Friday, 29 January 2016

Relishing Solitude at the British Museum

"I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That's how I refuel."
- Audrey Hepburn: Many-Sided Charmer, LIFE Magazine, 7 December 1953

I'm no Audrey; my flabs and hips can tell. But I share the same sentiment. In my innermost world where I allow very few people in, I very much look forward to two occasions: seeing close friends and family that I don't often see but find that things remain just as yesterday despite the years and distance apart, and retreating to a solitary bubble where I feel most at home.

The 263-year-old British Museum

I messaged a close friend, who's one of the few I'd meet up with in a heartbeat, that I'm having a wave of introversion. I used to fight it when I was a lot younger. I now welcome it as an important part of my being. I'm uncomfortable with company that  even an empty chatter requires effort to make. It feels like a date that I need to escape from. I think the boredom in each other's presence is mutual. So I'd rather be alone.

99% of the time, I'm involved in conversations at work ranging from high-strung to nonsensical and long-drawn-out to overscrupulous, that I avoid the same outside. At least at work I get paid to suffer them. In my private life, I refuse to participate in unnecessary activities that drain my soul, and for which there is no compensation. Sometimes they can't be avoided. I make up by slowly learning to choose the interactions that make me happy. Often, that involves spending time on my own.

Make sure the rest stays in place when you pick a book

When I want to be alone but still be around people, I visit museums. It's a place where I find solitude even in the physical presence of others, mainly because we all have come not to have conversations or interaction but for quiet observation . In museums, I can be silent and not be perceived as troubled. 

Great Court restaurant under the iconic roof of the British Museum

"Tea should be taken in solitude."
- C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

And so I took mine, indeed in solitude, after checking out one of the exhibits. I had cream tea instead of afternoon tea as I had ramen prior to my visit and the latter would be too filling. I must say Marks and Spencer's cream tea is way better for a more reasonable price, but I was aware I was also paying for my surroundings on top of the cream tea at the British Museum. 

Since I have started purchasing proper china, I've developed this bad habit of checking the brand used by restaurants. This one is English-made Burleigh. The company started in the pottery business in 1851. I thought they are mainly known for blue and white porcelain, but it seems green is for the museum. Or maybe not. 


Great Russell St: street view from the steps of the British Museum

How do you celebrate solitude?

Thursday, 21 January 2016


Last month, we made Redruth our base in Cornwall during our post-Christmas break. We originally wanted to stay in the heart of St Ives, but Tregenna Castle (check out this former castle converted into a hotel), overlooking St Ives Bay, was fully booked by the time we decided we were definitely spending a few days in the Cornish resort. 

We drove back and forth to St Ives to familiarise ourselves with the narrow and steep roads and parking spots as we booked dinner at the highly rated Alba restaurant located at the Old Lifeboat House. I'm sorry that I have no photos of the interior and food as I do my best to refrain from social-media-driven distractions from moments such as dinner with loved ones. Besides, I'm not a food nor a restaurant reviewer, hence I'm uncomfortable snapping away. 

But having said that, we can honestly recommend the Alba. All the reviews were consistent with our experience. Book the restaurant if you ever find yourself in St Ives. The Cornish crab linguine, chicken and foie gras terrine, scallops, and home-baked petit fours were mouth-watering. 

There were several pay-and-display parking spaces in St Ives but as the town is a tourist trap even on cold days, it's not unusual that remaining spaces were only available uphill. Comfortable shoes are a must.

I suggest to have your camera at the ready as the descent to the high street and bay offers some pretty impressive views. 

The uphill parking where you have a first taste of the view down below

What I most especially loved about this trip to St Ives was that it's such a dog-friendly town. The high street was teeming with various dog breeds they could outnumber the people leisurely walking around. All the dogs were gorgeous, I'm seriously feeling dog-broody. I have my eye on a goldendoodle, and I must say that for the first time in my life I'm feeling certainly maternal --at least to a canine baby. 

It's not even a month ago, but it feels like it's been a while since this last break. I could use one at least every quarter, but this year, I'm working on some very personal projects that require my mental energy and cash injection that holidays and breaks may be few and far between. 

