Monthly Archives: December 2012

Ice Hotel

I’m back in London and not amazingly overjoyed about it (though, a lovely family dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant has made me feel slightly less grumpy about leaving the land of snow and cold and sparkling magic lights). However, I was terribly delighted to find out this evening that I’m not working again until 7pm tomorrow night, so that is at least a bonus (after so many holidays at such a busy time for my job, I kind of expected to be working a 16 hour day tomorrow. I’m lucky that my work doesn’t dislike me as much as I assume they dislike me. In fact, they rather like me, so that’s nice).

Anyway, I thought I’d take the opportunity of not having to start back at work at 7am tomorrow (and therefore not needing to go to sleep early tonight) to catch you all up on the rest of my Norway trip. I’ve had some requests for reporting on the ice hotel (and, fair enough too, I mean, who doesn’t want to hear about a hotel made out of ice? I mean, apart from people who regularly live in buildings made of ice. And, I’m willing to say that amongst my friends and blog readers, there is a relatively small number of you who regularly abide in buildings made out of ice). I did though, feel that the ice hotel would benefit from a photo spread, so I’ve waited until now, when I can get the photos off my camera and onto my computer, to write something down.

Some facts before we begin. The ice hotel has become a phenomenon in Kirkenes in the last 5 years. I think it may be rated 5 stars (which someone quipped may make it the only 5 star hotel in Norway, however, I am unwilling to say that for certain in case I get sued by Tourism Norway). Obviously, to keep it from melting, the inside of the hotel must be kept below 0 and it usually hovers around the minus 4 to 5 mark. Everything inside is made out of ice. The bar, the glasses you drink from, the chairs, the decorations. The beds are not ice, though it is made to look as if they are. In fact, you sleep on mattresses that lie on boards, which lies on ice. There are no doors on the rooms of the ice hotel, as trapping in heat into a small-ish space (like your room) would cause the rooms and/or ice sculptures to melt.  Instead, there are curtains in the doorways. Claustrophobics may find the ice hotel difficult, as there are no windows, and only small holes in the roofs of your rooms for air circulation. The ceilings are high, but it still may not be possible to stop yourself thinking of tonnes of ice collapsing and burying you. There is a separate restaurant (built in a yurt) that is toasty warm and has a fireplace. That’s where you get your dinner and brekkie, because, of course you guessed it, cooking things in the ice hotel (or in an ice oven, for that matter) would cause it to melt!

The most glorious and interesting thing about the ice hotel, though, I think, is that it, of course, never sees out the summer. So, each year it needs to be re-built. Each year, therefore, it can be designed by someone new and made into a completely different ice hotel. I am assured that this year’s hotel was much better than last year’s hotel, so I am happy about that. I quite like this concept of deliberate impermanence in a building, something that is quite novel for most of Western culture (except, say in the case of festivals or… camping). Buildings, in our minds are built to last (one of the few things these days that are) and it is always a tragedy when they are destroyed. But, not so with the ice hotel. I like that the impermanence is a good thing, something that adds to the charm, something that has been embraced by the ice hotel ‘owners’ (another strange concept for something that is intended to disappear and reappear each year). I have this idea in my head (perhaps wrong, I’m not good with this sort of stuff), that the ice hotel is more environmentally friendly than a normal hotel because of its inherently impermanent state of being and because it is made from the products that occur in its surroundings. See, all the ice used in the hotel comes from the lake it sits next to. It’s not artificially made in anyway, but just using the stuff nature has already made. And, at the risk of sounding like an insufferable hippy, I like this.

Anyway, enough intellectualising. Apart from anything else, the ice hotel was cool. Actually, it was quite cold (bada-BOOM). The day we decided to visit the hotel was the coldest day I was in Kirkenes. Minus 22. Minus 22!!! Now, as you all know, I quite like the cold. I have stated this on many occasions. I am quite comfortable in London’s usual wintery state of 4 – 8 degrees. I am also even quite pleased at the minus 2 or 3 mark, because then there is the possibility of snow. But, minus 22 is like a whole other world. I guess its not surprising really, when you think about similar jumps in temperature (the difference between plus 30 degrees and 0 degrees, for example). Its actually too cold to snow. Too cold to snow! I mean, it keeps the snow and ice that you have, obviously, but you generally don’t see it snowing at this temperature.

