Archive for January, 2008

A Weekend in England Countryside

Posted in Life's simple pleasures, Reflections, Travels and Adventure on January 29, 2008 by shiying86

One of the main highlights of my Europe trip was spending a quality weekend with an English family.

It was just refreshing to escape the hustle bustle of London for a weekend to the beautiful, peaceful and lovely countryside of Cornwall.

I stayed with the Parsons family in Truro, Cornwall, South of England. It’s a small, but important town because of the existence of its monumental cathedral.

From left:Paul, Catie, Elaine and Jack

I don’t know if they know this: but I really enjoyed my weekend there. Not only did Elaine accommodate me in her Notting Hill apartment, the family invited me to stay for a weekend with them, paid for my transport travelling down there (and it cost a bomb) AND paid for the expensive meal on the train so I could travel first class.

Not to mention, I was given my own room, wonderful food and most importantly an invaluable experience of just chillin’, not doing anything (a great break for planning any trips!) and relaxing with the family.

The weekend was the last days of Christmas so I was lucky enough to see their elaborately decorated Xmas tree cute socks hanging above the chimney hole.(sorry, no pics, told u, I was chillin’ and lazing that weekend.)

Xmas Deco:Edible Ginger Bread House

The amazing thing was that the house used to be an old folks home, now, converted to a house and it’s aged more than 50 years old. It has Old English Victorian windows, doors and the stairs creaks when u walk on it. An absolute old English charm that was just too cosy for me to resist.

Paul cooking pasta for dinner. Yum!

I can just recall the warm and cosy feeling at the pit of my stomach, as we watch the dad cook dinner, singing along to oldies while we chatted, laughed at nothing in particular. The warmth of the cooking and the Elgar or maybe it was more of the great family time that they spend together. I don’t think I had a terrible childhood, but somehow, I wished I had these sort of moments with my family. I guess in Malaysia it’s just too hot to stay in the kitchen and the maid is the one cooking most of the time. The whole evening was framed and imprinted in my memories forever, for this is what I think family means as we sat together on the dinner table watching Whose line is it anyway? laughing hard, sipping red wine.

Catie in the living room

Oh, and I nearly forgot a very important member of the family! Who lies under the table when we eat dinner, jumps and lick my face in the morning, taps the kitchen door to ask me to open it and nearly knocking me down when we first met. He understands human language so well, he’s like a 8 year old kid. Puts my dogs to shame. Maybe i should start schooling them in the UK. Heard education there is pretty good.

Please meet Rex, the uber-smart collie!

I am touched by how they embrace me with open arms after not seeing them for almost 10 years. Elaine is a close family friend and we don’t even have real blood relations, yet, when living there, they treat me exactly like one of their kids-no extra special guest or any of those pretentious sort of nonsense nor did I feel left out in anyway.

Catie and Jack at Falmouth harbour

The last time I saw Jack and Catie, they were just babies. Now 13 years old Jack is a com whiz and churns out special effects videos on you tube like a pro. He had no qualms showing it to me and elaborating all that he knows about Adobe After Effects and showing me his light-saber projects. The little Star Wars fan is really a com-whiz, earning him a scholarship in school and used to be a chorister in the cathedral, and it’s not easy entering the cathedral’s choir. In fact, it is very prestigious.

Catie’s doll house

Catie was absolutely adorable, a little shy with me in the beginning but not long after we were sharing secrets and exploring her gorgeous doll house. She just have this beautifully innocent and melodic soul that i can’t help liking her. She’s young yet matured and lovingly trustable. She would tell me stories about schooling in England, what she does with her free time and I was dying to hear about Christmas and Christmas gifts (she loves dragons, ponies and her doll house is AMAZING).

Her mum used to be a model and beauty queen, and I can see that beauty emerging in her as well.

A dose of all these Makes me understand why Enid Blyton wrote those stories, why Asian kids can dream about acorns(I saw so many double the size of my fist!), snow and bushy tailed squirrels but we can never relate to their existence. And here, the kids are living my childhood dreams. I would describe it as lyrical, like a lullaby… a melody so familiar that it cradles my soul, the lyrics so clear as the sun shines down on the fields. Now, I’m craving for more…

The Penair back garden: the post in the centre is bird food, with a pond, bridge and stone steps leading to the front porch.

This lovely view is just a lookout from the kitchen door.

Kitchen view

I especially love it when Paul starts explaining to me about places, Oxford, Paris, England and the travels he has been to. No, he doesn’t do it in a grandfather-ly sort of way. He just shares his knowledge, while I listen attentively(trying to absorb as much as my pea-sized brains could); his life as a student in Oxford University, Cornwall, the house and just their life. I never expected it to be so fun, but it was. It gave me a taste of having an Ang Mo “dad”.

They brought me out to town for grocery shopping-one of my absolute favourite way to explore a place. While they buy ingredients to prepare the yummy-licious food I had the whole weekend.

The butcher and his pheasants “Here, hold it up and you’ll get better pictures!”

Truro Cathedral

Wet and Rainy in Truro Town

Despite the grey weather, it did not dampen my spirits there. Though when I was shown the gardens, apples trees, blueberries etc., it looked really bleak and I secretly wished it could turn spring for one moment to let me see it flower and fruit. Guess I have a reason to return.

Reflected view of countryside on train

My heart felt heavy as I hugged and kiss the family goodbye before boarding my 4 and a half hour train to return to London.

Do you see me?

THANK YOU Parsons family for the absolutely wonderful weekend. Truly, madly, deeply. The whole experience enriches my life, brought out the little child in me, and I am thankful for this opportunity. You all may think it’s just an ordinary weekend, but to me, it was the ordinary-that made it extraordinary. I miss all of you, and will definitely return again and hopefully in a few years time, it would be me returning the favor when Jack or Catie comes to visit.

xoxo

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Pont de Neuf

Posted in Art/Inspiration/Creativity, Photography, Thoughts and Musings, Travels and Adventure on January 27, 2008 by shiying86

Paris is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been, and my experience there was incredibly romantic and unforgettable.

