Kindness of strangers

Within all the horror of terrorist attacks, most recently Manchester and London in the UK, the abiding strongest message is the reporting of how strangers stop to help each other. But my recent travelling experiences to the USA have shown me that this is not only a response to terrorism.

Travelling solo to New Orleans and Chicago has left me with a great sense of how strangers are more than happy to meet, share thoughts and experiences, and are usually welcoming of people from different backgrounds.

So, to Victoria, Tom and Gayle in New Orleans, Laila in Biloxi, Steve in California, Bob in Massachusetts, Charlotte in Chicago, and Gayle and her sisters from Wisconsin… a special thanks for making a strangers travels a truly jazz funk of an experience…

Jazz Funk guys at RF's

And any blues were of the most welcoming kind (why, here is Buddy Guy in person!)…

Buddy Guy in person [2]

So until we speak again, to Jazz, Blues and all other musical cats everywhere, let the music do the communicating, as it spreads the love better than anything else! And celebrate the kindness of strangers.

Pursuit of elegance

Is this my best side?Emerging from the docklands of London, and moving to the docklands of Cardiff instilled in Juno the deep rooted need to pursue something not easily equated with the streets of former industrial heartlands… the embodiment of elegance. The interpretation of indifference has often been too easily attributed to the demeanour of cats, whereas for Juno the cool cat exterior was simply her way of communicating the natural superiority she felt over the humans whose mission it was to serve her!

On my latest work trip back to the place of her origin… Newham, East London, I was determined that some of that elegant demeanour should rub off. I and my trusty companion journeyed forth through the Isle of Dog’s and Wapping’s of the former maritime powerhouse that was once the world famous London docks, in search of elegant vitals in sublime surroundings. In the depths of the memory banks reminiscence of one St. Katherine’s Dock kept re-surfacing:

St Katherine's Dock [1]

 

Kilikya's [5]

 

A wide range of budgets and ethnic sources of restaurants and bars are available in these relaxing surroundings, but recent Turkish delights from Islington were over-powering the decision-making equipment, particularly when Kilikya’s Turkish Restaurant hove into sight, occupying a central position in one of the former dockside buildings.

The table offered a mesmerising view of water-bound tranquility…

Kilikya's [4]

… while the interior presented a subdued atmosphere conducive to the forthcoming art of consumption. The success of the pursuit had finally been confirmed by a casual glance at the wine menu, offering Cankaya, a Turkish white wine accurately described as dry, light
and elegant!Kilikya's [2]

We had most definitely achieved that ‘mission accomplished’ vibe, and it was time to surrender to the inevitable Turkish delights on offer. A selection of succulent olives and side of flatbread set up the palate for a feast. Iskender Kebap, a mix of marinated cubed chicken & lamb delicately spiced with an addition of yoghurt, a Biber Dolma presented stuffed red peppers, and even chips to die for!

Kilikya's [3]

As a midsummers evening began to give up its visual splendour we had a last opportunity to take in the elegant surroundings we had enjoyed for the past couple of hours…

St. Katherine's Dopck [4]

And all of this happened within the shadow of a true London architectural icons…

Tower Bridge at night

Until we speak again take Juno’s lead and bring some elegance into your life.

Turkey, anyone?

Juno was never oneJuno and turkey to miss the lip-smackingly tasty opportunity of turkey…

But even she would have been proud, if initially confused, of what her native London has recently served up under the name of Turkey.

To begin with there was the strangely un-metropolitan surroundings offered up by a gentle stroll along the Regents Canal between Mile End and Angel. Who would think from the following view that you were in the centre of one of the world’s largest and most recognised cities?

Regents canal [1]

But gradual progress was to take us into something more akin to metro-land as we approached the newly gentrified Islington…

Regents canal [2]

Upper Street is widely known as one of London’s premier eatery locations, with much of the world’s cuisines represented along its mile. Yet, as with Broadway in New York, you can be well served by a glance just a few yards off the main drag, as we were to be on this occasion. From Istanbul to Beirut was a call not to be missed… conjuring up all of the culinary allure of a Turkish and Lebanese fusion.

