These are a few shots from the weekend: from Burnham-On-Sea to the sheep at Glastonbury.
These are a few shots from the weekend: from Burnham-On-Sea to the sheep at Glastonbury.
This weekend confirmed two profound beliefs for me:
Jonny and I decided to keep this weekend free and commit to venturing somewhere in nature that could allow us to relax and enjoy the scenery and stillness. Getting out of the city is a must from time to time, if only to inhale the freshness of unpolluted air and see the stars. Parallel to this, all week I had been feeling the overwhelming desire to be on or in or near water. Water, to me, has this way of cleansing the mind of its worries, putting things into perspective and – I guess – soothing the soul. We didn’t have a specific location in mind for said adventure, but were going to make a decision on the day and head west.
I had been searching for campsites along the coast before being drawn to the Brecon Beacons. That’s not the coast, I thought! However, I was drawn to Lakeside, a beautiful campsite adjacent to Llangorse Lake. I instantly knew I had made the right decision by going there. The reception staff were warm and kind when we approached them, encouraging us to go and find our favourite spot to pitch the tent in the beautiful meadow tucked away from the sounds of the boat engines, before reappearing to start exploring the waterside.
We entered the quiet meadow; 40 pitches claimed only by 5 of us in total. We listened to the birdsong – the first thing I notice when I’m somewhere new. We listened to the way they called to and played with each other high in the treetops and bouncing around on the dewy grass. The tent was up in 10 and we were heading back down to the lake before we knew it. Two kayaks were calling our names, so we hopped on top and set out amongst the swans and worked our muscles as we paddled around, cruising behind the speedboats and feeling the waves in their wake bouncing us up and down.
Half an hour in, I was almost in the middle of the lake, looking around me at the abundance of insects festering in the small pools of water that had splashed into my kayak, looking at the swans with their heads in the water and tails bobbing around amusingly in the air, looking at the mountains in the distance and collections of trees scattered over the horizon and I felt the miracle of being in such a place, when only several hours earlier I was at home in Bristol.
The thoughts we think create our reality. I had been determined to find the stillness and serenity of water and I had indeed captured it. It was one of those ‘nowstalgic’ moments that I knew I was going to remember always.
Something I struggle with is missing the United States. I lived there as a teenager and often miss the epic landscapes that America is known for. One of these places that I pine for is Minocqua, Wisconsin. I spent my summers there as a kid, fishing on the lake, spotting eagles in the trees and lapping up the loon call at dusk and dawn. Lake life is the thing there and I miss it dearly. This kayak around Llangorse was particularly special to me because it showed me that there are beautiful bodies of water that can offer me the same feeling signature even though I’m halfway across the world now.
I watched the water-skiers and children tubing on the back of speedboats; I watched the couples rowing gently along the perimeter of the reed beds, I saw the bird-watchers gazing quietly from their lookouts and I was in a parallel universe to Minocqua. We were all the same people, enjoying the same things, thousands of miles apart. It was connection and it was comforting.
The next day we decided to head to the coast and what better place to explore than the Gower Peninsula – offering some of the most awesome beaches in the UK. We drove one of the most beautiful road trips we could imagine, through the Brecon Beacons and towards Swansea. As we journeyed past Swansea and The Mumbles and further west to the shore, the ocean opened out in a great expanse and I felt that familiar feeling I get whenever I’m by the sea that makes me feel small, that makes me feel like there is something greater than all of us.
Further and further west until we arrived at our destination, Rhossili Bay, the ocean covered more and more of our peripheral. We parked the van and took in the panoramic view of blue. If I describe Rhossili Bay in one word, it would be sweeping. It looked vast and from the clifftop coastal path where I stood; before me I saw an epic landscape. I felt the awe and the beauty.
Jonny and I walked this path to the curiously-named Worm’s Head; a peninsula on the peninsula that is accessible at low tide. We scrambled around the rock pools, exploring the many alcoves and watching the birds of flight above us.
After a time here, we eventually began the journey home. This passed by in the blink of an eye and before we knew it we were unpacking the van and tucking into our dinner. It had felt as though a lifetime had passed. It had felt a long time since we were last in our home, sat at our dining table. Reality would tell us that it had only been a day; one night sleeping in a different place, but the truth is that reality warps when you are utterly present wherever you have travelled to. The time-space continuum is not a constant and I felt alleviated of the worry that life is flying by too fast, going to sleep that Sunday night. The more I immerse myself in my current activity, the slower time becomes. I have the power to alter my reality and so do you.
Liverpool is a city that I know and I don’t. I’ve visited all my life as it’s where my family come from, but I’ve never lived there, nor have I ever identified with it. This past week I was on my latest trip up north and took the opportunity to snap a few photos and do the tourist thing, even if it did make me subject to being called a ‘tourist wanker’ by an angry Mercedes driver at the Pier Head!
