This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Detour in the Other Place


“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all—the colleges I mean—like an opera.”

(William Butler Yeats)

One freezing January week I made a detour to The Other Place, as those who went to Cambridge call Oxford (and vice versa). Fortunately I was able to break the news over Facebook, otherwise some of my Cantabrigian classmates would have probably made multiple attempts at lynching me.oxford-3But during that week there was no time to dream and remember. There were studies, 8 hours a day, with smart people from all around the world. There were too many age-old pubs. There was afternoon tea with champagne. There were colleges to discover.oxford-2And there was even a futile attempt at fencing. Apparently, women wear a madonna bustier – hence the busty look. Another mystery solved. It also turns out well-mannered fencing men have serious trouble fighting a woman – not because of chivalry but because they must shamelessly attack the bustier.

(No photographic evidence but trust me, I did wear the sour-smelling sweaty old gear including mask).oxford-1(Oxford, United Kingdom; January 2017)

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Liberty of London

libertyHere again. Of course. The only department store I know of with creaky wooden stairs and ancient elevators instead of modern escalators. Such a lovely place, filled with beautiful things one absolutely does not need, and that one rarely finds elsewhere. Thankfully it is usually sufficient to simply breathe in the atmosphere of days gone by.

(Liberty of London, London, United Kingdom; November 2016)

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Selfridges’ Santa

liberty-2Want to know a secret? Last night as you were sleeping, Santa was having fun in the ski slope with a crazy parasail-skier, rocking some beats. And all the babies of his reindeer followed him, rocking the same beats through their super stylish headphones.

Of course.

(Selfridges’ shop window on Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom; November 2016)

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lcyLondon City airport at rush hour. There is no fast track and no lounge, because everybody here is a frequent flyer entitled to a fast track and lounge access. To get food it is elbow technique that counts. Even if you are a City slicker banker. Or just a random business traveler, like me.

(LCY, London, United Kingdom; October 2016)

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Sleepover at the Queen’s

windsorQuestion of the day: how does one get an invite to the Queen’s PJ party, also called Dine and Sleep? I hear she throws an occasional bash according to a strict schedule: the guests always arrange and depart by the same trains. And after-dinner discussions are short, but they are with the Queen of England after all. In gone times one could be invited to stay for days, but as our daily pace has quickened, so has the pace at Windsor castle.

But oh, how lovely would it not be to spend one night walking the magnificent halls and gardens? And then perhaps hide in a greenhouse until the train has left, and keep walking…

(Above Windsor castle, United Kingdom; July 2016)

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In Grantchester

grantchesterI only know that you may lie
Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .

(From Rupert Brooke’s “The Old Vicarage”)

The old church clock may no longer stand ten to three; Jeffrey and Mary Archer live in Rupert Brooke’s old vicarage; and swimming is no longer allowed in the all-around-fenced Byron’s pool. But there is always honey for tea in the Grantchester Orchard tea garden. Just like it was at the turn of the 20th century when a group of Cambridge students bothered the lady owning the orchard for tea so many times she opened a café (teaé perhaps, for here it’s all about the tea and scones) under the shade of her trees.

“And Cambridgeshire, of all England, the shire for Men who Understand”, wrote Rupert Brooke and longed for home while feeling stuck in Berlin. Under the shade of the fruit trees one could imagine the world a better place “and feel the Classics are not dead”, especially if one was in the company of Virginia Woolf, Rupert Brooke, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, and EM Forster.

And it was Brooke who created the legend of Lord Byron’s pool: “till in the dawnlit waters cool his ghostly Lordship swims his pool, and tries the strokes, essays the tricks, long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.”

The best thing about Grantchester is that it is never sadness to leave, because the walk along the “yet unacademic stream” back to Cambridge is pure loveliness. And each time I am left wondering, why ever did I leave Cambridgeshire?Cambridge

(Cambridge, United Kingdom; July 2016)

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Hipster Kings X

kingsxKing’s Cross-St Pancras was only a train station to me. A place that took me to Cambridge, a place of transition. Nobody told me that behind the huge buildings was a whole hipster world, with an art school, happenings, interesting buildings, and a Dishoom. Dish-yum.

Sipping our old-style cocktails with a twist in the bar I could not help but admire the marketeer who had come up with the idea of imitating an old, colonial-Indian-Persian blended Bombay Café. Perhaps time has passed long enough so that the strong English colonial vibe is not considered offensive. It is only when there is enough space between us and a milieu, preferably a whole generation, that something oppressive or negative becomes swanky and cool.

Some like Dishoom. Other frown and prefer their local curry house. I don’t care much for curry and I absolutely loved Dish-yum, right down to the salty lassi. Even after the 40-minute wait outside and another 20 minutes in the bar.

Kings Cross, I will actually spend some time outside of your train terminal some time soon. If not for else than taking in your cool vibe and more of this food.dishoom-1(London, United Kingdom; June 2016)

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In the marketplace

coventgarden-1Once it was a field. Then, the suburb of gentry. Later, a fruit and vegetable market; and during its darkest times, the playground for ladies of the night and lost poets. Today, Covent Garden is a market again – and one of the most timelessly hip ones (if that is not an oxymoron).

Even the musicians are back – sounding as classy as the other Covent Garden just next door (also called the Royal Opera House. Never ask the English about how they name places).coventgarden-2(Covent Garden Market, London, United Kingdom; April 2016)