Sofia looked lovely to me last week in the autumn weather, shedding its leaves. A lot of people argue it isn’t beautiful but I find it hard to not see even the slightest charm in a place. And I especially find it hard to resist cool crisp mornings followed by sunny afternoons, warm enough to enjoy a Shopska salad outdoors. I hate to say that yet again we hardly spent any time looking around – all the walking about was done at the end of the day in search of a good restaurant. More on that and barter of services in a later post.
Peeking out of the airplane window, I could see the Danube and its glittering bridges, and the castle. Driving to our hotel, I felt the familiarity of the streets. Pity we don’t have any time to spend in a cafe with a cake and coffee, or to take the funicular on the Buda side. What a beautiful, romantic city.
I stumbled upon this picture I took in Oslo earlier this year when looking for something else. I was very intrigued with this cake at the time but the elderly lady behind the counter spoke little English and couldn’t translate it for me. Google translates Ass Kakestykker to “ass slices”. I’m hoping it’s not that!
This is going to sound really shallow so try and read it like it’s funny. Otherwise it’s just depressing. In a bid to get back control of my increasingly lonely life, I accepted my friend’s offer to spend time at the Victoria & Albert museum yesterday. Honestly, the whole plan didn’t sound very appealing to me from the start. Reason being – she and I are very different. The problem when you know someone for very long and your relationship with them is just stagnant – you have few, if any, common interests, you’ve heard all their stories before (and they never bother to ask you about yours and when you start to tell them they really don’t want to hear) – is that you will choose to meet out of sheer desperation. Her attempts to reach out to me are always a result of her loneliness and my attempts are for similar reasons. And we just sit there enduring each other. And the more we do this, the more I feel resentful of her. I mean, why do we go through this mindless charade? Isn’t it better to just not meet? Or not to have those vapid phone conversations? I always tell myself at the end of these sessions that I will never go through this again. Why is it that I am always the one willing to accept what she wants to do, why is it that we never do what I want to do, why did I have to get dragged across to Harrods of all places and that too in the international designers section? A place neither of us can afford and even if I could, would I really want to throw away that much money on clothes. Why can’t we ever, ever, ever do what normal mates would do? No. It always has to be something that kills a happy part of me forever. I have nothing against museums, in fact I love them. But still, we can’t enjoy ourselves in each others’ company. I’m not even going into the specifics here but I came away feeling low and used at the end of the day.
Why did I say yes? Well it was because I wanted to be on the other side of the glass for a change. When I pass outside restaurants or pubs or any other social places I envy the happy people inside, sitting there with their buddies, laughing, sharing stories. I know that feeling and I miss it. I miss my friends and I miss my husband, my best buddy. I have nothing against dining by myself. But I just miss companionship. And I was hoping to feel some of it yesterday. I kept hanging on in the hope of things getting better, and my efforts kept getting increasingly diluted.
The shit bits aside, I did manage to get my glorious steed out for a ride. Ok, the Duchess. The unparalleled joy of riding her. Of exploring new back lanes (yes I’m still just exploring the neighbourhood). The thrill of just riding a bike in the autumn. I couldn’t help singing even though I am tone deaf. I didn’t even care when another biker overtook me and could hear me braying. There’s no shame when I’m on my bike. No loneliness, no pain. I even seem to have a better sense of direction. Ok, only just. I did manage to get slightly lost less than 0.5 km from my home.
Now here I am faced with another trip next week. To a country I’ve never been to. May be through with meetings early on the last day and have the entire weekend in front of me. The possibility of spending an extra day travelling in this new country to another city and be back home by Saturday night was open. A road trip. New cuisine. New currency. New everything. And did I mention dirt cheap? Dirt cheap. This is literally how I imagine perfect meetings to be – finishing off on Friday so that I can spend the weekend in that country, and cheap. And there’s also a river! And veggie food isn’t a problem here. Sounds too good to be true! So what do I do?
I book a Friday afternoon flight back to London. Now why did I do that? *Hard self smack*
All I could think of was – oh no! I don’t want to be lugging my laptop AND my camera about again, do I? What a wuss. What a silly excuse. (In my defense, lugging all my stuff about with a broken suitcase handle was a nightmare when I did that train ride from Bratislava to Budapest – piglet or no piglet. But it was one of my best travel experiences too! Dammit!).
