Day 10 – Old Beginnings

Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions.  Well it feels unexpected, but in some ways, like there is some kind of draw to back full circle as well.

I only lived in my place of birth, Fern Tree Gully, Melbourne, until I was about four years old.  My immediate family then moved to Queensland.  In my teen years I very much missed out on getting to know the extended Melbourne based family.

I knew a bit about them and I have been working on a family tree for my late fathers side of the family.  But I don’t know them and they don’t know me.  Most of both sides of the family only know what my Mother tells them about me and I rarely know what is going on in their lives.  The lines of communication have been closed for many years and I am not really sure why.

There is a part of me that wants to reconnect with family here, but a part that wonders if I am too different, too strange.  I am in no way like anything I know my family to be.

Another part of living here fascinates me more than the family connections and that is the history.   Particularly the places Dad would talk to me about.  His childhood.

img_1921His time at Collingwood tech.  His apprenticeship at WL Ryan and Sons at 590 Elizabeth Street in 1939 (he is pictured above – sitting in the foreground on the box at the back of the workshop).

I still have his letter of reference from WL Ryan written in 1949.  I have searched for theimg_1923 premises, but they have been replaced with a modern building.  But I will go for a look and I am thinking about taking Dad’s old apprenticeship papers to the Victorian Museum for safe keeping.  They have some photos of inside the workshop, so they might be interested in his documents to add to the collection.

I am performing comedy in September in North Fitzroy, where my father was born.

I know so little about getting around Melbourne and I feel as though life is just starting again, despite the family history here back to the gold rush in the 1860’s.

It’s an exhilarating but most unexpected turn of events.  Everything is new and interesting and a touch daunting.  But I am very glad to be here, just a little bit away from my late father’s early life.

Hypnotism, Hospitals and Healing.

Been an interesting week to say the least!

My comedy business, Gin and Titters (named after my need for a gin and tonic before I make people laugh) – hosted a visiting Comedy Hypnotist Dave Upfold.  You can check him out at Not 1 But 2

simple centre to the top 1We’ve worked hard with promotion but unfortunately we’re not able to attract the crowd we wanted.  Despite this the show was great and people thoroughly enjoyed themselves! It was interesting watching people I know volunteer on stage and as usual – us Theatre Sports folks were some of the most entertaining! Check out the fabulous dancing here from my fellow Alice Springs Theatre Sports buff!

Alice Springs is a small transient population of 24 000. During the Easter long weekend even less and people tend to celebrate with family more than go out.  We had to compete with a large scale music festival.  In the end we got one good night out of the three planned.

The other complication was my health.  As you know (and if you read The Girl who Cried Blood Pressure ) I have very difficult to control blood pressure.  It’s know as secondary hypertension, because it is not caused by a heart problem, but by a more systemic issue.  In my case, it’s linked to the massive trauma of Neurological Decompression Illness (see my LinkedIn article about being a “bends” survivor).

So this week it reared it’s head again.  Now, stress? Yep.  But normally that is not a problem – if my medications are working.  But they haven’t worked for about 18 months and I’ve been struggling to convince the medical profession of that fact.

They see me living life to the full and figure – can’t be that bad.  But, on the flipside of that, I am a stoic pain the ass, so they would naturally assume that.

So here we are, a comedy hypnotist, a sound effects guru and a bedraggled me (at least it feels that way for me at the moment)!  Onwards and upwards!

Anyway, a day in hospital and a change in medication and we are back on the road…literally…for the end of the week in Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin.

That’s another 600 km drive to Tennant Creek, then another 680km to Katherine and then another 300km or so to Darwin!

Dumping the bucket list in the bucket…

So many people are living for the rush of some idea of a future that isn’t grounded in the  right now. A future holiday.  A future job.  A future home.  A new smart phone.  And they forget to live in the meantime.

Like the ancient Pharaohs, it’s almost like a lot of people are stashing possessions for an afterlife – but in a twisted way that will just see them dried up, albeit pretty, corpses (maybe even before they die). Even the concept of a bucket list of travel experiences is used in this way, it’s not about enriching our experience through our lives, but towards some mythical end of life experience (which for many is too late).  I think we need to dump the idea of a bucket list and change it to the “Grateful heart list”.

