12 September 2009


No matter how many times I fly, I don't think I'll ever get sick of seeing the world from above, of seeing the sky from inside. At one point during the first flight, after we've had breakfast at lunch time in Melbourne I look out the window to see sunrise beginning to pursue us through the clouds. We're travelling west, so dawn seems to stretch out for hours, like a symphony building to a climax, gold and orange in startling contrast to the deep blue above us and the dark earth below. The morning star hangs bright and clear, watching over it all.

moon over plane wing

These are the things I remember from flying: the web of fairy lights lacing across what I think must have been southern India; a shooting star somewhere over the equator, south of Kuala Lumpar; the mountains rearing up through a blanket of mist and dust as we near Abu Dhabi; the white-as-bleached-bone shoreline and bright blue sea of the Arabian Gulf, and the wonder that human beings can sustain themselves in the face of such dryness (it seems a different sort of dry to Australian desert); the napkin-folds of brown mountain ranges near Diyarbakir; a finger of white clouds marching purposefully towards a distant coastline.

near kuwait?

But of course travelling isn't all wonder and amazement! My journal got off to a worrying start, with the first page taken up with calculations of when I would be able to take my next batch of Sudafed and/or Codral (thankfully the cold didn't cause too many problems). Then there is the hot, itchy tiredness that comes after spending 14 hours in a plane, then getting out at your stopover and being greeted with 5am weather that feels more like a sauna than anything (“Did she say it was TWENTY seven degrees outside?” I asked D, thinking I'd misheard. Yes, she did). There is the thirstiness and craving to wet your mouth during the two hours you spend on the ground – only it's Ramadan, and it's after sunrise, so it would be offensive to drink or eat in a public place. There is the guy behind you who you think wants to become one of the ten percent, and the woman he's chatting up who doesn't seem to mind. There is the bizarre patterns of meals (we only got 3 this time – often we get 4), and the way there is never enough of the bit of the meal you really want (fresh fruit, the delicious curry with the roti – luckily I remembered to wear my roti-eating face). There is the woman on the second leg who sits in the hitherto empty row of seats next to you – the row you had been planning to spread out into – and, when she sees you watching, puts her belongings over all four seats, then lies down across the entire row. I am not generally a vindictive person, but I am ashamed to admit that I wished bad things on her. I believe I muttered to D that I hoped she got to wherever she was going and found her bed was horrible and that a dog barked outside her window for the whole night.

onto the tarmac at abu dhabi

At any rate, we arrived in London safe and sound, and M (D's mum) picked us up from the airport. I got through passport control without any hassles, and the person at the desk seemed happy enough to not comment that I hadn't filled in the 'sex' square on my landing card and had written so big that I could only fit my first name on. With her lack of attempt to misgender me, that made this flight the first I've done with a 100% success rate of not being girled. Yay!

M took us back to their house following the directions of my favourite navigator system: “You are no longer on the planned route!” The outer edges of north London are green with just a tiny hint of Autumn colour, and in the dappled sunshine I suddenly felt completely on holiday! Back at M&A's place we had blissful showers and some delicious and much needed food not out of a foil container! We had a short nap (oh, it wasn't pleasant having to force myself awake) found D's wallet (argh!) and headed over to E&L's (D's brother & his partner) where we unpacked, ordered and ate an enormous amount of curry, watched “Deadliest Warrior: Apache v. Gladiator” (hee) and fell asleep as soon as we got into bed.


After sleeping through to about 5:30, we hopped up at about 6, ate a tiny breakfast and went for an early morning stroll around the park beside E & L's house. First squirrel sightings of the trip! I forgot how small and cute they are, and they are even cuter when they're dropping acorns out of trees above you! Also: BLACKBERRIES. I ate the first one as soon as I could, and it was DELICIOUS. I hope they have blackberries in Cornwall. . .

first blackberry of the trip!

path & park in mill hill

M picked us up at about 9 and drove us to Highgate Wood for proper breakfast. The woods are gorgeous, with dappled sunshine on the path and glowing green leaves above, and the little cafe there is also very pretty. Food and coffee were standard for England (we are so spoilt in Melbourne!) - and that means that yes, I did try the coffee (it always takes a couple of goes before I give up). We sat outside in the sunshine and breeze, looked at the OS map of North London I'd had sent to myself at M & A's place, and planned our day. Unfortunately, M couldn't come walking with us, so we said goodbye to her and set off to explore.

welcome to highgate wood

the cafe at highgate wood

IT WAS HORRIBLE. And by horrible I mean absolutely delightful! We stepped off the main paths and explored the smaller tracks watched by curious little robins (D's favourite bird, and I can see why!), and found fallen trees to climb and homemade swings hung from high branches to swing on.

j on a tree!

d on a swing!