The city consists of great shopping, stunning architecture, a stylish waterfront and a plethora of popular bars and restaurants, but beneath that there is a layer of pain that penetrates the streets. Liverpool is a city of people that have endured. If it wasn’t my generation then it was the generations before me. Blood runs thick here and family is held dear above all else.
Perhaps that’s my biased perspective as someone with family in those parts myself, but I have no doubt that a sensitive soul would be able to pick up on that vibration too. Liverpool is a port city and several hundred years ago played a major role in the slave trade. This port then became an open door to thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of the 1800’s. The city was then subject to an industrial revolution, Great Depression and mass destruction in World War II.
Nowadays those hardships are a thing of the past and visitors to the city can focus on the music heritage, arts, research and culinary experiences to be had. My top recommendations include a visit to the mighty Anglican Cathedral, a stroll down Bold Street on the way back and a refreshment stop at Leaf, a trip to the Bluecoat, Matthew Street and of course the great Albert Dock. Depending on the time of year you may fancy catching a ferry across the Mersey to view the fantastic architecture of the Pier Head from the river.
Whether it is a trip to indulge in a night on the town or a weekend of galleries and museums; I encourage you to give Liverpool a thought if you’re looking to explore a fascinating British city on your next long weekend.
“Kathryn?”…”Kathryn?” she called out repeatedly, lightly shaking me by the shoulder, trying desperately to snap me from my glassy gaze.
In my head I was making the most of the cruise control feature of some old Chevy that I’d acquired and heading west from Flagstaff. This was my coping mechanism – my means of taking myself out of a reality too difficult to face. I was sixteen, freshly returned to British soil from a life – a good life – in the United States. I was completing compulsory education within four, bland walls with no idea what I was headed for afterwards.
I grew up living a rather different lifestyle to what could be considered the norm; I had a father whose work took us to various parts of the globe and with each move I was immersed in a new culture, a new way of living. Friends were on timers, houses novel, accents constantly being shaped, taste buds transformed, exotic sights seen and my collective feelings about mankind evolving.
Focussing hard on the past, I see intermittent panic, dispersed amongst excitement and joy. From the outside, my life was perfect; I got to experience travel since the day I was born, make friends all around the world and learn about new cultures. But from the inside, I was part of an unhappy family experiencing the core themes of anger, manipulation and torment.
This numbness that I was experiencing as my logical self attempted to stir me from my daze was different; it was a feeling of the end. Throughout all the years and the moves, even if I knew that my home life was unhappy, I had travel and adventure as my salvation. It was an escape that I knew I could depend on; an outlet to breathe hope into when I was unhappy with my present.
During childhood, you have a pretty good idea of where you’re going; a pretty good idea of what lies ahead. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a part of the world where schooling is a priority, that future is going to be an education, most likely. But once you’re big and strong, you then make the choices and design the future. For me, I had ‘the next move’ always looming on the horizon, so when it was suddenly no longer on the cards due to a combination of my parents’ nasty divorce and my racing towards adulthood, reality had it that I did not know how to cope. I was a third culture kid in a one culture town and I didn’t know how to interact with any of it.
When you’re an ex-pat, you get so used to the intrigue of locals enquiring where you’re from and what you’re doing and wanting to learn all about the motherland. I must admit that I used this very much as a means of defining who I was: the girl who travels; the nomad. It was as if that was alluring enough and my actual personality didn’t matter, didn’t hold any significance. That all changed when I returned to the UK after sixteen years abroad. Suddenly I was a sort-of Brit living on home soil, except this time treated with scrutiny for having an American accent and speaking fondly of our allies across the pond.
This was the first time I’d seriously experienced bullying. I was ripped apart for my past and for sticking out like a sore thumb. My unique upbringing was suddenly a hindrance, rather than a help. I couldn’t understand how peers had always been so welcoming and understanding in the past, only to now find that my tales of faraway lands were deemed dull and devoid of any worth.
So what was a kid to do, other than keep her head down and persevere with undisputed determination? The end of my time in school rolled around eventually and I leapt like a frog from its ice-cold clutch onto a plane headed for heat across the Atlantic to thaw out. I wished I could tell my friends how great it was being back in England; how cute everyone was with their tea and crumpets, but in reality I was miserable, pale and deficient in both vitamin D and the magic of multicultural surroundings. It felt so good to be back in Virginia hearing people speaking Spanish or Korean as I walked through the mall. Then there was the excitement of being able to eat pho again, because there was a Vietnamese restaurant or any other possible cuisine well within easy-reach. It was so good to hear about high school and summer’s lifeguarding and plans for college. I was refreshing to have a change of lifestyle.
The few years that followed were spent in further education, befriending all the international students and squeezing in as much travel as possible. It is this means of mixing with other cultures that makes me feel most alive. At the moment I find myself in a diverse city of artists and thinkers, where I’ve still been able to gravitate towards the foreigners and it is that aspect that keeps my spirits high. But is this where I’ll forever rest? No. Because once a traveller, always a traveller and it is as vital to my bloodstream as the cells that both nourish and defend it.
For street art fans across the world, here are some of my local pieces: