Thursday, September 25, 2014


Last time I was in London I didn't want to ever leave. It was after the Will-Kate wedding and it was so bright and happy and painted and sunshiney. This time it was cloudy and crowded - where had all these people come from? I almost had a panic attack in Oxford  Circus. And so expensive, much more expensive than Manhattan. Some things have not changed from when we lived in Notting Hill 12 years ago. Wild at Heart florists looked the same, just that it was surrounded by posh clothing stores.

Wild At Heart florists in Notting Hill

But back to the beginning.
We flew into the City airport, you have to try it sometimes, you land spookily close to the buildings.

Embankment. By this time we had heard all about the cabdriver's three operations in quite some detail

There was no real time for shopping, it was just a short day in London and I already had my new outfit from Santiago in Spain.  I could not face three days in Santiago and one in London in my walking shorts and anyway this one outfit from Massimo Dutti cost less than what the hotel charged to wash our clothes. True story! (why do they insist on ironing everything dry, even the underwear?)

Anyway I can justify anything. Massimo Dutti is that very classic Spanish look for medium prices. I thought I had struck gold until I saw a huge MD store in London and loads of other people walking around in my outfit.

Have been very happy with the outfit, it keeps on giving and plays nicely with the rest of your clothes.  I was tempted by some over-the-knee suede boots but Kevin sceptical - what do you think ...over-the-knee okay or mutton/lamb?

My hairdresser Karen always says when you get to a big city always have a blow out - and I did.  It feels very unnecessary and decadent but it worked miracles for the two inches of grey. Weird selfie expression sorry
We used loads of points to get a hotel room on Hyde Park. Next door was a Russian couple having an enormous barney all night long. Reception reluctant to complain but eventually I insisted. Then I realised Reception were so clueless that might have told the Russians that it was us who complained. Oh well, I said to Kevin as we laid our heads down to sleep, if we don't wake up in the morning, see you on the other side.

There were other new stores in Notting Hill, ones with pretty meats and apples with gold cores

I love stinky cheeses don't you?

And wire monkeys for sale

Loads of pretty people serving and bespecled people eating...

And loadsa dogs and loadsa kids. Actually that's one of the things that drove us from London. When we left 12 years ago there was dog poop everywhere. Not this time. Progress.

We saw our old rental flat BK (Before Kids) and it was still the same.  It used to be an old convent. And then you do that tortuous thing where you think about what the owner offered to sell it for, and the genius realtor friend that told us it was way overpriced and the idiots who believed him (us).  Coulda shoulda that the order?

And then we went to see the subterranean flat we eventually did buy - literally it was under the street. All day you looked up at people's feet and our kitchen was an old coal skuttle. Some friends of ours - top surgeons - lived even lower down, you could not even see the footpath from their living room and one of their kids slept in a little cubby cave under the stairs. Middle class squalor they called it back then.

Is there any other model in London except for Cara and her archy eyebrows? She was on every billboard I saw.

What do you think of London these days? I know Samuel Johnson said: "You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." I felt a bit weary walking through this time. Guess you can view apples with the golden cores but you don't need to buy them. And let's face it - after War and Peace in the next hotel room I was lucky to be still alive.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Home Again, Home Again

The most amazing thing has happened. I arrived home to find I have not lost a single pound! After walking 27 days for up to 10 hours a day, no elbees have been shed. Nada, none, non. Fully expecting government laboratory to call me for analysis. You know...the one that study freaks of nature.

I'm not usually a hand on hip person but the NY Times says the Superwoman pose engenders confidence and happiness

You're probably thinking: oh she ate loads, made a little piggy of herself. Truffle snuffle. No in fact like most other people walking the Camino, you lose your appetite, even in the evenings.

Anyway, one thing has got bigger. My Ahnu hiking shoes were so good to me, like slippers they were - no blisters - so I looked properly at the size. Somehow my feet have increased one and a half sizes to a nine, since, well I don't know when. I arrived home tried all the old ones that were 7 1/2 - yikes did I really wear them this small? and have donated galore. Also clothes I haven't worn in a year.

Old Gold has gone on to greener pastures
Loved the Lion King cardys from Berlin, but it never gets cold enough here...

It was a sad goodbye to the babysitters, Mum and her friend Pam. They went beyond the call of duty...besides the task of looking after the four wee cherubs they re-potted the plants, re-ordered the cupboards and took buses exploring the wilds of Oakland. (Before that it was Kevin's brother Dave whom I'm sure was mentally scarred by Back To School Lists. Before that, Conrad, my good friends' 25 year old son. It takes a village.)

Me, dog cousin Lilly, cousin Cecily, Tallulah, Mum and Teddy (looking annoyed) and Cy 

Mum's friend Pam, Mum and me at the pool
The highlight of their trip: Alcatraz. Jackson, Cy, Harley, Pam and Mum

Re-potting galore

Re-invigorated by the trip I returned with more enthusiasm for kidstuff.  There was two games on Sat and three games on Sunday and no one cheered louder than me. "Embarrassing!" was the verdict "you call out the wrong Kiwi stuff." Harley was totally on the back foot after I asked if I could watch him manning the BBQ at school all day Friday (remember I told you he was President of BBQ Club?). They raised $2,000 for charity and donated the remaining 200 sausages to the homeless. Cy did not get elected President of his class but told me he learned a good lesson: that he needs to have a speech ready and not: "Yeah, what he just said, vote for me, okay?"