I'll definitely pop around your blogs and other social media pages, and will be posting here every now and then. 

See you!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


I mentioned my age to my mother. In disbelief, she asks, "are you?" I think my mother and I just slightly can't handle the truth: we're both getting older.

On my mother's part, the disbelief probably stems from the fact that when she was my age, one of her 'social' activities involved attending meetings of the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) in the girls' school where I went as a 14-year-old highschool student. Her brood includes my two younger sisters. She co-owned a mortgage-free four-bedroom two-reception two-storey house with her husband of 15 years (my father, by the way) which they had built on a land they purchased, has already left a nursing career to tend to her rascals, has started several businesses and witnessed them fold up, and was happy to bake in the kitchen and cook for everyone's gathering or be invited to do so as her culinary skills are renowned in her small town and within her group of friends. 

My life, at the same age as she was at the time, is absolutely not parallel to and so far removed from hers. I have accidentally taken a different route that perhaps only my open-minded friends, or those who are in the same boat would care to understand. 

Me at 9 months

Then it hits me. It's not about me getting another year older, but about my mother adding up another to her accumulated 60+ years. That for every year that I am living away from her, I am missing out on time we can spend together now in her younger years, if she ever makes it as a septuagenarian or even an octogenarian. In reverse, as a young woman in her 30s, she thought about missing out on mine and my sisters' growing up years while she and my father worked abroad. That fuelled her desire to go back to the Philippines where she became a full-time mother.

Distance and physical separation are recurring themes in my family's life that probably have hardened me up a bit, quickly bouncing back and moving on when life whacks me with vicissitudes of fortune.

Then I think of my father, whose 10th death anniversary will be remembered this year. I'm more than old enough now to have those conversations I wouldn't dare have with him when I was a lot younger. I'm ready for those late-night talks when I would challenge his views on religion, politics, current events, and his professional field of Medicine. I'm now confident to ask him the questions that I've been pondering all my life, to which the answers I would only love to hear from him and not from anyone else. If I get offended or upset, I promise I will no longer storm off and sulk. I would even be the first one to break the silence and apologise.

For every year I celebrate my birthday, I think about my loved ones who have not even made it to the new year. The loved ones who've always made my birthdays special. Then I think about life, and how vulnerable it is, how we can be here now, then maybe gone the next day. Then I am thankful for another day. For another year to fulfil what needs fulfilling.

And that's what we're here for. That's why I'm celebrating another birthday.

It's another year to go and see my mother. Another one to see family and friends that I've been promising to see. Another chance to try again on older goals that haven't come to fruition yet, and work on new ones--the really important ones that I've been putting off as they're too important to me that I'm so scared to fail in them. It's another year to contribute to a life that I hope to give me the least regrets in the future. Another birthday is an additional number to which we attach restrictions and expectations. There are some age restrictions difficult to lift, and then there are some social expectations we personally can't get past. I'm making peace with the ones I have confronted. I celebrate that.

Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, 7 January 2016


Gotta be done when you're in Cornwall!

We actually forgot about it last year, so we decided that before 2015 closes, we have to make our way to Land's End, the most westerly point of Cornwall and England. 

The entrance above was the only part where the wind mas manageable. As we got closer to the famous signpost, it turned freezing mainly due to the wind and not the temperature. Another tourist offered to take our photos and I really thought he was going to be blown away as the strong gust was rocking him from side to side. I thought I better quickly grab the camera by its strap before it does happen.

I'd love a holiday home with an unobstructed view of the ocean

Land's End is a 45-minute drive from Redruth where we stayed. The area reminds me of West Irish coast except that in the latter, you don't pay to park in tourist spots. That's a big plus especially when anywhere in England is annoyingly pay and display, and it's not even cheap.

The obligatory pose by the post

Leaving Last End, we had no idea where to drive next. We never had definite plans when we drive out of town --which is so unlike me as I prefer most things arranged down to the minutest details. Deciding whether to turn left or right, I saw a signpost pointing to Sennen Cove, a popular surfing destination in Cornwall. 

Driving down to meet the ocean. . .