Kilis Kitchen [2]

Kilis Kitchen comes with nothing but the highest of recommendations; small but intimate at the front but with a lighter additional room to the rear.

Kilis Kitchen [3]

But you need time to takeKilis Kitchen [4] in the fabulous menu (and even try the Turkish red wine).

Dolma (stuffed vine leaves) with Sucuk (spicy lamb sausage) made a tasty mix from the starter…

Kilis kitchen [5]

 

Then comes a shish kebab to make you forget whatever it is that those fast food take-aways churn out. Succulent tender char-grilled lamb skewers proved a truly mouth-watering taste; but I am sure Juno would have turned up her nose at the lightly grilled green chilli pepper, and the tastiest of side salads, let alone the basmati rice (to her it would have been a waste of plate space better devoted to meat and more meat!).

My vegetarian companion was equally complimentary about the char-grilled halloumi starter and pan-fried marinated sardines main course. What’s more, the evidence emerged that Turkish-Lebanese combinations have learned the art of perfect chips!

Juno readyThis meal left both of us feeling like Juno’s more usual post-banquet pose…

But we had to make do with another stroll along the busy boulevard of Upper Street as it teemed with the late evening diners.

Until we speak again, don’t be drawn to the main drag when some of the real jewels are often just left-field.

Historical perspective

Juno had always been a studentNewspaper of architecture, and was often an avid reader of the appropriate pages of the Observer newspaper. Originating from London, with an unexpected relocation to Cardiff later in life, she was quick to spot a derivation of architectural style and panache.

Renzo Piano, a man with so many bars named after him, has seemingly managed to find time to dabble in the art of skyline altering. A recent London contribution has added to the view of many a bed-ridden Guy’s Hospital patient…

The Shard October 2014

But, it takes the sharp eye of a cool cat to see the origin in the originality of such dramatic design. The City United Reformed Church in the back streets of Cardiff city centre was hardly the place were a young piano might have been playing (you can take or leave the pun as you please). But, had he looked up he just might have seen a crane, or even a dark shape against the sky. Could this really have been the origin of what would later become The Shard, piercing the London skyline, and creating shock and awe for so many bored rail commuters?

City United Reformed Church [1]

Until we speak again may all of your imaginary coincidences be pleasantly weird.

Two tribes…

Cardiff City 1 Charlton Athletic 2

City v Charlton [2]“ENGAGING THE BATTLE FOR THE DIZZY HEIGHTS OF MEDIOCRITY.”

fotosearch.com

Until we speak again it is important toChillout cat remember that Bill Shankly once claimed football was more important than matters of life and death, but Juno’s view on football hyperbole was to respect it primarily for its sedative qualities… what can’t be said about football under 10 words wasn’t worth listening to!!!

[With special thanks to fotosearch.com for posting the original ‘mediocrity’ image used to illustrate this post.]

Locally sourced what?

On my travels recently I met up with my daughter in the city of Juno’s birth, London. Where to eat? So many choices (if you can afford most of them). Avoiding the bog-standard see-them-everywhere chains isn’t a difficult decision to make; but then you are faced with the culinary equivalent of the dreaded ‘estate agent speak’, where language seems to be the vehicle for promoting more of a smoke-and-mirrors confusion than aiding your powers of decision-making. It’s a competitive world, this restaurant business, and nowhere moreso than in the centre of one of the world’s leading cities.

Modern European does what it says on the tin. Fusion conjures up visions of either some kind of scientific experiment or an industrial procedure, either of which should cause alarm if you are purely focused on eating. Brasserie keeps the industrial metal vibe going. Bistro is something now applied to so many different places that its origin as a small cheap Parisian eatery has long since been lost. You can choose by country of origin, as London seems to have more types of cuisine than there are countries on the planet these days; but then you find yourself meeting up at a railway terminus without a Masters Degree in local culinary geography, so walk the streets and take pot luck is the most likely order of the day. Then there is the question of whether you are looking at a stand alone restaurant or is it part of the expensive boutique hotel next door (and does that matter anyway)?

You can always decide on the criterion of available budget; but some external menus are either written in small font size with dim lighting, or the pricing doesn’t easily correlate to each item, and the hidden extras just might surpass the cost of the main meal.

Where is my trusted feline advisor when I need her? This is the moment where Juno would undoubtedly be referring to me as ‘indecision central’ or ‘the resident knowledge gap’. Previous experience of the area of Bloomsbury does nothing on the night to speed the decision, but at least my young companion is no car driver so the long lost art of walking is not beyond her ability. At last, we walk through the Dickensian Woburn Walk

woburn-walk1

… and stumble across an advert for Italian-British fusion at the simply named Number Twelve. It was not clear until you search for the rest room that this is part of the Ambassadors Hotel, so be prepared for a degree of elegance in decor, layout and quality of the food. This is definitely not your basic and simple bistro, and despite being tucked away in an isolated corner the service was welcoming. The window table was next to frosted glass with seating backing up to the window, so it is not going to be a place where the passers-by get to decide on whether they try it out based on gawping at what you are eating! The fillet steak and grilled salmon main courses were very well prepared, and despite having six chips on your plate it has to be said they were large and perfectly cooked. As for the side of chilli spinach, what a delight…

Number Twelve Bloomsbury

Not a cheap eating option, but if you are in the mood to savour some quality this is definitely a place worth checking out. However, I am left baffled by the menu and advertising claims to locally sourced ingredients… as Juno would have most definitely reminded me, the only locally sourced ingredients in London are concrete, tarmac, glass and exhaust fumes. Whether you are in for the surf or the turf options, until we speak again don’t let your eating be put off by culinary estate agent speak!

Juno (2002-2015) R.I.P.

Juno face

It is with the deepest of sadness that I have to report the sudden and unexpected passing away of a most fabulously gentle and warm cat, Juno. She started the new year in its earliest hours with her usual lap-loving cuddly nature, but at 12 years of age seems far too young to suddenly succumb to a catastrophic stroke some 8 hours later. As difficult as the decision was, it was very obvious her quality of life had become completely compromised, and so with the aid of a very compassionate vet, and a close friend, she was helped to slip away with grace and dignity at 12.44pm on 1st January 2015.

Juno began her life as an indoor cat in Newham in the east-end of London, before joining me and Su in Charlton/Blackheath in south-east London via the streets and the Celia Hammond cat rescue centre in October 2009.

Juno 10

In April 2012 she moved with me from London to Cardiff to a flat that was instantly hers…

Plotting an escape

She adopted a regal air about the place from the outset…

Is this my best side?

Occasionally tried to hide before the annual vet trip, though those whiskers gave away the hiding place!…

Try hiding

She had an intensity about her mission of keeping me in check…

You talking to me?

Loved to keep abreast of the news…

Newspaper

But now, for a small cat, she leaves a massive hole in what has been her home for nearly 3 years. She became the inspiration for my new adventure into the world of blogging in June 2013… when ‘Juno’s View’ was born out of a creative way of looking at my home city. She referred to me in derogatory ways in so many of the posts, but never by name… and for those readers who don’t know me, I will keep it that way.

She has left me with so many memories and inspirational thoughts, so as a memorial to such a fabulous companion I do intend for ‘Juno’s View’ to continue as a blog. For a short period of time I will not be publishing new posts, but I may re-blog some of my favourites from the 122 prior to this one. I only ask that current followers remain patient with me on that one, and any new followers stumbling on this site I hope the previous 122 will offer you some smiles and insights before new content appears.

She always signed off with an ‘Until we speak again…’, but on this somber occasion her final signing off is something so appropriate to her nature… she sends you the love!

Sending the love