Merry Christmas!

Enthused by the need to cheer up my husband who has been moping around the apartment of late, looking sinfully bored, I thought we should swing into a little town nearby for some Christmas cheer. It is a town of antique shops and art galleries and artists. Lambertville (, which I have introduced you to a while ago. The way was paved with swathes of snow, then patches, where the snow has melted but with degrees of reluctance. Charming, quiet hamlets, acres and acres of farmland, silos and barns – the mainstay of the American farming story. I have a yen for those silos and barns. Have had it since my first trip Stateside in 2016. I could not take my eyes off them then, when we were visiting my sister-in-law in Seattle. Thereafter, I have fantasised of living in a barn. Adi is suspicious of the concept, but I tell him, “You would never look back with regret.” He still needs convincing.

So we roll on and listen to country music and carols and reach Lambertville within the span of an hour. The streets are remarkably empty. A couple of people roam the pavements, armed with coffee cups. The shops are open, the restaurants look shut, and generally the whole town looks like it has gone to sleep. It is cold, but not terribly so. We have not been keeping up with news. I am tired of keeping track of the numbers. But this makes us think, maybe it would have been better to just stay home. Covid’s token. Certainty is a thing of the past.

This must be the year of the grinch.

I enquire at some galleries for my art pieces. They mostly display oils. I make a mental note that I should continue with my objective of experimenting with oil painting starting next year. I am looking forward to it. After all, it is going to be a fresh challenge. A promise of growth.

At the antique shops, I pick up old bound editions of William Faulkner and Stendhal, when Adi beckons to me. I follow him. Massive installations of Tyrannosaurus and Komodo Dragons, a massive head of the Tyrannosaurus, its cruel eyes glinting at me, so life-like and uncanny. I shudder and run away, back to the comfort of books, porcelain figurines, faded cigar boxes. Within the matter of an hour, we take off from Lambertville for home. With dusk, the temperatures have dipped remarkably. Home seems the only place to be.

On the way back, we drive back again through hamlets and farms lit up with fairy lights and candles glinting at the windows. The pièce de résistance is a magnificent old spruce tree that we sight, on the grounds of a church. It is so tall. And threaded with warm twinkly lights, a yellow star crowning it, almost casting a mellow pool of light (or it maybe a figment of my imagination). I wish I could have stopped for a photo. But could I have done it justice? It is one of those things where words will have to suffice and you will have to take my word for it that it was a thing of rare beauty. A tree not uprooted, a tree left to grow unchecked, a tree done up in the simplest of manners, but one that was possibly the best Christmas tree that I have clapped eyes on. It belonged where it stood.

This year, we are not doing the traditional bird roast. It turns out, both of us were thinking of it, and were amazed when we said it aloud and realised that we were both on the same page. We will however bring it in with loads of veg, cheese and pies and cakes. I would love to hear how you are celebrating.

Here’s to a fuzzy Christmas, wherever you are, dear reader. Big love from us and Jack Phat from my art journal.

The Heart Warbles When It’s Home

I am back in Bayonne. Back home. Though really, so many homes have been left behind. The heart throbbed yesterday when I had a layover at Heathrow. The hum of the familiar is intoxicating.

Now, mizzle. The lavender grey stretch of the Hudson. The park with its army of trees stripped clean of leaves, but oh wait, a few golden leaves cling to one. A boy in black waits at the bus stop holding on patiently to his black umbrella, buffeted by the wind. It must be freezing outside (yes, I am guilty of putting a lead photo from a few months ago).

It is as warm inside. The lemon verbena candle burns quietly and the room smells citrus. Cosy. Behind me Adi clacks away on his computer, and then there is this, me clacking away on Bertie. Serenity. I am home.

I woke up in the middle of the early morning hours. An unsettling sense of being suspended in some other space. Where was I? It took some time for my discombobulated mind to soak in the fact that I was in our own room. Heavens, it was bliss. Then I looked at Adi’s peacefully snuggled form, cuddled up, and rejoiced. To be back where you belong. Is there any feeling as good as that?

