Farewell 2021

2021 has been a tough year; the world had aims of leaving the pandemic behind and returning to a more normal life, but sadly the pandemic is still with us, still raging in too many places. Vaccines have brought us hope though, and more freedom. I pray that less wealthy countries have access to them just as we have. I would specifically like to thanks the NHS health workers for the endless hardwork in vaccinating us and caring for those that are ill.

This year has been a quieter, more reflective one for me, I have taken time to look at the world around me and have tried to shape a path for myself that I hope will lead to fruition in the future. Below are some of my favourite photos of the year that we now leave.

I hope 2022 is a happier, healthier one for all of us, I pray that we can finally leave the pandemic behind us and have more gratitude for the freedom we have. I hope that 2022 is one that allows us to fulfil some of our ambitions and gives us drive to be better to ourselves and each other. Happy New Year.

Frieze Art 2021

I have visited the Frieze art festival for the last few years and after the absence of last year’s display, it was nice to see it back. The pieces are displayed in Regents park and is free to the public.

Here’s what we saw at this year’s festival. Some of the pieces were huge and others were quite playful. I like the huge colourful panels that you could walk through. The red shape in the trees was made up of recycled bottles which I thought was a timely piece.

I think my favourite art piece on display was the cloud with lightening strikes. I just love storms and lightening.

Other pieces had more poignant messages. The mass of tangles wire was wrought from the salvaged remains of the security fence raised around the U.S. Embassy in Oslo after 9/11. The stack of colourful spheres depicted motherhood and the female body. The red circular piece allowed you to sit on it and play, I had to ask some kids to get off for a moment so I could take a picture as they were clearly enjoying themselves.

I also liked the more odd pieces. The giant pineapple was fun and the meaning of it was amusing as it was meant to be wry commentary on the ‘prickly woman’. And the monster was strange, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or whether it made me uncomfortable.

Another fun piece I enjoyed was a huge semi circle made up of colourful panels. I enjoyed looking through the different colours at the landscape around me.

I thought there were some interesting art pieces at this year’s Frieze and I enjoyed having a look, and pondering about the meaning of some of them. I look forward to seeing what will be shown for next year.

Family day out to Southend

Summer in London has not been great this year weather wise. It’s been fairly cool and overcast most days, so when the sun came out bright and hot towards the end of summer we decided to make the most of it. The nearest coast to us is Southend on Sea so my family and I made decided to take a trip.

While we waited for others to arrive we wandered around the shops. I saw these mask shaped earrings that I thought were interesting.

When everyone had arrived we had a quick lunch and then made our way towards the pier, which is said to be the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.33 miles long. The sky was bright and the sea was a beautiful blue and with a cool breeze we all set off.

At the end of the pier we all treated ourselves to ice creams and slushies, and taking in the beautiful blue sea, skies and sun.

After a rest, we sent my mum and the kids on the train back to shore and the rest of us walked. With the sun now low in the sky and the tide going out, the light cast some lovely silhouettes and shadows on the water.

We were pretty tired after that and after a quick visit to the gift shop we headed home for an even bigger family gathering and much needed dinner.

Thinking Spot

I’ve had a contemplative few weeks this summer and I’ve been wanting to find a quiet space and just think and de-stress. This spot I came across was perfect. With a stunning view and no one else around, it was just what I needed. I wasn’t able to stay for long but the view was a sight for sore eyes and the swift wind felt like it was sweeping away my frustrations as it rushed past me.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

It was really hot and sunny in the UK recently so to make the most of it my family and I wanted a day out. The place we chose was RHS Garden Hyde Hall, which is an outdoor space with various types of gardens.

There were so many different types of plants and flowers, some I’d never seen before and most that I’d never be able to name. We started off looking at a little garden that had a variety of flowers, my favourites were the huge, eye catching, red poppies. I’ve never seen them that size before.

We then walked down to the fish pond that also had water lilies.

As it getting quite hot, we stopped for ice cream and a little rest. Nearby was a dry garden that overlooked the far reaching green hills below.

We walked on and saw beautiful flowers wherever we looked. It was amazing to see such a variety of flowers in every shape and colour you could imagine. Although I seem to be drawn to the purple ones the most.

I also spotted some light pink poppies, again I’d never seen this colour before and never in this size (they were about the size of a melon). Maybe there’s something in the water here.

