Thursday, 21 November 2013

Just a head's up... case you aren't being redirected, Beside the Danube can now be found at

See you there!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Holidays: Bonfire Night


I love most all holidays - Christmas and Easter, Pancake Day, Nikolaustag, and all bank holidays regardless of where in the calendar they fall.

But, Bonfire Night, most of all. I have always counted this hallmark of the British calendar amongst my favourites - falling at my most beloved time of year, imbued with all sorts of hallowed notions of warm jumpers and crunchy leaves, red cheeks and faces lit by the embers of a well-stoked bonfire. The excuse for an outdoor celebration (the best) in the depths of damp November.

We celebrated on the weekend with a trip to the top of a nearby hill, a glut of sparklers and warm grilled cheese sandwiches waiting in the kitchen for when we hopped inside, noses pink and fingers chilled. The wonder of holding a fizzing, glittering sparkler in your gloved hand never seems to fade. I hope you enjoy Bonfire Night today, even if you're simply admiring the flashes from the warmth of a window seat. Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Around the web
  A perfect bonfire night celebration from The Guardian.
  Naomi's recipe for a bonfire night treat.

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Leftover leaves after the St. Jude Storm on Monday.
It is shortly after sunrise on this Saturday morning and I'm lying curled up in bed, my feet pressed between a tabby cat on one side, her black sister resting by my head. My sister sleeps quietly in the next room. University has worn her out, but we are all so delighted she is home. Outside, the sky burns a mottled grey like the final ashes of a long-extinguished fire. 

This week was long, but I sort of loved it anyway. Sitting on the tube, I perched on my seat and waited for my favourite part of the view - craning my neck as the carriages swung across the blue bridge in Finchley to see the faded cut-out of the city's buildings. Shard, and Gherkin, BT Tower, Canary Wharf, assorted spires. All present. One day, though, lack of seats decreed I would stand on the opposite side, my back to the skyline - and I discovered a new favourite view, the modest counterpart to the glossy high-rises behind me.

This new view: a house that looks over the very view I had admired. An unassuming house, crouched at the end of a row of terraces, overlooking a tangle of tube lines - the trains performing an inelegant two-step of to-ing and fro-ing as they vanish underground. The side of the house seen from the railway is mostly plain brick, but a few tendrils of ivy cling to the highest gable. Somebody has daubed three streaks of white paint to the bottom-most bricks, and that the present occupant has not cared to scrub them away adds to its forgotten, romantic air. 

The garden, too, is visible to anyone - like me - happening to be standing on a Metropolitan train southbound - so long as you're looking the right way. It is late autumn but the leaves are still a secretive green and the back yard is a veritable mess of vines and creepers and towering trees... I imagine looking out the window must feel to the beholder like being sequestered in a tree house. And in summer...I imagine there are wildflowers, and daisies, dandelions and perhaps clematis. I hope I'm still riding this same train, come summer. 

So, my new favourite view - modest in the truest sense, not in the modern sense of letting your home fall the slightest way into disrepair so it might look romantic - made me smile. I read magazines on the tube, piles of them, and spent my days - as usual - surrounded by words and pictures and walking through Regent's Park with my sister's voice in my ear at lunch. I tried to make the most of the evenings too, though the sky is already an inky black by the time my tired feet step out of the office - home-cooked fish pie with my aunt and uncle in their house atop the hill, a late night run on the coldest evening and a Mexican dinner date with my handsome beau (who looks even more dashing in his suit for work!) 

I also thought a lot about this space while sitting waiting for my view on the Tube. What it means to me, if I'll continue, what I'd like this space to be. Blogging is such a ubiquitous hobby now, quite fashionable, and my inner revolutionary is loath to follow the crowd: yet then I am reminded that I began writing here long, long ago - before maintaining an online journal was in vogue, or profitable. I began writing to celebrate one of the most cherished times of my life in that little studio beside that mighty river, that time of growth and light and learning to be myself. So I hope to continue, for perhaps now more than ever - now that I find myself sitting at a desk many hours each week - a place for inspiration and the sharing of thoughts is more important than it ever has been. 

So, wishing you a lovely weekend wherever you may be. My plans include hugging my sister every moment I get, a Guy Fawkes night firework-disco (!!!) at a Scout hut, a relaxing swim and writing letters to faraway friends. Bis bald.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Small Gratitudes.

