Taking stock

doreen and miriam

Recently I had a very good friend come to London and stay with me on two separate occasions. It’s always interesting to see your environs through someone else’s perceptions as they get their bearings, even (and especially) if they shake up and call into question some things you’ve taken for granted.

Although the transportation here is excellent, particularly in comparison to the near-nonexistent public transport system in Orlando, it can be very expensive. And yes, it can take quite a long time to get from point A to point B with TFL, especially when you’re starting your travels in Hackney. Case in point, it takes just as long to get to Oxford from Paddington Station as it does to get to Paddington Station from The Cock Tavern on Mare Street. Still, having someone new to simultaneously induct into as well as have a moan with regarding TFL and other fine London institutions is really refreshing.

Sometimes you need a shake-up to see things a little bit differently.

soho:leicester square

Visitors from abroad who come to London often have perceptions of the city based on their own country’s relationship with Britain, pop culture influences such as TV shows and films, perhaps literature still (I hope) and anecdotal accounts from the travels of family and friends. From working in pubs, I know that travellers from Spain are after “a pint of bitter” or “a pint of ale.” Americans will scroll through Yelp recommendations to find the best fish and chip place and look for pubs similar to the “English” pubs back home. Or the Irish pubs. Sometimes these two terms are conflated in Yankee Doodle Dandy Land.

I shall take this opportunity to tell any of my fellow countryfolk to never, ever refer to anything Irish as “British.”

(I’ll also be quick to add that I haven’t done this myself… but 12 years ago when I lived in Thailand  I make the mistake of referring to someone Welsh as English.)

(I never made that mistake again.)

clientele suburban light

My own perceptions and expectations of what London would be like when I first got here in 2009 were fairly open, but they were solidly soundtracked by The Clientele, particularly the Suburban Light album which has recently been rereleased. I lived on Holloway Road all because it was mentioned in a song from The Clientele and it was additionally vetted by the only friend I had in all of London at the time. Truly, I think he may have said something along the lines of, “‘It’s alright,” which really is all one can say about Holloway, other than “it’s a bit grim!” which I heard after I moved there. I was reasonably happy there, myself, until my money ran out and I found myself sharing a bedsit flat with an endless parade of roaches. Though this really should not besmirch the fine reputation of Holloway. Christina Hendricks lived in Holloway, which in my opinion says everything.

Now, with over four years of London living under my belt, what are my expectations now? With a job and the usual things people occupy themselves in order to get by, I am settled, but restless. What am I looking to get out of London? And what, if anything, can I offer in return? Am I happy here? Is this for me? Where do I want to wind up, and how will I accomplish that? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?

are you happy liverpool

Earlier this year, I did 7 weekly-ish sessions with a therapist who worked me through cognitive behavioural therapy to help me control the automatic negative thoughts that tend to spring in my head that often lead me feeling depressed and anxious. Depression is something I battle with on and off since I was very young–it’s like a periodic tide that floods my mind and heart with a despairing melancholy. Sometimes the tide lingers for months, and it’s often triggered by anxiety, frustration and regret. It can be very difficult to swim out of that sea of hopelessness, and I’m very grateful for the therapy I received to help me manage that tide, as well as the concerns and kindness of friends who, whether they realised it or not, really helped me get back a sense of self.

CBT has helped me recognise and monitor myself, my days, my thoughts, my feelings and my impulses. It’s not a cure–all those self-attacking, critical, destroying thoughts are very near. But it’s helped me take stock of those thoughts and question them. Why am I feeling this way? What happened that has triggered this emotion? How should I react for the best outcome? Is the situation I am perceiving really what is going on, or could I be mistaken? How can I look after myself and make more time to do so?

