A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: GregW

Pimm's and Strawberries at the All England Club

Seats in Court One

sunny 20 °C

I talked recently about how I was starting to feel more British, saying that "now I feel that getting a British passport is not just a gateway to further adventure somewhere else, but instead I see it as cementing my position here in the UK. It is about giving me the paperwork to match with my feelings - that London is now my home."

If there is anything that demonstrates this, it is the fact that a few weeks ago as the weather turned nice, with the sun coming out and the weather increasing, I thought to myself, "I could really go to a Pimm's."

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Pimm's Number 1 Cup is a gin-based drink spiced with various spices and fruits. It is most often mixed with English lemonade (a clear, carbonated lemon-based drink, like Sprite or 7-up for my North American friends), along with various fruits, cucumber and mint.

When I first tried Pimm's four years ago when I first got to the UK, I was not impressed. I have my first taste watching the tennis at The Championship at Wimbledon, and said, "I'm not really sure what Pimm's is, but it was a brownish, cold liquid poured into a cup with ice, mint and a slide of lemon and lime. It tasted a little like cold tea. I don't mean iced tea. I mean hot tea that has gone cold. Like all strange, foreign foods I don't know, it was worth trying, and then it was worth switching over to beer."

I now, however, have turned around on Pimm's, and now often enjoy one when the sun comes out and London heats up. It is a decent summer drink for picnics, patios or any other outdoor lounging activities.

So when I was recently invited to again watch the tennis at the All England Lawn Tennis club (aka Wimbledon), I was looking forward to having a glass or two of Pimm's.

My friend and I packed a lunch instead of depending on the often pricey food and drink at Wimbledon, which included handy pre-mixed cans of Pimm's, along with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, onion and cheese pasties and fresh strawberries.

The weather reports for Saturday were up and down all week, but once we arrived at the day the sun was out, but the air had a touch of a nip and a good breeze which kept it cool.

We had passes to Court One, which despite the primary numbering is the second best court in the championship (behind Centre Court). The order of play for the day was one women's match and two men's matches.

Varvara Lepchenko (USA) v Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)(4)
Kei Nishikori (Japan)(19) v Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina)(9)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)(5) v Lukas Lacko (Slovakia)

First up was Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion on the women's side, who easily beat her opponent Lepchenko. We watched the first set and a half, and when it was obvious it was heading towards a rout, we exited and enjoyed our packed lunch.

Next up was Japanese Nishikori versus Argentinian Del Porto. The crowd was behind mostly Nishikori, who put on a spirited fight and took Del Potro to a tie break at one point. In the end though, Del Potro was too strong and big for Nishikori and Del Potro moved through.

Del Porto Serving on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Del Porto Serving on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon


Nishikori Stretches for it on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Nishikori Stretches for it on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Another break, and so we headed out for Ice Cream. Pricey to purchase on the site, but a good on a warm day.

Back to the action where Tsonga, currently the 6th ranked player in the World. He faced up against Slovakia's Lukas Lacko. Tsonga was strong, and easily defeated Lacko. At the end of the match, Tsonga leaped and twirled around the court at the win, moving on to next face Mardy Fish.

Lacko waiting for serve from Tsonga on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Lacko waiting for serve from Tsonga on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon


Tsonga on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Tsonga on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

The shadows were then getting long, and dinner was calling, so we moved on, leaving behind the tennis.

On Centre Court, two long matches earlier in the day meant that British hope Andy Murray was just getting started, a match that lasted until just after 11:00 PM, meaning that after having dinner and a stroll, made it home to see the final end of the match.

Balls Up on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Balls Up on Number 1 Court, The Championship, All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon

Four years after my first trip to Wimbledon, and a different experience than last time. Seated tickets instead of general admission, full matches instead of wandering around and watching sets here and there, and an enjoyment of a few glasses of Pimm's.