But, even though it was too cold even for the snow, we decided to walk to the ice hotel, which was about half an hour away. Because the discussion was had in Norwegian, though, I got my wires kind of crossed and didn’t fully appreciate that we were walking there (‘Oh, you mean walking! Walking with our feet! In the outside air! Without the car! Oh, that kind of walking!’) Of course, this meant I appeared at the doorway to the house woefully under-prepared for the weather and then attempted to get ready at speed. The biggest mistake was taking my thin gloves (no brainer there) and my thick woollen socks (surprisingly enough. I thought I was doing the right thing wearing thick socks, however they were so thick they then made my shoes too tight and therefore cut off some of the circulation to my toes, therefore making it harder for them to stay warm. So, there’s another lesson in keeping warm. Thin, warm socks or thick socks with shoes that are too big for you. Either way). I was able to bury my face in my scarf and put my hands in my jacket pockets, but my poor feet quickly became two painful blocks of immovable ice. Also, my lovely Doc Martens, so amazingly tough-looking on the streets of London, were terribly unsuited to the icy streets of Kirkenes. It was like learning to walk again, slipping every few metres. Eventually I made headway taking very fast little steps on the balls of my feet (which also seemed to warm up my toes), my arms occasionally stuck out at a 45 degree angle from my body, kind of swaying side to side as I adjusted my weight from foot to foot. Meanwhile, my friends played ice soccer with the balls of snow along the road, running and kicking and passing and throwing. I couldn’t quite understand how they were able to move so agilely under those conditions, but then again, they say that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet (a rather painful proposition for Norwegian mothers). Perhaps Norwegians are also born with a spare pair of ice skates or snow shoes for occasions such as this one.

Despite my fears that my feet would drop off from frostbite (I was a little uncertain of the time frame I was looking at for frostbite and naturally assumed that 15 minutes of discomfort was enough to do the job), we made it to the ice hotel with all limbs intact. The relative ‘warmth’ inside was unfortunately not enough to bring relief and comfort to my feet, however, and after rushing around, peeking in all the rooms and admiring the ice art on the walls, we headed back to the cafe/restaurant to defrost and drink some hot chocolate. Here’s a selection of photos:

Outside the Ice Hotel

Outside the Ice Hotel

Ice Sculpture in the bar

Ice Sculpture in the bar

Penguin art in one of the rooms

Penguin art on the wall of one of the rooms

Ice beds!

Ice beds!

Troll art in one or the rooms

Troll art on the wall of one of the rooms

After warming up substantially in the restaurant (though, distressingly, my toes were still cold despite 30 minutes of warmth. I was, at this point, certain that if I wasn’t already suffering from frostbite, I would be by the end of the day), we headed out the back to see the wonderful husky dogs. The huskies were kept for husky sled rides and they were, on the whole extremely friendly and intelligent dogs. The first one I came across, Aarti, jumped right up on his hind legs and fell into my arms in some kind of doggy hug/greeting/embrace. Or perhaps he was also a little cold and was hoping to steal some body warmth. Most of the dogs had lovely Scandanavian sounding names, or at least, mythical sounding names (Achilles, for example) and each were tied up to their kennel, with their names written on the side. One lovely dog sitting in his kennel, however, was called Bruce. Yes, Bruce. Of all the names. I thought that was too funny (in light of the Monty Python ‘Bruce’ sketch… see here, if you’ve never had the pleasure) and attempted to take his photo. However, my poor camera was just not able to function in such cold temperatures. I figured the batteries were probably just too cold (I first discovered this pesky problem with batteries in cold temperatures when driving across Michigan with my family as a 12 year old and attempting to play my Alanis Morisette ‘Jagged Little Pill’ cassette tape on my walkman – oh, how old does that make me sound – so that I could look mournfully out the window at the snowy landscape and think of my unrequited love for my high school crush. However, the walkman refused to work unless I took out the batteries and rollled them around in my hand for a bit and then put them back in. Each roll gave me a few minutes of satisfying, angry teenage girl angst before Alanis would suddenly stop whining again. It was awfully frustrating for my carefully constructed ‘misunderstood adolescent’ routine). Despite some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (blowing hot air onto the batteries) and some wonderful husky poses by Bruce, we couldn’t manage a photo. I was quite, quite sad. We also saw a reindeer, but by that point I’d given up and was concentrating on not slipping down the footpath.