I’ve been going back to these thoughts a lot recently, as it was my birthday around a month ago, and having a birthday always tends to put me in a pensive mode*, looking back at that year and thinking about what I haven’t managed to do or, often, what I haven’t saved up any money to do. But rather than feel glum, I’m trying to be more proactive, and if I have a setback, I’m trying not to dwell on it too much, though that’s easier said than done. Still, although my life right now isn’t bad, I need to think about the next step, whenever that step will be taken.

mary and caroline boat

Funny about my earlier analogy about tides, because I’m giving serious thought to living on a narrowboat, after yet another visit to Kingsland Basin for Open House London. I won’t be able to be in a position for seriously considering it anytime soon, but it’s a thought, especially considering the housing bubble we’re dealing with in Hackney and in the rest of London (and in other major cities throughout the world).

will's boatSeriously, isn’t this cosy? Not the same boat as above, by the way, but the other one is quite sweet, too.

One of the things that appeals about narrowboat living is this ability to move and change your scenery when you like. Although I’ve moved quite a lot in my life, once I get settled into a place, I tend to be really settled into a place–not travelling outside of my normal areas within a city and overall getting a bit too comfortable. I often feel ashamed when my friends who visit ask me if I’ve been to certain places, or people from the UK ask me if I’ve been near their hometown, and I haven’t. Although I do get to visit some of the major cities here in England, my own personal travel has been quite limited. I’ve never been to Scotland or Wales, for example, nor Oxford or Cambridge, Bristol or Belfast. Stonehenge has yet to bee seen, Scottish distilleries yet to visited, Dover cliffs yet to behold, Blarney stones not yet kissed. Yes, I know that last one is in Ireland, but I had two friends do this over the summer.

I’ve also only journeyed twice into Europe, or the rest of Europe, depending on your point of view. One of those trips only lasted around 36 hours–and it was work related. I’d really like to go to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and it would be fun to explore Paris again.

So why do I go to the same pubs, the same cafés, and have the same non-plans frequently on the weekends? It’ll only take me around two hours to get to Oxford, after all. Although I continue to be committed to a life here in London, particularly in (North)East London, it’s all right to get a break every now and then.

We all need these pauses for us to think about where we are, where we’re going, where we’ve been. Hopefully these breaks give us a new perspective on what we’ve left behind. Perhaps a renewed appreciation for what we have or, maybe, a change in direction, a pull elsewhere.

On that note, if you had three days to get out of London, where would you go? Slight preference for stations that won’t take an hour to get to (Paddington, I’m looking at you), but I’m willing to brave the Circle Line for a good adventure–particularly if there is delicious food and lovely beer along the way.

* I should note that I am generally in a pensive mood. I suppose birthdays may make me hyperpensive…?

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Paths and patterns

Imagine yourself as a needle that threads through your environment.

Even if you live in a city as big and as rich as London, unless you are a well-funded flaneur (if only), you will find that the paths you thread through the city will often overlap. Home, work, school, favourite kebab or falafel shop, usual pubs, usual haunts and the usual paths to get to and from all of these places–the thread you make weaves through the city as you go along, most often along familiar roads through familiar means.

‘Familiar means’ is important, because in London, there are different ways to get from point A to point B, and whatever your preferred option is the one that affects your conception of space in the city.

As someone who a few months ago bought a bike and began riding it pretty much on a daily basis, travelling around on the bike has been somewhat of a revelation, outside of the fact I am in woeful physical condition. I have begun small, cycling my granny bike around Hackney, primarily from my house to work and back, via Newington Green Fruit & Veg or The Cock Tavern. Even still, this manages to be interesting as, on a single-speed bike for someone who has failed PE in high school, one becomes very aware of the topography, particularly when cycling up an incline. That little dip up from Sandringham Road as it meets with Kingsland High Street? Nothing you may much mind to when walking on foot and it’s hardly something of note if you’re just passing by on the 149 or 243.

I know it’s there now, though.

Cycling hasn’t just made me hyperaware of my lack of stamina, however. It has also, with help from Citymapper‘s cycling route suggestions, enabled me to see pockets of London I haven’t explored or have underexplored due to my reliance on bus and Overground travel.

For instance, when cycling from work to an event near Old Street, Citymapper guided me through a path in De Beauvoir, with sections specifically marked off for cyclists. It was like moving through another world, enhanced by the opulent cherry blossoms weighing down the branches of their trees.