We then took a path that led us to the Sky Meadow. Curious as to what this could be we came to a field full of wildflowers and a lovely calming view. I imagine the name comes from the fact that the sky meets the meadow and that’s all you see.

After resting for a while we made our way past a huge lake and a lovely green expanse which was lined neatly with tall trees and an interesting sycamore structure in the middle. The kids wanted to play so we headed in the direction of the play area that also had some fun animal structures .

The last part we saw was the Winter garden which consisted of foliage that would keep growing and survive the cold. There were some figures of leaves, showing stages of decay as you walked along, that I really liked. Nearby was also a pathway lined with hundreds of foxgloves.

We then made our way to the shop, where we picked up some lovely plants for my mum. My favourite being these Galaxy sky petunias that were quite striking.

The visit to RHS Garden Hyde Hall was a really nice one, there was so much to see and so many winding pathways that lead to unexpected spots. I felt a little rushed on this visit and the heat tired us out too, but I’d like to come back again in another season, see what else is growing and hopefully take it a little slower.

Windy Southend

I had a few days off after Eid so I decided to take a trip down to the coast. The easiest coast for me to get to is Southend-on-Sea, and on this particular day it was grey and windy but not wet like it had been all week.

The first thing I did was walk along what Southend boasts as having the longest pleasure pier in the world, at 1.33 miles. I always enjoy the long walk to the end where there are a few souvenir shops and a restaurant.

At the end of the pier I walked around and then went in to one of the shops to look around and warm up as it was really windy out on the sea.

After having enough of being blown about at the end of the pier I walked back down to the shore to grab some lunch. Having had a sit down I was ready to venture out again. I made my way to the sea front, which it seemed I had all to myself! I found some really pretty shells as I made my way up the pebbly beach.

There wasn’t much else to do at the sea front, so feeling windswept I made my way back to the station, doing some window shopping as I went. I did come across some cool street along the way.

I always enjoy my trips to Southend, I love the long pier to walk along, and being by the coast always feels relaxing, although less so on this visit as the blustery wind and grey skies made the coast seem more dramatic than usual.

Wintery Park Visit

The new year in the UK has been a slow one. There is another national lockdown to try and curb the ongoing pandemic and with the cold days it feels quite grim at times. I’ve been trying my best to keep positive though and nothing helps me more than being active. In light of this I decided to bundle up and visit one of our local parks. Valentines park was voted one of the 10 best in the country last year, so I always enjoy my visits as there’s always lots to see.

As I arrived at the park the lingering cold mist was clearing and the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. The huge boating lake at front of the park was starting to pick up colours of blue in the sky.

I walked to the far side of the park where there’s an old house called Valentines mansion, built in 1696 which still looks pretty grand. It’s now used for events but it’s a really elegant feature to the area. Nearby is a vegetable garden that is still in use, although there’s nothing growing now as it’s winter. There’s also plenty of cheeky squirrels around looking for food.

One of the things I really like about this park is just how varied the trees and wildlife is. There’s plenty of geese, ducks and smaller birds, and the trees seem to come in all shapes and sizes.

Having taken a few snaps as I walked around the park and starting to feel quite cold I headed home. I’m sure I’ll be back soon, as not only is this lockdown likely to last a while yet but the park is so vast there’s plenty still to see.

Goodbye to 2020

Today is the last day of 2020, a year that was unexpected and tough for so many. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every person in the world this year, and I’m no exception. There have been times that I have felt I could take things in my stride and others when I felt stressed, anxious and alone. But I always like to think that even in the worst of things, there’s always a silver lining and I think I tried to convey some of these in my photos this year, whether it was making the most of places being quieter and tourist free or just being grateful for the fact that we had long hot summer which is unusual for the UK. I was also happy to have ticked a few places off my bucket list which I didn’t expect like visiting Chatsworth House, the Lake District, and the confetti flower fields. My favourite photos of the year are shared below.

With several vaccines now available, I hope and pray that 2021 will be a better one for all of us, that with a little more patience and caution we will get through this once in a lifetime difficult, but shared experience and come out stronger together. I hope that all of our loved ones are safe and that we can enjoy each others’ company once again soon, very soon. Take care everyone and I wish you all a happy, healthy amazing year ahead.

London in Autumn

The weather in London has been fairly mild so far which means that there is still plenty of greenery still around. Taking a day off I went for a walk around London to see what I could spot.

I started off in Regents Park heading towards Queen Mary’s rose garden. The trees were bare but there was still plenty of life in the rose garden this late in the year.

