Californian Faces

The teens of Newport

Beach blond. Eyes bright. Moving in small packs. Clustered around the octangle at Balboa, they congregate.  I marvel at them.  What is it that intrigues me so? I watch as more and more roll in: many wheels.  I listen to conversation snippets.  I get the feeling that as tenuously as this peninsula is connected to the mainland, so too is their connection to a world outside of here.  A microcosm of lost identity.  Kids dress like adults; adults do themselves up to keep looking younger and younger, stave of ageing and keep up with the kids.  Million dollar houses and million dollar haircuts.  Everybody is  beautiful.  Nobody presents their own awkward face to the world.  Here I sit amidst this.  Trying to look cool, too.  Well ok, not that but trying not to stand out too much. Well ok, not even that, just sitting in the corner, wild hair windblown and filled with sea salt, eating fried cheese on a stick.  With a funny sort of smile on my face, watching.

 

The otter of Monterey

The water was too still.  I kept checking myself and thinking no, I cannot be at sea.  Then looking up and out over my shoulder I saw the horizon that lies drawn out forever and on, the most delicate of lines, telling me that yes, this is ocean.  I am in a stubby open-topped kayak.  These are perhaps my favourite kind of boats, for they are the closest one can get to the water without being in it.   I am at the same level as everything else.

This evening, everything else in an otter.  He looks at me looking at him.  Both of us we’re just eyes.  His face is round and furry. Long whiskers poke out from under his squished up nose.  Floating on his back, toes pointed out towards me, he cricks his neck to get a better view. My paddle lies in my lap, fingers on it softly.  The cramp I felt from a long day of driving is gone, all the dust washed away.  The expansion from car-box to here, where I stretch out beyond this boat, beyond the soft swell and the kelp seaweed arms and my new friend to some place that is allplace, it makes me giddy.  It takes my breath away.

A breeze is sending me past him obliquely, we’ve passed our closest point now.  Like at the end of an embrace our fingers are slowly separating until only their tips touch. Then nothing. Just me, the Pacific, and the departing light.

 

The park ranger of Marin

“You need some help?” His government-licensed four wheel drive pickup pulled up beside my bike.  I was surprised to see him.  Up until now, the road had been completely deserted.

“I’m looking for the best route up to Stinson beach.”

“Helluva ride that is.” He squinted at me.  “Helluva ride.”

Each ‘e’ he spoke was way drawn out, lazy, like a day on the beach.  He turned his back, reached into the truck and pulled out a trailmap. And with a sigh he spoke,

“Well. Up Milwok, past Wolf Ridge then all the way on over Bobcat.”

The park ranger handed over the map then squinted at me again. “Long way that is”, he said, “real long way”.

“Ok” I answered, “well, thank you”.  

I paused; he waited.

I saddled up. “Thanks again” I called over my shoulder.

“Or I suppose you could hike over Mt. Tam” came his reply. “You’re talking hours though. Hours.”

But his voice was already fading away, being replaced in my ears by the delicious noise of tires crunching over gravel.

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An encounter with a serow

I glanced up the hill, then back down at my line through the trees. I wanted to make sure the ski patrol or any other officials were not in sight: I could be thrown out of the resort for skiing under fences. The snow was picture perfect. I could not resist. Yes it was dangerous; stupid, some might say. To ski alone is unwise. To ski alone off-piste could lead to serious trouble. To ski alone off-piste, in an unknown resort in a foreign country through trees in near white-out conditions during a snowstorm, well, you get the idea. I calculated the risk I was taking. I squeezed my poles tight in my fists, ducked under, and pushed off.

Oh! that first turn. True powder skiing is nothing less than floating through air. Effortlessly I made a second and a third, my mouth catching the snow that flew up from my skis — but I couldn’t close it over my grin. I heard my boy-laugh. Then I started thinking again. I knew I had to hang right. I put in a couple sweeping turns, applying a bit more pressure with each. Then, squinting and aghast, I slammed my skis though the thick pillows into a hockey stop and everything — but for the heartbeat in my ears — went quiet. These four beasts stood before me. What were they? Stout and grey-brown with little horns and bigger ears they stood there, furrily. Full of apprehension at these solid mirages, I clacked my poles. That sent three of them trotting off into the silent whiteness. The fourth remained, steadfast, looking me straight in the eye.

