Tag: travel

Tea Set

I can’t believe I was foolhardy enough to invite Harry over when I was right in the middle of de-cluttering the spare room. I had already pulled all the junk out of that room and it was all over the floor in the living room and hall. It was well past the stage where I could just shove the junk back where it came from. The only way out was through. That’s why I’ve been doing housework for 24 hours now and yet I’ve only just arrived at the stage where I can vacuum the floors.

Anyway, he is coming to tea tomorrow and I am looking forward to it. My house will be as clean as it ever gets by then and we will be able to use my Portmeirion tea set, which I have been looking forward to. I do love a nice tea set. This one even has matching spoons. You can get yours here.

Portmeirion is a pottery and also a highly unusual village and resort in North Wales. I remember my grandparents taking me when I was a kid. I’d like to return. Maybe I’ll go with Harry if we keep seeing each other.

portmeirion aerialviewofvillage

(c) http://www.portmeirion-village.com

British Holidaymaker Drinks, Gets Tattoo

A little more Paris, just to fill you in on the remaining events. As I mentioned, after I left Alain in Paris I had a spare morning – really, most of the day – which I intended to use. So I started by going out to lunch, naturellement, and drank wine with the intention of going to the Pompidou Centre to look at some photography by Walker Evans. Most art is much more enjoyable after a couple of glasses of wine, and I say that as someone who is almost teetotal. I ambled off to the Pompidou Centre and was outraged to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. Gah! Now what? I am in the middle of Paris in the middle of the day, I am slightly tipsy and the art I wanted to see is Not There. I walked down the street, in somewhat of a huff, and I found myself passing a shop selling art, albeit of a different kind. It was, in fact, a tattoo parlour.

34088937754_5ef0b8fb03_o

I looked at the designs on display outside the shop (very run of the mill, actually, just what you’d expect). Because I was a bit intoxicated, I briefly contemplated getting a tattoo. Then I remembered I already had one! It is 32 years old! It was once a tiny butterfly with brightly-coloured wings but over time it faded a lot and almost became indistinguishable. I went inside and asked to talk to a tattooist.

He was an extremely nice man but he spoke no English whatsoever. My French may accommodate romance but does not extend to tattoo-purchasing situations. It was like the worst possible conversation you could have with a tattooist. I was a bit drunk and neither of us could understand a word the other person was saying. Eventually we secured a contract by means of my pointing at my tattoo and making expansive gestures with my hands to signify “make it brighter”. So he did.

Before

After

34121370193_d6454529d1_o

And that’s how I finally returned to London with both sunburn (Spain) and a leaky new tattoo to look after, and thus resembled every British holidaymaker ever.

The Walker Evans exhibition is on at the Pompidou Centre in Paris until 14 August. Closed on Tuesdays.

Starry Skies, Chapter 5: Alain

Let us begin with Maxime. He seemed to be holding out a romantic fantasy of a spontaneous marriage. I suspected that I am far more reckless and up for romantic adventure than he is, so I thought it would be fun to start testing. I started picking out wedding packages in the Bahamas (I so want one of those), sent him links to long, dreary pre-marital counselling courses in London and asked him if he’d told his parents he was engaged. Ha ha, it was great. He tried to keep up but became uncomfortable. He said his parents wouldn’t care who he married (I think this unlikely) but he’d sent a message to his best friend to announce that he had found The One. I was just on the point of suggesting that we go ring shopping and consider waiting to have sex until after the wedding, when he cracked under the pressure and started getting to the point, which was that he did want sex after all and in fact had a shopping list of racy activities that he regarded as achievements and wanted to accomplish, this being the actual point of his messages to me. I knew it. I knew it all along. I mocked him and he stopped texting me. Job done. A pity, he was really good looking.

And now, a few more photos of Paris, and we will come to news of Alain in due course.

Paris was great. I was only there for three nights but several exciting things happened. I did some excellent business in Paris, finished one work project and secured a new contract for another. I took up drinking. I no longer drink, in my everyday life in London. I am more sensitive to alcohol than I used to be and only a small amount can give me an appalling hangover. To my surprise, I find that this doesn’t apply in other countries. I don’t know why. I can go to France or Chile or somewhere and sit in the blazing sun in the middle of the day, drink half a bottle of wine with lunch and think nothing of it. It was great. While in Paris, I drank a lot of Bordeaux. When I wasn’t eating out, I lived on Camembert, white peaches and strawberries. I did very little sight-seeing. I spent a lot of time in this utterly charming little room that I rented and this was because, unlike Chile, you can’t make love in the park. You have to stay indoors for that.

french window

You will notice that so far, in the epic romance known as Starry Skies, I have had absolutely no sex. There was one kiss at the tube station after I had dinner with Harry and that was it. It was time to remedy that. I received a visit from Alain, in fact he came every day, for three days.

