January’s bucket list

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. My resolve tends to scatter across the year and is generally underpinned by my penchant for exploration and variety. However I do love moments, snatches of time when I am completely caught up – and sometimes out – by intense feeling, largely a mixture of delight, wonder, melancholy, outrage and curiosity. I carry this image of a bucket in my mind and I often imagine putting a particular moment into it. Somehow they all combine into a life that inspires me.

I was checking something in my calendar earlier and it occurred to me that while I share about particular experiences, I don’t often reflect on all of the things I’ve done. Fellow blogger, author and longtime Gidday follower Jack Scott commented recently “you do get about” so I thought that it would be interesting – for me anyway – to end each month this year by checking out what’s ended up ‘in the bucket’.

So here goes.

This month it all started with a new chapter in an old story and I absolutely loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I then moved into a Kenneth Brannagh double bill: All On Her Own, a maudlin 25 minute 3-stars-from-me soliloquy, and the hilarious 4-stars-from-me farce, Harlequinade.

A trip back in time with the Museum of London and a tour of an old Roman fort inspired my historic sensibilities so much that the Museum became a new Friend. Five days later I joined hundreds of women at the Central Methodist Hall in Westminster to listen to the Women’s Equality Party and left non-plussed and suprisingly uninspired: lots of valid and important messages but the whole thing was a bit ‘rah rah’ for me.

A decidedly French tone emerged in the second half of the month with the NY MET’s performance of Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers and the National Theatre’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) being live streamed at the Phoenix Cinema just a ten minute bus ride away. When I was raving about the latter in the office the next day, I was informed by a young French colleague that the book continues to be part of the literature curriculum in French schools and is considered “a classic”. By the way, both productions were ‘magnifique’.

I’ve also read six books this month and rated three of them a mighty 5-stars, an excellent 50% hit rate. March Violets by Philip Kerr and A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute were my first dip into these respective writers and my return to Stephen King (and introduction to his criminal mastermind Mr Mercedes) was the recommendation of another Gidday follower, author Charlie Wade. (Thanks Charlie!)

In between all of this I embarked on some new cooking adventures with a foray into pastry (albeit frozen) as well as ‘cooking with beetroot’ and I managed catch up dinners with three different friends, one long overdue.

I also inadvertently fell across London’s Lumiere Festival on the face of the Abbey…

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…and delighted in the lighter mornings on my walk to work.

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Speaking of commuting, this gem really lifted my tube ride home one night.

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It also snowed…

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…and I celebrated twelve years in London.

So Jack was right and January was full to the brim with moments that were both planned and completely surprising. (And that’s doesn’t include what happens in my job.)

In any case, I’ve quite enjoyed this retrospective approach to bucket list-ing and am curious to see what reflecting on February might bring.

What would a look back at your January moments yield?

9 minutes of glory

When I first visited London in 2000, I was smitten by all of the things that a tourist to this great city is usually smitten by – the iconic images seen in movies, read about in books and learnt about in high school. That it’s all real is amazing. That it’s all so old is inspiring.

I loved both history and literature at school and so was especially keen to visit Westminster Bridge, having been inspired by William Wordsworth’s Composed upon Westminster Bridge, 3rd September 1802:

...The City now doth, like a garment, wear / The beauty of the morning.

When I stood on the bridge just over 14 years ago, snapping eagerly away at the gilded clock tower of Big Ben, its face smiling benignly over the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, little did I imagine that I would ever walk beneath those historic spires on a daily basis.

For the last 18 months, I have been based in an office less than 500 metres away from these icons of London. Each morning, I emerge from Westminster tube station beneath that resplendent clock tower and walk the 0.4 of a mile to the office (about 9 minutes) with Westminster Palace at my elbow to the left and Westminster Abbey just across the road to my right. And then I get to do it all again – in reverse – on my way home.

I am regularly filled with this feeling of delighted disbelief – when the little voice whispers softly in my head, ‘This is my life. I really did this.’ I can’t help but smile. It seems impossible to be immune to this sense of wonder and I remain astounded that it has not yet paled. Samuel Johnson wrote, ‘The man who is tired of London is tired of life’ – I know what he means.

In those moments of wonder, I find myself pausing for a little longer in an attempt to capture the moment. My Facebook friends know only too well how much I love to snap and share and in doing a little phone gallery spring cleaning the other day, I was so struck by the range of photos I had taken in the last few weeks that I wanted to share them with you too.

So welcome to my commute…

Arriving at the top of the stairs at Westminster tube station, I pop into a nearby coffee shop and emerge with cup – and often camera phone – in hand to this…

underground sign

A short walk takes me to the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Square giving me this view of the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace) as I cross the road…

Westminster Palace from Whitehall

…this view of Whitehall – which leads past Downing Street and up to Trafalgar Square – over my right shoulder…

Looking down Whitehall

…and the clock tower to my left. This particular shot was taken in the afternoon but sometimes I get my timings right and my commute is accompanied by the deep chimes of Big Ben heralding the hour.

Big Ben

I walk right past the Palace – this was taken from the end of the palace building looking back towards the tube station (now hidden behind the walls of Westminster Hall).

Return journey

Looking upwards provides another spectacular view, this time of Victoria Tower which houses the Norman Porch and the Sovereign’s Entrance – this is the only route that the Queen is allowed to use to enter the building (which she most famously does each year at the State Opening of Parliament.)

Norman Porch

Taken from the same place but on a different day and in another direction, this is Westminster Abbey, home to the Coronation Chair (Westminster Abbey has been the church for every coronation since 1066), Poet’s Corner and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. The two square towers are the ‘back’ of the main entrance.

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Just last week I captured the afternoon light streaming through the stained glass of the Abbey’s windows…

Abbey Windows

…and this 700 year old building doesn’t look too shabby at night either.

Abbey night

And then the glowing clock face marks my return to Westminster station again. This picture was taken by pausing during my normally rapid clip along the concourse that runs back towards Westminster Bridge and the stairs down to the tube.

Big Ben framed

So that is my commute peeps. Well 9 minutes of it anyway and in a total of 40 minutes – that’s an awesome and glorious 22.5%. Every. Single. Day.

(Except Saturdays and Sundays and Bank Holidays and vacation days and…oh well you get the picture.)

Let’s face it, if I’ve got to commute anywhere, I’m rather glad that it is this one.