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November Moments

15 Nov

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November and I, we don’t get along. Growing up in Denmark, November meant the most grey, the most gloomy and melancholic month of the year. Long-browned leaves fallen of the trees, leaving the branches naked and stark, no school holidays, nothing to look forward to except Christmas and an even colder January. Just endless, boring days of thick, grey clouds hanging over the world that would make me feel melancholic and restless. The days that held any kind of sunshine could be counted on just one, maybe two fingers.

It’s not quite as gloomy here in England. It’s generally warmer (although as I write this, it’s unseasonably cold) and there is a lot more sunny days, even if this light is weaker, more delicate. The leaves are at their most colourful of the entire year and are still hanging on the trees, just yet. An explosion of colour before it all goes, a farewell party to an old friend.

This November already feels different. I feel calm but not sad. This summer working at the castle felt long and busy, so I am okay with the fact that it’s ending and that a more quiet time has arrived. Now that my first season at the castle is over, I have time to catch up on all those things I didn’t have much time for in the rush of summer;

  • Picking a new book from my stack of unread ones to prepare for new ones that might arrive with Christmas and feeling happy about having my own little library
  • Slow mornings making myself hot porridge with cinnamon sugar, eating it under a still-warm duvet on the sofa, as the trees are being shaken outside my window
  • Having time with Daniel again, taking the time to cook each other’s favourite food, watching films in the evenings and going exploring with our cameras, seeing new places together for the very first time
  • Having my parents visit and being able to take time just being together without having other commitments, discovering new places in London together like Dennis Sever’s House on Folgate Street, between drinking pots of tea and eating cake in our favourite cafes in Bloomsbury
  • Mornings spent writing in bed or by my desk, listening to the scratch of the pen on the paper and seeing it filled with words that were not there before I started; enjoying finally having real time to write and to edit all the little pieces I wrote over the summer.

I know the light is dissapearing and that from now on photography will be tricky until Spring arrives but still. I can hear the kettle boiling in the kitchen and in a moment I will get up and make myself a cup of hot chocolate, the good one my parents bring me from home. So November and I might actually get along this year.

 

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Seeking Out Adventure, Amongst Other Things

18 Jul

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I have felt a little lost lately. I have been getting up in the morning, heading off on my commute, going to work, coming back home, eaten late dinners and gone to bed early, and I’ve been doing it all as if I wasn’t really here. I haven’t had a lot of time or energy to write, to go exploring or to photograph. It has just felt like an endless amount of days on repeat. Trying to get through one day only to have it replaced by another that looked exactly the same.

Most of my weekends are in the middle of the week and I used to spend them dancing around to music while tidying, writing blog posts and getting some writing done and they would make all the other days feel more exciting, too but for the last two months I just haven’t had the energy to do anything fun. So two weeks ago, after having spent another day off not having done much to make myself feel happy, I thought: “You know what? Why not go to London tomorrow on an adventure, spontaneously and discover something new?”

So that’s what I did.

When I woke up Wednesday morning and looked out through my bedroom window towards the sky above the tree tops, I knew it was the perfect day for photography; partly overcast, partly sunny, giving me an option between even light and summery shadows.

I could feel my excitement building as I walked down to the station with three (yes, 3!) different cameras in my bag and got on a train to St Pancras, an excitement I hadn’t felt for a long time. A long time ago I had stumbled upon a description of a ruined church lying in the middle of the city that I thought might make a good photo location, so I decided to go there without knowing anything about it.

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As I got off at Monument Station, I felt a bit out of place with all the tourists looking up at the Monument and the suit-wearing office workers standing outside their tall, shiny glass tombs, smoking a cigarette by emergency exit doors or walking hurridly back to offices with takeaway salads but I knew from earlier experiences exploring this area that hidden treasures can be found here. Treasures like St-Dunstan-in-the-East.

I never knew the church existed when I lived here and although it’s hidden away deep within the City of London, it’s not exactly a big secret. During the Blitz in 1941 the church was nearly destroyed by bombs and instead of rebuilding the church it was turned into a public garden. When I found it on that Wednesday afternoon it was lunch time and most of the benches in the garden were occupied by City workers having their lunch and doing paperwork.