We crossed the road to Queen's Wood (which was called Churchyard Bottom Wood until it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria), where one of the cutest cafes I've seen for ages sits nestled at the woods edge in a quaint brick building with a fairytale tower.

fairytale cafe in queens wood

We weren't hungry or thirsty, though, so we plunged down into the trees, again turning off the main paths and finding sweet little tracks and clearings, following little streams down the hillside. Of course, all this downhill wasn't to last, and we were soon taking off our jumpers and remembering why our daypacks are not ideal for walking (we both had very sweaty backs). To take our mind off it, though, we found another swing. This time hanging above quite a steep incline, and I managed to get onto it and swing out above the path . . . WHEE! It's great being an adult, because you get to do the things your parents never would have let you do! And I didn't die once!

j on the swing 2

Our plan was to meet up with the Capital Ring, and follow it back to M & A's place. The trail was easy to find and quite well signposted, which was excellent, as we didn't have to stop and look at maps at every second crossroads. In addition, it went back past the cute cafe, so we stopped for a mug of organic tea and to enjoy the surroundings. The walls of the cafe were lined with black and white photos, and the verandah looked out into the woods. It would be interesting to head back there for lunch one day, as the menu looked nice and vegetarian-friendly.

the cafe in queens wood

woods / path / seat

After fortifying ourselves with tea, we followed the Capital Ring back through Highgate Wood, down a laneway, up a quiet street and into Cherry Tree Wood – a park more than a wood, where D used to watch northern line trains go into the tunnel. Of course we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a bit of train spotting, so we found the place and watched the trains go in and come out. Hee!

The signs guided us through East Finchley and Hampstead Garden Suburb, and we found several houses to go on our wishlist (anyone with a bunch of dosh to spare, take note: D's birthday is coming up in November). I do like walking in urban areas, because it affords good opportunities for stickybeaking at people's gardens! Most of the summer flowers are still in full bloom, so gardens are full of colour – at times I felt like someone had turned up the saturation levels, and it was like walking through a bright, nostalgic memory.

We had a rest in another park and watched a very cute and extremely disobedient spaniel refuse to follow its owner (it was still playfighting with other dogs when we left a quarter of an hour later). Then it was along a very pretty little garden beside a wee stream and into Big Wood (almost familiar territory for me), following the Dollis Valley Greenwalk into Little Wood, and then only a short walk up to the stupid un-walker-friendly intersection (Henley's Corner, where we got yelled at by a driver who wasn't looking where he was going – don't get angry at us, get angry at the intersection!) and then back to M&A's place for a shower and a nap. The walk was about 8.5km all up.

lying in the park

The afternoon and evening were spent catching up with family, giving presents, talking and eating Shabbat dinner. I swear I ate about half a loaf of chollah. Man, I LOVE CHOLLAH. It was, in all, a lovely day.

Last night we were awake at about 4 or 5am, and heard this weird sound, like a man shouting, “Aurgh, aurgh, aurgh!” We were sure it wasn't a bird, so we looked out the window into the park and saw a big fox, barking! We think it was barking at a little black and white dog that scampered away down the road. The fox barked a few more times and trotted off into the night.


  1. ZOMG I AM SO JELLUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (pee ess: hi hi hi. have fun. *love*)

  2. Foxes make the creepiest noise. I used to hear them barking under my window at night.

  3. hi hi hi!

    we are having fun, and learning lots of new things - like the creepy sound of foxes!

  4. oh boy! it all looks and sounds so gorgeous - particularly that photo with all the green. wait, does that not narrow it down at all? *pout* I HATE GREEN.

    *hugs* :)