28.11.14

| Everyday People | The Girl Who Glided


I was a barefoot child. I would shun my shoes in favour of the lithe pleasure of unshod freedom. Much to my mother's despair, I would shed my shoes and socks to run in fields, climb trees and clamber over over rocks never once thinking about burdensome things like safety! Then one day, my mother told me about 'jiggers' or the chigoe flea (I don't recommend looking these things up). I never went barefoot inland again.

The things that we stop talking about have a cunning way of escaping our minds. So for years my memories of barefoot adventures slipped from me. Then, one evening in Zanzibar, we took advantage of the low tide and walked a way impassable during high tide.








Here, we spotted a young girl coming in with the tide. She had been collecting clams and despite being quite laden with them, she was at ease amongst the jagged rocks and the slippery seaweed underfoot. Barefoot she breezily cut across the sharp terrain. Barefoot. 

I watched her mesmerised. In that moment I thought she was gliding. Then I remembered myself. I remembered my own barefoot days. I looked down at my own feet and though they were in the relative safety of my beach shoes, I could feel the threat of the broken corals and the sharp rocks beneath me. 

And I thought to myself that shoes and fear made me soft, weak and wary. 

We loitered on a bended tree while the tide begun to trickle back to the shore,from here we watched the sun set on another magical day in Zanzibar and I cannot forget how wonderful that young girl was to me in that moment.

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27.11.14

| Stationery | Lamy Safari Fountain Pens


Since I begun to divulge my fixation with fountain pens on the blog,  requests for advice also begun to steadily trickle into our inbox. I am so pleased that not everyone thinks I am an old-fashioned eccentric and that some are even eager to risk inky fingers and splattered pages to give the fountain pen a go.

It seems that most people that get in touch are looking for recommendations for a good starter fountain pen that won't break the bank to try out. I actually have a few in mind but for now, let's start with the Lamy Safari.







Here are few quick fire pointers about the Lamy Safari Fountain pen that might be helpful to know:

- Made of lightweight, sturdy and durable ABS plastic and available in a host of colours including an annual Limited Edition shade which I find irresistible

- Pens are available in a choice of nibs in either polished steel or coated black finish they easily interchangeable and cost less than £3

- Triangular moulded plastic ergonomic grip that I like but some find uncomfortable

- Writes very smoothly and seemlessly no scratching of pages but can be on the wet side. So, depending on the ink it may take a bit longer to dry and may bleed through to the reverse page depending on the paper you use

- Maintenance is simple as it comes apart easily for cleaning

- Takes specific Lamy cartridges though Monteverde also make Lamy compatible cartridges. I mainly use mine with an LZ24 piston converter so I can make use of all the bottled inks that I have

- Has a flexible self-sprung chrome wire clip

- Affordable, reliable and good value for money and cost less than £15.00

- Designed by Wolfgang Fabian and has remained in production since 1980.

Aside from the Lamy Safari, the clear Vista is equally good. Lamy Joy (the white long pen pictured)is a good starter calligraphy pen. 

Now if you are wondering why I love fountain pens so much I would answer, that they are to me, the ultimate writing experience. I like watching the ink become words and the way they a fountain pen  slowly conforms to my hand, pressure and writing habits. It's personal just like my handwriting. 


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25.11.14

| Photo Diary | São Bento


We whizz through a lot of train stations on our gallivants many of which dim into one big  featureless blur of tracks and cement. There are few that do stand out in our memory for various reasons and one such remarkable station is São Bento in Porto.

São Bento is visually arresting. Its interior of 20,000 tin glazed azulejos (hand painted tiles) is both breathtaking an astounding feat in itself. Which is why we found ourselves lurking in the station despite having no where to go and no reason to be there other than to stand and gawp.








São Bento was built on the site of a Benedictine Monastery that was torn down in 1783. The construction of the station begun in 1900 and the famous tile painter of the time Jorge Colaço was commissioned to work on the interior. It took him 11 years to complete what we see today.