So please, no more air travel anywhere, at least for some time. This 20-hour journey has scrambled my brains. The rigmarole of shedding clothes and shoes at security, putting them back on, repeating it all over again, endless eating on the flight, lack of enough water, snacking upon Marmite popcorn (egad), reading Jazz-age tales from Fitzgerald, then nodding vigorously at the wisdom of Mark Manson and snickering at his sense of humour, watching movies and TV shows, listening to music wondering about when it should all end, insufferably long queues at immigration at JFK Airport, the people here who insist on referring to landing cards as receipts. I am done.

So you know what to do when you want to punish someone or take wholesome revenge (you sweet human). Just put that someone on a long-haul flight.

Peace out.



My Cosy Corner of the World

Every time my husband, Adi, and I come back home with our strolleys, open the door and lay our eyes on the pub signs hanging off the walls of our short entrance corridor, the heart sighs. Almost audibly. That wonderful feeling of letting go, ah. I throw myself on the sheepskin fur sitting on our couch and flop back with happiness. I look around and let the eyes wander for ‘the eye has to travel’ as fashion editor Diana Vreeland puts it.

There is much for the eye to take in, in our apartment. For our home decor is at the other spectrum of minimalism. Would I care for a fridge bare of all the magnets that stick on them right now along with a few quotes and to-do lists? Nah. I like the chaos on our walls and fridge. Warmth pervades the walls of our home through the very many metal tin signs we have accumulated on our various travels.

There is a woman from the rental agency who comes once in a few months to do a check on the apartment on behalf of the landlord, and every time she enters, she says with a note of awe, “I love the way you have done the space up”. But I can see that she struggles to take it all in at one go. This time she took a peek at our wall that is dedicated to travel. The wall in our bedroom has tin signs from places that we have been to. Yes, we put up magnets and tin signs from places that we have actually been to.

That small yellow tram takes me back to Lisbon as does the yellow bird atop a branch that I bagged in a small boutique there for a deal. I remember the hot day on which I walked through alleys in Lisbon before I laid my hands on these cutesy memoirs. The miniature house fronts from Copenhagen, Prague and Bruges take me back to moments of dithering in shops till Adi would roll his eyes and say ‘decide already’, the bunch of red chillies in ceramic sits smiling at me from the kitchen walls and reminds me of our summer jaunt in the Amalfi Coast.

Then there is the louche frame of a man in a hat lighting his smoke off the glowing tip of his woman’s cigarette – which we picked up in a flea market in Brussels on a very grey, cold weekend. The old wall art of silhouettes, a woman in a 16th-century gown sitting in her swing and a rakish figure of a man paying his address to her, travelled back home with us from a small town in Seattle.

Atop the book cupboard.a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg

Ceramic cod fish from Feira de Ladra, Lisbon.a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg
Cods came from Feira da Ladra in Lisbon

Copper pot from Derbyshire.a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg
A copper pot bought in Derbyshire in England from an old, eccentric man who warned us not to put it on the hob or brew tea in it. “You never know, in these times of recession, you might actually use it,” he cackled. Something about old English men with that sense of humour —  it has the tendency to run amok.

Ceramic lemon and pears from Amalfi and plastic strawberries from Seattle.a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg
Ceramic fruits from the Amalfi, Italy, and a bunch of strawberries that my niece brought for me from Seattle because we used to smell soaps together and drool over fake fruits.

Lisbon ceramic tray.a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg
Lisboa tray

The travel wall that always gives us a thrill. It all started with the St. Ives metal tin sign that we bought in Cornwall, UK, from an art studio in Tintagel.

Who cares about minimalism? Not me. Do you?

There are so many more. The apartment is heaving with these memories that we have made, and along with it, the reminder each time that there is nothing as soul-stirring as travel. D.H.Lawrence put it so, ‘When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.’