One day and a half in the weekend 

It hit me this morning and I realised I probably do not need the Timeout magazine on Tuesday mornings to know how great this City is, or to appreciate the little pleasures this City brings me.

Friday’s hot breakfast at Hawksmoor, City of London, usually occupied by the  “usuals’ – these dapper-dressed bankers of which I have personal opinions about. Have you seen the movie ‘The Big Short’? That’s one for another day.

Tagged as “The Best Power Breakfast in London” where the menu reads …”For breakfast, think an enormous Full English (for 2 to share), Sausage & Egg HkMuffins, Bloody Marys and a host of other Anti-fogmatics, along with lots of options for people with smaller (and dare we say healthier) appetites”…so we look up and smile to each other. We love our food.

Having orange club membership, we take a late morning trek to the Barbican for some gallery, some art and a light brunch at the fountain terrace.

With club rewards to spend, we head to the finest of London’s Knightsbridge, pick up a few condiments from the food hall but as we walk through these department stores in Harrods, we behold Madeleine Shaw’s menu of courgetti with tahini, spiced salmon and a new raspberry cheesecake (she is chef of the season) – of course, we settle for dinner. Yum!

We ride to the hippy part of North London’s Camden to see an exclusive showing of Erykah Badu perform Window Seat at Camden’s Jazz Cafe. I adore her, completely.

So from the millionaire’s gated villas of South Woodford to the arty cafes of Leyton, we ride through to Mayfair, West London’s finest for Saturday brunch at The Grenadier, England’s oldest pub…

A158

Built in 1720, the pub was originally used as an officers’ mess for the foot guards regiment and then became a pub in 1818. It is rumoured that the Duke of Wellington used to pop in there for some refreshments. Some also say it is haunted by the ghost of a former soldier who was murdered after cheating in a game of cards. Madonna and other superstars are said to have been spotted there.

So with a bit of war history to take away…we brunch with some fine wine.

More gallivants, we head to the Library room of The Arch, perhaps one of London’s chicest boutique hotels at 50 Great Cumberland Place, spread across 7 Victorian townhouses and 2 mews houses, a stone throw from Hyde Park, we settle for some cocktails and book culture.

Walks through more of Mayfair’s mews, we stop at Handel’s house and Jimi Hendrix museum, for a taste of Austrian culture and an education of these two legends, each geniuses in their own music genres but lived in the same build (obviously at different eras).

With the sun setting, we head to the back-sofa seats of the Electric cinema at Notting Hill to watch Jennifer Lawrence as Joy’ – cuddled in blankets and snacking with a drink. We then ride back for dinner to Mayfair’s Italian Gigi Restaurant for a 3 course meal and fine Prosecco. One of London’s exclusive restaurants.

Full of energy but high from London’s cold and unclean air, we stroll down to Warren Street for a hot cuppa at Cafe Nero, the one close to the tube. What girl wouldn’t fancy a bit of male eye candy? So I behold these good looking coffee guys serving behind the counter- mostly dark, with facial hair and actual long hair, I drooled until my own man calls my attention to my drool, saying “hey, focus!!!”

Each time, they turned their backs to the coffee machine, I tried to figure out what was written on their tees and then I finally did.

It read …” the best espresso this side of Milan Hmmm, but what topped it for me was when they all actually spoke to each other it was in Italian. Ha! Sexy looking things….I smiled and winked at him flirtatiously as he handed me my hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream.

I love this town.

I think- as spring approaches and winter fades, we know what spring is really all about … Pomegranates and berries are in season. the first heritage tomatoes of the year, the season’s first asparagus, the simple pleasures of Jersey Royals with a bit of butter and the absolute certainty that the cold weather and rain is going to come back (well not until November) and spoil our lazy park Sundays or similar jaunts such as these on the weekends. Ha!

We head back home. My one tale of many great weekends in London.

Grenadier

 

 

 

This extraordinary literal and figurative link between Vienna & Venice

‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ the movie.

The movie actually drew my attention to the concept of this story.