In that moment of his gaze I understood something. I understood that there is a place for me on this incredible little planet. Somehow I can be a mathematician and a skier. A writer and a yogi; sensible and drunken. I stared into the eyes of the serow, and he stared back into mine, and under those ancient white trees, everything just fit.

Now, back in the world of red buses, grey skies and desktops, I have that moment. In times of doubt, it really helps. It is the reminder that beauty is everywhere; it is the reminder that “good enough” can expand way beyond us and fill out over our horizons. It allows me to lay down my head lightly on my pillow, tired and fulfilled and hopeful.

To build a city

Frauenkirche

The Frauenkirche (cathedral) looks like a Jenga game. Although grand and old-fashioned, the stones of its walls are mostly clean and without blemish; a new build in an old style. There are a number of entirely blackened stones, sitting amongst the clean ones at numerous locations up the walls, the ones that from afar look like missing Jenga pieces. These are the stones that survived. They were carefully labeled – somehow – with an indicator of their position, until the restoration could begin. Then they were placed back where they belonged in the walls.

It was not only stones that were replaced by numbers, but people too.

It is beautiful here, certainly. Twisting cobbled roads most fit for horse-drawn vehicles lead up to magnificent buildings of limestone with bronze statues atop their roofs and ornate clocks hanging from their sides. The river Elbe peaks through from between clocks and cobbles. A historic town, polished and proper seems to be what is presented. Still, here and there the blackened rocks shine out the brightest.

This is what I cannot ignore: that this town, whilst boasting centuries of history, was blown to the ground 70 years ago. Are there still those who were here? There must be a few I suppose. I hope.

I feel like I am tightrope walking the line between remembering and forgetting. To fall on the first side is to live in our past and never let go. To fall the other way is to repel the stories until they are exiled from our consciousness, an equally terrible fate.

Let me for at least a few moments remember, and dwell on those things that we may write with the least uncertainty, indeed may even dare to call them facts. On Tuesday evening, the 13th of February, 1945 at 22:14, the first bomb was dropped from an RAF Lancaster aircraft flying at 2,400 m over the city of Dresden. In the next eight minutes 500 tons of high explosives and 375 tons of incendiaries were released by this plane and the 253 others that accompanied it on their mission. Some three hours later in the middle of the night, a further 529 Lancasters returned and dropped 1,800 tons of bombs onto the fires that already raged and engulfed the town centre.[1]

Dresden was justified as the main target for this bombing campaign by the allied forces since it was a transport hub for the German army. Furthermore, it was said that by assisting the Russians on the Eastern front, the strike could hasten the end of the war by as much as six months. What they created by this carefully calculated strike was an inferno. Most death was as a result of asphyxiation: people dropped to the ground as they no longer could breath. This meant counting the 20,100 victims easier; few were too badly burned to be found.

“To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire.” – Margaret Freyer[1]

  
I am told that the people of Dresden are of a practical inclination, towards the latter side of the line I consider above, whereby unpleasant memories are left behind and the good ones upheld. This is indeed what can be seen on the streets. New cobbles cover old roads and the face becomes beautiful again.

The castle that recently reopened is still undergoing work. A different scene presents itself here. Inside, to the right, old stone pillars compose a part of the wall, failing to blend in at all to the modern plaster above them. Were these replaced back here from some other place, or was the new castle built around their ruins? The other wall, to my right, is entirely white plaster. This mixture of styles is not as pretty as a completely reconstructed courtyard might have been, but it is without pretence. I like it this way. Above us the sky is visible through a strange lattice of transparent tiles. Back out in the streets the historic idyll rules; in here a more honest mosaic of periods and epochs hosts us.

No locals knew what the reconstruction plans for the castle were until the main parts were complete, a guide tells me. This was apparently to avoid long drawn out meetings discussing alternatives. And their verdict? The job that has been done is well received by most.

On the riverbank my axis of time changes. The rolling green land of the Elbe valley was carved out over thousands, not tens, of years. I breathe easier here. The Stones from the river[2] that line its banks are smooth, and good for gripping in one’s palm. A wave of hurt runs over and through me. Looking at them piled up in their hundreds and thousands reminds me of other great piles, of spectacles, or shoes.

