travel

London: Shangri-La by 3.1

I was told to meet at London Bridge at 15:00 on Friday 19th July and to bring an overnight bag. It was for a surprise to say thank you for all of the days that I was home alone whilst Patch was working away on the Cricket World Cup.

What I wasn’t prepared for was a room with a view on the 42nd Floor of The Shard:

I tried really hard to shrug off my shock and suprirse, but I was genuinely overwhelmed. What a surprise. Even after a good 2-3 hours of staring out of the windows, I still couldn’t believe where I was. There was a whole lot more waiting too as it turned out we had a reservation for dinner at Hutong on the 33rd Floor.

The food was amazing.

Half a duck to share, with freshly-made pancakes and lovely ‘Make A Wish’ cocktails

Shredded chicken with steamed buns

The first course of duck is carved at the table and served

The duck was served as two courses, where the remaining duck came back as a re-imagined dish.

Chocolate tart with mandarin ice cream

After dinner, we headed up to the highest hotel bar in Europe, GŎNG at the Shangri-La for a few drinks.

Lovely foil on the cocktail menu, with little facts detailing the insipiring inventions that inspired the drinks

Nothing could really prepare me for the view from the hotel room. I had time to gaze out of it for a few hours before dinner, but it was equally amazing when the light was fading and the lights of London were clicking on.

Patch had made sure I had a good view of the trains. We shared a bath whilst watching the city below us and nothing could remove the surrealness of the situation. Magical.

I watched out of the window for hours, until I eventually fell asleep. It reminded me of the time I’d stayed in the Park Tokyo Hotel in Japan, falling asleep with the slow blinking of lights on the tops of buildings and the slow light trains of the trains below.

At some point, I was woken up by the cloudy light of the morning. It had rained overnight, and I do remember opening my eyes briefly at 03:00, seeing that we were inside a low-lying rain cloud.

Loving the emergency cup noodles, ha!

Breakfast on the 35th.

It was nice to be up in the clouds.

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新年 by 3.1

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In my first week of 2019, I found myself on a plane 38,000 feet over the Pacific, cruising home from Sydney via San Francisco.

A lot had happened in the two weeks prior to that. I had danced a lot and I had consumed a lot of alcohol; I had spent a lot of my evenings in the company of cricket journalists/pundits and fans of Indie music from a specific time period (notably, the mid-’90s to the late-’00s); I had watched a lot of cricket.

For the very first time in my life, I have felt unconditional love.

***

My first visit to Australia over 7 years ago changed my life and gave me an understanding that I wasn’t going to suffer fools and I wasn’t going to settle for half-measures; this renewed visit sought to reinforce the lessons learned before, only this time there were other people to share in bringing this home and consolidating its importance.

On that plane home, I looked back and realised how much mid-to-late-2017 and most of 2018 had passed by in a flash. I’d wasted it all on a life with someone that didn’t really know what they wanted/was too afraid to be upfront about what they did/didn’t want; I’d wasted a lot of time worrying about the state of another person’s perpetual uncertainty (or their perceived certainty).

I was a project of sorts, despite their insistence that I wasn’t; I was branded “wholly irresponsible”.

In the end, I was let go. It felt brutal and needlessly unnecessary, but at the same time, perhaps a relief that one could breathe and not be continually blamed for someone unable to handle their own grief and mourning brought about by ill-timed, unforeseen events. That said, I’d stopped eating long before then as my heart had literally broken (experiencing mitral valve regurgitation for a short time was not the most enjoyable of experiences). I’d learned the hard way that sometimes the worst break-ups are not the ones that end instantly, but the ones that are long drawn out with no sense of conclusion; I had been placed in the crawl space between the foundations and the floor of a home I didn’t have anymore, with the boards nailed down and the person holding the hammer hoping I would be forgotten. And that I would forget.

It was at this point that I simply wanted to die.

***

It’s very easy to look at others in the same situation and think that they are being melodramatic about the end of a relationship, but I had the added complication of mine being inextricably linked with my work, my career and various life choices that were intertwined with that, both imposed and self-selected. I’m fortunate to have had an amazing boss throughout it all, encouraging me to put my efforts and energy into my recovery; something that encompassed all my current pursuits like university, in tandem with my current job role.

Being at university has given me the fortune of new companions, helping to chart new adventures with the backing and strength of my closest friends. I’m now nearly halfway through my second year of university. Given everything that has gone on, I am simply glad for the experience, and I’m not expecting anything spectacular like graduating with a First or anything like that; to simply graduate will be an achievement within itself, as I could’ve given up so many times over the last 18 months when it felt like I had too much on my plate at once.

Gratitude therefore is plentiful. Daily.

I feel enriched and I feel proud, probably reinforced by the fact that sport has played an important part in my university life too, what with playing polo for the university and discovering salvation in the outfield of cricket. Because there is probably a whole lot I could write about this, especially as it has brought me to where I am today:

Cricket brought me something and someone wholesome. It brought me unconditional love.

I recently moved home. Whilst on paper that is a new, fixed location, what “home” really is to me is anything but static. Wherever I am, I have “home” in my heart and have the faces of people to ground me back to that sense of belonging, warmth, comfort and safety; I have the biggest and best safety net that I could’ve wanted or hoped for.

I have found the courage that I thought I had lost. I have travelled counties, states and continents once more; solo and with company, when I thought I’d never have that freedom or confidence again, or even a reason to do so or be. My winters seem shorter, perhaps because I feel as if I’m bowling spin at Old Man Winter because I want my turn to bat; I live for the taste of summers both at home and abroad, where the pitches are green and give the extra bounce and swing that I’m ready to hit sixes for. Because it feels as if, for the first time, my life is going beyond the impossible boundaries I’d placed upon myself.