I thought of many ways to capture those moments in my post but haven’t come close to producing one.

My dear friend agreed to write a fictional short story, which gives a whiff of taste of Paris’s beautiful night; illustrated by photographs taken while I strolled the city of lights’ night by Siene River.

The story below is purely fictional and any resemblance to real life, could only be, well a coincident. 😉

It made me feel all warm inside, just like how one would feel after taking a warm, relaxing bath; despite it being a still, chilly winter’s night. I recalled those surreal moments, and it felt like it never happened… Funny how the more things seem to have changed, the more they have actually stayed the same.  

It all started with a restless streak of wanting to explore Paris in its full glory of being beautifully lit at night. The air was strangely calm and the city seemed to be imploring me to allow myself to be swept up by euphoria that only Paris could offer. I silently took on the challenge, and decided that tonight; I was ready for an experience that I would never forget. 

I walked by myself, drowning in the dreamy atmosphere of the city of love; barely noticing the echoes of the sounds of my heels against the cobblestone road, bouncing off the stone walls of the surrounding buildings; which under the illumination of the streetlights, looked extraordinarily silent and regal.  

 

I felt the chilly winter wind against my face, slowly turning my cheeks into a slight flush as my breath was quickened with my pace, as I thought to myself at that moment. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t my pace; rather it was an instinct, an expectation of an oncoming event that I felt deep in my stomach. 

I finally reached the Pont de Neuf of the Seine River. I drew in a quick breath of cold air as my eyes indulged themselves in amazement at the beauty of the Seine River by night. The water was still, yet its surface was lightly quivering; as if it was in anticipation, as if it was reflecting my emotions… 

 

Mesmerized by the serene play of light between the streetlights and the water, I was caught unaware when he put a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around instantly and wondered who was sharing this beautiful moment and scenery with me. My hair was lightly blowing with the night breeze against my face as I stared into a pair of blue eyes filled with intrigue and mystery. On normal circumstances I would have been wary of this midnight stranger; but that night, all I could manage were three smiles- from my eyes, my lips and my soul.  

Some would claim my behavior was due to the danger of meeting a stranger in a lonely place; some would insist it was his strong built and boyish good looks. However, deep down I knew what it was, it was none other than the magic of Paris, enveloping you while you gently succumb to your deepest yearning.  

We talked; or rather we spoke, to each others’ souls. It felt so right and peaceful, it was as beautiful as the flowers of spring time; and, just as spring flowers fade away, we both knew that this magical night would end. Parting is such sweet sorrow; but somehow, this parting was more sweet than sorrow. His kiss was lingering, as if never wanting the night to end. I gently pulled away so that I could look deep into his eyes, and they said it all.  

As I walked away, I could still feel a slight sensation on my lips, and an image of his evocative eyes searing its mark in my memory. I felt a change within myself, isn’t it odd that no one else can see it? 

-Jo Ann Kok

Postcards from London

Posted in Photography, Thoughts and Musings, Travels and Adventure on January 25, 2008 by shiying86

View from Tate Modern: St Paul’s Cathedral (The Blue Dome building) and Millennium Bridge over Thames River, London

Tower Bridge, London

Yes, it’s call Tower Bridge, not London Bridge contrary to the popular “London Bridge is falling down...” song.

P/S: when Jo ann pointed out London bridge to me, I saw an ugly ugly fly over for vehicles.ha!

St. James Park Lake

It all seems like a scene out of fairy tales and Enid Blyton stories…

The Big Ben and Parliament Square, the epitome of London’s political power

British Airway’s London Eye

Dear All,

I’m now in England, standing in front of the famed red telephone booths with the  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the whole parliament square behind me! It’s been a cold day but today is one of those rare days with sunshine! the Brits are obsessed with weather, tube and coffee! Usually grey, wet and cold, it’s not surprising that people easily get depressed here. London’s major transport, the tube (underground trains) are completely insane! It’s super complicated and travelling at peak hours nearly suffocated me to death. It is one of the most metropolitan city in the world, and based on my people-watching observations, you get all kinds of people here-any skin colour, all speaking different languages, tourist, citizens, PRs, to travellers (and most of the time unable to differentiate between them) all just strutting along the streets never giving a damn about any thing; every person is a person with mission.

View from top deck of Double-Decker Bus at Piccadilly Circus Stop

 Understandably, the city is fast-paced, up-tight, extremely congested, polluted and I always find an undescrible “high-and-mighty” air about it. However, on a grey day, I still find  a melancholic beauty; the essence of supremacy tasted just by watching high-powered executives walking past with their black suits on the phone with a British accent, Ladies in their killer heels, one hand with a fag another with a coffee and important business on their mind.

The city is a potpourri of everybody, everything, and every-state-of-being. A little of everything, plus its own rich monarch history and gloriously powerful past(arguably still is) makes it hard for me to succinctly describe it. Did I like it? Yes and No. As with everything-there are great(Art, Architecture and theatres!), okay, not-so-great and down-right sucky issues($$$ and jam-packed tube!!!)

But for now, I’ll just sit back, relax, sip my cup of tea and continue my people watch.

P/S: Miss U all!! did U miss me?

PP/S:A Belated Happy 2008! It’s my 1st post of the year!

Yours truly,

Shi Ying

xoxo

(p/s: someone complained i have too little photos so here’s more)

View of London City from Tower Bridge overlooking Thames River

Tower of London and open ice-skating rink

British National Gallery and fountain at Trafalgar Square

Me freezing in front of Tower Bridge