Experiences · History · Miscellaneous

On the Passing of Time (and my Grandma’s 80th birthday)

A simple premise: my Grandma’s 80th birthday. My family sits around watching an old, but recently discovered, video of my sister and me, recorded almost sixteen years ago.

On screen, I am little over three years old; my sister is not yet one. I chatter and sing and my heavy childhood lisp slightly distorts everything that I say. My sister squeaks and screams and grins at the camera, but cannot walk or even crawl. Off screen, my family howls with laughter, my not so baby sister jokes (or actually tells the truth) that I still sing just as badly and my second sister comments that she wasn’t even born at the point of this video.

The video is made of snippets of several different days. By the end of the video, in a clip filmed a few months later than the first scene, my little sister has started to crawl and she seems to be in a mad rush to escape onto the carpet, away from the rug that she has been placed on. My appearences have become more sporadic, as I have since started nursery school. My mum appears in the video at one point – congratulations to her, she looks exactly the same. My dad appears several times and my grandparents comment that he too looks the same. My sister and I certainly do not look the same (and it would be a bit concerning if we did). In fact, we are not even the same from the beginning of the video to the end, as we have grown more and more as the video has progressed.

Bahrain is beautiful. Filmed through a dusty window, we catch a peak of green grass against hazy sky, of the tall date palm standing proudly in the front garden, knowing that it really belongs there, in a way that the expat inhabitants can only dream of belonging. Excluding photographs, this is the first real glimpse that I have received of the country that I grew up in, since I last visited over four years ago. The camera pans around the room and my mum takes it on a little tour of our house. In all honesty, I do not even remember the house that appears in this film, as we moved out of it when I was just five. However, our subsequent two houses in Bahrain were exactly the same in layout, and I clearly remember them. And yet, I am still surprised at how big the house on the television is, and five years ago feels like a lifetime away.

The video ends and we are transported back to reality, to my grandparents’ house that has always provided a constant, for us now and for the children in the video. My grandma talks of the past. She tells us about the holidays that she went on as a young woman, to Paris and Venice and Egypt and beyond. She talks of her arrival in England and her childhood in Africa. She tells us about the exulsion of Asians from Uganda and we are surprised to learn that she herself was there, having been previously led to believe that she was in England at the time.

My grandma tells me about the book that she is reading on the history of India. She comments that I love history because she loves history.

My grandpa mentions his own childhood in India. He notes that only one of his (many) siblings was born in Pakistan, with the rest having lived through partition.

The babies in the video listen eagerly.

My grandma cuts her birthday cake. 80 years old!

Some flowers for my Grandma’s 80th ! đŸŒč
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London

Visitors

Following on from an amazing three days in Liverpool with Evie, the next three days brought with them a second reunion (although after a much shorter time period than the last) as two of my university friends came to stay with me.

Imogen and Lenya arrived in London at about 12:30 pm on Sunday afternoon and I met them at their respective tube / coach stations. Finding Imogen at her train station was easy, despite the fact that she had left her phone at home; finding Lenya was not. However, we did finally all find each other and, as they did not have very heavy bags, we decided to stay in London until evening. Our first stop was lunch and so we headed to Covent Garden to find somewhere to eat, to catch up and to compile an itinerary for the subsequent day. We ended up eating in Bella Italia, where we shared garlic pizza bread and chips. On the way to the restaurant however, we noticed ‘Milk Train’ – an ice cream and candyfloss place that I had really wanted to go to – and so we headed there once we finished our lunch. At Milk Train I ordered a vanilla ice cream with candyfloss, whilst Imogen ordered (a rather unpleasant) green ice cream – the flavour of which we are still unsure… Unfortunately, our ice creams ended up literally falling apart within minutes of leaving the shop, but not before we managed to get our picture perfect Instagrams.*

*Well, not that picture perfect – but here are some that actually are!

After lunch and our very messy ice cream, we headed to Trafalgar Square, as it was both nearby and a typical touristy destination. As the weather was warm we spent a long time sitting on the steps (which Lenya hilariously struggled to climb up onto). Our aim was to obtain a nice photo of the three of us at Trafalgar Square but, as it had started to rain, our much-needed photographer was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, we did end up getting a photo in the end, but regretfully it showed no distinct sign of being at Trafalgar Square! After spending a while here, we headed back on the tube, this time to St Paul’s. We walked around for a bit, past the Tate and the Globe, and then began a very long walk to the very anti climatic London Bridge. Once on London Bridge, we stopped for a while to talk, before setting off in pursuit of dinner. But, as it was a Sunday, indeed nothing was open so we ended up on the tube once more, where we concluded at the sushi restaurant near to where I live.