So, there you have it. The ice hotel. I wish I’d been able to withstand the cold a little bit more to spend a bit more time in there (or at least, more time with the lovely huskies out the back) and also that I might have been able to spend a night inside, because that would truly have been amazing. But, I am most definitely grateful for what I did manage to get.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Norway

Christmas on the Russian Border

As with every time I travel somewhere, I have many, many things to report and I’m not entirely sure where to start. It doesn’t quite help that I’m still in the midst of my travels and often a little distance from these things gives you some useful perspective (‘No, Jenny, the slightly odd sayings on the salt and pepper packets that were given to you on the Norwegian airplane were not actually the ‘funniest things ever’ and you can probably safely leave them out of your blog post’). I’ve got a whole post in me all about language and conversation and other highly intellectual matters (which I will manage to stranglehold into something much more pedestrian and Bridget Jones-like), but I think I might leave that until later.

Instead, I’ve been inspired by all the ‘sun and seafood’ Christmas photos popping up in my Facebook feed to tell you a little bit about how I spent my Christmas Day in far North Norway.

First of all, the big day in Norway is actually Christmas Eve. You have your big dinner around 5-6pm, then dessert, which is followed by a whole hour in which Norwegian parents ritualistically torture their young children by forcing the whole family to ‘sleep’ or ‘rest’ BEFORE you are allowed to open your gifts. Or, at least, that’s what my Norwegian friends tell me it was like to be a Norwegian child. Of course, we’re all adults now and an hour’s ‘rest’ before presents is well and truly achievable. Just.

So, that was all very wonderful and ‘koselig’ (the best and most important of Norwegian words. It kind of means ‘cosy’, except that it’s so much more than that. I imagine it is like being blanketed in love and comfort and warmth and happiness and loveliness and pretty things and it is a way of life in Norway – you must never stop searching and striving for everything ‘koselig’). I experienced a lot of these traditions when I was in Norway the first time around (2002), but it was very ‘koselig’ and very special to do it all again. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and though I do see the loveliness of an Australian Christmas (family and friends being one of the many benefits), I just think a dark, wintery Christmas is that bit more magical. I mainly blame Christmas lights. They sparkle so much more prettily in the dark and the snow than in the sun. I’m sorry, but it’s just true.

Leaving this controversial topic behind, what was terribly exciting this year was actually what was happening on Christmas Day. When I first arrived in Kirkenes on Friday, my host sister had rung up from Oslo to ask whether or not I would be interested in going to a Christmas day mass in the church that stands on Norway’s border with Russia. Her boyfriend wanted to go and she thought I might also be interested. I was. It got better, however. Not only could I attend the service, but the road to the church was closed during winter, so we would be driven to the church in Norwegian military vehicles. See picture for details:

Bandvagn 206. Found at www.wikipedia.org

Bandvagn 206. Found at http://www.wikipedia.org

Ah ha ha! Amazing! But, wait, there was more! After the church service, we would go to the beach (yes, there’s a beach up here!) and at the beach, the officers would take the traditional Christmas Day swim in the Barents Sea. And if that weren’t enough, we would then be served cake and hot drinks at the Military Station on the way home. And the cost for this incredibly amazing, totally unbelievable and also oddly ‘koselig’ experience? Completely and utterly free. We were the guests of the Norwegian military, which is apparently the friendliest, most cocoa-generous and gingerbread-rich military in the world. I was most definitely in.