I love everything ‘arty’- from independent cinema, to arty films, to Woody Allen’s antics, paintings, artistic provocateurs, theatrics, jazz, neo-soul, stage and art creativity, foreign movies, travel, poetry, book culture, French vintage, shabby chic interior. The list could go on and on. Studying English Lit makes me a story teller and a sucker for art, creativity and romance.

I draw life’s inspiration from the phenomenon of art.

‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ was released in 2003 and directed by Audrey Wells. I generally think men are iconic directors. However, on this occasion, no one could have directed this movie better than Wells. She also wrote and produced it but gave an obvious, personal and artistic vision to the script.

The film is about a recently divorced writer who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will lead to a change in her life. It’s a simple story yet written in a sophisticated and complex thought process.

Without going deep into the plot, Frances (lead actress) is in conversation with Martini, the realtor who helped her negotiate the purchase of the villa. He says to her in a conversation which stood out ever so poignantly in this movie for me:

Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.

And yes a train, not just one BUT SEVERAL currently run through the railway to date.

#hope

It’s incredible. Fascinating. Mind blowing.

How please? How have these workers done it? Construct a railway with no insight or information on estimated measurements of the width of the trains, its technology, or as a matter of fact, the type of train that may eventually run through the tracks? It’s incredible.

I have read a bit about the Semmering railway, the history of its design and development. I am fascinated by it all. Semmering itself is a town in the district of Neunkirchen, popular for skiing in the State of Lower Austria. The railway is documented to be the first ever in Europe but also commonly referred to as the first in the world, constructed in 1848 to 1854 stretching around 41km.

My friend’s daughter is currently skiing there at the moment on a school excursion from Hackney.

Designed by a man called Karl Ritter von Ghega, he was born in Venice, to an Albanian family. Upon the implementation of his genius design, the crossing of the Semmering was not even believed to be possible. He however went ahead and initially transported 5000 men from Vienna to begin construction. He rejected the use of iron and steel to build as a matter of ethical principle which explains the ‘bricked railway’ concept.

See picture.

Semmeringbahn_um_1900

Ghega died in Vienna from tuberculosis before its completion and obviously, (I assume) never saw a train cross the Semmering.

I hear or read about stories of this nature and it just gives me so much hope that one can achieve anything they set to achieve. Anything. It’s like learning about the history of Stonehenge and how it was constructed. And that’s one for another day!

It makes me question in my mind “who the hell are these super-humans who lived in the mediaeval/renaissance ages with tremendous sophisticated minds?”

But legacy is one of the greatest things on earth.

Ghega is gone but his legacy lives on and will do till the end of time. This is what I call legendary leadership. A leadership that leaves a legacy for generations to come is the greatest leadership one can ever achieve.

So I am off to Austria in a few weeks to surprise someone for his birthday. He loves war history. He has no idea where we are off to. He will be so inundated with information on post 2nd world war history and a few planned jaunts to Nazi war cemeteries, war sites, war museums etc. But I am going to endeavour to visit the Semmering. It’s actually a UNESCO world heritage site, why not? But Vienna is also a beautiful, romantic and scenic city.

With Ghega and his 20,000 workers, they never lived to see or experience today’s railway run trains on those tracks. They never lived to see this substantial incredible design and hard work they put into transporting millions of people from one city to the other. But as it stands, it remains a continuing testament to their insightful, futuristic and incredible engineering genius.

There was no question in their minds that eventually, one day Vienna and Venice will connect and the train arrives.

Today I ponder about life and crossroads…voila!

#reflect

 

 

 

Marriage; the easy art of losing friendships 

More like- get hitched, start to ditch!

Ok, rather grey area, I must admit. I have always struggled with this subject most of my adult life.

Married friends!!!

Not friends you acquired after they had far long established their marital statuses but friends you have known way before they got married.

Friends of the opposite sex (who you may have experienced get married).

In recent decades, people are now getting married or remarry later in life i.e late 30s/40s even 50s. They are bringing into the marriage, long term, (sometimes decades of) friendships with them. And whilst being single, these friendships were often considered healthy, cherished etc. In a marriage, it could potentially pose a threat.

You have two options and there is usually no grey area around this.