What is the point of remembering? Why bring this sadness into our lives? This is not today. Today is friends and colleagues and stem cells and (soon) German beer.

I propose this: a bistable state. Rather than balance precariously maybe I can sit comfortably with both truths.

1. We must remember the past.
2. We must let go of the past.

As if waiting to reveal itself to me only after I have gotten there on my own, on my way home, between the river the motorway, is a small garden of flowers.

Rose garden

“This rose garden is dedicated to the many Dresdeners of all faiths and to the refugees and expellees then thronging the city, who died in the firestorm on 13th and 14th February, 1945.

This rose garden is a symbol of the reconciliation achieved between Great Britain and Germany and an expression of the yearning for understanding between all peoples.” [3]

In the dark above the buildings night birds swoop past in flocks. Startled, I look again: are these creatures glowing? Are they mutants, tagged by some orange-yellow fluorescent protein? Ah no. I have become, perhaps, too engrossed in biological ideas this day. The reflection of streetlamps on their bellies provides the colour. But wait — As they swoop again did they just become a fleet of Lancasters, glowing in the light of the fire below? Maybe, just for second. But now they are birds again, and birds they shall remain. Little sky-hung reminders that we choose everything. We choose what we see, we choose what we saw and we choose what we will see tomorrow.

Yes, be it a balance or a bistability, Dresden seems to be managing just fine.

  

[1]Wikipedia and sources therein.

[2]A wonderful book.

[3]The Dresden Trust. Dedicated in May 2011.

NYC: I see your Battersea and I raise you Brooklyn

I recently swapped my familiar red buses for the exotic yellow cabs of New York. It was hard not to keep on comparing the two: whose parks are better, whose shops are bigger. But I don’t want to line them up side by side in order to go through a list ticking boxes. New York is New York. London is London. I spent a whirlwind four days in the former, and it certainly was scintillating.

 

Kids on the move

On a Saturday morning as I found myself breakfasting in the shade of elms in Central Park, before me ran hundreds and hundreds of people. As far as I could tell this was no organised event, simply what to do on a Saturday. Old people, young people, fat people, fit people. Not just on feet either, but on skates, blades, road bikes, mountain bikes, skateboards and longboards; a never ending stream of brown legs and white arms. It was an incredible sight. Who were the youngest? There were a few pre-teens out on family jogs. There was one boy running with his father who looked no older than 7. But there’s better – there are pushchairs whizzing along, babies bouncing while mum or dad runs. And look there! A woman is about 7 months pregnant as she jogs – albeit sedately – along the edge of the bustling park road. It felt like urbanisation hitting me in the face. We have set up our environment so comfortably that, for many, our days require no physical activity whatsoever. We must seek it out in our leisure time. At home, it might be an easy life, but on a Saturday morning in the park, from day minus-several, New York kids move fast.

Jogging with your baby

 

The magician

His eyes never once met mine, but then, I’m not a girl. I noticed him, sure. In fact I remember counting his tattoos, they were scrawled across his arms in black, snaking out from under a short-sleeved black shirt. His hair: black too, and slick. Perhaps he worked the door of some club downtown; perhaps he’d done time. Right now, he was sitting opposite us on the red line, heading south on a sunny Friday morning.

He was intent on one thing: capturing the attention of my friend as she sat next to me. He had props, too. A pack of cards he shuffled without looking as we bumped along. He began his trick. Showed her a card from the middle of the deck, without looking himself. Not as fun, or impressive, as beginning with “pick a card, any card”, but this way there was no way to refuse. He replaced the card in the deck, shuffled, shuffled, and sure enough there was the same card again, ‘her’ card. There was no applause. Nobody shouted for more. It was a short show for an audience of one. He did not even seem to take pleasure in it. There was no smile, no showman’s glint in his eye, no relishing of the magic, or of a trick well done. Has he been fishing for girls on New York underground trains for so long that he has forgotten to charm? Has he been hardened by a glaring lack of appreciation?

Or could we have got it all wrong? Maybe he isn’t trying to pick up girls. Maybe he is trapped within some place, angry or confused at the world. Maybe the only connection to other people he has left is through the rustling of his cards. Or, maybe (yes, do be careful of projection), maybe he was a happy man practising card tricks on his way to work. We didn’t leave him behind as we got off in SoHo; we left behind our impressions of who he might be.