Preparations had begun in the days before. The clothing I had brought from the UK was inspected and found wanting. As were my shoes and gloves. I was instead newly kitted out with jacket, lined shoes, doubled-up mittens, extra pants and also hand and toe warmers (little heat packs that you can hold in your hands or put in your shoes – not widely used in Norway, but popular in Canada and Japan, and we all felt that as an inexperienced Australian, this was probably something else that would be useful for me to have). When I woke up on Christmas Day, the thermostat was at minus 20 celsius. I took a picture, just to prove it. In the end, I got into the car dressed in both my pairs of thermal leggings, tights with windproof sports pants over the top; a thermal skivvy, long-sleeved top, old woolen English navy jumper plus a ski jacket; two pairs of woolen socks and lined shoes; wool mittens with waterproof and windproof mittens over the top; a scarf and my completely useless synthetic hat that doesn’t so much as protect you from the cold, as remind you where a proper hat would be protecting you from the cold if you were actually wearing it, by sort of occasionally softly brushing your ears with light synthetic fluff (considering the attention I paid to all other parts of my body, I am surprised I expected the hat to be in anyway useful. Stupid hat).

Anyway, we found our way to the pick-up point, which was a (relatively) warm minus 17 celsius. Of course, our vehicles weren’t ready yet and, much as it would have been an authentic Norwegian military ‘experience’ to wait for Norwegian military vehicles in minus 17 celsius, myself and my traveling companion decided to wait in the car. With the heat. And no wind. Eventually the trucks arrived with our Bandvagn 206’s on the back and we loaded ourselves in. We had hoped to get a seat up front, but because we didn’t have the correct ear wear (the machines are very loud), we had to jump in the back, just like real soldiers. It was all terribly exciting and for about five minutes I though, ‘ooh, how amazing! This is just like being in a film! Maybe I should join the army!’ But then I remembered that for real soldiers, their trips in  military vehicles don’t end in lovely Christmas masses in lovely Norwegian churches, but at horrible battlefields with guns and killing and bombs. And that, unlike my call-centre job, I wouldn’t be able to just say, ‘Ah, I think I’ve made a terrible mistake’ and back out of it all after 8 hours.

But, still, it was quite exciting and wonderful just as it was. There were only a few little windows which kept getting iced-up, so we didn’t get to see a lot of the scenery, but we saw enough. It is currently ‘Mørketid‘ in North-Norway, which is literally ‘the Dark time’ (see how magical that sounds????) and Mørketid himmelen (Dark Time Heavens/Sky) are the most beautiful. Think of the loveliest sunset you can imagine and then stretch it out for 3 hours. That is Mørketid himmelen. And that was all over the sky as we traveled to this obscure and lonely church on the Russian border.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all amazing. I was getting pretty travel sick by the time we got out at the church. The wind that greeted us when the military boys opened the doors of the vehicle was hardly ‘koselig’. In fact, I tried to take a picture of the church and the wind that blew around the side of the building was so strong it actually turned me around. Instead of a picture of the church, I got a blurry diagonal one of the ground. But, then we walked up into the church and the military boys were there with hot water and asking us if we wanted hot chocolate or coffee and offering gingerbread and everything seemed alright again. I had a fairly difficult time following the service (but, then I have a difficult time following most church services, even if they are in English), but that really didn’t bother me. The thing I was most glad about was the carols. We were handed a ‘Norsk Salme Bok’ (Norwegian Psalm Book) on the way in and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to be able to sing, because I won’t know the tunes.’ But, it turned out they sang mainly the same carols as back home, just with Norwegian words. And, as I know how to read Norwegian words, and I had been provided with a book of lyrics, I was perfectly able to sing along. It was a beautiful experience. It’s strange, and something that I’ve noticed before, but for whatever reason, sometimes when you only understand a little of what’s going on, many different experiences, and especially music, can be much more powerful. I think it’s because when you’re just learning a language, you only understand the very basic meanings of words and don’t have an understanding of them that is deep or multi-faceted, or that’s complicated by years of use, bias and personal/social/cultural history (it’s also one of the reasons humour is so hard to translate, because it relies so heavily on specific metres, sounds, word plays or double meanings that are unique to one language AND culture). Anyway, I was going to save all this for another post. The point is, I understood enough of the language to understand the broad brushstrokes of feelings and sentiments in the songs, but because we were singing about ‘Gud’ instead of ‘God’ and ‘Ye-sus’ instead of ‘Jesus’, the songs didn’t have the same slightly uncomfortable connotations for me. I was just able to enjoy the loveliness of the carols, of singing together with a group in a ‘koselig’ setting.