In mentioning the Pharaohs, I mean no disrespect to Egyptian culture, I’ve just spent four weeks experiencing it and I love Egypt and the Egyptian people.  So the comparison between the Pharaohs lifestyle and modern Western materialism is very tongue in cheek of course.

Because folks, we Westerners are definitely not Pharaohs – late stage capitalism makes us more like consumerist addicted zombies.

I realised today that I haven’t had that kind of thinking for over ten years now and just how liberating it is to be free of it.

The irony is that since I freed myself of that kind of thinking all number of things I once dreamed about, happened.   Particularly in regard to travel and adventure (and on shoestring budgets too! I am far from wealthy in a material sense).

I do a running tally of all the “little” things I am grateful for every day, as much as I possibly can. This also means setting achievable goals for life’s experiences (like travel or study, not material things) that give me joy and a sense of contribution.  It’s all funded through meaningful community based work (in both community services and the arts) – work that I love (not dread).

I come from a family where travelling overseas was not common.  Not in my immediate family.  My Dad travelled to fight in World War II (he would be 95 his coming April if he was still alive) but for many of the generations before me, they didn’t get to travel like I do.  *I need to add that when I travel, I do not do “tourism”.  I use responsible and ethical travel options, homestays, support local economies and try and keep my carbon footprint as low as I can.  I do not do checklists of places to “say I have been there” and try to avoid hanging around in “cliques of foreigners”. I spend time with local people and immerse myself as much as I can for as long as I can (usually four – twelve weeks).  

Basically for the past three generations in my family – they travelled to (potentially) die in a war, migrate to another country, or flee a fascist regime.   They then built a life for themselves and future generations.  However for me I had to abandon the things they prized once settled in a place to achieve a more privileged form of travel.

I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t aim to own the latest in anything.  Happily, willingly.  When I move house it’s two small cars worth of moving.  I could pack up tomorrow and be in whatever location I desire, still earn good money and still contribute to any community.

I realise I am very privileged in this sense. I hope that my contribution to the world will mean that generations after me take what I have for granted. That is indeed my hope.

However I don’t own much.  What I do own is:

  • A heart full of respect for other people and their culture/s,
  • A passionate desire to see the world find some peace with itself,
  • A sense of joy at the beautiful little things all around me each and every day,
  • An appreciation of nature and it’s gifts,
  • A wealth of great stories about fantastic places and people,
  • Language skills in six languages now (from beginner to intermediate),
  • An ability to problem solve and feel good about my contribution to the world,
  • A university education (again something my immediate family were not privileged enough to be afforded), and,
  • A life filled with intelligent thoughtful work, art, comedy, writing, regular travel and adventure.

I don’t own a bucket list.  I threw that idea out with the ‘before you kick the bucket” bucket it came in.

What I do own is a grateful heart.  Let me rephrase that another way too.

A GREAT FULL heart.

Written on the tarmac of a delayed flight from Darwin to Alice Springs

Pilot: keep a sharp eye on our flight attendants as they do our flight safety demonstration.

It was a 7 am flight after a long weekend of a comedy performance and two days in the Darwin office for work. I am not a morning person. I have only had one coffee and that was nearly two hours ago now.
I don’t have sharp eyes. They are currently blunt. Kind of like looking through a telescope that someone sneezed on.
I am not sure I know how to do sharp eyes. Even at the best of times.
So this particular flight gets delayed and we sit on the tarmac for an hour and a half. My eyes are now dead pools of disinterest.
Some dude starts doing yoga in the aisle. Not once, but every 15 minutes or so. Yoga. In the aisle. Yeah. You read that right.  Not just recommended exercise’s like on the back of the card that tells you to put your head between your knees in a crash. Full on Yoga.
Finally we get to taxi onto the runway (as I finish this).  We get the safety demo again. I think they think we are not only blunt eyed but also brain dead. Well I am becoming brain dead by now.
We get in the air and Yoga dude is at it again. I think the lady in the seat behind has sharp eyes now. From having his ass in her face. Every 10 minutes now.  
*I wrote this into a memo on my phone on the flight (in flight mode of course) and posted this afternoon.

Monks on motorbikes and Cambodian hearses…

Hello from my first proper day in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived at 3.15 pm Cambodian time yesterday after a 2.30 am start in Darwin and was met by Sarry and the V-homestay tuk tuk.


We chortled through Siem Reap overtaking monks on motorbikes and an overburdened tuk tuk carrying wicker to the market.