De Beauvoir blossoms

More recently, when cycling back from my first excursion into West London on my bike, I came across a steep road (which I couldn’t cycle up, in the end) and at the end of it, a square: Lloyd Square. The houses were beautiful, and a very detailed history of the area, plus photographs of the houses I tried to cycle/walked past, can be seen here.

In addition to cycling through new-to-me paths, I’ve also had a couple of nice walks with the Bishopsgate Institute. One was a walk around the East End tracing photographer C A Mathew’s walk over a century ago. You can read more about C A Mathew and see some of his photos on Spitalfields Life. The walk we did was very interesting and we learnt a good deal about the area, particularly its history during C A Mathew’s time. It was interesting to compare his photos with the environment we saw now in front of us–to see what remained, and what has been lost.

Middlesex Street from Bishopsgate13666565043_9ee444b596_z

Last week, I had the stupidly amazing opportunity thanks to the wonderful folks behind Google Local London to go up the BT Tower. Which is insane.

Of course the view was amazing.

Looking east.

Fitzrovia from above

Looking west

Towards the towers

But in addition to being up high, seeing London spilling out all around you and spotting other London monuments such as The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, Alexandra Palace and Battersea Power Station, the experience provided a fascinating perspective on the city. The jumble of buildings, the swathes of green, the trees, the lights all were fascinating to study from this new height. From atop the BT Tower, one could see the little mews buildings and the secret squares behind the street-facing buildings in surrounding Fitzrovia. One could see how flat and uninspiring Euston Station is, the austere, brutalist beauty of the Barbican Towers in front of the glittering buildings of the City of London.

Moving from day to night was watching London put its make-up on. The London Eye, Centrepoint and the City towers all shone, as did the traffic from cars and buses along Euston Road, and the local car and bicycle traffic down below. Other buildings grew dark and quiet in comparison to the glitz of other buildings and of traffic.

lights in London

It was an extreme privilege to have been able to see London from this different viewpoint, but it’s worth looking at other views of London from Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill, St Augustine’s Tower in Hackney, as well as from some restaurants located in some of the taller buildings around London. Feel free to share your favourite views in the comments–I’d love to know of them.

Looking across and below from the BT Tower, I was struck at how much of what I saw before me I was unfamiliar with, much as how I am fascinated with the cycling paths through the city I am only just beginning to learn. As I get a better handle on riding my bike around, I look forward to the new stretches of the city I will now pass, and the shortened distance of time and space it will be for me as I get around more by bike.

Assuming I’ll eventually not have to rely on looking at my Citymapper app every 5 minutes to figure out where I need to turn or if I’ve cycled past where I needed to go, of course.

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Autumn and Open

London is lapsing into autumn, a season I think is quintessentially fitting for the city. London is wonderful in the spring, a bit out of its element in the summer (sorry) and at times bleak in the winter except for during and after the first snow. Although sometimes bleak can be beautiful.

Nonetheless, when I think of London, I think of it always with an autumnal lens in my mind. I arrived in London for the first time at the end of August, so as I was getting to know my surroundings, I was also getting reacquainted with a season I hadn’t experienced properly since I was around ten. I crunched brown leaves under my shoes as I paced through an open pocket A-Z guide, finding my way through the city and the season. Autumn and London seem linked together, and with holidays like Bonfire Night to look forward to, as well as smaller pleasures like when mulled cider appears on the bar of your favourite pub, it can be one of the best times to be in the city.

FIGS!!!

Although many Londoners are bemoaning the encroaching darkness as we lose the annual battle for daylight, I’m taking pleasure in the provenance of the local fruit and veg shops near me filling up with delicious harbingers of the season: blackberries, butternut squash, acorn squash, apples, FIGS!!! and plums. Soon we will be greeting the arrival of oranges at their peak from Spain and Italy, but that will come later. For now, there’s roast squash, butternut squash soup, apples and FIGS!!! to figure into savoury tarts and sweet desserts.