Day Two saw us waking up at 8am and getting up at about 11; not quite the early morning that we had envisaged. Nonetheless, we quickly set off to the first destination (and the only one we actually made it to) on our itinerary: the Natural History Museum. As Imogen and I are history students, whilst Lenya does science, we concluded that this museum would be the perfect compromise and indeed it was. We arrived in South Kensington at around lunchtime, so our first stop was Nandos, where I enjoyed a lovely mushroom and halloumi burger, before navigating the beautiful streets of Kensington to the museum. We spent the majority of the afternoon at the Natural History Museum exploring all the exhibits that were available, from earthquakes to dinosaurs to cabinets of dead birds (which I was certainly not keen on). At the front of the museum was an escalator that led into a giant earth sculpture at the top, so that it seemed that you were entering into the centre of the earth. We ended up travelling up this escalator a few too many times!

Once we had exhausted all there was to see at the Natural History Museum, we briefly visited the Victoria and Albert Museum as it is next door. We went to the fashion exhibition first (Imogen’s pick) and then to look at the sculptures (Lenya’s much more reluctant pick). Finally we went to the beautiful jewelry exhibition, where we became embarrassingly engrossed in the design your own ring computer game. Once we finally moved on from the game – which was certainly not intended for people of our age – we decided to make the most of the hot weather by walking to Hyde Park, where we sat by The Serpentine and enjoyed a cold drink. As it began to approach dinner time, we jumped back on the tube to Covent Garden again, where we had dinner at Zizzis. More importantly though, we took photos on a lovely flower covered bench, which we waited at for literally twenty minutes to get our photo!

Tuesday brought with it a very early morning, which followed a very late night, as we had stayed up talking for ages. Thankfully, despite the sleepiness, both Lenya and Imogen made it onto their trains home with plenty of time to spare. The three days provided a lovely opportunity to catch up with friends that don’t live near to me, as well as an amazing chance to experience London as a tourist. As I have written about before, it is all too easy to take the amazing city that one lives in for granted and, thus, any opportunity to make the most of all that London has to offer is very much welcome.

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Natural History Museum
Arts · Travel

Old Friends are NOT Best Left in the Past: Three Days in Liverpool 

I am writing this post whilst on the train back home from Liverpool, where I have spent the last three days visiting my friend Evie. Having been friends since we were nine years old, Evie is my longest friend and yet still someone who I continue to consider to be one of my very best friends. As she lives in New Zealand, this is only the second time in the last six years that I have seen her, hence the amazing three days were all the more meaningful, as I do not know when I will next get to see Evie, except through the pixelated screen of a poorly connecting Skype call.

I arrived at Liverpool Lime Street Station at around half past two on Thursday afternoon, where Evie met me on the platform. As Evie’s grandma (whose house we were staying at) lives slightly outside of Liverpool, we decided to remain in the city for the rest of the afternoon. Because it was lunch time, and a nice day, we walked to this small outdoor fair place – Evie was unsure if it was permanent or not – where we sat for a bit and ate some delicious halloumi fries. After lunch, we wandered across the water by the docks and arrived at the Tate Liverpool, where we stayed for an hour or so to look at several displays. One piece of modern art that stood out in particular was a sign (similar to that of a board in a train station) in which random thoughts, perhaps belonging to the artist, were circling; Evie and I were fixated and must have watched it for about ten minutes. The first thought we saw however, read “Old friends are best left in the past” – something which Evie and I certainly did not agree with!

After exploring the Tate Liverpool, Evie and I went to Liverpool One shopping centre, where we looked round the shops and in Evie’s case bought a number of things. Finally, when we were done looking at all the shops that New Zealand seems to be massively lacking in, we got on the train to The Wirral where Evie’s grandma lives. Evie’s sister Isabelle (who I haven’t seen since she was eleven) and her cousin Ellie (who I’ve only met once, years ago, when she visited Bahrain) drove us home from the station and I saw Evie’s family for the first time in over half a decade, as only Evie had visited me last year. We had dinner and dessert and lots of sweets and then the four of us – Evie, Issy, Ellie and I – watched Love Island. After that, Isabelle and Ellie went to Ellie’s house, while Evie and I made the regretful decision to watch a super traumatic psychological thriller called Pet until we were almost too disturbed to go to sleep.

The next day we woke up at about 8:30 am, got ready and had breakfast. Then, at around eleven o’clock, Evie’s mum drove us to the station, where we got on the train to Chester, which is a town also quite close to Liverpool. Chester was a really pretty and historic town, with lots of old buildings along the high street. True to what we do best together, we spent another day shopping both in Chester and then later in Liverpool again. Less was bought on Friday than Thursday though, as a long period of time in Chester was spent in a shoe shop where Evie could only find one boot of a pair of boots that she liked! As well as shopping, we also had lunch in Chester: I had a lovely mushroom and cheese toastie.

