The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Time Out in Trafalgar Square

As I wrote in my last post, London was hectic, and I am thankful for that because we got to see a lot. But there comes a time in every vacation when you just need to stop, step back and look, take a real good look, at what is around you; touch base with yourself, if you will, and with the city you are in. It was a Monday afternoon and after watching the Changing of the Guard and walking along The Mall to Trafalgar Square, my husband proposed a visit to the National Gallery. London 600

Although we would normally have joined him, the Mischief Maker and I had other ideas. While my art-loving husband hurried through the vast spaces of the National Gallery and admired paintings created by some of the greatest masters, the Mischief Maker and I hoisted ourselves up on the pedestal of Nelson’s column and ate our freshly-prepared sandwiches from Pret-a-Manger: egg salad and water-cress for him and smoked salmon and cream cheese for me. London 601

It was time for us to relax and watch the micro-world of Trafalgar Square go by. And what better place to do it than perched on the pedestal of one of England’s greatest heroes? Some 50 metres above us, the admiral continued to survey the pulsating rhythm of London and we too were able to ‘kick off our shoes’ and take it all in. London 602

There’s a little bit of everything here: kings, generals and admirals, frozen in time; unexpected works of art; amazing architecture; fountains; and people of all ages, colours and nationalities. London 603

Around the square, taxis and buses, cars and bicycles, whizzed by incessantly. Trafalgar Square is at the heart of this city. It is a place where Londoners gather to celebrate and to protest. They come here in droves to ring in the New Year and whenever an English team wins an important sporting event. And they come here to vociferously make their concerns heard.London 604

But, up there on the plinth, we had our moment of peace and a perfect spot for people watching. I could have spent more time on my perch, enjoying the sound of the water splashing into the fountain basins, the constantly changing scene and the babble of different languages. London_Phone 106

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I was in my own reverie, dreaming of London, or my version of London, but suddenly, the strains of Hallelujah brought me back to earth. I landed into reality with a very gentle bump and threw some coins into the busker’s guitar case. I was thankful that he had unknowingly turned my moment of peace into one of those moments that will forever remain etched in my memory.

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London 611[4]

Trafalgar Square – make of it what you will but I made it into my moment of peace and reflection. I’ve always had a hard time deciding which spot in London is my favourite but I think that, on this visit, I can safely say that this was mine.

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Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

London Love

I was eight the first time I visited London. It was my first experience of a big city and, I admit, I was scared. The Underground, the endless screeching of police and ambulance sirens, the punk rockers with their crazy hairstyles (it was the late 70s, after all), the hectic pace, the crowds – it was a bit too much. London 184

But there is something about  London that I have loved for as far back as I can remember and that is its history and its memorable, albeit sometimes roguish, characters. The story of London is the story of England. From its Roman  beginnings to the present day, this city  has withstood plague, fire, civil war and the Blitz and each time it has come back more defiant than ever. London 355

There is much to discover in London – so much that it leaves me breathless – because a week is not enough to explore all the places that I want to see, but a week is all I have. So there I am, with all the other tourists, “seeing the sights” and despising myself just a little bit, because I know there is more to London than that. London 361

But, at the same time, I am drawn to the sights, I have to see them all again, because the last time I was there was in 1997 and that was too long ago. So I revisited them, pointing them out eagerly to my Mischief Maker, hoping to plant in him a seed of love for this great city. But in spite of the lack of time, I was lucky enough to have enough of it to discover new places, new things.

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So between spending time at the British  Museum and Trafalgar Square; the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, we discovered Covent Garden and Notting Hill. We saw London from the Thames, we saw it from The Eye and we saw it from the top of double-decker buses. London 534

Despite the fact that I am not much of a city girl, this is one metropolis that never ceases to pique my curiosity. I have spent the last few weeks since returning home  trying desperately to understand its vibe. Because it has one,as all cities do, but it is not easy to define. London is traditional but occasionally outrageous; regal but ever so insouciant; irreverent, unabashed, diverse…London 390

Even its architecture is so varied that I am at a loss as to how to describe it best. Victorian with occasional medieval gems? Modern but interspersed with neo-classical beauties? It is constantly changing yet some things have remained the same. London 636

You can read about London in a hundred guide-books yet it is still able to shroud itself in mystery. Perhaps that is what makes it so attractive. Perhaps that is why it keeps luring me back.London 399

You may read about London’s history here or here.London 477

And if you’re in London and are at a loss what to do, here are some suggestions from the Telegraph: 100 of the best things to do in London.