 


After an unscheduled dash for petrol I got to sit in the tuk tuk and watch the world go by. Sarry engaged in world class negotiation to obtain to Coke bottles full of petrol and we were on our way again.

V-Homestay – like it on Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/V-homestay-787501231296932/

Is a family business competing against the emerging and foreign owned tourism of Siem Reap. As I mentioned to Vanna (the owner of the homestay) today – I don’t come to Cambodia for a hotel.

I came to Cambodia for Cambodia and Cambodians – not a hotel and certainly not one owned by foreigners.
The homestay is very much like how a number of what you could call working class Cambodians live. They done okay and the homestay is just part of what they do to keep the family economy going. They’ve done okay for themselves.
I was greeted by my new best friend – “Puppy”. We had an early evening aperitif of spring rolls.

I amused my hosts by showing them the vehicle I had videoed on the drive from the airport. I commented “I want one of these buses”.

There was chuckling.

“Do you know what that is? It’s for carrying the dead person to the funeral”, Vanna informed me.

It’s not a bus. It’s the equivalent to a Cambodian hearse…

“Oh! On second thoughts I don’t want one!”

More laughter.

We then took a trip some 3 kms to the family farm plot. Under the moonlit evening we admired the burgeoning project of a home and farm for the family separate to the homestay visit. It will generate food and tours income (come learn about Cambodian farming tours).

Dinner was a lovely simple meal of curry and pork and rice.  As was breakfast this morning.

The accommodation is very basic – but if you love homestays – it’s very good and the family are beautiful.  The kids have promised to teach me some Khmer. So fair it’s just yes, no, hello and thank you.

The great thing about accomodation like this is that it’s not only a great experience but affordable. I get to see the real Cambodia without paying a lot of people to pay others – but direct to a family enterprise.  A whole lot more of these would mean a whole lot less poverty.

Yeah, of course, this is not everyone’s travel ideal and the other styles of accomodation will never go out of fashion – but it sure feels good to my Buddhist sensibilities.

They are also proud to have a “5 star” western toilet in the back outhouse. It’s very flash indeed!

I woke up this morning to monks chanting just down the road and music next door. Lovely comfortable Asian style bed (they are hard but somehow comfortable).

I’m now recovering from running around the pagodas in the city centre….

Have a great Monday! More soon….

Speak to me…

As an ex-pat Australian, I have just moved to a non-English speaking country and am experiencing what I know many migrants to Australia experience. I have to say I completely underestimated how it would feel, despite being (as an anthropologist by trade) more than thoroughly aware of the cross-cultural/linguistic issues.

I am also, in the most part, immensely grateful for the kindness and empathy of the Chinese people, my new friends and colleagues. My experience here is mostly positive so I can be somewhat resistant to prejudice and I laugh it off.  But that’s not to say it doesn’t exist.

I want be clear here. This post is not about Australian or Chinese examples alone. Mono-lingual overtly nationalist thinking is the scourge of the modern world as far as I am concerned.   Once upon a time (and fairly recently in comparative human history) we all spoke (or had basic knowledge of) more than one language. We had to, in order to get things done and negotiate and trade with our neighbours.

What I am writing about is the tendency for people to claim a superior attitude when dealing with people who do not speak their language and how toxic that attitude can be, world-wide.

I may not speak much Mandarin but I am working at changing that as best I can. I speak enough to make basic purchases and greet and be pleasant use a translator on my phone. I can, after a few weeks (and like many other people can) get the general idea of a conversation enough now even though I may not be able to fully engage yet. I know when people are speaking about me harshly because I don’t speak their language.   I have also been refused service in some places (only three times in 6 weeks) – but the negatives are all things I have observed Australians doing to new migrants too. It’s not behaviour isolated to any one language or country.

I have worked in highly cross-cultural contexts for over 15 years now. I don’t mean an office where you have people from different nationalities – I mean in contexts where cross-cultural communication is the purpose of the work. So when I listen to Australians complain about “multiculturalism” or engaging in prejudicial conversations about “us and them” in regard to language I am always a bit perplexed.

Prejudice – comes from “pre” and “judge”. Surely we are grown up enough to know that to judge something we have very limited understanding of is very childlike behaviour? I can guess (but not predict fully) some things before I experience them, but last time I checked my crystal ball was all out of batteries.