Walking around the 85 rose beds I eventually came through to a tucked away Japanese style garden which was nice and serene. There was also a waterfall nearby but I ended up on a path leading towards a little island on the lake instead. There were still some lovely autumnal colours around this part of the park; the yellowing leaves on the branches of the weeping willow trees looked picturesque next to the lake.

Ending up on the far side of the park and lake there was plenty of wildlife. I love how the seagulls are perched on the wooden posts, all neatly in a line, and I was delighted to see a grey heron near some silver birch trees, standing stock still almost like a statue even as I approached it. There was also a huge tree with fiery red leaves that just seemed to glow even with the sun hidden behind thick grey clouds.

Heading out the park I headed towards Baker Street and the famous Sherlock Holmes’ address. I’ve been past before and there have been long queues outside the museum dedicated to the figure. This time due to the pandemic, there was not a person in sight.

Walking along I decided to see what Christmas decorations might be up around London. I went to Carnaby Street, Oxford Street and St Christopher’s Place. Along the way I passed some purple monkeys hanging upside down which made me smile.

Then I walked up to Piccadilly Circus and spotting a blue police box which I thought was interesting. Then went past Chinatown and Leicester Square where I caught sight of a statue of Harry Potter which was an addition to the other iconic statues dotted around.

My final stop was at Covent Garden. I usually avoid this place as it’s thronging with tourists all year round. On this particular visit the atmosphere was quite different. There were plenty of people milling around but no where near as busy as usual for this time of year.

The decorations were up but sadly not many people to admire them.

I really enjoyed walking around London, there’s always something new to explore and this trip was no different, however it did feel a bit like a ghost town in places. Where the streets and squares are normally full of people, whether they be Londoners or tourists, there were people out taking photographs like I was but not many more. I tried to make the most of this unique year by going to spots that I would normally avoid because they are so busy and enjoy being able to take photographs with no people walking in front of the lens, but I do hope that things return to how things were to some degree soon, as London just isn’t the same without the busyness and rush of the people who have things to do and places to be.

Lake District

On our drive back to London from Scotland we decided to make a stop at the Lake District. I’ve wanted to go to the Lakes for years so I was really looking forward to it. We were lucky with the weather too, as it was bright, sunny and a complete contrast to the day before at Loch Lomond.

We drove to one part of the area called Ullswater and got out to have a look around. Here there was a pier and a gift shop alongside a brilliant blue lake. Walking around the lake the scenery was just beautiful with vibrant blues and greens everywhere you looked.

Having walked for a while the kids were getting tired and the older ones getting bored (teenagers eh!) so we headed back to the car. We next drove to another part of the Lakes and this time leaving the grumpy teenagers behind with their gadgets we went for another walk.
We came across a couple of families that were getting their boats into the water at a part of the lake that was low enough to do so. We watched for a while intrigued to see that people did this.

After some time we continued down a road and then some smaller paths. It was quieter and less busy, and anyone we did pass said hello which we thought was very friendly. There were also people swimming in this part of the lake as it was less deep. My niece found some blackberries which I helped her pick and we also came across some strange rock formations. No idea what these were for.

We eventually went back to the car to check up on the teenagers and then we drove to our final spot in the Lakes. We drove uphill to a small church that was tucked away in the hills. From there we were able to hike up to the top of steep hillsides.

The climb was easy because the earth and grass were soft and it wasn’t slippery but it was difficult because of just how steep it was. After walking uphill for about 10 minutes I found myself breathing harder than I expected! It was well worth it though. As we climbed higher and higher the view became more and more breathtaking.

When we finally reached as far as we could due to time restraints we stopped and just took in the view. The landscape was stunning, and the sun bursting through the clouds casting light spots and shadows across the hills was just wonderful. It really was soul food to just look around and see how beautiful this world can be.

We soaked in the view for a while and then carefully and steadily made our way back to the church where the car was, passing lots of friendly smiley people along the way. We were a bit disappointed to not have been able to make it to the top so my brother in law took a short cut and drove up to a high point. From here you could see the hills, the lake glittering in the sun and the tiny sailboats on the water. It was an amazing view.

We finally started making the long journey back home, hoping to beat traffic and arrive early evening. It was a great summer break, visiting the Peak District, Scotland and the Lake District. I’m so pleased to be able to tick off a few places off my bucket list and it was a nice reprieve from the city and the tough year that 2020 has unexpectedly been.