After our rather late lunch, we got the train from Chester back into central Liverpool. In Liverpool we met up with Ellie and Issy and went to a cafĂ© on Bold Street called ‘Love Thy Neighbour’. This has got to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing cafĂ©s that I have ever been in; I seem to remember having seen it before on a blog or Instagrammers’ feed! Following this, we looked in a number of independent vintage shops on Bold Street, with Ellie showing us where to go, as she actually lives in Liverpool. After a while, Ellie and Isabelle went back home, whilst Evie and I looked in a few more shops before following suit. Back at Evie’s grandma’s house, Evie and I had our dinner of surprisingly very tasty vegetarian sausage rolls, and then Ellie and Isabelle arrived right in time for Love Island again. After Love Island, the four of us squeezed into one double bed, where we started watching a film called Mothers’ Day. We did not finish it however, as Evie’s laptop ran out of charge, and as we were all tired we decided to go straight to sleep.

Despite plans to wake up very early this morning, Evie and I finally made it downstairs at close to eleven a.m.. As my train was at quarter to three, we decided to head straight into Liverpool and explore the tourist attractions near the station. Thankfully, this area actually seemed to hold the majority of museums and galleries. We chose to go to the an art gallery – called The Walker Gallery – that had many paintings and sculptures, as well as a craft exhibition. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a number of pieces by famous and well known artists, such as Lowry’s paintings of Liverpool itself. Once we had finished at this gallery, we attempted to go to a second gallery, but it turned out to be quite expensive so, instead, we decided to go to Radio City in St John’s Beacon, from which we got an amazing view of the whole of Liverpool.

From the top of the viewing platform, we identified a square that we thought would have nice places to eat, and this is where we set off to to find some lunch. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case, however we found another nice cafe on Bold Street called ‘Koop’, which had a similar kind of vibe to an American diner. Evie was not hungry so only had a coffee but, as this was my only opportunity to have lunch before my journey home, I ordered a peanut butter, chocolate sauce and banana waffle. When it came, both Evie and I were shocked at the size – the waffle was enormous and served with a mountain of cream and a second mountain of ice cream! Evie and I ended up sharing the waffle in the end, as there was no way that one person could have eaten it on their own. We finished lunch in perfect timing, at around quarter past two, and then walked the short walk back to the train station, arriving in good time before my train departed.

Overall, I had an amazing three days, experiencing a new city, visiting a number of interesting galleries and tourist hotspots and, of course, spending time with one of my best friends. So, that art instillation was indeed incorrect after all: old friends are certainly not best left in the past.

Arts · History · London

My London Bucket List

At the beginning of this summer holiday – during the long days of Ramadan when time was certainly not flying by – I began to compile a long list of places that I want to go to during the months that I am at home. Despite being from London, most of my childhood experiences of London were through a lens not dissimilar to that of a tourist; on one hand London was home, but on the other it was an exciting place yet to be properly explored, understood and conquered. Since moving back to London, this perception shifted comfortingly towards the former and unfortunately away from the latter. However, London remains to be a city full of attractions, museums and places to explore and this summer I aim to venture into the city that I have become increasingly attached to over the past few years…

Yesterday, Grace and I went to the ‘Old Operating Theatre’, which is one of the many lesser known museums on my list. The very small museum, which is set up in the attic of an 18th century Church, is home to the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe, dating back to 1822. Having braved the long spiral staircase to the top, Grace and I were ready to explore the museum. The museum consisted of several displays, including cases of old surgical tools and a “Cabinet of Curiosities: Animals in Medicine”. There were also innumerable herbs on display, as this attic was the site of an old apothecary. After exploring the displays in museum, we went up the stairs to view the operating theatre itself. Despite being small, the museum was very interesting, especially as it is not one of the more common museums that one immediately thinks of when they think of London.

After leaving the Old Operating Theatre, we took a short (although not as short as Grace claimed it would be) walk to the Tate Modern. In converse, this gallery is certainly not lesser known, nor new to me, as I have been there many times. However, it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless. Whilst I would perhaps hesitate to describe myself as a modern art aficionado, or actually even a fan, I did like a number of the pieces, in particular the pieces with historical context and the photography series. What’s more, I definitely enjoyed watching Grace’s undisguisable lack of amusement at many of the pieces! A particular mention has to be given to an art installation made entirely of human hair; this is certainly not because it was my favourite but in fact quite the opposite – as a concept it was traumatic enough, let alone as something I have actually had the displeasure of seeing.

The day commenced with an obligatory trip to Pizza Express, which, no matter how much we complain about it, always ends up being the go-to restaurant. Over all, it was lovely to explore a new museum and learn about the history of a place of which I had previously been unaware.

One place ticked off the London summer bucket list!