It’s everywhere you go and sadly is one of humanities nastiest piece of baggage, but still some people like to lug it with them despite what it does to their souls and their interactions in the world.

I stand out here. Not just a little, but a lot.   There are about 500 – 1500 (it varies) foreigners in a city of 4.4 million here. I’m doing my best to be me and blend in as best I can. I am learning from my Chinese friends and colleagues and take their advice about how to best do this.

I regularly get stares, pointed at and spoken to in very odd ways. Some people shout at me and use very overt hand signals because they assume I am stupid as well as non-Mandarin speaking. This is much like I have seen Australians do to new migrants as much as many deny it happens – it very much does.  For some people I can’t learn Mandarin quickly enough and they make that known. Again, it’s reminiscent of some Australians I have encountered when they deal with non-English speakers.

Notably many of these people have never migrated or learned enough of another language to even remotely justify their arrogance – that is something that I have found universal about people who actively practice prejudicial behaviour.   However it’s not ignorance in many instances, it’s a choice and people use it as a way to gain tactical advantages in their lives rather than actively engage with “others”.   If that sounds judgemental I apologise, but there is a vast array of behavioural studies done on this – I’m not just being a bitch!

In the face of nice and not-so-nice behaviour towards me – I do my best to be pleasant and kind to all, and I often find that the barriers fall away when I encounter people more than a couple of times.

I have had some beautiful experiences here in the majority.   This confirms my belief that prejudicial behaviour is a choice not a given.

Now some of us humans just seem to want claim a mono-lingual superiority that does not and has not ever really existed. In fact we are poorer intellectually and socially for only having only one language – and the behaviour of “taking the piss out of” another language and culture is symptomatic of that.

There are over 6000 living languages in the world – time to “get over” the “they really should speak <name of language>” thinking. Let’s just, instead, acknowledge that people speak language.

Here are three of the prejudicial thoughts I have observed in all countries I have been to in relation to new migrants and their language ability (and now I can speak with some authority on this as I have experienced it as well):

  1. If they can’t speak <name of language> they shouldn’t come here.   Yes, it would be ideal if people were fluent first, but this is a highly unrealistic expectation and people learn best when immersed in the new language. Sometimes their reasons for coming here may not require fluency, but skills other than fluency. There may not be time to be fluent first. But don’t assume they cannot understand you or that they don’t have a reasonable level of fluency. They will probably be able to understand most of what you are saying but may be nervous about replying. No manner of practice in their home country of the new language will prepare them for the reality and sometimes they will freeze or be nervous when speaking to you – so cut them some slack. They may have experienced being laughed at or even abused for having an accent or mispronouncing a word. In short, if you are an asshole they will respond by avoiding you or not speaking to you and the cycle of misunderstanding continues.
  2. They don’t respect us; they need to learn our language and not speak their own.   Yes they need to learn your language and they most probably are. But it’s not a fast process necessarily and believe it or not they may feel “lost” in your language world. It will be a daily struggle to even shop at first. They will have to speak their own language to manage a relative level of sanity and to be able to make decisions coherently. So unless you are going to hold their hand and translate everything with your own superior multi-lingual ability don’t expect them to. Again if the shoe was on the other foot and you were them, you would feel very differently.   Again, try not being an asshole about it and see how much more they speak to you in your language and how much quicker they learn.  Don’t criticise people for buying products they are familiar with from their home country, if you can’t be sure what you are eating – you wouldn’t eat it either, would you? Again it takes time and people will gradually use the products of the country they reside in now once they have experienced them. Show people and be proud of your culture rather than be a judgemental pain in the ass, after all, Vegemite is acquired taste! It’s not about disrespect, it’s about misunderstanding.
  3. If they can’t be bothered learning <naming of language> then I won’t help them. Wow! Again – read #1 and #2 above. Don’t speak about linguistically lazy behaviour and then practice it yourself. If you only speak one language don’t give me or anyone else this poor justification for nasty self-absorbed arrogance. Try not to be an asshole – it really does work wonders! Unless you carry the rare retro-active “I’m an asshole” gene and have a certificate to prove it – try something else for a change.

The world is a big place and if history has shown us anything, it’s that everything can change rapidly and we, as individuals, might not have much control over that. When Australians fear invasion so much they invade their own psyche with hatred and prejudice that only hurts themselves; a vicious cycle of provincial isolationism continues. The fact is the big island continent of Australia had 250 Indigenous languages and 650 dialects when the British clambered out onto its shores.   It had Muslim visitors and influences from Indonesia prior to that. It had had visitors from Portugal and Spain and other merchant and exploratory fleets.