 

Views and Songs

View of Central Park

The sights from the 69th floor of the Rockefeller centre were splendid. So too were the views from the High Line park, a very different vantage point. At just one floor above street level, 68 below Rockefeller, it sounds like it might not compete, but it does offer a serene take on the city’s goings on, whilst remaining well within them. Due to railway tracks which ran through the city in the 19th century, 10th Avenue became “Death Avenue” on account of all the accidents which occurred there. Finally, someone agreed to remove the danger to pedestrians, and built train tracks on stilts. From 1934 until 1980 trains ran up high, allowing the street dwellers the privilege of safe passage below. After abandon for almost 30 years it was opened as a public space, green and invitingly quiet. I think New York demands these places, since so many streets — lined with towering blocks on either side — see almost no sky.  As I walked the path I felt like I imagine a dentist might feel: enjoying unusual views not normally seen in the course of a day (or by the viewed).  I watched a repairman hanging off the back of a billboard, enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of duelling taxis, and the curves of a fire escape as it spiralled downwards. High Line reenergised me, and whet my appetite to dive back in.

NY street scene

View from the High Line: above yet still amongst the city streets

That evening we ate at Ellen’s.  It is a diner with a difference.  Each of the waiters and waitresses has dreams of the real calling of the street on which we find ourselves: Broadway.  Between serving up burgers and club sandwiches, they take to the roaming mic in turns and perform one of their chosen musical classics — from Greased Lightnin’ to Luck be a Lady.  They prowl the tables with pomp and charisma, picking on a diner to sing right into his or her face, or climb up on the back of the tables where, as long as their balance remains, the stage is theirs.  As the evening wore on the table service became more sparse as they flocked to join the choruses.  It was wildly entertaining; and so… American.  Very much like Disneyland, but this show is not contained within a theme park; it is loose in the heart of the city.  Yes, it is a show, but somehow it is also real life. It is cheesy but it is uplifting. If there is an American dream still alive, I don’t know if there is any better way to picture it than by serving up fries with songs on the side, sung with gusto, sung with life.

There’s no i in London

‘Cause on the surface the city lights shine
They’re calling at me, come and find your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl

In London, you are never really alone. Not desert island alone. Not top of a mountain alone. Not even driving a car down a long straight road with the music blaring alone.

In my early city days I used to be continually amazed by it and say where did you all come from? multiple times a day. Say you go to a weekend market, OK, these are popular places, you jostle amongst legging-clad women and men sporting mohawks, maybe you have lunch with the crowd. Then you decide to move on. You take a bus or a tube to a park perhaps – it’s a sunny afternoon, but when you get there you are rather shocked because so are all the others. Hey guys! Where did you come from? This was my idea. Did you follow me here? At the start it surprised me, now, for the most part, I have come to accept it. Cities run on people. We are the red blood cells.

I am reminded of a line from a book of poems about school from way back, it went something like “everybody says our school is overcrowded, then why do I – in the middle of the playground – feel alone?” It was worded more eloquently, but that was the essence.

Sometimes outside is inside. Like right here: outside the Wireless festival arena in Hyde Park on a Friday night. The streaky clouds shine in the sun’s last stand. People too, glow, in small groups, as they listen to the dulled music, drinking on their own terms. (I can’t imagine this country without public drinking; what is more British than a beer, or a cider, or a Pimms in the park?) There are hundreds of people in my sight right now, yet I don’t feel crowded or cramped, but included. In a more cynical mood I might call it a collective grimace. We chose this, we say to one another with our eyes. We chose the city, we chose amenities over space, we chose to live breathing on one another, listening to one another, rubbing against each other every day. So what do we do? Dammit we make the best of it. We are spoilt for entertainment of course, that is what we are here in the city for, and when we tire of it we go sit in the park. We watch what we can see of the sun as it sets somewhere behind Edgware road and we smile. As sunsets go, sure it has nothing on an ocean horizon, but it is what we have here, now, and we embrace it.

