Despite calling myself a Londoner, I still haven't made it to the
Chelsea flower show. Despite having green-thumbed in-laws with the
prettiest cottage garden in the world (complete with Japanese section), a
multitude of tea cups sipped in their local garden center (don't laugh,
it's beautiful especially at Christmas) and absolute admiration for how
they coax life from winter soil. Despite watching my Dad's tomato
plants shoot up through NZ earth through the medium of facebook. Despite
copious macro shots of open blooms in Spring glory. Despite... ok, ok,
you get the idea.
Well, this year I still haven't walked those paths. So, instead of trudging home to my lonely blooms the other night, the glorious Clare and I slipped onto the back of a specially commissioned rickshaw and let ourselves be chauffered along the boulevards of Chelsea in Bloom.
Anyone will tell you that I am the blog world’s biggest cheerleader. As an expat living on the other side of the world to her established friends (and long-suffering family), blogging gave me the impetus to get out of a work>home>work rut and continues to inspire mischief long after the honeymoon period of a new hobby wore off.
Sitting behind a computer kinda changed me. Far from retreating into myself and the unique loneliness that a big city like London can bring, blogging became the last piece to complete my expat puzzle. It took a long time to come about, but it turned me from the quiet mouse who admired outgoing characters into a ballsy adventurer who discovers intriguing things to do that keeps us fascinated with our home city, and discovered a new side to New Zealand.
So, when Dell contacted me to share the passion that I have for blogging and what makes it unique and special as a creative medium, I jumped at the chance. The below is pure Emma prose - and inspiration for the next time blog-guilt strikes and I begin to wonder why I chose such a full-on, indulgent hobby.
As reliably as the hands tock around the face of Big Ben, us Britain dwellers get excited about every single bank holiday that the Queen has arranged for us. 'Free' holiday days where pretty well everyone else also has time off, your annual leave allowance isn't compromised and often the sun doesn't shine (I wish her majesty would have a word with the BBC weather team, maybe get the Royal Meterologists to divert the gulf stream for a day or two). In short, freedom.
But, sometimes those days seem to creep up (unless you're as crazy as I am - calendar on the wall in January just in time for the year goals linkup, bank holidays marked in pink & annual leave allocation eked out as evenly as possible) and the weekend rolls around where it isn't jam packed with boarding flights, wrestling your way through kids or rolling the dice around a family roast.
We gathered amidst green boughs, tinkling teacups and marbled
table tops. On the table champagne flutes sparkled, delicately dove grey striped
crockery nestled arranged just so and green blooms drew the eye to the space left
for our afternoon tea towers to occupy.
A stone’s throw away the hustle and bustle of Tottenham
Court Road, we drew our seats on a peaceful, secret terrace undiscovered by the
marauding hordes of shoppers nearby. Our beautifully dressed waiters found themselves
grinning at the antics of the hashtag of bloggers snapping merrily away at,
well, everything as they poured (and re-poured for photos) tea from the gleaming silver teapots and topped up our glasses of Perrier Jouët.
I've never been much of a girlie girl - I'm more likely to be researching beautiful churches rather than how good the shopping is in new places (in fact shopping has never been something I enjoy, except those afternoons where we stop for a tipple and don't go back into the chaos) - but even I was slightly unsure about visiting HMS Belfast, the last surviving British WWII warship.
Moored permanently outside near Tower Bridge, aside from having one of the best views in London, the HMS Belfast is an amazing floating museum - a water based branch of the Imperial War Museum. (On a side note, my nephews stayed here on a school trip and I was much put out as we did such boring stuff as kids)
At only an hour or so by train from Waterloo Station, Winchester
is a perfect day out from London. It has good food, little windy cobbled lanes,
good shopping, a great selection of restaurants, fascinating history and good brunch.
The reason it took me several years to pop down there? Sheer
Living somewhere for a long time can lull you in a false sense of ‘oh, I’ll do it some other time’. When I began blogging, it was in an effort to pull us out of the work > TV > sleep / repeat cycle we had slumped into. For example we watched in long-term slowmotion snaps as 20 Fenchurch Street, known better as the Walkie Talkie building, was pulled up from the ground.
From pre-construction opposition of ‘yet another’ strangely shaped
skyscraper to the media frenzy as the building’s signature curve of
glass melted a section of car by concentrating the sunshine, we watched
and made promises to ourselves (read: me nagging) that we’d visit the Sky Garden to check out the views
of London “soon”.
*Whispers* The weather in London is amazing right now. The sun is shining, there has been a gentle breeze and everyone, everyone is reveling in a (probably) short spurt of summer weather #touchwood
Overall, it rains less in London than I thought it would before moving here, in fact I don't even carry an umbrella preferring to carry a hooded coat in the dead of winter (they're warmer too). But, when we are graced with those postcard perfect weekends we've learned to drop everything and thoroughly enjoy the dose of Vitamin D. Over the years we've discovered that there are a few classic places that are lovely to visit, but not so ideal for picnicking - Primrose Hill (unless you're prepared to walk for ages or try to stop bottles rolling downhill) or St James Park (it's just too little really), but we've also discovered a few little gems.
As we crested the hill, the patchwork Hampshire countryside of Butser Farm and the rolling South Downs spread out at our feet. Over green fields of waving maize, bright yellow bobbing blooms of rapeseed (#aliterationwin), baby lambs were bounding and trees gently swayed.
Living in a city as large and sprawling as London (really it's an amalgamation of long-ago villages that have merged into the tube map) you often find yourself skipping over suburbs unintentionally for lengths of time, only to rediscover them leaving you wondering why you ever left them out.
Lately I've found myself gravitating to Kensington and Chelsea (it was Shoreditch for awhile - to the point that my husband accused me of becoming a hipster and my accent altering towards Clapham for an age - more easily explained by antipodean brunches). I'm usually lured to the beautiful streets for the art and architecture exhibitions at one of the museums, via Instagram shots of stunning Mews' or just to walk through the beautiful parks.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Taschen and Manicomio Chelsea but my (very many) opinions
are only ever my own (and my love for Taschen has been years in the formation)
And this is no hyperbole - in the course of 3 weeks I visited for a
ladies dinner near Gloucester Road, surprised my
husband by taking him to the Saatchi Gallery (before nipping to The Ritz for dinner), took in a dim sum and wine date at Harrods, sipped a glass of wine or two in our favourite bar, wandered through the beautiful V&A Museum
(my favourite place in London ever), meandered through Hyde Park in the
sunshine, enjoyed a blogger night out learning more about Taschen and
Manicomio and a fair few coffee dates between rambles.
Ok, ok, that's a little misleading really. Maybe instead the title should read 'People who I stalk occasionally via the pictorial medium of instagram especially when I'm blue or have 5 minutes to spare'. Or perhaps 'Friends who inspire me with envy'. Maybe even 'How to find beauty everywhere at the click of a smartphone.' (Definitely another of the #travelbloggerproblems - in the theme of this month's linkup)
I just wish this little roundup could be 1,000 people (but that might just give everyone RSI), each and every 'grammer who puts a smile on my miserly grimace. In the meantime, how about some of my favourite people whose instagrams have me returning again and again to revel in forever captured moments of joy?