No one and nowhere is really an island and when I think of the current rubbish going on in Australia in regard to multicultural thinking I have but one reply. Get over it and try being the friendly, welcoming country that we can all be proud of.

Countries and borders and national allegiances can shift, they are but human made. One day you just might find yourself in a foreign land just doing your best to do a good job at work, learn a new language and culture.  This may be something you have a choice in, it may not be.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather choose to help someone learn my language and culture than to belittle them for their culture and for not knowing mine.  We can’t possibly be expected to know what we do not know. We have to learn it.

Must we resort to belittling those learning our language and culture for the sake of our own fragile egos? I think not and I am a happier human being for it.   I’d rather learn from and respect other human culture than allege superiority.  My experiences in the world have been immensely richer since I made that choice.

Truth, Beauty, Love

“Love not me for comely grace”

LOVE not me for comely grace,

For my pleasing eye or face,

Nor for any outward part,

No, nor for my constant heart,—

For those may fail, or turn to ill,

So thou and I shall sever:

Keep therefore a true woman’s eye,

And love me still, but know not why—

So hast thou the same reason still

To doat upon me ever!

Attributed to an anonymous author, from Francis T. Palgrave, ed. (1824–1897). The Golden Treasury. 1875.

This poem sums up how I feel about “truth, beauty, love”. Culture shock has several stages and I have just been through the difficult bit (hopefully over now). But one of the things I have found that has impacted upon me emotionally is the prospect of being alone (in a romantic sense) here. Whilst I came here with no romantic expectations (in fact the opposite); I’ll admit to giving consideration to romantic loneliness more than I expected. I am rather determined to stay single. However the fact is that I can see myself here for several years and that point of view might change in that time. So it’s no lie that it has crossed my mind.

It’s no secret that China, for western women, is a lonely place.   This article sums up the many I have read and the stories of other female ex-pats I have met.   For me, I have done the marriage and children and post-divorce flings and it’s all a bit dull anyway. So I am not in the category of this lady as she is much younger than me. I’m also okay with the issues that Nikki raises and it is written rather negatively about all men here – which are views that I will reject because of that negativity. But Nikki’s story has helped me make the decision to stay regardless of what might or might not happen in terms of male companionship. This is, in part, because I am not afraid to be alone and I enjoy being on my own, but also because I am in a different phase of my life now.

But what I really want to talk about is perceptions of beauty. 11080925_10153218863641810_1031841793036245657_nBecause Nikki’s experience here is going to be much different to mine for another reason; she’s blonde and represents the epitome of western beauty as far as Chinese thinking is concerned.

I have been told by many people here that the model of western beauty here is the Scarlett Johansen or Gwyneth Paltrow version. Tall, leggy, lean and blonde and blue-eyed. I’m short, athletic (read chunky), brunette and green-eyed.

10806315_10153178558151810_347125018375164162_nThat’s okay and its okay that I don’t meet that model. I have no confidence issues with my appearance (normal niggles like anyone) and I’m beyond being worried about what other people think of my appearance.

I have been told I am beautiful here more in four weeks than I have in many years. That I am largely unaffected or somewhat embarrassed by that is found unusual.  I am happy with who I am – I don’t need someone to tell me I’m beautiful.  I always say thank you – but I am quick to offer them the same compliment and I mean it – we are all beautiful.

But what has struck me is how beauty is defined here. Many young Chinese women have commented to me that they don’t think Chinese women are beautiful.

I think all people are beautiful. But also in terms of beauty “proper” for want of a better description – they are simply magnificent to my eyes, the diversity of human appearance is beauty.

I sometimes feel, in all honesty, like an ugly duckling here in some senses. But the feelings are fleeting and more related to the many looks and stares I get just by being different.  Doesn’t bother me per se, but it’s noticeable and coupled with recent changes in my emotions has felt unusual.  But  I am more surprised by the attitudes of the Chinese women I have met towards their own cultural self-image than how I am perceived.

What I want to say to every woman reading this is really quite simple.