For the first time, I got a chance to go and do things during Open House London weekend this year. After a disappointment at trying to get into Battersea Power Station (along with half of London and much of Kent, it seems like), and further dejection at the Lloyds of London queue plus the Open House London app failing (I was able to get a programme from a nice man at Leadenhall, though), the whole experience turned out all right in the end. The outside of Lloyds of London occupied plenty of our time, even though we didn’t go in.

Lloyds of London building

Also, later on we got to ride up a swift glass lift at 88 Wood Street and see some great views at the 17th floor. It may not sound very high to Americans who live in skyscrapered cities, but London is actually remarkably low-built outside of only a handful of buildings outside of Canary Wharf, so we really enjoyed our view of the riot of buildings below, as well as the pokey bits that stood out–the Shard and the Walkie-Talkie that melts cars.

view from 88 wood street

The architect for 88 Wood Street is the same one for the Lloyds of London building as well, and it is an interesting building in its own right.

We also dropped into nearby Haberdasher’s Hall on Saturday, where Tom pointed out the symbolic peppercorn on display.

Open House Kingsland Basin

Our Sunday Open House London experience held the highlight of the weekend, which was visiting the narrowboats residing in Kingsland Basin. We got up early, and we were rewarded with an amazing insight into how a diverse group of folks–professional couples, older couples and families–live in the canals of Hackney and throughout England. There was a floating organic allotment (!), kept ducks and even beehives. The interiors of the houses were all as unique as the individuals living in them. It was colourful, inspiring and absolutely amazing, to say the least.

kingsland basin moored narrow boats kingsland basin

Plus, there was brilliant Guinness cake.

I am definitely looking forward to the next open day C.H.U.G. will be holding–that’s Canals in Hackney Users Group. Not just because it’ll be a chance to see Mary, one of the canalboat kitties, again, although she is quite special.

Mary, the narrowboat queen

We also dropped in on nearby Hoxton Hall, part of the fabric of Hackney I have likely walked past a few times without noticing. If you haven’t had a chance to go in for a performance, you should make arrangements to stop in. It looks lovely.

Hoxton Hall interior

All in all, I enjoyed Open House London this year. However, I’m sure I’m not alone when I would reckon it would be more popular if it were Open House London Week or Month, not just the weekend. Granted, I know organising events is tough work, but it would be nice and perhaps less stress on attendees if some of the larger places were set up for Open House more than just the weekend, or even just the one day. Might not happen, and may need an army of volunteers, but it would be amazing not to have to wait until next September to try to get into Lloyds of London again. However, C.H.U.G. should be having another Open Day before the year is out. Woot!

One of the things I have enjoyed this weekend is the experience of surprise I encountered again and again–and not just during the Open House London events, but in walks to get from point A to B. On our way to a pub in Islington for a friend’s birthday, we encountered a lovely neighbourhood that was quite pleasant and interesting to walk through. We also walked through a farmer’s market in Chelsea that, apparently, includes a nail salon (…?). There was also the interesting mural a side of Hoxton Hall faces, which was a nice discovery at the end of our tour.

hoxton mural

London always seems to have a surprise in store, if you keep your eyes open and you’re willing to go off-track a little bit.

 

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London Belongs To Me

From The Rooftop Bar in London BridgeOn 23 July, 2013, I was issued my biometric residence permit, which I received the following day, 2 days before my post-study work visa was set to expire.

I seem to live my life through close calls.

This residence permit allows me to stay in the UK until 4 August, 2016, so long as I am employed with my current work sponsor. (Support your local brewery, people.) Three more years of trying to figure out my place among the 8 million, among the nearly 63 million. Three more years of eking out some sort of living in The Big Smoke.

It may not be a glorious prize for some, but for me, it is a reward that is enough.