Then, of course, was the really, truly exciting part. We were divided into groups who wanted to go straight back to the station and those who wanted to go to the sea. I had no intention of bathing, but I certainly wanted to see other people strip off and get wet in such inhospitable weather (it must be the German in me), so off I went to the harbour. By this time, it was pitch black (even though it was only 3pm) and I stumbled towards the beach using the the sounds of the waves crashing as my main guide (until my companion found his head light and turned it on). A huge bonfire had been pre-built (and doused in petrol) and this was lit before the first of the brave boys stripped off and ran towards the water. Let me just state again, that it was minus 20 degrees outside. There was snow and ice on the beach. A gale was blowing, that made it feel like it must have been at least 10 degrees less than what the thermostat was showing. And off went the boys (and two girls) into the water with nothing on them except their body hair to keep them warm. There was a large group of us standing around, wrapped in our clothes and carrying cameras, just… watching these people strip naked and run into the water (the girls left their underwear on, which I can understand, but I feel that having wet underwear in minus 20 degrees weather was probably not worth the modesty it afforded). It felt more than a little odd. Many people were taking photos, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, despite one or two of the officers looking like off-duty Norse Gods. My traveling companion also managed a quick dip, but did it when no-one else was watching, which I can also understand, but I was disappointed to have missed all the excitement and the opportunity to yell words of encouragement from the sidelines (he had threatened to throw me in fully clothed though, so maybe it was best I avoided him the whole time we were on the beach).

After a quick warm-up by the fire we were packed back into the military vehicles (we were given a seat up front this time, despite our lack of ear-wear, I can’t rightly say if it was because of my friend’s bravery in the water) and taken to the military station. There was cake and coffee and warm air and it was all very ‘koselig’. Of course, I sat opposite four people from England and despite a little bit of conversation on the lack of tea, we didn’t let it go on too long. I think we all felt like talking to another English-speaking person whilst out on the Russian border would ruin the whole experience for us. I know I was disappointed to hear them talk, so I can only imagine they felt the same about me.

That’s about all for the moment. I’m on a deadline, because we have to get dressed and ready to go visit the Ice Hotel. It’s exactly what you think. It’s a hotel made out of ice.

Yay!

Leave a comment

Filed under Norway

Travel Disasters

I’m currently sitting in the Oslo Gardemoen Park Inn, watching the snow fall gently from the sky and being ever so grateful for my UniQlo Heattech (Japan Technology) clothing. The thermal clothes were bought last minute at Oxford Circus yesterday, after a message from my host sister to inform me that I should ‘bring something warm’ to Norway, because it was currently minus 17 degrees in Kirkenes, which is where I will be spending the next 9 days. I probably bought too many thermal clothes, but I figured, where thermal clothes were concerned, it was better to be safe than sorry (unless you are going to the Caribbean. In that case, it’s probably better to not be safe. And only possibly sorry. As well as very, very surprised that it’s minus 10 degrees in the Caribbean).