Will have to speak to AA tomorrow and beg her to reschedule the flight without killing me for my indecisiveness.
Would you like to hang out in a cemetery on a cold Sunday afternoon? You would probably say no. However, the Abney Park Cemetery is also a nature reserve. I had a pleasant time trudging about there, clicking pictures of tombstones and graves, some simple, others very elaborate. Some dating back to the early 20th century. The most recent ones being from the ’70s. Time and trees’ roots have made many tilt to one side, some crack, some tombstones and adornments have fallen, many have ivy growing all over them. It was in a way quite sad, the epitaphs of many lovingly written. Many souls missed. But their mourners now having long passed on themselves.
It was a sunny day so it wasn’t eerie. There was one time when the sun went behind some clouds and it became quite dark. I was momentarily alone – the other visitors to the park nowhere in sight – surrounded by tombs. I tried my best to work up a feeling of dread, a chill. But I just couldn’t. I have to say though, I wouldn’t want to be here in the dark.
At the outset I have to say that I don’t have a broadband connection at home yet (silly me I didn’t decide which one I wanted 563 years in advance!) and am restricted to typing out any posts and emails on my phone. Moving was easier than I had anticipated. I got home late on friday night thinking (mistakenly) that I would be able to wrap up packing in a couple of hours. It took me until 2 am. Everything went smoothly the next day. The man with his van arrived on time and we finished loading in 15 mins. On the way he told me entertaining stories of the people he meets in the course of his job. I returned to my old apartment to have it cleaned and finish with the inventory check. I felt heartbroken handing in the keys and took some silly phone photos of the front door. Afterwards I sobbed like an ass facing the river.
I went back to the new apartment and as a reward to myself and to take advantage of the convenience of the new place I got some thai takeout which I combined with a healthy dose of tele (finally!). The next day I had to open 4 boxes to make myself a cup of coffee as cups, coffee, sugar and spoons were all packed separately. I spent the entire day unpacking and in the end, the apartment looked lovely with all my familiar stuff.
I didn’t get a chance to hang out much in the new place in the first week though as a business trip took me to Helsinki where I can remember eating only boiled carrots. No pringles in the mini bar either, I compulsively eat those when on these business trips. Maybe I should carry energy bars from now on. The city looked lovely though, wearing autumn becomingly. The trees were golden-brown and as I entered Helsinki, a soft late evening light made them look heavenly. A hot air balloon hovered overhead.
Anyway, I deviate. So last weekend was my first full weekend in Stokey. I walked about, checking out the stores, cafes, people (lots of hipsters here but they seem toned down from the ones further south, along say Shoreditch). I paid a visit to the Whole Foods market – a lovely place but a bit pricey I felt. I am also very happy to note several smaller shops selling veggies, which include bhindi. I lunched with all my groceries at Rasa, a veggie southie restaurant where I had tomato rice and a mixed veggie curry. And oh yes, salted lassi. Many might wonder why this is such a big deal. Well firstly, restaurant – close to home! Secondly, veggie! Thirdly, not just veggie, Indian veggie. Lastly, South Indian veggie. That’s a hugggge step up from the “curry” I’ve been enduring here. (Worst of all is Balti cuisine sometimes trying to pass off as Indian). And yeah, lassi, not that commonly available my friends. I used to have to travel far for something like this earlier so I feel really grateful.
I was also happy to note the numerous gardening shops. I bought a few coloured pots. I walked to Clissold Park in the evening, the evening golden light passing through the trees. Looked a bit like Lothlorien to me (refer the Fellowship of the Ring).
I also had a bike ride, riding to Leah River and then further south along the river. There were little boats lining the banks in places, people actually staying in these. I rode to Victoria Park and through it, followed Regent’s canal in the wrong direction and ended up coming back to the Leah up north instead of going south as I wanted to. Thank you rubbish sense of direction. I haven’t yet started taking the Duchess to work as the route still seems a bit bewildering to me.
I’m also not posting any pictures because I find it a nightmare to post any media on wordpress from my phone. It usually fails anyway.