It must have been beautiful once, really beautiful but as I walked into the garden and through the open doorways of the free-standing walls, looking through empty windowpanes free of glass and walls covered in Ivy, I thought that maybe it’s more beautiful like this, with carefully tended trees and colourful flower beds inside what would once have been the nave. It doesn’t feel like an empty shell because there are plants, flowers and tall trees everywhere, fighting to climb through windows and take over the otherwise bare walls.

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On the other side of the walls outside of the open iron gates, tall office buildings in blue glass, rough concrete and red brick loom over the small, tranquil garden, belonging to a different world of modern technology, speed and efficiency. You see these buildings rising up over the broken church walls and spot glimpses of them through the empty window panes. I spotted the Shard in the background as I tried to take a photo of flowers climbing up one of these half-walls and it amazed me that these two places exist alongside each other, separated only by a few busy streets and the water of the Thames.

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Like so many of the other green places I have sought out and discovered in London over the years, this one, too feels like a little, precious secret and by photographing it that day, I made it mine. The same way it belongs to the office workers who eat their lunch here and the friendly gardener who I met and talked to for a very long time. It made me long to live in the city again because that is where I truly belong and I know it.

That day I discovered a new place, I had three different and very interesting conversations with nice strangers and I walked around happy, content and free, not caring that people looked at me funny as I took out my little B&W disposable camera and my odd-looking Polaroid.

Today, as I looked through and finished editing all the photographs on my film roll from that day, I am so happy that I decided to go. Because this is me. Someone who goes out to experience things and meet new people on her own, even when she feels more like staying at home; someone who ends up having three memorable conversations and who goes home with cameras full of new photographs, one of them even magical. I have been carrying that day around with me inside, thinking about the conversations I had, the people I met and the photos I managed to take and I can’t stop smiling. It made me feel excited about something again and that was exactly what I needed.

 

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Crossing off Cambridge

24 May

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It’s strange. There are certain places that we daydream about seeing and then when we finally get to visit them… They aren’t quite what we expected.

For a long time, probably since I moved to England, I have wanted to see Cambridge. It has been sat there on my extensive list of places to visit in the UK and back in Easter I finally managed to cross it off the list. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find there but it wasn’t what I did find.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I used to watch a lot of Lewis back in Denmark when I dreamed of living here in England and I suppose somehow I expected Cambridge to look like that, even though I knew that was Oxford. I expected the city to look old, like scenes I’ve read in The Moving Toyshop, to see bicycling students on quiet streets, grand college buildings, green lawns, the famous Bridge of Sighs and boats gliding lazily down the River Cam. I expected to be able to snap a lot of lovely photographs of these things.

But instead what I saw was a bland, modern city, looking pretty much like any other city; There was the usual market square, selling a mixture of fresh flowers, cheap jewellery and freshly baked artisan bread. There was the sleek looking archade full of families and tourists, and the same kind of High Street with the same well-known brands you can find in any larger town in England.

The more I explored, the more I asked myself:

Where was the character?

Sure there were a few cute looking houses and some interesting architecture but not as much as I had expected. And if I am being honest to myself (and the rest of the world), I had a nice day with Daniel there but I was dissapointed.

I don’t know where I went wrong. For once I didn’t google Cambridge as I usually do before I go to a new place, as I wanted to experience it without any prior knowledge, prejudice or planning. Perhaps that was my mistake. Maybe I walked through the wrong parts of town, down all the wrong streets. Maybe if I had actually written down where to find the Bridge of Sighs or maybe if I had gone in a different time of year, where there would have been boats and green lawns down by the river, my experience of the city would have been very different. Or maybe it would have been exactly the same.

I will never know but what I do know is that, as we drove home I wasn’t that eager to go back to see it again and as Daniel pointed out: “It’s not as nice as Canterbury”. I’m afraid I can only agree with that, even if I did manage to get a few photos from that day that I was happy with.

 

 

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