Bright Spots | The Bavarian Edition


Signs of the season on a solo walk to the river.


I ended up here, looking out onto the houses sat on the island I once called home.


Geraniums beside the Danube.


Christl is the most wonderful, understated pianist.


And she makes pretty fabulous Kuchen too. (This one was of the lemon and hazelnut variety.)


Climbed up the hill with my borrowed bike to see my favourite view. There was a beautiful wedding just ending at the church on the peak. A yellow van decorated with gypsophila, a delicate lace gown, smiles on every face. It made my heart swell.


Wandering the streets of Munich.


Ending up beside the river Isar.


Autumnal posies at the Wochenmarkt. I wanted to scoop up armfuls for their scent alone.

Been There | Plymouth


Last week we spent two nights and three days in Plymouth for the occasion of my sister’s graduation from university (more on that soon). I’ve visited her several times over the years and have grown steadily fond of Plymouth, coming to see it as a lovely, understated and fundamentally misunderstood place. While the majority of its built environment could hardly be described as beautiful – the city was bombed to ruin by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War – the surroundings and scenery are utterly arresting, teetering on hills that rise up above the vast blue expanse of Plymouth Sound, bound to the east and west by the Plym and Tamar rivers. From almost any elevated spot in the city, the waters can be seen glimmering in the distance, beckoning. London always seems a very long way away.


The seven of us – parents, grandparents, sister, her boyfriend and me – scattered across two converted apartments in Royal William Yard, a former navy victualling yard. Built between 1826 and 1835, the yard supplied food and drink to hungry sailors for over a century before its closure in 1992. After falling under private ownership, it was reopened in the early years of the new millennium as a place to stay, eat, drink and wander. Built from Devon limestone and Dartmoor granite, it’s an impressive, commandeering, handsome construction.  My grandfather couldn’t stop marvelling, ‘Just look at these walls! Look at this thick stone! What a marvel.’

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It’s peculiar and quite wonderful to think of how different it would have been at the height of its use – the bustling business of industrial manufacturing chiming in the yards around the harbour, sailors disembarking day and night, flour mills churning in Mills Bakery, hundreds of bulls a day slaughtered in the on-site abattoir. What a tremendous sight it must have been in the yard’s early days when the navy’s timber, rigged gunships docked at Royal William Yard to stock up for their next outbound voyage. The yard once supplied the navy with everything from oatmeal and salt beef to rum and gunpowder.


We marked each evening of our stay with a walk along the South West Coast Path in the golden hour, watching in gentle awe as the sea grew bluer with every turn. Rounding the southwestern corner of the yard, several flights of glass stairs lead to this view across the rooftops of the old naval yard. And this view out to sea…

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Rounding the corner to face Plymouth Sound, we were met with this spectacular vista. (My parents, pictured, couldn’t stop snapping either.) We made sure to breathe in the saline breeze deeply, to taste the wild blackberries on the escarpment, to drink in that deep, essential blue.

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The golden light, the salty air and the brisk sea breeze were enough to make us tug our scarves a little tighter around our shoulders. I felt more at peace than I almost ever do in London. You get the real sense, there, of being perched on the edge of the land, of the country, of this little patch of earth that comprises England. It’s liberating.

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This was the sight from the apartment window when we returned home from our stroll. Home to cups of fruit tea, to lounging on the sofa, to long sleeps with the wind lashing the waves outside.

Singapore | The Southern Ridges

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It is with good, indeed excellent, reason that Singaporeans call their home the ‘city within a garden’. Despite its public image as a manicured, sterile skyscraperdom, the city-state is also the greenest city in Asia thanks to its first Prime Minister, the fabled Lee Kuan Yew, and his vision of transforming the then-developing country into a Garden City.

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And it’s not just Singapore’s architecture that has embraced height. I took these 35mm film shots while we walked the Southern Ridges, a 5-mile treetop trail that criss-crosses through the parks at the southern tip of the island. The 2.5-mile section that connects Kent Ridge Park to Mt Faber offers elevated walkways through the tree canopy, skyline views and the chance to walk across Henderson Waves, a spectacular and vertigo-inducing pedestrian bridge (the highest in Singapore!) suspended 36m above the ground below.


The route marked by knotted jacarandas, lush succulents and all manner of flora and fauna  seemed as wild, sprawling and exotic as the jungle.


My parents rent an apartment in this unworldly fin-shaped building complex (above), aptly named Reflections. Built by award-winning architect Daniel Liebeskind, and completed in 2011, it was amazing to see their home from this vantage point, suspended high above the treetops on the undulating Henderson Waves bridge.


I highly recommend walking the Southern Ridges should you find yourself in Singapore. You might see monkeys, luminous green snakes dangling from trees, all manner of exotic birds and barely another person! It felt exceptionally removed from the lively, ever-bustling mosaic of the Central Business District and Orchard Road; almost an impossibility to contain these two Singapores in one thought. Head out early to avoid the most scorching of the equatorial heat, carry plenty of water (there are no shops en route) and take your camera! Walk through the jungle without ever really leaving the city.

Bright Spots | Week Thirty-Eight

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Celebrating the marriage of old friends (fourteen years and counting!!!) with botanical cocktails, aubergine parmigiana and plenty of laughter. Leaves underfoot. An hour talking on a bench in the village graveyard, speaking of the future (which seemed, at the time, appropriate…) Lemon queens (a helianthus variant) sprouting around the neighbourhood, swaying in the evening wind. Four days with my family by the sea. The view across the water from Royal William Yard. Walks on the hills crouched above Plymouth Sound. Giggles aplenty with my mama and Elle. Watching my little sister graduate, teary-eyed with pride.


My sweet, sweet dad, who drove his feverish, cold-ridden daughter all the way back to her flat in Zone 2 to save her from the tube. The same dad who pulled over and turned around, without a single complaint, when it transpired said daughter had left her purse on the kitchen table in an uncharacteristic fit of febrile abstraction. (Seriously, thanks dad.) My tall and lovely musician, the best (tea-brewing, dhal-making, head-stroking) nurse a poorly girl could wish for.


How contented I feel, happy now, looking forward to the future. The simple joy of cool mornings and evening walks. A full, full heart.

Poem For The Weekend #58


I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them. In fact,
I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.

One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

 Nadine Stair (age 85)