“Beauty” (as defined as its outward manifestation and how it’s perceived), should be classified like an emotional state:

  • It is dependent on so many things other than any real measurable factor.
  • It will pass. I don’t mean that you will age and lose your beauty; I mean that depending on where you are, what the culture is and what the expectations are – you will be beautiful one moment and not the next.

So…honour your own integral internal and external beauty that is not dependent on the views of any given society, culture or context.

You are beautiful.

Walking to work – A short stroll from “Ming to Modernity”

My walk to work is nothing short of magic. 

Guiyang is situated in one of the least developed regions of China, once ruled over by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis).   It is one of the smallest of China’s cities with a population of a mere 4.4 million.

Walking the 1.5 km to work is, as I have mentioned in a previous post, a complete delight. With each block there is a new sight and experience.

It’s like walking through time in some respects. There are pockets of town like areas still wedged in between modern high rise. Some of the lane ways in between the large modern four lane city streets are like the market towns of old.   You can see the same connection to the old village ways of living even in my own apartment complex.

This morning I walked through the car parks and weave my way in between the two other apartment blocks between mine and the road. I passed people boiling bok choy and Chinese cabbage to sell to restaurants and street vendors out the side of their ground floor apartment. It’s a large fire pot in the lane, the side door to apartment open and the kids rushing in and out. The hot coals under the fire burn red and the bundles of produce are stacked along the side wall.

They say hello to me now, and I always wave at the kids. Of an evening you can often here the group of children from this apartment rushing around playing out in the courtyard/carpark. It’s lovely to hear the sounds of their shouts and laughter as they play.

This morning a man was walking down the lane into the apartment complex carrying a freshly killed (unplucked) goose and a large hare. When I get the 50m out of the complex and onto the road I turn right and pass the dog grooming salon and peak through to see what divinely pampered creatures are there. On the way home they turn on a massive red neon sign that says in both Chinese and English “SPA”; for dogs, not humans.

Then another 30m and the village-like markets I have described. I love walking past these, food carts, fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the outlaying farming areas and prayer beads and some jewellery. There is an entire laneway that is pet products to the right and a complex of low rent shops that I have not yet fully explored that the locals shop at. I figure this will be my regular shopping spot and I have picked up some yummy treats here.

In the mornings, under the highway overpass that covers the market here, there are groups of people gathered sitting on their back baskets. These large baskets shaped to fit on your back are hoisted on like back packs and double as comfortable seats. They await an employer and sometimes there are many waiting and sometimes very few.

There are two areas like this one on my journey and they are the places I dwell the longest. You also see people with bamboo poles across their shoulders with two suspended baskets on the ends full of produce in these locations, a stark contrast from the rest of the walk through modern shopping areas. The food carts vary and there are a few that are clearly permanent and they are the ones I tend to gravitate to. Noodles and a variety of other things I cannot yet name and will describe at a later date – but nonetheless very tasty. A favourite sells delicious bacon and egg omelettes. Next to them is a stall with egg based pastries with a variety of fillings and shapes and sizes.

Some of the shops here sell massive urns with bluestone Chinese glazing with magnificent designs and one shop sells the most diving jade and other gem stone jewellery and statues. These more exclusive shops are tucked away inside the markets where you wouldn’t expect to find them. Unless you are a sticky beak like me! These are the places the locals buys beautiful things to grace their homes, not cheap crap, but things crafted by artisans.

Then within 100m you go from the old to the new and the Hunter shopping mall which is as glitzy as any in any other large city in the world. This is where the street is fronted by Pizza Hut, KFC and Starbucks as well as H&M fashion. In front of the high end shopping are fewer street vendors and I tend to walk more briskly pass.

I will sometimes stop at the Laodongmen relic site (see pics) behind which is the public primary school I teach at on Monday afternoons.

10360537_10153173781581810_3988421956538850688_n

It has the most divine eatery tucked up the side of it. Rows of little coal grills and they bring you skewers with vegetables and meats of your choosing (and tofu) and you cook them yourself and enjoy the heat of the fire as well. It’s a pleasant spot and I just love the way the seating is arranged, low benches and tables that encourage groups of four to six people to eat and enjoy close conversation. They are in a wide but quiet thoroughfare and are spread out far enough between them to create a leisurely eating experience right in the middle of the city.

In the mornings there is tai chi here and public dancing in the evenings. The rest of the way, the last 700m is largely shops until I get to work and every day I notice more and more. I do love my walks to work.