Either you stand the chance of being assertive to your spouse about the boundaries or perhaps the possibility of finality to those friendships and sounding like a right moron or a cold hearted fish…

or (and)

…you man up, be mature about it and accept these friends into the marriage, accepting that there could be a chance of letting these friendships in for the sake of good health of the marriage or on the other hand, risk that it could potentially become problematic to you and your spouse. So this is where open communication should play a vital role, no?

Now, hear this. I grew up with this friend whom I spent most of my lazy youthful days with. He became one of the closest people to me. We also worked together. He relocated to the States. I was in my early 20s. We spent almost every single day together! I met his family, he knew mine. We had lunch together, listened to hiphop together, spoke about our lives and growing up, our past and future, our partners, the idiots in our lives, our careers, life and love, rubbish etc. We would go out together, hang with each other’s friends together; we invested in the same dreams. Yeah? We were like siblings and yes stuff like that still exists in its purity. Fuck off!

He knew my dark sides. He reprimanded me for my dumb mistakes. I was comfortable in my friendship with this human being. He was an excellent friend to me. Notice how I use the word ‘was’?

So now this, a friend who is male, unmarried, single as you are, no feelings of sexual intimacy involved, no sex involved, an innate establishment of the pure fact that nothing will EVER ensue between you two! The friendship becomes precious because it’s unbelievably difficult to develop and maintain a platonic relationship with the opposite sex, right?

Well so society suggests…

We live in a fucked up world of scepticism, man-made standards, rules, should-nots, can-nots, constant suspicion. We are all ethically bankrupt that even the simplest things of life, we negate them and we build them like Legos on a bed of paranoia, doubt, ulterior motive, negativity. There is no longer truth in simplicity. Purity has ceased to exist. All our friends are friends with benefits. Friends that can validate our existence. Friends we can benefit from. Ones who benefit from us.

So with years of a beautiful friendship, bonds, moments lived, most things shared, we walk our separate ways. We geographically separate. We grew up. We moved on – from our lazy youthful days. We left dependency from our guardians and let them depend on us.

With this separation we still cling, (like we were hanging on the side of a cliff) to our friendship. I dated, broke up, got my heart broken (well so I thought) he found love. He lost her. He had a health scare. He struggled with his studies, a job, dynamics with his family etc and all through all our individual and unique ups and downs, we remained present for and with each other, cared about each other (still) ‘kept it real’ with tech- FaceTime, Skpye and all that jazz.

His line was, ‘yo, I will hit you up on FT later’. The American way of saying I will ring you at some point.

He, I understood the value of our friendship and the role we both played in each other’s lives. My sister was his friend. He knew my brothers and they would talk about the latest news on hiphop, football etc

I knew about the condition of his heart when he spoke about the loss of his mum, living without her. Bless her soul.

He was keen to help me build my business when I and my sister set up. We used his address in New York to receive our online delivery parcels.

See? huge part of my, our lives. My best friends still ask of him. We shared the same dumb ass stockbroker!!! We used to laugh about the scruffy little poor man! Not laugh at him but laugh about him!  We often wondered how a stock broker looked so sheepish and scruffy on a daily basis with no business charisma whatsoever.

So love comes, well, it did, to him! He finds comfort, friendship, heartfelt love, a safe haven. He bounces back into life. I am happy. He tells me about it all. I, naturally and honestly (but selfishly) saw my friendship with him potentially hitting the rocks. It was threatened but I needed to be happy for him. I was. I am. I envisaged a loss. It happened.

Calls went down from thrice a week to once a week, to every other weekend, to once a month, once in six months and then deteriorated to nothing…

The friendship was silenced.

In that time I never realized he had gotten married as we never really spoke again. You know what they say about boundaries? I kept them. He didn’t only keep them. He breathed them. I learned why later.

We had to recognize these vaguely raised and grey boundaries. We never so much spoke about it or planned to develop them but subconsciously ended up doing so.

So he got married. I recognized a massive wall of China had literally and figuratively been raised. 

It’s interesting. Fast forward this to recent days. After becoming buddies with his wife, I then learnt from her that all the time I was gradually mourning my friendship with her husband, she, on the other end had identified red flags re my relationship with him. She couldn’t understand why we spoke that frequently and why he always talked about me as one of the closest people to him. And you know what?. If roles were reversed, I would feel the same way. It would be a massive issue for me. Personally, because I do not see ‘grey’ in these things as she probably did.