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Until next time, ma belle …

Locations from top to bottom: the White Tower (Tower of London); Big Ben; Westminster Abbey; supporting columns of the old Blackfriar’s Bridge; the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace); the London Eye; Covent Garden market; the Shard and the Millennium Bridge; the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral; the London Aquarium; the Royal Albert Hall.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

London Is …

Leafy, green parks

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Famous landmarks

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Red, double-decker buses

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The Tube

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Pomp and pageantry

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Forgotten cemeteries

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Quaint pubs

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Famous department stores

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The Thames

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Quirky

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Artsy

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A little bit country

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A little bit rock ‘n roll

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A place I fell in love with then I was eight years old and that I don’t get to visit often enough.

A city you will be hearing more about in the coming weeks …

Photographed in various locations in London, July 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Simply Loving

It is summer and it is as hard to sit down and write as it is to sit still and read. So, from time to time, I will just share the things that make my heart beat just a little bit faster. And I will try to keep it short. Try is the key word here because I do tend to ramble sometimes.

This month’s favourites:-

~ My hydrangea. When I bought the plant in May of last year, I was not sure it would survive our harsh summer. But I watered it. Everyday. And I kept it in a shady corner of our garden. It lived. Then winter came and it was reduced to a few leafless branches. I was ready to throw it away. Then March rolled around and the days got warmer. It grew a few leaves, then more and more. It had survived and this month, it flowered once more. The blooms are gorgeous but that is not the only reason why I love them. One day, I’ll tell you more.

My flowers (3)

~ Instagram. What’s not to love? It’s the perfect way of keeping up with friends (both the real and the virtual ones) and family and it only takes an instant. Or maybe a little bit more. I’ve found out that it can get addictive. You can find me here if you’re interested.

~ Cool sea breezes – until they last.

~ Lazy weekend afternoons spent reading or browsing through my stack of Pottery Barn books and magazines. I admit, I am a a bit of a Pottery Barn addict.

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~ Longer daylight hours.

~ Streets lined with oleanders bushes in full bloom. While every other plant that is not watered regularly has long given up the fight, these hardened veterans flower in full drought and provide some welcome colour to our otherwise rather drab landscape.

July

~ A new blog I’ve discovered via Jeanne called Close Ups And Wide Angles. The photos are just divine.

~ The poems of Pablo Neruda. You may read some here.

~ Swimming in water that is still so cool that it literally takes your breath away.

~ The music of Melody Gardot – perfect for balmy summer evenings under the stars.

Wishing you all many happy summer memories. Until next time …

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stories In The Stones

The year is hurtling towards midsummer and I am being dragged along – reluctantly – like an obstinate mule, digging my heels into the earth and uselessly hoping that it will grind to a halt. Slow down, slow down, I whisper to no one in particular, this ride is way too fast. The coachman does not heed my fretful call. I am not in command. I feel giddy, unsafe, trapped in a vortex that is madly spiralling out of control. But through the chaos, a voice bids me to calm down. There is time, it says, time to breathe, time to learn, time to write about the permanence of this transient life. But surely, I thought, that is an oxymoron. Then I reflected; and finally, I understood - that we are all invited to leave an indelible mark. We can write our stories in sand and let the tide wash them away or we can carve them painfully, but permanently, in stone.

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And I looked around me and saw an island whose history is etched in the limestone blocks of our buildings. The stories of our fathers are intricately bound to the stone walls that surround us. Almost reverently, I reach out to touch their golden faces, gently caressing the marks left by the winds; left by time. I lean forward, let my forehead rest on their pock-marked surface and shut out the world.

Medieval Mdina (79)

Then I hear it, the hum as of a thousand muffled voices, telling me their stories, their triumphs, their tragedies. There were tales of love and despair; of hatred and death; war and disease; of pirate raids and a fervent Faith. It seemed that I had finally understood. This, then, was my calling, to give a voice to the voiceless and a history to the nameless. It was up to me to discover the patina of ages; to unravel the mystery of doors that led nowhere and to tell a tale that would have been lost in the mists of time – were it not for the stones.

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I smiled. The spinning had stopped. The coachman had finally come to a halt.