Anyway, I was going to write a post about how I’ve gotten so unbelievably good at this traveling thing, because, when I was in the queue for the security screening yesterday, I had myself all organised, boots off, liquids in their baggy, laptop out, before anyone needed to ask me to do anything. In my head, I was comparing myself to the opening sequence of ‘Up in the Air’ with George Clooney, I was that efficient. But, then I had an actual think about what happened yesterday and I realised it just wasn’t true.

I left my apartment and headed to the airport with that familiar feeling of ‘There is something I haven’t done and/or forgotten’. It’s a feeling I get whenever I go on a journey, usually unfounded, but occasionally worth listening to (for example, when heading to South America and realising I’d left my phone behind. Which doesn’t sound like a huge disaster, but my travel companion and I were going to be spending a week or so apart, meaning that our phones were kind of integral to us successfully meeting up again. We had to turn the car around and go back and get it. Luckily, we had left plenty of time and were only fifteen minutes up the road from said mobile). When I did my first big ‘alone’ trip (to Norway incidentally), I spent so  much time going, ‘Oh my god, did I remember to pack those warm blue socks?’ or ‘What about that book I wanted to read?’ ‘My travel clock?’  and then rifling through my bag on the floor of some aiport (Hong Kong? Heathrow?) to find said object, that eventually I had to restrict myself to panicking only about three select things: my ticket (back in the days before electronic boarding cards), my passport and my credit card. I figured everything else was replaceable (mostly via the credit card). Luckily all these things were kept on my person, so apart from developing a strange tick, where a look of panic would pass across my face every 15 minutes or so and then I would desperately pat my person down until I had located the three objects I was allowed to panic about, things went pretty well.

Anyway, the point is that yesterday, I should have listened to the little niggling feeling. Because, as I was heading towards Heathrow on the tube, I suddenly realised that I hadn’t actually checked the airport my flight was leaving from. And, as anyone who has traveled on any of the budget European airlines will know, there are three airports I could possibly have been flying out from: Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. In fact, there are actually five London airports I could potentially have been going from: Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow, City or Luton. The latter two of which I didn’t even know how to get to, if in fact it did turn out that I needed to get there for my flight. Just when I’m starting to think that I’m fitting into London, I pull this kind of shit and forget that the place is very large and has many airports (as well as duplicates of many things that you don’t normally expect there to be two of: large theatres (Old Vic and New Vic), art galleries (Tate and Tate Modern) etc.) In a panic, I got off the tube at Victoria, which at least had trains to Gatwick as well as buses to Stansted that I could catch, so as long as I needed to get to one of those airports, I thought I would be fine.

Next problem, of course, was that I needed to check my boarding card, which was on my email, which I needed internet to check. And, of course, because in London everyone has a smartphone or a bloody ipad, internet cafes are actually very hard to come across. I needed a Cafe Nero and free wifi, but the only ones around Victoria were Cafe Nero Express, which means they just make bloody coffee and have nowhere to sit down and abuse their free internet from. Eventually, I sat down at a McDonald’s and tried to link to their free wi-fi without buying anything. Whilst waiting for the internet to connect, I did a quick search of my computer and realised I had also downloaded the bloody ticket, so there had been no need to find wi-fi in the first place. Turns out I was also meant to be taking the plane from Gatwick, so I quickly bought myself a ticket and jumped on the next Gatwick Express, turning up at the airport around the time I had planned to be at Heathrow. So, despite a lot of panic and stress and unnecessary running around busy train stations muttering abuse at anyone who accidentally got in my way, all worked out well in the end.

I was feeling pretty darn pleased with myself, and continued to feel pretty darn pleased with myself, as I landed in Oslo, had no problems speaking to the customs official in Norwegian (who was very curious as to why I spoke Norwegian), went and got myself a hotel room. I had originally thought that I would go into Oslo and stay with a friend, but because I was getting in so late, it seemed a lot of unnecessary and expensive extra travel when all I wanted to do was sleep. My next plan was to sleep at the airport (actually AT the airport, like outside the ticket booths), but because I’ve got a cold, I decided that was probably not great for my health. So, I got myself a hotel room as a bit of indulgence, and considering it wasn’t much more than the train ticket, it seemed like a fair way to go.

