Regular readers may have noticed a pause in this blog in June. Where was I? In the USA.
Here are a couple of photos from New York City. The first one shows Grand Central Terminal, where I arrived by train from White Plains NY.
I photographed everything New York-ish from fire hydrants to pretzels, but the most photogenic building was the Chrysler Building.
It turns out that expat life has long-lasting benefits. This trip to America was based around friendships made in China and India. Buy lunch for a friend in Bangalore and they return the favour in Boston. Make friends with people in Dalian, and they invite you to a wedding in New York. Accumulate enough frequent-flyer points on long hauls across Asia in 2007, and you can cover the cost of transatlantic flights in 2015.
So, in honour of my friends who keep up our connections across the world, here’s an extra photograph, of an unlikely newspaper vending machine in Washington DC.
It’s time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
GRUMPY FROM GOA: “This is an expat blog about India, isn’t it? I’ve been waiting for a year, and no photos of India.”
ME: I lived in India from 2011-2013, when my husband went to work in Bangalore. When that assignment finished, we came back home to the UK. No more India. You’ve missed the bus.
FED UP FROM FULHAM: “This is a London blog, isn’t it? Why am I looking at photos of a farm?”
ME: Since 2014, I have been splitting my time between two places: a farm in Northern Ireland, and an apartment in London. My movements between the two are not well-planned; neither is the blog. But if you want more of London, chew on this gherkin.
BORED FROM BUSHMILLS: “This is a blog from the Irish countryside, isn’t it? Why am I looking at photos of London?”
ME: See above – I just explained it to FED UP FROM FULHAM. You want more farm photos? Here, have a donkey.
CONFUSED FROM CAIRNRYAN: “What kind of day job lets you flit so randomly across the Irish Sea?”
ME: I have just retired from my day job. Before I went to India, I worked in London, in a world of law, writing and politics. It was always interesting, but it was the kind of job that took up all of the space in my brain. After a few years of freedom to think about other stuff, life seems richer and I don’t want to go back to the office.
WORRIED FROM WORDPRESS: “Are you ever going to focus on one thing?”
ME: I have a second, super-focused blog. “Townlands of Ulster” is single-minded in its dedication to Irish geography. But this blog will continue to be the Dilletante Drumlin.
OK, so those FAQs may have been Fictional Artificial Questions, but the answers were true. Does anyone have any real questions?
Can you name these bridges over the River Thames in London?
From front to back, they are Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge. The missing ingredient is London Bridge, which is hidden behind the train.
When I took that photo of the bridges, I was standing on a footbridge connecting St. Paul’s Cathedral (on the north bank of the Thames) with the Tate Modern Art Gallery (on the south bank). That bridge is officially known as the London Millennium Bridge, but it has struggled to shake off the nickname of “wobbly bridge” (click here for scientific explanations of why it wobbled on its opening day). You can see the bridge itself in the next photo of the cathedral.
The older, classic buildings of London don’t seem to have nicknames, but 21st century buildings just can’t get the same respect. Now, before a skyscraper is even finished, it is named, sometimes officially, like “The Shard”, and sometimes unofficially, like the buildings in the next photo….which are, from left to right, “the cheesegrater”, “the gherkin” and “the walkie talkie”.
I left London in 2011 and returned in 2013 to a skyline pierced by a brand new building – the Shard.
Why is it called “The Shard”? According to the official guidebook, the name “derives from the building’s sculpted design, which consists of tapering glass facets that do not meet at the top. The summit resembles jagged shards of glass, while the building as a whole is reminiscent of an inverted icicle”.
From the viewing gallery on the 72nd floor of the Shard, many of London’s landmarks look small and (in the words of Father Ted) far away. But one building still impressed me with its beauty and strength – Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
I also know a good place to go for a shot of the Cathedral lined up in front of the Shard. It’s the street corner where Farringdon Road meets Greville Street.
A little piece of Asia will open soon (UPDATE: it opens today, 6 May 2014!) at the Shard – the Shangri-la Hotel. At which point I shall just forget the architecture, and enjoy the luxury. Who wants to join me for dinner on the 35th floor and champagne on the 52nd floor?
Last week my husband came home from China, laden with gifts from a reunion with colleagues from his previous expat posting. One gift was a papercut decoration for the Year of the Horse, now proudly displayed on my front door and as a header for the blog to celebrate Chinese New Year.
The other gifts were so unexpected, and so generous – so I am using the blog to send our friends in Dalian, Shanghai and Guangzhou a big Thank You, 谢 谢, and 恭喜发财。Here are a few of the beautiful gifts, some from our favourite brands – Shanghai Tang and Liu Li Gong Fang.
The dragons of China may be timeless, but the skyline of Shanghai keeps changing. Here is the view from my husband’s office last week. The highest building in the photo is the Shanghai Tower, which was topped out in 2013 at 632 metres, making it the second tallest building in the world.
I remember the “olden days” of 2007 when the Jin Mao Tower seemed enormous, and the Shanghai World Financial Centre (“the bottle opener”) was still under construction. Click here to see a photo on my Flickr account: Progress in 2007