2013-10-26 18.12.54-2

Life lately has felt more of an uphill climb than I am used to. I think it's the nature of the thing - of growing up, finding your way, carving a space for oneself in this strange and tumultuous home of ours. But there is so much comfort in a familiar smile and those small pockets of grace - the kindness of people you hardly know, the simple mercy of finding a seat on the train. The joy there is in giving it up to somebody with tired eyes and a heavy load to carry. I'm aware this blog is turning into a place of thanksgivings and that alone. But for now I don't think that's such a bad thing. 

So this week's gratitudes so far: cats and buses that run on time. Reunion with an old friend in our hometown, we've known each other since I was 8. Emails from Ashley. Silly texts. Quiet dinners with mama. Snuggling down into a warm bed. A job that I love, the days go by quickly. Friendly faces. Knitting a new stripy scarf. Nourishing salads homemade for lunch - there's something so nice about taking a little slice of home to the office. Sunny mornings. And most of all, my mother - who is the most exquisite, kind and funny human being I know and the best mama I could ever imagine. 

What are you grateful for? 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Thanks, given.


I could use a little extra thanksgiving today. Those days where the blue bites a little harder and the wind seems to snap at your ankles with intent? Today was one of those days. Yet it was also a glorious day. After hours of a grey, enveloping rain, the sun began to shine through the red leaves in the park. I was allowed to leave work an hour early which - though I like my job, another thanksgiving - felt like playing truant in the best grown-up way. Galvanised by the sunshine I decided to walk the two miles to the tube instead of getting the bus - and walking through Regent's Park aglow with autumn majesty and a dear girlfriend's laugh in my ear, life felt easy, and good. The wide avenues and bustling crowds attending an autumn art fair in large white tents on the grass evoked a longing for Vienna, Schönbrunn in particular. So I kicked my boots through the leaves, admired the grand mansions overhead and dreamt I was in Austria. Sometimes a little escapism is all a girl needs. What has made you thankful today? 

*further thanksgivings include a delicious vegetarian roast with my kind grandparents, my American BFFs (you know who you are!), giggly phone calls with my all grown up little sis, two cats and my handsome, kind, endlessly patient William who makes me so happy everyday. Quotidian pleasures. Aren't they the best kind? 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Autumn Enthusiasts

Let me introduce you to the prettiest park in town - with its century-old walled garden and towering, elegant trees. And also to the cheesy smiles of autumn enthusiasts (guess who?) in autumn-enthusiast heaven -- surrounded by waxy conkers, magenta leaves and easy breezy autumn light. A Sunday afternoon walk worth remembering.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Falling in love with London.

I am no natural lover of London, no devotee or steadfast supporter of a city so smothering, surrounded, sprawling, self-centred. In fact for a long while I disliked the place - could not stand the crowds and the heat, the latent inequality and the inescapable tourists pushing and shoving on the Southbank. And yet I know I am lucky to have grown up on the seam of one of Europe's most effervescent capitals. Recently I have been quite unconsciously taking note of the small beauties of this city which make me smile: the old man, forehead creased and oiled like chip paper, singing lullabies to himself at the bus stop. The imprint of charcoal fire escape against paper white sky. The peeling doors and brightly coloured window boxes, single speeds locked to trees and the scent of dying summer in the air. And it surely doesn't hurt that my journey from the tube to work looks as idyllic and old world as this.

To paraphrase a quotation originally written about New York: 'To be in London on a beautiful day is to feel razor close to being in love.'  (Haldrin)  I think this might be the beginning of a long affair...

Sunday, 22 September 2013


So much to tell you, dear friends. How much I love my tube + bus ride to work, how the gentle lullaby of the rocking carriages calms and soothes me. That morning pocket of time which affords me the luxury of getting just-lost-enough in a book. The low-lying autumn warmth, the yellow leaves decorating the ground, the pleasure in a scarf wrapped around the neck. How my new office is two streets (two streets!) away from Regent's Park. This weekend - which was how all weekends should be: Earl Grey in the morning light, snuggling on the sofa with my love love love, autumnal walks holding hands, homemade chocolate birthday cake with SPARKLERS, laughter, and a plate of spanakopita (favourite food ever?) shared with the truest of true-blue friends. Also, my mother painted the bathroom a deep, essential, not-quite-blue, not-quite-green sea hue on a whim and I love it. We're missing my sister but, besides, life is good.

I hope you are wonderful! 

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