But perspective is a powerful phenomenon.

Theory of mind, moreso.

But there were no grey lines. I loved him genuinely, purely and unconditionally. It wasn’t superficial. When I love or care about people, I go all the way. Ask about me. My love is all the way.

So even the birthday wishes stopped, Christmas, New Year, Easter, silenced! I became a paranoid piece of bacon. Wondering if I had done anything wrong but also not being able to communicate because of this thing called boundaries.

She drew closer to me. I became a friend to his wife. She is amazing and I love her for him.

Subsequently, in the girl-code-bid to support a single female-friend -of her -husband whom she had also become quite close to, she decided to hook me up with a friend of hers whom she thought would be great for me.

I met said guy, we talked for a number of months. I subsequently visit. It didn’t work out with said friend.

My lost friendship even became more ostracised.

In that same trip was when I saw my bff after 6 years. It felt quite awkward to even give him a proper hug. Boundaries, no? Oblivion wasn’t here, rather a full sense of awareness, appropriation, purity, heart.

Conversations were minimalist. I saw him twice in a visit lasting about 3 weeks in Florida. He worked in Tampa. We never could catch up on anything after 6 years. That was it!

We spoke at length (about 20 mins) when I returned to England as he is one who checks on any loved one when they travel to ensure they had safe travels. One of his amazing qualities. Very kind.

I just couldn’t salvage it.

And with time zone, geography and distance, wife of bud subsequently withdrew. More awkwardly after said friend and I never worked out.

The tiny bit of link I had to my friend was her. She drifted. I drifted.

So that was it!
In my evaluation of the situation, I didn’t realize that when people say ‘I do’ that this was the end of sustaining old friends. Your spouse becomes your forever ‘go-to’ person. I didn’t recognize that.

I then asked. Do our spouses satisfy all our needs.? Do we bin our invaluable friendships because we become married?

If I have known you for decades and I didn’t end up with you, date you, sleep with you, marry you, divorce you, then what makes you think or perhaps consider that my continued friendship with you could threaten your marriage? Is there something I do not know?

Shouldn’t a healthy marriage with happiness and love be dependent on having a support network outside your spouse? Am I deluded?

I have another male friend who has done the complete opposite here and has integrated me into his family because couldn’t afford the risk of losing me as a friend. I am the god-mother to his daughter. I hang out with his wife. We have been on a few double dates.

Isn’t life beautiful and simple? Same similar amount of years of friendship as the one I  described. In fact very similar history but different outcomes.

So in my bid to try to understand life, I believe I have gone through a painful process losing him. Everything, a friendship that meant the world to me is dead.

I think females who make a lot of male friends in their youth (which I did as I have always preferred men as friends) could suffer the risk of losing friendships in the long run- by default as these friends get hitched. It’s an interesting one I never thought about. At least with female friends, it’s safe. You will always have your girlfriends, married or not.

So this is what I tell my partner now and a in a lot of these life situations, common sense needs to be applied:

“I am happy with you keeping your female friends because I want to keep my male friends as long as”:

I am aware of the friendships, the histories and the dynamics of the friendships. If people are friends for a long time, way before I came into the picture of their lives then I think it’s unfair to make them lose their friends. Genuine ones, I must stress.

So my logic and emotional intelligence then makes me ask these questions:

  • Is or was there an attraction physically or emotionally with said friend(s)
  • Would you act any different with so-called friend if I was there or not?
  • Would you feel our marriage is threatened if I had the same level or quality of relationship with the opposite sex (that you have with yours)?
  • Do you ever compare them to me (sub) consciously?
  • Would you discuss things you don’t feel comfortable about – with me or rather with them?
  • Do you always discuss me with them?
  • Would you entertain inappropriate flirtatious messages from them even though you don’t text back? Emotional cheating?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions then we could potentially have a serious problem. If it’s no on all fronts, I welcome your friendship into our marriage. 

I use it as a yardstick to measure the status of my boundaries with my male friends and it gives me a clear stance of how (un)/healthy my relationships are with married friends.

I scored negative on all points upon reflection on my friendship status with the BFF.