting for a far more stable degree in journalism instead.. The joke is still on me to this day.

As a result, I am taking back my passion and have found myself drawing a picture each evening, after eating my dinner and walking three miles from work to home. I did warn you that my life isn’t so exciting right now..!

Anyway, I will be documenting my drawings in a post soon, and you can give me your honest opinions on if they are any good or not!

Speak soon. Sooner than before. Promise!

New York Diary: Strong Feels And Those Sad Last Times

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The lack of posts these last few weeks has been inexcusable and acceptable on equal measures, I feel. I have been savouring every second here, not wanting to write about it as in every way the act of re-telling a story changes a moment from  the present to the past. Even though these moments are becoming memories far too quickly, I have quite liked cherishing them in my head. That way, I can forget how long I have left here and feel that the days are just my normality, rather than a count down to my departure. Even typing that word makes me feel rather strange. It can’t be time, it just can’t.

I’ve been in New York for 11 weeks now and I have seen myself slowly switch from being a wide eyed newbie unaware of the difference between an avenue and a block, the A and the D train and unsure of the worth of the strange looking coins in my purse. Through the weeks, I have swapped from giving a shit about yellow taxis, the Empire State and rats on the subway (well okay, they still freak me out somewhat) and instead just feel at a comfortable ease in this huge beautiful mess of a city.

What makes me most sad, is not having to go home, but knowing I can’t stay. US immigration, you’re a bitch.

Then there is the dreaded return flight. I feel like my life is hanging in limbo. The possibility of what my life could be if there was a way of staying in New York, and how I predict it will be when I go home: dull.

Returning when everything is the same apart from you is one of the most lonely and frustrating feelings, that only others who have lived abroad can understand. You need to figure out a way to re – enjoy your past life, or most likely, change it up again. This is most definitely not a bad thing. Who wants their everyday lives to stay the same. Especially in your twenties. That to me is more depressing than leaving here. Which is a lot.

I guess I am trying to say that I am more than sad to leave New York. Even though I know I can come back, I feel that I would only want to if I was able to stay. Otherwise it’s like giving candy to a baby on Halloween and taking it back, saying “you said for trick”.

If there are any tricks and tips for staying here, apart from a quick fix green card marriage (something I have already thought of many times), please write below.