London Belongs To Me

It was fitting that I read Norman Collins‘ London Belongs to Me in June, as the title alone seemed very much like an assertion that yes, I belonged in London, because London belongs to me. Not to me solely, as that would be such wicked conceit. It belongs to all of us who look out on the view of a double decker bus travelling across London Bridge and feel a sense of satisfaction. Yes, I am part of this. Yes, this is my city. It belongs to those of us who feel the same sense of pride along the Overground, looking out at Camden and Kentish Town houses, at Shoreditch street art and graffiti, at the awkward new builds shouldering against older buildings in Hackney Wick and Stratford, at the chaotic jumble of warehouses and train tracks around Clapham Junction, the glorious St Pancras Station.

But not Euston Station. That place is under an eternal fog of grim.

So I found it wonderful to read Norman Collins’ reflections through his many characters of Dulcimer Street, as some of the thoughts, the sentiments about life and London seemed familiar to me–if not to me personally, then perhaps in imaginings and overheard conversations when in the pub, on the bus, in the café, on the train. His characters are still familiar, as they live on even today as we bustle past them to duck into the tube station or pass them on the street.

And what’s more, the London we interact with is remarkably even more vibrant.

Plus, there are kitties.

Institute Place kitty

So, I remain in London, which is a good thing as I seem to encounter a number of people in Stoke Newington and Hackney Central who seem to be in need of directions. And also, people who need good recommendations for pubs.

In other words, I can continue cultivating a sort of local knowledge, while I continue discovering new things about London, as well as exploring the rest of this part of the world.

Liverpool, Do You Feel Lonely

Despite a rather perplexing amount of negative remarks from people who have never been, I was quite interested to go to Liverpool. It was a work trip, but I had a good amount of time during the day to explore the city under my umbrella. Although most of the photos I took on my phone consisted of abandoned buildings near the Baltic Triangle and probably nothing actual residents of Liverpool would take particular pride in (except a great beer festival), I would like to think I made a good go at enjoying the city in the nine or so hours I had. Especially considering I only had about three hours’ worth of sleep.

After a coffee in Bold Street Café, I bought a fitting graphic novel that I read while I avoided the rain, first in a nice teahouse and then in Baltic Bakehouse. I wandered through Chinatown, which I found out later is the oldest Chinese community in Europe. In the end, despite my shoes being soaked like sponges, my sleepless fatigue and the surreal experience of encountering a tourism industry based on Beatlemania, I enjoyed Liverpool very much and am looking forward to a return trip.

Mad Dogs and EnglishmenFurthermore, I am now armed with my friend Tom Jones’ book, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which will give further insight into exploring England. Before the year is out, I am likely to visit Leeds and Manchester for work purposes, and may even wander into Wales for academic reasons.

Also, I’m overdue for a trip to Brighton, so says everyone.

But there is more to explore and more to see, as tickets have been bought to attend a wedding in Italy, by train, thus enabling me to see France en route, which is very exciting. I don’t know if I’ve made it well known on this blog, but my experience of “The Continent” consists of 7 hours in Airport Schiphol coming to and heading from The Philippines with my mother and an interesting yet harrowing 30+ hours in Munich for Oktoberfest. I was having a Hunter S Thompson moment entirely on excessive free beer and lack of sleep surrounded by the disorienting oom-pah! of steins, lederhosen, clevage and wurst.

In comparison, this train journey/wedding jaunt will be far less intense than the bat country of Oktoberfest. Well, maybe save the wedding night celebrations.

Whether on the brink of exploring a continent, a country or a vast city–whether through travelling, through the books I pick up, or by the stories and recommendations of others–I believe I am in the right place for it.

It is here.

hackney sign

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Postcards, aka Analogue Microblogging

I have mentioned in this blog previously how I try to send a postcard once a week to one of my best friends back in Florida, as he’s serving prison time for some sort of non-violence offence. It’s now gotten me in the habit of writing postcards to some other friends of mine in far-flung places.

Postcards: The Original Microblog.

assorted postcardsI’ve taken to the habit of carrying around a blank postcard or two, usually slipped into the pages of whatever book or magazine I’m carrying around, so that if I’m in a pub or café on my own, I have time to jot off a quick piece of personal correspondence to a friend in between sips of strong ale or black coffee. I get several 80p stamps at a time from the post office, covering the cost of a slip of card stock with an image on one side, and my neat yet highly stylised handwriting on the back.