We visited São Bento at the tail end of the day when passengers were dwindling and shadows were tilting their way into residence. Perfect timing as the golden glow blossoming from the tinted windows was quite magical.

Portugal has a few stunning train stations another of our favourites is this one in Lisbon.

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24.11.14

| Food | Empanada Fam


We reckon that we're splendidly lucky to have a market right on our doorstep. It's just a small one, but what Ridley Road lacks in size, it certainly makes up for its variety of sights, sounds and smells. It is like having a chunk of the world on our doorstep. Jamaican groceries, West African dried goods, Indian spices, Jerk Chicken, Roasted Corn, Middle Eastern bread, fabric, haberdashery, black hair and beauty goods, Ethiopian stews, Trinidadian rotis, fruit and veg by the bowl-full and my current favourite things......Colombian empanadas freshly made and hot out of the fryer to keep my hands warm and my belly happy!

There were some anxious weeks when our Colombian friends vanished from the market which caused some moping about on my part. Happily, they did return and I was so happy to see them that I ran up to them to welcome them back. I think they were bemused with my jittery enthusiasm. Now whenever I see the Colombian flag aloft in the market, I know it will be a good day!












Colombian empanadas are a popular fried snack made using a coarse yellow or white corn flour wrap stuffed with stewed beef, pork or chicken and potatoes. They are usually eaten with Hogao which is a type of relish made of tomato, onions, chillies and coriander. If you are east African is similar to kachumbari. 

Now we are no means experts on empanadas but we have tried quite a few in London. The fab little South American market in Seven Sisters do some great ones (if you have not been here yet, you really must! It's not like being in London at all!). The little eateries beneath the railway arches in Elephant & Castle also have some tasty offerings. However, none can beat the ones we get on Ridley Road for just £1 each.


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21.11.14

| Home | Kastehelmi


Though I have had them for a while, these jewel-like glass dishes bring delight each time I use them.

They are part of the Kastehelmi range made by Finnish manufacturer Iittala and designed by Oiva Toikka in 1964.

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The outside of each dish is dotted with concentric circles of raised "dew-drops" (kastehelmi is the Finnish word for dew-drop). Personally I love the beautiful reflections and way that light waltzes though the textures of the glass.

Though these dishes are glass and may look delicate, they are robust, built for daily use and can take dishwashing and microwaving no problem. 

These particular Kastehelmi dishes are machine manufactured in Finland in the Iittala and Nuutajärvi glass factories who are specialists in the production of  high quality coloured glass of excellent optical clarity. 

We have long been fans of Iittala's dedication to creating beautiful objects and their belief in "timeless design that will never be thrown away".


USEFUL LINKS | We bought ours at Skandium | Official Iittala website |



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20.11.14

| Abandoned | Pub

Pubs in England are more than boozy watering holes. They are part of the history and fabric of life here and have been throughout history.







Even though we don't often visit pubs, seeing more and more of these establishments fall into a state of deterioration is still sad to see. In August this year the Guardian reported that 31 pubs close every week in the UK. Many factors contribute to closures, the smoking ban, economic down turn, changes in social lifestyles etc. Though many are snapped up by developers and turned into flats or other things a few are left to face decay. 

USEFUL LINKS | Take a look at more of abandoned places that we've visited 
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19.11.14

| Food | Japanese Bakery


There is a little bakery located in a large supermarket close to the place we call home in Japan and it has serious pulling power!  Such is its irresistibleness that I find it very difficult to walk past without popping in to see what new delights are on offer.

Here are a few things that wound up in my belly on our last trip:

Sweet potato bread. In Japan you can get purple sweet potatoes and these are delicious beyond belief. I just had to try one as I have not seen these anywhere else. Chewy, mildly sweet and really filling!
Kare-pan! Japanese curry bread. Basically a soft bun stuffed with japanese-style veg curry. Super popular outside of Japan too but it's near impossible to get them while they are still warm over here. I can't resist! 
Barbecue beef and mayonnaise buns. Yes, seriously delicious. I really should have got more!