Sennen Cove breakwater

What's there to love about wintry coastlines? Not everyone is drawn to it, which makes it alluring to me. I grew up in a tropical country where I spent the first 12 years of my life living in a coastal town. My favourite time of day to walk to the beach is in the morning, when at 25 degrees centigrade, the shores are still deserted for that is considered chilly. Needless to say, I don't like crowds, and you'll find them where the sun is up and the sand is hot.

Local holiday bucket list done. Off to the next one!

When was the last time you were on a cold and wintry beach?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A Mini-Break In A Georgian Mansion

We had the pleasure of staying at the family-owned Penventon Park Hotel in Redruth, Cornwall until New Year's Eve. I very rarely feature hotels in my posts, but Penventon Park appealed to my penchant for things and places steeped with history and character that I took some photos to share with you. I waited for the dining room to be vacated as I didn't want to be rude and insensitive to the other guests relishing their peace and quiet. I also  get peeved when some stranger just fires away with their camera in such an enclosed space without any consideration for the privacy of the rest in the room.

I picked up the above postcard in the drawing room. This image of the Georgian mansion was drawn circa 1780, and the facade remains the same to these days, with some refurbishments and addition of modern amenities.  The chimneys are long gone.

Believe me, the Christmas tree was tall. It looked tiny in the high-ceilinged drawing room. Santa, on the left, was like a tot on top of the grand piano

I didn't ask, so I just assumed that this imposing portrait in the drawing room was of John Penberthy-Magor who designed and constructed the Georgian mansion. 

I was debating within whether the smoke alarm blended well with the intricate ceiling pattern or it shouldn't have been fitted there.

I wish I had a touch of interior design expertise so I could tell you what the walls were decorated with. I thought they were too intricate and raised for a wallpaper. Any guess?

A perfect base, Redruth is half an hour away from St Ives, a 45-minute drive to Land's End, and another half an hour to Padstow which is now a favourite spot in Cornwall. The hotel is a popular wedding reception venue. A couple had taken place on the day and before when we arrived. 

The drawing room in the morning invites just the right amount of brightness 

The cellars of The Penventon House, as it was previously called, were demolished in 1780. This spiral staircase is barricaded and may either led to the cellars in the past, or just a fixture of curiosity. The latter worked, as I kept walking towards it and was tempted to go down. As a horror and suspense-thriller film aficionado, this staircase was fodder to my imagination.

The bar rolled out the usual suspects such as G&T and vodka, lime and lemonade. It may not look it in the photo, but it was well-stocked. The best part was not worrying about how to get home after a few drinks.

The plush main dining area. It was as old-world as I would love it to be.

Santa on the right, in a golden suit, seemed caught unawares by the photo opp

The only non-old-world part was when the pianist played 'Bohemian Rhapsody' one night.

This solid mirrored cabinet where the cutlery was kept, was my favourite piece of furniture in the dining room. With home decor, I don't have a middle ground. It's either I would opt for opulence or go entirely minimalist. I'd choose the first of course if I have the space and amount to spend.

An unusual and repurposed lighting fixture in one corner of the dining room. I'd love to take it home!

The breakfast was excellent, not only in terms of variety but also when it comes to flavour. There's a list of hot breakfasts on request, and a table of continental selection while you wait. If you are staying for five nights or so, you're guaranteed a cooked breakfast of your choice every day. Before New Year's Eve, the weather was horrible that we decided to indulge in the spa services. I chose the 130-minute package that includes a full body scrub, massage, and aromatherapy. I woke up to my own snore.

One corner was filled with framed photographs and other artworks

This very generous guest bought me drinks!

The Guest. Possibly needs a tripod for self-portraits.

If you have a car and would like to have a base in Cornwall where parking will just be on your doorstep (Cornwall sceneries are very similar to Ireland's but with the uninvited stress of parking pay and display), where the food is delicious, the service is pleasant, the indoor heated pool and spa services can keep you in when the Cornish weather becomes unbearable, and all these for a very reasonable price, have a look at Penventon Park. Click on the name below to take you straight to the hotel website.

Happy New Year everyone!

West End
Redruth, Cornwall
TR15 1TE

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