It’s gone now, the sun. It will be dark soon. And darkness does confine us. Darkness is small. It puts boundaries up where before there were none. Yet still there is light. Always, in fact. It is true that you cannot see the sky at night, that planes are your only stars –

Twinkle twinkle easy jet
How I wonder what you are

– but this also holds us together. The glow of pollution keeps our faces lit even in the darkest hours. It is in these wee hours, when I might be walking home not long before tomorrow’s sun, that I am most surprised to share the streets. I walk down a tiny, leafy road in Chiswick and a man with his shirt untucked is walking unsteadily down the other side. His steps look strained; not so much that he’s enjoyed a truly wild night out but a little too much for him to be just tired after a night shift. Or crossing Battersea bridge at 4.45 am: I think to myself this time the bridge will be all mine, but it never is. There is always a black cab, or a souped up Polo, or a couple standing at the zenith looking out at the water instead of at each other.

Crowds can be claustrophobic; crowds can be lonely. But so can moors or deserts. In the words of Ben’s Brother:

What if life was a car
And you didn’t really know how to start it
Would you sit in your car like a clown
Or get out and walk to the nearest crowded bar?
And kiss a mouth, make it smile and be proud
That at least you had a good time for a while?

dots on London’s map

In a way London deserves its own map. Or many. If the tube is your way of moving around then you are island hopping. You cannot keep hold of the world once you have descended into the tunnels. If I climb aboard at South Kensington, and take the train to Covent Garden, then yes, I can piece together what is happening on the streets above me … I will roll past the fashion designers of Sloane Street and Harrods, under the arch of Hyde Park Corner, along the edge of Green Park, and on underneath Piccadilly and the Leicester Square cinemas to my stop. This is due to my memory of the route though; the dark tunnels give nothing away. Indeed, there are some stations I have been to just once, like Brixton or Caledonian Road, which are in complete isolation to any other London in my mind, nothing connects them to the world. I arrived stealthily, creeping up below them. I take to the streets for a short while, for a gig or a play, and then descend back down leaving behind the darkness lapping at that little patch of land I managed to illuminate.

It is exactly this that I love. Drawing lines between places; not Google’s on a screen, but real ones made of houses and trees. I delight in rearranging the picture of the world in my head to fit the evidence. Imagine a house, a mansion, with many rooms and corridors and alleys and courtyards. Some person is dragging you around blindfolded, allowing you a peep here or there but never enough to take in the full architecture.

Well, I will continue to draw my lines, gnawing away at the dark patches.

This is my roundabout way of reopening dots on the map. I may not be in Mongolia, London may not have wolves or gers or the wild edge of the frontier, but it does have plenty of its own stories, tucked in amidst the bus stops, the boris bikes, the pubs and the bridges. Let’s seek them out.

the far east

I’ve gone through many more seasons than normal in one autumn.  I left the beginning of the falling leaves at home for a serious summer revival in the heat of the Middle East.  It kept us some time in its grasp before throwing me out, gently, towards winter.  Moscow was cool but still teetering on the final edge of autumn.  East from there winter came quickly.  I reached Siberia and the snow and ice didn’t let go of me until well into China. When I awoke in north Vietnam my ski jacket became unwelcome once more, and as I travelled south into the tropics the sun and the heat returned in fine fashion, albeit alongside the occasional thunderstorm.  Finally, upon the flight back west, winter re-inhabited the world and I stepped out of the airport, shivering, into snow-coated Edinburgh.  Now, I think my body is thoroughly confused as to which way the world’s tilting.

What of China?  What of Vietnam?  Well, some bits and pieces.

 

Nanshan: A premier alpine resort just north of Beijing.

The journey there was, as with most basic activities in China, adventurous. But simple enough – a helpful bus conductor got me off the bus in the right spot, where a swarm of taxi drivers were more than willing to take me to the hill.  Upon arrival I made my way to tickets where I bought a day pass and ski, boot and goggle rental.  The rental hall was huge and busy as Chinese school groups and families geared up for morning lessons.  I collected my gear.

I was up to the challenge of almost pencilled skis and rear entry boots.  I thought “how bad can old gear be?”.  Turned out, pretty bad.  It was like skiing in slippers.  I flailed down the slope barely able to link anything resembling a turn.  I returned to rental and insisted the boots didn’t fit.  I kept refusing their various offerings (rarely pairs) until finally I was brought an odd pair of Langes which had seen much better days but at least had four clips and came up past my ankle, woo!

Nanshan highlights

 

Things improved quickly.  The piste was a good blast.  The pipe was horrendous, but I wasn’t holding out great hopes, I’ve met similar halfpipe efforts in reputable places.