Japanese bakeries are prolifically inventive with their baked creations. I have no idea how they keep churning out all these ideas and keep offering new, tasty, and cheap things to tempt me everyday that I am there. 





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18.11.14

| Markets | Kariakoo


You only have to read the various tourist review sites out there to get a gist of how evocative Dar es Salaam's Kariakoo Market can be. 

Kariakoo intimidates some, scares, repulses, bewilders, confuses and overwhelms others. But, it is a real living working market. A place that has all of life and its complex wonders within it. Many markets across the world begin like this. Eventually they catch the attention and welcome in hoards of tourists.  Kariakoo has not gone down this path yet. It is an honest local market that shows aspects of life in Dar es Salaam laid bare within it.































































Aside from being a sprawling market (it is hard to figure out where it starts or ends), there is far more to Kariakoo that meets the eye. The word "Kariakoo" comes from the mispronunciation of Carrier Corps which is how the structure at the heart of the market started life back when the British took Dar es Salaam in 1916. In 1972 the looming Brutalist structure we see today was built by the Germans to replace the colonial market. 
Going even further back into history, the area once housed a large village frequently raided by Arab slavers. 

Today it is an important part of life in Dar es Salaam spanning several city blocks and open from dawn till dusk providing vital supplies to locals.

Advice for visitors:
Leave your expensive cameras and watches behind.
Be careful and respectful when taking photos.
Wear closed shoes and watch where you step.
Smile, be kind and friendly.

More info | Architectural Notes on Kariakoo 


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17.11.14

| Stationery | Unexposed


The plain truth is that I need new notebooks like I need a hole in the head. Yet I could not resist slipping a set of Field Notes' Unexposed notebooks into my Journal Shop shopping cart. I have appeased my guilt by reminding myself how I make short speedy work of notebooks, filling teetering stacks of various sizes each year.




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The Field Notes Unexposed pack is a Limited edition set of three for autumn 2014. There are 20 possible shockingly bright (or ever easy to spot) combinations but each pack is a secret random selection within a neat black package presenting a little surprise when unwrapped.

The notebooks behave much better with pencil or ballpoint pens. They are far more temperamental with fountain pen ink and the results seem to depend largely on both the pen used, the hand of the user as well as the ink used. These are great for travel and general lists and everyday use and quite perfect for me in winter!

Here are some noteworthy Details:
Pages: 48 pages of bright white "reticle graph" paper.
Cover: Soft cover 
Binding: Stapled
Size: Pocket size 90 x 140mm

More info | Journal Shop's Selection of Field Notes | Field Notes Website |


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14.11.14

| What I Wore | The Blue Brights


Towards the end of summer, three of us went walking through one of Hiro's favourite areas of London. We've had a good run of warmth this year so it feels a bit selfish to complain about the cold that is now setting in. Instead I am sunning myself by reading books set in tropical locations and looking back on brighter photos. 




Breton top is by Le Minor and bought at Hexagone in Islington.
Skirt is from Cos styled different HERE



The transition of the seasons is something that I really ought to have adjusted to during my life in UK yet for some reason the fall from Autumn into Winter is particularly hard to deal with for me. It's an awkward circle that goes a bit like this..... It's cold so I think of east Africa where it is currently warm and so that makes me less at ease with the cold here so again...I dream of Africa.

Have a good weekend! If you are in UK, keep warm. 


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12.11.14

| Night Lights | Hamburg


Hamburg is without doubt the quietest city that I've been in after dark. Despite being in the very centre of the city, everything was still and few people were around. The shadows were static and the atmosphere far removed from what I've come to expect in most European cities. Apparently everything happens away from the centre after the shops close. 


































I did like the way that the streets are mainly lit by spill light from the retail shops.  I think this is something that many cities can learn from. It raises the question as to how necessary street lighting is in commercial districts. You can criticise the shops for perhaps wasting energy but if they are determined to light their premises overnight, then why not utilise the energy in this way. It's a bit like recycling.


See More | More of our Night Light Adventures |

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