Alain fell in love with me in London in 2015 and we had not seen each other since then. We kept in touch in between for business reasons and because I cannot fail to be interested in a man who is in love with me. I told him I was coming to Paris. He said he would like to have dinner with me. Plans evolved from there. Eventually the result was that he appeared in my tiny French room, in the evening. We sat at the table, in front of that window, and talked about business and generally caught up. Then we stood up, to go out for some reason, probably to get coffee or wine. We stood facing each other. He’s young. He’s slim. He’s wearing his bag over his shoulder, ready to go out. He’s staring at me very intently and we are exactly the same height, so we are eye to eye. Time stops. Both of us lean in, about one millimetre each. Then we kiss. Then, without saying anything, we take off our clothes and lie down on the bed, where we spend much of the next couple of days.

We came to know each other very well over that weekend. He just wanted to make love, it was really that simple. People in London are a bit obsessed with sex. Like Maxime, they often have a list of achievements that they are trying to fulfil, or they’re tamely experimenting with some kind of kink, or they’re building up the world’s largest collection of sex toys. Alain could not have been more removed from this culture. It was not his opinion that sex with someone who you’ve loved for two years needs to be equivalent to sport. He just wanted to make love, in a completely straightforward, unspoiled way that focuses on engaging with your partner and not on some irrelevant checklist with accompanying hardware. It was amazing, he did me a lot of good, I felt like I’d been to a spa. It was very cleansing and refreshing. We did a lot of gazing into each other’s eyes, kissing, saying each other’s names, giving massages. I felt renewed.

Not surprisingly, after three days of that, we’d formed quite a bond and saying goodbye was  hard. I cried and we spoke a mixture of English and French (I know more French than I think I do, when the occasion demands). He said “I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life.” Then he went back to his life in France, as we planned, and I had one morning left in Paris and then I needed to go back to London to see Harry and get on with some work.

After I arrived home in London, Alain emailed me to say thank you. He said he’d found a new confidence because of being with me. I was touched.

Starry Skies, Chapter 4: Maxime

Maxime is a mature man of 30. He is one of London’s 20,000 French ex-pats. He looks very French and is really unusually handsome. I did not burst into tears or feel as though I were going blind but there was certainly a sharp intake of breath. His message to me said this:

Dear Madame, I have read your whole profile and I feel as though I will never recover. You are The One. I am totally and completely in love with you. Please have pity on me. You have torn my heart from my chest.

I was rather taken aback, as you might imagine, but of course I replied, because who’s not going to reply to a message like that, especially when it comes from someone with the face of a romantic hero who is in London and not in Russia. We moved the conversation to Whatsapp, as one does, and I logged out of the dating app. I assumed he just wanted sex, which would not be very difficult to get, with his unusually handsome appearance, especially in a city like London, with a population of 8 million people. As such, the conversation might predictably have focused on simple, practical matters such as getting me to come out to meet him. Instead, there was a long conversation, lasting all evening and again the next morning, in which he continued in a similar vein and said things like this:

I love you already.

Please, don’t text anyone. Say you will be only for me.

I’m totally in love with you. I’m really serious.

I can’t look at any other woman now I’ve seen you. Please come and be with me.

I hardly knew what to say. He wasn’t asking for sex. I wasn’t even in London – as most of this was unfolding, I was in Spain. I avoided saying anything that directly referred to this imaginary relationship between us, because what could I say, so I made general remarks about love. I thought he would become bored and quit. I was wrong. At the end of Day 3, he proposed.

Marry me. Be my wife. I cannot live without you and I cannot love you any more than I do.

‘Why do you love me?’ I asked. ‘Because I was born to love you’, he confidently replied. ‘When I saw your face and read all your beautiful words, it was like being struck by lightning, I was shocked. I knew that you were the one I was made for. You are tender. You are passionate. You are beautiful. You think like me. You talk like me. You were made to love and be loved. I am here now. Let me love you. I am your husband.’

He would not give up. He insisted that he was serious. He proposed again and again. He begged me to come home to London. I let him think that I continued to stay in Spain. In fact, sceptical of his extravagant claims and in no mood to be diverted from a path I had already set for myself, I returned to London for a matter of 48 hours, just long enough to take care of some business and pack my suitcase afresh, and then I went to Paris, where another French man was awaiting me, whom we shall call Alain, after Alain Delon.

