Oh, London, my London

It has been a rough few weeks. Just really kick-you-in-the-knees, punch-you-in-the-junk awful. But as proven time and time before, Londoners rise and rally – sip a cup of tea – and get on with it. 

I asked BB after the attack near Notre Dame how she was handling things. I wasn’t coping too well. She said she was being ‘selfish’. Focusing on pouring love into her family. Focusing on the daily. The small things, which really are the big things. 

She’s right (she’s always right).

Love. Hope. Compassion. Sympathy. Ooze these feelings. Smear them all over your families. Communities. 

Tonight, I’m praying for the families up the road who have lost everything in the tower inferno. For the exhausted firefighters fighting a blaze of proportions they’ve never seen before. The medics and doctors. And for all the helpers, who have already managed to rally supplies, money and temporary homes for the victims. 

Love is so much better than hate. 

We are OK

Blogger friends, thanks for checking on social media. Husband, DD and I are all safe. Although we do go via Westminster at least twice a day four days a week, we were not there during the attack today. 

The Metropolitan police are amazing and are handling the situation. It is being treated as a terrorist incident.

Edited 7.46pm: I am awed and humbled by the service of the metropolitan police, including a good friend’s  husband, the first responders and everyone who is working to contain and stabilize London tonight. Traffic is moving, people are using the Tube. London stands together and we march on, even when we’re scared. 

What summer?

Summer has been called off in the UK because #Brexit. And BoJo becoming Foreign Secretary. I’m still waiting for someone to shout Psych or Joke or something akin. But back to the weather. It’s what we Icelanders call…

But don’t feel bad for me. I’ve got almost three weeks in France again next month. 

How’s your summer been so far? 

In or Out?

You can’t get away from it. The EU referendum campaign is approaching fever-pitch and things are getting ugly. I can’t help but see the parallels with a rather acrimonious end-of-relationship. He said, she said, he means, she means… the #InFor campaign has generated some truly weird images – including one of Donald Trump. Yeah, you read that right.

I can’t help but think, “If only they actually talked. Worked through the sticking points, rather than involving all the friends and rellies.” Hmmmm. Interesting. Who would be the therapist/mediator for the innies and outies? Switzerland? Norway? Canada?

Husband has cast his (postal) vote. I don’t get to vote as a non-British citizen. But I do get to head up to the Icelandic Embassy this week and cast my vote for a new President… which is actually very exciting because the departing President has been in office for as long as I can remember, and it feels wonderful to think that the winds of change may blow in something positive. So I’m focusing on that, rather than the possibility of having to plan an exit strategy for my family. I’m not ready to leave London.

Two days to go….with The Clash song running through my head…

God Save the Queen

#unionjackClearly, DD isn’t quite up to speed on the British monarchy, based on our conversation today. 

DD: Hey, Ma, how’s my pension plan doing?

Me: It’s doing OK. Obviously, it’ll go up and down based on the markets, but you’ve got at least 50 years to grow it.

DD: And you’re doing your best, right? All the research?

Me: Yes, my love, but why are you so worried? Have you been watching the news?

DD: Yeah. I was watching earlier, and I mean, if the Queen of England has to work over 63 years and she can’t retire, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Me: …

Your Majesty, I promise I will do a better job of educating my child for as long as we liveth in the UK. And Happy Longest Reign!

In Memoriam

(Post written on 07 July 2015, published after much dithering on 08 July 2015)

Just when I think I’ve got a grip (finally!) on my anxiety, and I’m around nice, normal-ish people who talk about nice, normal-ish things, and the most stressful part of my day is logging onto our temperamental server, reality smacks me upside the head like a wet fish.

Today was the tenth anniversary of the London bombings. Ten years to the day danger and terror irrevocably brushed my life. It was a very surreal and anxiety-ratcheting experience passing two of the bombed stations on my commute this morning. There was a minute of silence at 08:50, and there were an equal number of people observing the silence as not. London’s population is constantly in flux, and there are people living here today who weren’t here ten years ago, who have no memories of how the streets of the capital fell silent, who have no memory of calling friends and family in a blind panic, trying to make sure loved ones were OK.

My first memory of the day was a ‘power surge’ in the tunnel, being stuck in the dark for ages, and then being evacuated off the train at the next station with no information forthcoming. It was hot and sticky and I had to schlep myself to work along with hundreds of other commuters, shoving on the pavement for some space. I remember walking into the office and a colleague asking me where my fiancé was. Schvitzing and grumpy, I didn’t know why she was so persistent, until she pointed me to the BBC news, and I realised his station was bombed. I couldn’t reach him, and called every other number in his office till I found someone who was fairly confident they had seen him that morning. We were four weeks off our wedding, and in a vanity dash, instead of taking the Tube, he walked to work that morning to shift some weight, and was thus safe. What are the odds?