Things were quite delightful relaxing in the hotel last night, I got a good night’s rest and a delicious all-inclusive breakfast this morning (inclusive of BROWN CHEESE, I might add. Hooray!!) Again, managing to converse easily in Norwegian with people around me, which just makes me so happy. However, at some point in the morning, I realised I had done a stupid thing. I had thought it would be a nice gift to bring over a couple of bottles of wine for my host father in Norway. I bought them at Gatwick, got (what I think) were some decent French reds. No worries, I’ve cleared security, so I can take them into my carry-on luggage. And it’s not until this morning that I realise I have to take another two flights to get up North where I’m spending Christmas. And there is no way the security people are going to let me take two bottles of red onto my carry-on no matter how much I plead that I bought them both at Gatwick Airport, and I really, truly haven’t done anything bad to them, like add chemicals or explosives. So, my possible solutions are to find some kind of plastic/metal container at Oslo Airport and pack the wine into that, and put it all into my checked luggage and pray to God that they don’t get smushed and stain my new UniQlo Heattech (Japan Technology) clothing. Or… well, I don’t really know that there is another solution. Putting them into a locker for a week and then taking them to my host sister in Oslo on the way back to London and leaving them with her? Drinking them before I get on the plane and getting something else as a gift when I land in Kirkenes?

Bah. As I said, I thought I was getting good at this travel thing. Turns out I’m still quite the novice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Norway

It’s the Little Things

I’ve been particularly slack about posting the past few weeks. I blame the time of year. It does seem that the weeks leading up to Christmas run by that much quicker. Then, we’ll hit the 1st of January and everything will go back to a snail’s pace, before picking up again sometime around March when the sun and the warmth comes back.

But, also, there’s not been much of substance I can think of to stretch out into a blog post. So, in place of an actual post, with stories, jokes and lessons learnt, I offer you this list of things that I have found oddly satisfying in the past few weeks:

* Perfectly and tightly rolled restaurant napkins placed into a high pyramid tower that doesn’t fall over when you move it into the cupboard.

* Really, truly hot water to polish cutlery with. A bucket of cutlery completely polished and organised. Getting a real shine on a polished knife or a steak knife (impossible to achieve on a fork or spoon).

* Seeing an English woman with an Australia Post package on her table at the pub.

* Two adorable twins with big, blue eyes crawling all over the restaurant floor one afternoon.

* One of the ponds in the Common freeing over for a couple of days during a cold snap and the poor birds walking confusedly over it, pecking at the ice. One poor goose attempted to sit down on the ice to swim about on the pool as it would normally do and being confused as to why its legs were squished up underneath its belly and not going into the water in the way as usual.

* Christmas carols at work, at the shops, whilst writing, on the tube, EVERYWHERE.

* A chocolate festival at Southbank Centre

* ‘Freezing Fog’, which is mist, but more beautiful. It moves slower. Like, tiny hanging crystals. Very Christmass-y. But very cold.

*Frost.

* Perfectly foamed milk.

* Making Irish Coffees (I am the self-declared Queen of Liqueur Coffees at work). Also pouring Guinness. Everyone should drink Guinness. Just so I can pour it for them. The most beautiful drink in the world.

* Brussel Sprouts are back in the stores (why did they ever leave?? Little green balls of happiness).

* Eating salted-caramel popcorn with a knife and fork. Eating an ice-cream sandwich with my fingers.

* Visiting and writing in the member’s cafe at the Tate Modern. What. A. View.

* Knee-high socks decorated with snowflakes and hearts

* Lined micro-fibre tights from Primark (I take it all back, Primark, your tights are divine).

* The sepia-coloured sunlight after fog and then rain.

* My Doc Martens are (almost) finally broken-in and are able to be worn without getting horrible blisters or needing blister patches.

* Mulled Wine. Mulled Cider. Green Ginger Wine.

Leave a comment

Filed under London