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Location: Mdina - April 2013

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Sun Always Shines Above The Clouds

Sometimes life takes you to places where you never expected to go. Last week, work took me to Sofia. I wish I could say that the experience enriched me, as travelling usually does. But all I got to see of Sofia was the view of the mountains from the office and a view of the office from my hotel window.

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Other than that my impression was limited to the short drive from and to the airport: a city ringed by mountains, with ugly, run-down apartment blocks badly in need of a coat of paint interspersed between Art-deco buildings that have seen better days. Graffiti is common, as are the roses that spill their blooms into the roundabouts and centre-strips in which they are planted. And trees – lots and lots and lots of trees.

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Never in all my life have I had so little to say about a city I visited. But perhaps it was  meant to be that way. Travelling solo can be lonely but I never fail to pack a trusted companion. For this trip it was Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. Perhaps it was fitting that on a trip loaded with work I chose a book about chasing your personal dream. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that  on both of my flights back home the plane had to break through dark storm clouds into the sun. Perhaps, as the book suggests, omens are all around us – we just have to know how to read them. Perhaps life teaches us lessons even when we are several thousand feet above the ground.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Location: Sofia, Bulgaria – May 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Soul-searching – An Insight Into Why I Write

Soul searching, I thought when I received Heather’s invitation to participate in this blog-hop, this is going to take a whole lotta soul-searching. I was thrilled to be asked and I’ve spent the better part of the free time I had last week wondering what to say. Because this invitation was for writers – and I have never really thought of myself as a writer. I am not a writer by profession but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing is not something someone can teach you (well, they can but you know what I mean). Like painting, it is an inherent expression of the soul. So here, in as concise a manner as possible, is my writing story.

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When my son was little, I would sit by his cot until  he fell asleep. Sometimes this would take a while, so in the feeble light of his little lamp, I would listen to all the thoughts going through my head and I finally found the courage to write them down. A little while after that I joined an online community of aspiring writers. It was called The Secret Attic. Not long after I signed up, they had a writing competition going on: ten stories would get published in the Christmas edition of their  magazine. Maybe it was just beginners luck but my story ended up being one of the ten that were chosen. I suppose it gave me the little push that I needed to carry on. I was quite active in The Secret Attic. Each week we could participate in challenges and then we would comment about each other’s work. Round about this time, I started this blog and continued to participate in writing competitions. My first success was never repeated and, as time passed, I found that I had no time to write stories for competitions. That, coupled with the fact that literally overnight The Secret Attic website was taken down without explanation, made me decide to concentrate solely on Stories and Scribbles and on my other blog Snapshots of an Island (which I set up solely with the aim of writing about this island’s history. Lately, this has become too factual for me and,  sadly, I have neglected this blog for quite some time). That is where I am today. Now on to the standard questions that I an required to answer.

What am I working on?

I would love to say that I am working on a book or writing an article for some famous magazine. But I am not doing anything that grand. Although I have have come a long way since I first started writing, there is still a lot to learn. So I am currently concerned with finding my voice and developing my style. I have taken up journaling again which is proving to be a very creative outlet. On a different note, I am also venturing into the field of manual photography because my photos have become an integral part of my writing process. At the back of my mind I am toying with the idea of taking an online creative writing course. But whether that happens or not depends on a lot of things.

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How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?

I believe that every writer has a unique story to tell based on their life experiences, the people they have met, the places they have lived in or travelled to, their likes and dislikes. Two writers may have a similar outlook, indeed they may have lived the exact same experience simultaneously, yet if they both had to write about it, their style and perspective would be totally different. If nothing else, this is what my short experience with the aspiring writers at The Secret Attic taught me. My writing is passionate when it comes from deep within, from those secret places that, even I, am still on the brink of discovering. Even if I admire another writer’s style, I make sure to stay true to self, using photos that I have taken to guide and inspire me and using my own words. There are times when I have used a famous poem to help me along, to illustrate my point better. But I try to keep those instances few and far between.

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Why do I write what I do?

This is where a lot of my soul-searching took place. The simplest answer I could come up with is this: because there are places and people with a story to tell and not everyone is able or willing to take the time to tell it. In the very public world that is the internet it is easy to lose sight of who you are in the pursuit of becoming ‘popular’. I find that the bloggers writers whose work I enjoy the most are those who are true to their inner selves; who write out of the pure joy of writing without worrying whether their style will add ten or a hundred followers to their blog.