Had a wonderful time on Saturday night at friend's William's birthday dinner. Photos are all by our lovely friend Heidi. Heidi has a double life - by weekday she's like the rest of us. Weekends and vacations find her mixing with celebs in the most glam wee boltholes. One of her family members is famous. As you can imagine (okay I'm very nosy) I give her the 20 questions every time I see her, but she is maddeningly discreet. I can reveal that they eat breakfast at Denny's.

William, Ron and Heidi

Bob the cat, William's favourite (don't tell Greta)

Ron is the baker in the house

You might have seen William'n'Ron's home before on this blog. William bought his Victorian 28 years ago in a "transitional" part of Oakland - (there was a crackhouse next door) and as he points out "it hasn't really gentrified and I don't think it will." He's restored the house beautifully ("The old girl's had a lot of work done") and I think the neighbors must be very proud of the street's grande dame because they've never had a break-in (touch wood).

William feeds and takes care of 12 stray neighborhood cats; Bob comes in and out but only one cat stays inside -  Greta, who like her namesake is suitably haughty and prefers alone-time with her eyeliner always perfect.

So all going kind of well until I arrived home on Sat night early. Two of the kids were out on the roof, the oven was on and someone had made an enormous cake with attendant mess.

Trying to be positive. Out on roof at night - not optimal by any stretch. But I didn't know Tallulah could bake (they didn't even have a recipe) or that she had listened when I showed them her to use the oven.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All About Lunch

Okay final (promise!) post on Spain before we hit Londinium for a brief day...It wasn't all soul searching on the Camino. We had a few giggles too. One of the funniest things was when we discovered Kiiwis and Aussies used the word "lunch" in different yet spookily similar ways. 

This is a picture of David taken by my sister Pietra when she did the Camino five years ago. We saw David this time in exactly the same place on a lonely dusty road 6 km out of Astorga. 

His bed was just beside the path and he offered drinks and fruit and muesli for a donation. He was a gentle chap and as stunning as a movie star though my photo here with Pietra doesn't do him justice.

David's bed.

There is no water out here, he has to carry it in.

I guess some people can't live in the real world, they choose fleeting, five minute relationships without conflict but they are totally present and engaged in those minutes.

David referred to himself in the third person "David hasn't gone to Barcelona in four years" (his two children are there). It was hard not to start doing the same: "Jody went to Barcelona once"

Anyway David is a free spirit - including such details as his sarong which framed rather than covered. Five years ago Pietra's Aussie friend said: "You have to get the cut lunch in the photo!"

That was interesting because that same night when there was no room in Rabanal we slept in a dorm room with 40 others, mostly Spanish male cyclists wearing particularly thin and shiny lycra shorts - "showing their lunch" as my Kiwi friend Mike would say. (No visual on that, sorry).

More lunch related things: one day I walked with a Chef from Fulham whose job it was to make lunch for a man who is the largest property owner in the UK.
Outside the office ( the most expensive one in London, natch) sits the same homeless guy every day, and he and the chef have a good old chat in the mornings. Can you believe one day the homeless guy was given 200 pounds by the Ecclestone girl's husband. Then he was given 150 pounds by Kate Moss. He hurried off to the nearest travel agency and bought a plane ticket to Ibiza. 

Finally, on this flimsily lunch-themed post, whaddayaknow when we got into Santiago the first thing you see in the main plaza are these statues. Back and front views 

The other side of the plaza. 

Close up of the left hand side statue to make the point ( scary, but just remember it's art).

So your turn now on the edification and elucidation. Please tell me what this all means. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Santiago de Compostela!

I did it! I got to Santiago!  825 km from where we started in St Jean in France. Walking every day for 27 days. Many 10-hour days. Relieved, ecstatic, so tired. 

Looks like I'm doing a Julia Roberts in this photo, but its just the underarm shadow, promise. 

Funnily enough the cathedral was covered by scaffolding and trompe l'oeil. 

The Compestela Certificate for completing the Camino. 

Inside the Cathedral. 

At the beginning in St. Jean in France 27 days ago. So young, so fresh!

What did I learn from this seemingly endless walk that ended at 3pm today? Tomorrow if you're around I can tell you. 

Thanks for coming along with me and for your funny, lovely, encouraging comments. They meant the world to me. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Camino- Jellybeans

I missed Fathers' Day in New Zealand so just wanted to say thanks to dear old Dad. 

Even at 78 years old he still goes on week-long cycling and hiking trips with his family and 60-year old whippersnapper friends from the beach.

The trips are not without incident. Three times Dad has (literally) fallen off a cliff. The last time he was hanging on for dear life, already badly bruised by the fall.

One of the whippersnapper 60 year old friends, Crash, called to Dad that he needed strength before he started climbed back up and that he would lower down some jellybeans.

"I don't like jellybeans" Dad called back up.

After indignant insistence from the whippersnappers, Dad called up: "Okay then, I'll have three."

Once Dad had climbed back to the top, another of his friends scolded him: "You're a stubborn old man!" 

A couple of days ago I wanted to be finished, for the walk to be over. So yesterday I walked 36km. Today I walked 49 km. - it took 13 hours. I walked for hours this evening trying to find a bed, no luck, had to walk on, so it wasn't intentional. 

(That means tomorrow i've just got 25km to the end! I will have done it in 26 days - the guidebook allows 33 days)

Tonight Im so tired i can hardly chew. 

Thats too much walking, other people say to me. Ease up they say, be gentle on yourself. Yogic things like that. 

I suppose i could have called a cab, got a ride on a tractor, but i didnt want to. 

Sometimes it works better to be bloody stubborn. 

See you on the other side...

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