If we all must type addresses out in the future, I suspect my handwriting may have something to do with it.

I love postcards. I love correspondence through the mail. Now that much of my work involves being on the computer a lot, it’s a relief to be able to shut the laptop but still be able to engage with people–and not just anyone, but a communication between you and the intended recipient, with possibly a nosey postal worker, curious cellmate or friend of the recipient along the way if it’s a postcard. With my laptop open, it’s hard for me to focus on a single e-mail–I flit between browser tabs like a hummingbird of information, starting off e-mails only to find myself reading an article about The National’s new album, checking if anything’s happening on Facebook (nope) or seeing the latest cat meme someone’s sent me via Twitter. Away from my computer, I’m more likely to ignore the noises my phone makes while I finish writing, although I won’t ignore the sandwich I’m getting at the café I’m in.

There are limits.

There’s something really special about receiving a letter or postcard in the mail that has yet to be equalled through electronic means. This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate e-mails from friends–I do. But there is a small sense of ceremony involved with receiving letters when you cut through the envelope, unfold the paper and see a handwritten note that can sometimes reveal so much about what the person is up to and how that person is doing. Perhaps there’s a drawing, but frequently there might be underlines or boldly-written text that show a great deal more emphasis than just hitting “Command + B” on a keyboard. There will frequently be evidence of human error, as the writer has crossed out a word or the start of a word, or drawn a little word above a space with a “^” below.

Handwritten correspondence can show how a mind unfurls–hurried or languid, awkward, unplanned, excited: a word or two crammed into the right because the writer didn’t realise there wasn’t enough space (something I’m guilty of all the time), ink smudges from the sender’s thumbs or received through transit, the emphasis of a word or phrase that presses against the paper so hard, it can be felt on the other side of the postcard or sheet of paper.

Postcards are relatively cheap in London, with the exception of the small-scale Etsy-esque ones found in craft-tinged shops in Hackney, but some of those are well-worth their premium, particularly if supporting a local artist whose work you actually quite like. Being the big nerd for stationery I am, I tend to pick up postcards at exhibitions and art shows if I can. The V&A tends to have some pretty good ones. I’ve bought a few from Rough Trade East as well, and bought a booklet of postcards from Magma in Covent Garden.

Anyone have some recommendations on where they’ve gotten good postcards? Anyone have a favourite place for stationery in general? Would be good to know some other options, particularly as a lot of the stationery I do have might be a bit too twee to send to someone in prison. Thanks in advance.

 

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These promising blooms

Although I have heard the word “summer” bandied around, as someone borne and mostly bred in subtropical climates, my perspective on the season that currently surrounds London resembles nothing to me but a long-awaited spring.

2013-04-17 08.54.04

Even when I was still wearing my black peacoat in to one of my jobs a month ago, days after an early April snowfall, stubborn signs of the season to come were showing in the form of hardy (perhaps confused) daffodils and intrepid cherry blossoms–early arrivals in an urban environment sluggishly shaking off the long, cold winter.

Petals from the cherry trees replace the snow on the sidewalks and streets of Stoke Newington, creating little pink and white piles resembling small snowbanks as the winds shake the branches and the young, green leaves begin to emerge.

More_of_Stoke_Newington_in_Bloom_at_Clissold_Crescent___Albion_Road._Note_the_petals_on_the_pavement.After the sight of black, barren branches and layers of white and grey snow, the colours that have appeared are a welcome change, even if the temperatures are still flirting with scarf weather at times.

cherry blossoms in may

clissold crescent blooms

yellow april blooms

It’s easy to go about one’s day ignoring the wonder of natural, seasonal phenomena. Although the bright promise of spring won’t vanish the usual day-to-day woes of financial issues, personal problems, busy schedules and strained contacts, it does seem to underscore the idea of possibility–that whatever hardships and struggles one may be going through will eventually be resolved.

Even if you’ve got to put your back into now and again.