I remember walking two hours to get home that afternoon, surrounded by thousands of other people doing the same. No one was talking. We had no mobile service, so no one touched their phones. There was an unreality about the whole day, almost as though we would wake up the next day and realise we had all shared a dystopian experience of epic proportions. That the pictures we had seen were just a drill. A Met Police exercise. Anything BUT what it was.

But the nightmare stretched into days and weeks for a few of us trying to track down loved ones and friends. I lost a friend & colleague that day, but we didn’t have it confirmed until days and a DNA test later. 

I didn’t want to get back on the Tube the next day, but I did. In the aftermath, I toyed around with postponing the wedding, but we didn’t. We told our friends there would be no hard feelings if they re-thought travel plans. They didn’t; everyone invited showed up four weeks later, to celebrate with us. Every little bit of normality felt like an act of defiance, a spitting in the eye of the four madmen and their groomers.

Ten years later, I’m still uncomfortable taking public transport. My natural anxious state means I am always hyper-vigilant and hyper-aware every time I board a train, especially if I have my daughter with me. I text my husband and the babysitter every time I leave work, so someone knows where I am and which route I’m taking. As one person said at the memorial service today, we’re not wondering if another attack will happen, but when, because that’s the world we live in. The autopsies of the Sousse slain are still being conducted two roads down from my house, the wreaths from their caskets on the pavement. That’s our reality.

However, none of this tarnishes my love for my adopted hometown. London has a gritty survival instinct under its polished veneer, and I am madly proud to be a Londoner again. London survived the Blitz, the IRA bombs, 7/7 and probably anything else most fanatic lunatics would throw at it. The words of William Ernest Henley capture this spirit best:

In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears, Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

Expat holidays

Expats are experts at the little traditions we have to weave into life abroad to remind us of home. In ours, we have the 13 Icelandic jólasveinar, who make an appearance every year from 12 December (not sure who gets more excited about the little gifts they leave, daughter or husband). And our family birthday rituals, which include cake and hot chocolate for breakfast; yes, Icelanders love sugar!

This year, I turned the tradition on its head. We had not one, but two, cakes, for the 9 year old! An Icelandic marengsterta filled with salted caramel & cream, and a peppermint fridge tart, from South Africa. My darling daughter dutifully had a few bites of each before sweetly reminding me that she does not have a sweet tooth, and could she just have a cup of tea with some plain biscuits? Next year, I’m going back to the regular cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Why mess with success?

Birthday Collage

Living on the Edge

So, I’ve had two songs running through my head today: Living on the Edge and The Edge of Glory – I really can’t help myself!

Other thoughts this morning:

  • The knife-edge of pain in my hips is gone, which means I can roll over, sleep on my stomach and start running again with two whole hip flexors! Psoas major, I’m glad we’re friends again ❤
  • Nine years ago today, I was on the knife-edge of motherhood, chugging through labour with pizza, an exercise ball and the Friends boxset
  • The terrifying anxiety about working with another bad set of people has faded, and I am excited about putting myself ‘out there’ again. I love being my own boss and I am good at what I do, and I need to get back on the horse.

Edge Collage

London in Motion

The 2 K's

rough-housing? photo-bombing? cousins at play

London is a city perpetually in motion. It’s a never-ending series of stories playing out simultaneously, but also a rich source of triggers for anyone recovering from anything! In an earlier post, I talked about how I couldn’t hear an ambulance without bursting into tears after my daughter was born. Well, yesterday, I discovered I may be over ambulances, but seeing a Children’s Acute Transport with its special blue lights will still set me off. Of all the places to have this epiphany, crossing a busy road at rush hour with my daughter was really NOT ideal! If Pavlov’s dog had a face, it would probably be mine. However, all’s well with the world today, and it got me thinking about the funny things that annoy Londoners in motion. These are usually Tube-based, central London anecdotes.

IMG_20140417_135412_edit

Here are my favourites:

Architecture & Monochrome

Completely off topic, did you know there are a billion quick tutorials on YouTube to help edit your WP dashboard to make it more personal & user-friendly? Amazing!

And now for another shot of Harpa Concert Hall, possibly my second-favourite building after anything Gaudi-designed.

Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland

I didn’t notice the reflection of the windows behind me on the glass in front of me. Eagle-eyed daughter to the rescue! I tweaked the contrast to hide the cables holding the birds.

I’m stretching the topic and calling the next shot Natural Architecture….mmmmmph!

Trees

My dancing trees, now in B&W

All this B&W photography is making me feel very arty-farty indeed! Heaven help us if I ever get a real camera.