The American Lawyer

Longtime readers may recall that among my admirers is a fairly rich American lawyer. He flew in to London from the US five years ago just to take me to dinner at the Savoy. He was very enlivening company. That was our first date. He was 85 years old.

We stayed in touch by email and he later figured on the scene when I was having my economic crisis of 2015. There was some talk, if you remember, of my moving out to the midwest to live in his house and drive his car and run my business from there. A very kind offer but my business needs to be where it is, in London. NY would have been okay or somewhere else that has its own major international airport.

It’s now 2017 and he is 90. He’s starting to feel as though he wouldn’t mind a few days of holiday from work (LOL, this guy, I admire his strength and reserves of energy). So he is going to his house in the South of France for a week in August, to sunbathe and swim in the pool and go to the beach. Do I want to come along? Yes, I do. Thanks very much for inviting me.

So that’s my second holiday lined up and all I have to pay for is the flights. Awesome. It will be our second date.

Return to the naked beach.

I have been desperate for some beach. Trips to South Africa and Philadelphia in 2016 were amazing but were not holidays. The last time I saw a beach that I could actually lie on was when I went to Gran Canaria in early April 2015, when I was having my mid-life career crisis.

I blogged about Gran Canaria. The weather was nice, if not quite hot. There is a nude beach at Maspalomas, and I discovered the sublime joy of swimming and sunbathing without a costume. It was a relaxing break and I did some useful reading and thinking about business and my career.

That was two years ago. I have been desperate for some holiday because the two years in between then and now have been very hectic, in which I worked hundreds of hours of illegal and unpaid overtime for the World’s Worst Company. Now I’m out of that job and I am my own boss again. Business is doing okay. I control my time. Everything is fine.

That’s why I’ve just booked a quick four-day break in Gran Canaria again. I would really like a proper holiday, where I go somewhere new for several days, I personally think 10 days is a good amount of time. But I cannot book anything like that just yet because new business is incoming and work comes first. So I’ve just booked four days in a one-bedroom apartment near Maspalomas beach. It was the one of the cheaper holidays I’ve ever booked. The apartment complex sounds ideal for me, it has multiple swimming pools, is within reach of the beach and shops/restaurants yet at the same time is nestled in a hillside, slightly away from the sea front. Guests complained that it was ‘too quiet’ and ‘boring in the evenings’. That sounds absolutely perfect for me. Slightly out of the way, quiet and boring, and still not too far from the beach, you can see the distance in the photo below. There’s a little bus shuttle to the beach all day apparently, or you can walk, or it’s about 4 Euros in a taxi.

I can’t wait. Four days is a lot better than nothing, a lot better, and it is coming up in May so it’s quite soon. Hooray. I can organise a longer, more adventurous holiday later in the year if business continues well. Beach, here I come. I’ve waited for this for so long.

Palm Oasis

South Africa at the British Museum

This exhibition is on until 26 February, so you still have time to go. It was highly relevant for me because I was just in South Africa a few months ago, learning as much as possible about the country and culture.

Items in the exhibition include some very ancient artefacts but the aspects I found the most interesting were the political items from the 1980s and 90s and then the contemporary art.

I want to point out several things without writing a blog post that’s the length of a book. See how many of these things you can spot.

  • A black cherub with an AK-47 and a red nose. The red nose was made famous by British charity Comic Relief, which has been criticised for investing the money it raises in oppressive companies and industries in the countries it claims to help. Artist Johannes Phokela says: “Once I bought a red nose and it fell off when I tried to fit it on to my nose. That’s when I found out that the noses were not designed to be worn by someone with a flat nose like mine.”
  • A maid in a Victorian dress. When I was in South Africa, I saw cleaners in shops and also domestic maids wearing dresses that were not much better than this, just with knee-length instead of floor-length skirts. Sculpture by Mary Sibande.
  • A conspicuously white person absurdly inserted into a black African soap opera (Candice Breitz).
  • A sangoma (a shaman, a healer) holding a consultation (Siyazama Project).
  • Human figures with horns (Jane Alexander).
  • Steve Biko, who died in police custody (Sam Nhlengethwa).
  • A 1994 ballot paper, showing both Nelson Mandela (ANC) and F W de Klerk (National Party).
  • Black workers sleeping on a bus (David Goldblatt). Public transport is important in South Africa. When apartheid was introduced, black people were evicted from their homes and forced to relocate to designated areas which of course were in undesirable and inconvenient locations on the outskirts of cities. Therefore the cleaners and domestic workers who I mentioned above, who aren’t being paid a whole lot, are travelling very long distances for the privilege of getting to these demeaning jobs. A significant amount of their time and their money is sunk into bus travel. The workers in this picture are sleeping because they do not get adequate time for sleeping at home.