I headed on to the rest of the park which consisted of some comical moguls and a kicker which was good enough to spin off.  I landed a couple 540s (nervous ones… with no twin tips) and, once well warmed up, headed over to The Rail.  This wasn’t a regular feature – there was a Nike railjam type competition going on the day I was there, and I was pretty keen to give it a go.  I felt triply alien but I didn’t want to let it stop me.  First, I was invading upon a competition I wasn’t entered into.  Second, the comp was exclusively for snowboarders (at least there were no skiers present), and here was I on my (retro) skis. Third (and most overwhelming), I was a solitary white westerner doing what?? (wondered everyone) skiing in China.  Well, I missed my opportunity.  By the time I reached the slope the event was over and the prizegiving was taking place below it.  I thought it would be a step too far to hit the rail when I would certainly collide with at least some of the prizewinners at its end.

Still, it was a fine day at Nanshan.  Perhaps in a few year’s there’ll be a ski category when Nike comps come to visit!

 

How best to see Vietnam (as long as you can keep your eyes open)

The answer is on the back of a motorbike/moped/scooter/knocked-up-two-wheeled contraption-with-an-engine.  It’s brilliant fun.  Crossing the road is an adventure in itself, but you don’t get a full sense of the two-wheeled traffic action until you get amongst it.

In Hanoi the wet haze of drizzle and mist never lifted, so I spent my journeys clinging on to a wet pillion seat in my poncho, a grin spread on my face, as we twisted and turned through the streets.  On Cat Ba island riding was incredibly sedate by comparison.  I could sit back and admire the mountains and rice paddies.

Thang (pictured here) was my guide for the day, and we got on very well.  He was a hairdresser, often checking himself out in whatever mirrored substance was available.  At one point, upon dismounting his bike and removing our helmets, he asked “how’s my hair?”.  I answered “fine” and then, as an afterthought, “how’s mine?”.  He laughed hard, we both did.  Compared to his perfectly coiffed do, my matted mane was a good joke.

In Hue I grabbed a bicycle ($1 for a day’s rental – I couldn’t refuse!) and set out under my own steam.  Aside from one left hand turn (right hand driving) at a giant intersection amidst trucks and vans it was a fairly peaceful ride.  Winding dirt roads were dotted with curious adults, smiling children and nonplussed chickens.

Saigon was a different story; things moved fast.

It combined the bikes with the big city.  Instead of five or six lanes of bike traffic, suddenly there were fifteen.  Colossal roundabouts looked like nests of bees surrounded by their swarm.  I got onto bikes, and gosh was I scared.  The first ride I took was behind a taller than average Vietnamese fellow.  A mistake — always pick the short guys so that you can see over their heads as they drive.

On my last day I ventured out of the city centre into the suburbs, explored Chinatown, and eventually made my way to old Buddhist temple which was overgrown and mysterious.

It contained a number of sleeping monks and one awake one, ringing a large gong over and over.  I said hello to him and he smiled back at me and said “Everyday, 2 o clock. I ring gong.”.  Back on the street dark clouds were congregating and I was a few kilometres out of town.  I found a suitable looking bike and driver and jumped on, not knowing I was in for quite a ride.  He drove erratically and aggressively, swerving violently this way and that.  His bike too was a state.  It choked and coughed along, at two points stalling on junctions just as the other half of Saigon began to career towards us.  At that point I almost closed my eyes.  A little further along we got held up in a small jam and as we sat behind cars a few daring bikes nipped past us and bumped up a tight gap between car bumper and lamppost onto the pavement where they could make slow headway weaving through people.  I could see him considering it.  I sat there clinging on thinking “don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it”.  He didn’t do it.  Then the skies opened.  (You can see the looming storm cloud in the picture above.) On we went, the bike slipping out on corners now as instant rivers flowed down the streets.  My knuckles had long since lost their colour.  When I finally stumbled off the bike I was exhilarated, shaking and drenched.  I collapsed into a comfy chair in Vietnam’s Starbucks – ‘Highlands coffee’ – to dry off and calm down with a delicious ca phe sua da.

And then that was it.  After a cancelled flight in snow chaos, a rebooked (business class!) ticket and far too much free food eaten in the airport lounges, I was home.  Here’s to more dots soon.