Posted by GregW 01:10 Archived in England Tagged sports events Comments (0)

Jubilee #2: Linen

The second celebration during the first weekend of June.

overcast 13 °C

While this weekend in London is focused on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, another celebration is also being observed, though perhaps by fewer people. In fact, as far as I know, I am the only one marking the occasion.

Four years ago, on the early morning of the June 4th, 2008, I landed at Heathrow airport, and soon thereafter was admitted as a resident of the United Kingdom. Thus, today, June 4th 2012, is my Linen Jubilee. I am thinking of going out to the local Debenham’s and buying myself some new sheets to celebrate.

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Recently I was talking to someone at work who is also an emigre from another land. “How long have you been here?” she asked.

“Almost four years,” I replied.

“Oh, so that means you are here for good,” she said.

How had she determined that, I wondered. “Why would you say that?” I queried.

“Most people say if you have stayed in a place for four years, you’re bound to stay and not go back,” she replied.

I will admit that I have no plans to go back to Canada. When I first moved here to the United Kingdom, I always planned on staying for six years. Six years would give me enough time to run through my visa, one year of Indefinite Leave to Remain and then allow me to apply for citizenship.

Beyond that, though, I really had thought I would take advantage of my new status in the EU and probably pull up stakes and resettle somewhere in Europe. Perhaps Paris, which originally called me to move to Europe in the first place, or somewhere in Spain to brush up on my Spanish. Maybe I would move to Eastern Europe, settling into one of the fast growing Eastern European economies in their beautiful capital cities.

At the time I was filled with a wanderlust, and I really saw the move to Europe as a chance to fulfil that lust for travel in a different way.

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Over the last four years, though, my thoughts have changed. Certainly the ongoing drama in the Eurozone is partially responsible for questioning if I really want to travel into the EU (if there is even one left in another two years). However, there is more than that. Settling abroad as an immigrant has quenched my thirst for travel. I no longer get the itchy feet I used to if I am at home for an extended period. In fact, now when I travel, though I still enjoy it, I am also looking forward to getting home.

Now I feel that getting a British passport is not just a gateway to further adventure somewhere else, but instead I see it as cementing my position here in the UK. It is about giving me the paperwork to match with my feelings - that London is now my home.

Sometimes I am surprised how settled and comfortable I feel in London, because it certainly hasn’t been an easy four years.

I’ve struggled with work, at first to find any job, and since finding employment, to find the right job. I’ve suffered from a lack of UK experience, both real and imagined on the part of my employers, and am only now getting back to a level I feel is similar to what I left behind in Toronto. I am certainly not financially better off since leaving Canada, with my salary basically staying flat over the past four years in a city which is more expensive than my previous home town of Toronto.

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I left behind a set of friends in Canada, and came to the UK with no friends to call on. Trying to make friends in your late-30s and early-40s hasn’t been quick or easy, and there was more than a few times early on when I suffered from loneliness. Luckily now I have a growing group of friends to call on, and have something that could be called a social life now. But I still don’t have the number or diversity of friends here in the UK that I had back in Canada.

Hardest recently has been the fact that you are far away from family and friends. I must admit when I left Canada, I think I subconsciously thought that life would just stay still in Canada. That things wouldn’t change. But they do change. People get married, people get divorced. Children are born, and then grow into adults. People grow old, people get sick, and people die.

Being in London is being far away from it all. I am not there to give the level of support I’d want to give to those who need it, nor can I get that level of support from those back in Canada. Email and international calling provides some value, and my family has been excellent about keeping in touch, but electronic communications can’t replace seeing someone, feeling their touch or having a good hug.

Recently my father had surgery. Luckily I was able to take a week off work and fly back to Canada to be there for the surgery, but in the run up to the decision to have the surgery, and now I am back in London and he is recovering, I feel the distance strongly. Often, I wish I could be there in Canada with him - both to offer support to him and the rest of my family, but also so I was closer to what was happening, and to draw some comfort with being involved and fully informed of what is occurring. I find myself suffering from the stress of feeling impotent - of not being a part of what is happening back home.