In other news, I’ve been busy dabbling in a bunch of stuff. I’ve got an article in the programme of an upcoming food festival in Walthamstow. You can read it here. It’s an article on Sarah Hardy, possibly the most inspiring person in cake and confectionary right now. Thanks to Kerrie of Edible Feasts for setting that interview up, who is another inspiring woman in the East London food world.

I have a new job, had an old job, and have another new-old job. It’s a long story. Let’s hope I remember which one to go to on what day.

I’ve been reading a lot. In fact, I read my first novel in years recently, Swamplandia!

Swamplandia!

It was very good, but it left me feeling quite sad at the end, so I’m back to raiding my stash of non-fiction books, currently alternating between the interesting essays of London: From Punk to Blair and the beer nerd’s world of Brewed Awakening, which I’ve been enjoying, but sometimes, I feel like I need a day off from the beer world every now and again.

brewed awakening

If you see me in a bookshop, please gently guide me out of it, as I tend to spend my money disproportionately on books and beer. In fact, I shouldn’t even spend money on beer, as I’ve got the odd bottle or three kicking around in my cupboards and room, either from a short stint at a beer importer or from previous wild beer-buying sprees. I have bottles of porters and stouts I’ll probably have to wind up using in a cake, because there’s no way I can drink them all without my belly feeling weighed down. Oh yeah, and the whole inebriation thing.

Oh, cake! Theoretically I can make such things now, as the kitchen in the house I’m in has been upgraded by the handy Papa Stokey. There’s even a full-sized oven that works. Well, I haven’t tried using it yet, but it’s supposed to work, anyway. Hopefully I can get back into baking again soon. I used to be fairly handy at baking, but we’ll see.

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Reminiscing the Taste of Tupelo and Palmetto Honey

Although many foodstuffs and drinks can contain the terroir of an area, from wine to beer to tea and cheese, one of the most tangible ways to taste an area is through its honey.

dansk honey, orlandoLately, while I’ve been jobhunting and trying to figure out how to stay in Great Britain, I’ve also been experiencing an odd sense of homesickness. Specifically, a craving for the honey sold by the small producers in the street markets and flea markets back in Central Florida. Tupelo honey and saw palmetto honey are the ones I’m specifically thinking about, along with indigenous orange blossom honey.

I wrote a post five years ago (nearly to the day) on my food blog on local honey, specifically my regular trips to Mt Dora to buy massive jars of palmetto and tupelo honey from an old, bearded man. In my recent reminiscence over the honey, it occurred to me that Henry Parker might not be around any more. So if anyone reading this lives in Central Florida, I’d appreciate an update on the Honey Man. Thanks.

Tupelo honey is lovely, but the saw palmetto or palmetto honey was my favourite, because it had a slightly darker taste, much like caramel or toffee.

It’s strange how, in this moment of anxiety regarding my future here in London, I feel so strongly curious about how life is back in Orlando, missing odd things such as the local honey. It could be a protective emotional consolation, that if I cannot stay in London, Orlando’s not a bad place to be while I figure out where to go next or to try and move back to the Big Smoke at a later date.

Or it could be, as I am in a relationship with someone who is very nice and very special, that I’m thinking of the things I’d very much like to share with him if I could get the chance. Tupelo honey in huge mason jars, Stardust brunches, beer-tasting at Redlight Redlight, Terrapin beer, trips to flea markets, Mellow Mushroom pizza and Ethos vegan burgers all have their special places in my memory. I think when one is good friends or in a relationship with someone else, it’s very natural to want to share the things from the place, or places, you grew up in. But when these places are so far away, or additionally, so scattered, it can provoke a bit of longing for the taste of palmetto honey, among other things.

At the same time, I’m trying to explore more of London and Great Britain while I am here, which is a bit daunting when your job situation is a bit shaky for the time being. Next month I’ll be going on a weekend trip to Devon, and a Brighton trip that was cancelled due to the recent snow will be rescheduled eventually.

Perhaps I’ll be discovering a honey here I’ll be pining for on another shore.

 

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