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How does my writing process work?

Well, sometimes my writing flows and sometimes I end up biting the  tip of my pencil or pulling at the ends of my hair in an effort to come up with something coherent. I’ve found that what works best for me is to write a draft, sleep over it, then go back to re-read and edit it. After that I hit the Publish button before I over-think things too much. I often use my photos as a starting point for my inspiration. Other times I read something which triggers a memory that I have to share or else I might come across a quote that will take me on a quite unexpected journey.

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So there you have it – an insight into why I feel compelled to write; and now I will introduce you to the two women who will be sharing their own writing story next week. Saying that these two women are very different is, definitely, a cliché – but they have one thing in common and that is the bare-faced honesty with which they speak about themselves. Josefa is following her childhood dream of becoming a writer and I think she is making serious progress towards achieving her goal. Kayni, who is currently recovering from a very serious health condition, is an avid traveller and I have visited many countries vicariously through her writing.

Josefa Pete_Kidspot

Josefa is a working mum juggling one husband, two boys, two bunnies and a ream of to-do lists. She battles through life with false eyelashes and a non-stop supply of coffee. Her big-extended family and boisterous boys give her many reasons to find sanity through her words. Working in science for the past fifteen years, she now spends most of her time writing.

Josefa believes that a community’s voice is a powerful one. Her blog, always Josefa, is a place where the power of storytelling is what matters the most. It is a place where she writes passionately about all facets of life, society, spirituality and the diversity of community. Life is about listening to that voice inside, the one that beckons and begs you to follow your dreams at all costs. How can I teach my boys to follow their dreams, if I am not following mine?

One day, Josefa aspires to be jumping on Oprah’s couch to celebrate the launch of her latest novel. Perhaps a chick-lit, or even a modern take on parenting survival guide, either way you can be certain that where there is coffee you will find her and her words.

http://www.alwaysjosefa.com/

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Karen Dacoco, known by her friends as Kayni, is a Filipina-American who’s passionate about travel and chocolates.  She was born in the Philippines, spent her late teen years in Hawaii, worked in Alaska in her early twenties, and studied history in the District of Columbia and Rome (Italy). She resides in Maryland with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Dizzy. They’re thinking of adopting a dog this year. In the spring of 2008, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Aplastic Anemia. After a failed clinical trial and numerous blood transfusions, she went through a bone-marrow transplant on January 11, 2014. After two months in the hospital, she’s now recovering at home and dealing with a mild skin graft-vs-host disease. While recovering at home, she spends her time running her online shop, Kayni’s Kreations, and learning how to bake cookies and pastries. In her blogs, she shares her travel and life experiences through stories and photography.

kayni’s corner café – http://www.kayniscornercafe.blogspot.com

kayni’s bone marrow - http://kaynisbonemarrow.blogspot.com

kayni’s kreations - http://www.etsy.com/shop/kayniskreations

And finally I would like to introduce the sweet lady who passed this on to me. Heather, who writes at Lost In Arles, is a professional writer who has had articles published in various magazines. Receiving this nomination from her makes it doubly sweet. I will refrain from saying much more as you can read about Heather below.

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Heather Robinson is a travel writer, blogger and amateur photographer currently living in Arles with her companion and their two Golden Retrievers. She never dreamed of living in Provence, it just happened that way. Initially, she received an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama and was prepared to spend her life swooning dramatically for Mr. Shakespeare in the rough jungle of the Big Apple. But, then she met Remi, a handsome professional photographer and moved to Paris instead. Together, they formed a journalist-photographer team and started traveling far and wide for such French magazines as Grands Reportages, Figaro Magazine and Le Monde des Religions. Her travel articles have since been published in magazines in Europe, Africa and Asia. Drawn by a fascination for les vielles pierres (the old stones), the couple made the move south in 2005 and since October 2010, Heather has focused her efforts on writing and  photographing the blog Lost in Arles, where she has gathered a truly fantastic community of loyal readers and friends. And while she may have been somewhat of an accidental inhabitant of la belle Provence, the region has been a welcoming host and has quietly claimed Heather's nomadic heart.

http://lostinarles.blogspot.com/

Thanks again  Heather!

With that I will conclude this very long post. I hope that next week you will find the time to read about the two amazing women that I have nominated. I wish you all, wherever you may be, a most wonderful week.

Location: Ghar Lapsi, April 2014

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