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Despite these struggles - excluding a few times when I thought that perhaps I would be better off packing up and heading back to Canada - I find myself bonding more and more with London. In the past when I lived in Toronto, when I suffered from hardships, I found myself turning to travel as the escape. Getting on a plane and heading somewhere new, I would find my worries floating away as soon as the cabin crew shut the main cabin door.

Now, though, when something in London is getting me down, I feel myself retreating not to another place, but to something different within London, be it a nice walk along the Thames, or a wander through the historic streets of Westminster, or a night out in the vibrant night life of this city.

Whether it is London itself, or just the experience of living abroad that is providing this comfort, I don’t know. Either way, it makes me feel good to be here.

So tonight I will raise a glass to my Linen Jubilee, and to London. To the last four years, and to many more ahead of me.

Long live the immigrant in me, and long live London.

Posted by GregW 06:46 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged migration_experiences migration_philosophy existential_migration Comments (0)

Jubilee #1: Diamond

A flotilla along the Thames to celebrate 60 years on the throne for Elizabeth II

rain 13 °C

For the last 60 years and 118 days (as of today), Elizabeth the second has been the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Queen and head of state of 15 other nations (including my home country of Canada).

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She ascended to the throne on the death of her father on the 6th of February, 1952, and on the second of June, 1953, she was crowned the Queen in her coronation.

In celebration, there is a series of events this year, and most focused on this weekend, the anniversary of her coronation. One of the big events was a 1,000 boat flotilla on the Thames river on 3rd June 2012.

The day was not great, it was gray and rainy and cold. Yet people lined the banks of the Thames from Battersea to the Tower Bridge to see the Queen and the 999 other boats on the river in her honour.

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I was up river from Battersea Bridge, so didn't see the Queen in her barge, but instead in the tender taking her from Chelsea pier to the barge. The Queen was dressed in white, stood beside Prince Phillip in his naval uniform, waving to the crowds.

The Queen in the Tender from the Britannia

The Queen in the Tender from the Britannia


Canadians guarding HRH Elizabeth II

Canadians guarding HRH Elizabeth II

Following that was 2 hours worth of boats. The cold came in, the wind whipped up and finally came the rain. Many people gave up, but I stayed to the bitter end.

Rowing boat Gloriana with Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave

Rowing boat Gloriana with Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave


Letting off some steam

Letting off some steam


God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen


Flotilla passes under Battersea Bridge

Flotilla passes under Battersea Bridge


Flotilla passes in the shadows of Chelsea Wharf

Flotilla passes in the shadows of Chelsea Wharf


Fire Boat in the Flotilla

Fire Boat in the Flotilla

Those that stuck it out were committed, though. And they were loud and happy throughout.

Celebration Flags on Balconies

Celebration Flags on Balconies


Mock crowns for all

Mock crowns for all


Celebrations Along the Thames

Celebrations Along the Thames

I got quite wet, but was quite happy.

Greg gets very wet

Greg gets very wet

After the last boat (a large modern boat carrying the London Symphony Orchestra, playing Rule Britannia) passed under Battersea Bridge, I returned home to watch the rest on TV. The Queen, once reaching Tower Bridge, parked her barge and watched the procession pass her.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip aboard the Royal Barge (Taken from the BBC TV Coverage)

HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip aboard the Royal Barge (Taken from the BBC TV Coverage)

So, Queen Elizabeth the Second, long to reign over us. She is already the 2nd longest serving Monarch in British history. Only a few more years until she is the longest serving British Monarch.

Still a few years to go to be the longest serving ever, however. On his death, King Sobhuza II of Swaziland had served more than 82 years. Queen Elizabeth has another 22 years to match that target.

I hope she does it.

Long to reign over us. God save the Queen.

Posted by GregW 13:50 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (0)

In Bloom

At the Chelsea Flower Show

26 °C

I've almost been in the UK for four years now. For the first couple of years, when we hit March, I would start to get itchy eyes and start sneezing. There would be a period of about 3 weeks where I would have a mild but annoying hay fever.

This spring, though, has been so miserably cold and wet, I didn't experience any symptoms through March or April. Most of the way through May, I was still symptom free.

Yesterday, on the 25th of May, I woke up and as soon as I left the house I could feel my eyes itching. Within 10 minutes, I felt the tickle in my nose telling me a sneeze was coming.

"Of all the days," I said to myself. I ran off to the local pharmacy to get some Claritin, because May 25th was a very bad day for me to start my annual suffering from hay fever. I was off to a place that would aggravate my symptoms.

I was off to the Chelsea Flower Show.

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The Chelsea Flower Show is an annual event held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. The show, put on by the Royal Horticultural Society, is more than just a chance to see flowers and buy some seeds and trowels, though there is a lot of that.

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In addition, Gardeners from around the UK and the world come and set up show gardens, often with crazy themes.

Garden celebrating the Queen's 60th Jubilee

Garden celebrating the Queen's 60th Jubilee


Flowery Mini

Flowery Mini


Williams F1 Hedge.  Fitting after they just won the Spanish GP a few weekends ago.

Williams F1 Hedge. Fitting after they just won the Spanish GP a few weekends ago.

The wild garden was very popular this year. There were very few of the structured, sculptured gardens that you might think of when you think of gardening. Instead, there are a lot of wild and unstructured beds with a menagerie of plants.

Water Features were big this year

Water Features were big this year


The Traveller's Garden, with maps and explorer's gear

The Traveller's Garden, with maps and explorer's gear


Minotaur.  There were some crazy garden statues available to buy.

Minotaur. There were some crazy garden statues available to buy.


DMZ Garden.  Garden showing what might be growing in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, along with reminders of the on-going war between the two.

DMZ Garden. Garden showing what might be growing in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, along with reminders of the on-going war between the two.

Luckily the Claritin did its job, and my sneezing and itchy eyes were kept to a minimum. The sun was warm, but there was often a nice breeze to keep things cool. After wandering around for a few hours, we found a nice place to sit in the shade on the cool grass, and enjoyed a cider. Music wafted through the trees from the nearby stage, and we watched the wide swath of people walking by - young couples, hipster artists, Chelsea Pensioners, upper-middle class retirees, accents from around the world - French, American, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

The world loves a garden.

Posted by GregW 01:33 Archived in England Tagged landscapes events tourist_sites Comments (0)

Commute

A few photos from walking across Waterloo bridge on my way to and from work

sunny 15 °C

One of the great things about my commute is that, because I work in Central London, I have some awesome choices of commutes. In any commute, I cross the Thames River. I can take a bus from my place which runs through Parliament Square, by Big Ben, and then past Trafalgar Square. Or I can take the train in to Victoria, and get off at Temple tube, walking past Somerset House on my way into the office. The final (and most common) commute, I cross the Thames by walking across Waterloo Bridge to Waterloo train station and then on the way home.

The walk across Waterloo Bridge is amazing, though. To the east is St. Paul's Cathedral and beyond that the city. To the west, Charing Cross, the London Eye and the Parliament buildings.

A couple of weeks ago, crossing the bridge, there was a beautiful, red sunset, creating a gorgeous backdrop for the sites along both sides of the Thames.

Charing Cross rail Bridge and St. Stephen's Tower from Waterloo Bridge

Charing Cross rail Bridge and St. Stephen's Tower from Waterloo Bridge


London Eye and St. Stephen's Tower (aka Big Ben)

London Eye and St. Stephen's Tower (aka Big Ben)

I never thought I would say this, but often the commute home can be a great balm for a hard day when the commute looks as beautiful as that.

Posted by GregW 15:39 Archived in England Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises Comments (2)

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