8 reasons I miss London (and 8 reasons I love Cape Town)

I am grateful to be living near to so many of the friends and family who love me. Every now and then, however, I miss the vibrant energy of London. These lists of things I love about London and Cape Town are by no means exhaustive, but the top-of-mind items right now are as follows.

I miss London when…

East End of London and Canary Wharf

View of the East End and Canary Wharf from my window at the Royal London Hospital

  • The shop assistants in a Cape Town music store don’t know who Sophie Ellis-Bextor is (let alone when the album she released almost eight months ago is going to reach South Africa).
  • I can’t find a WiFi hotspot.
  • I spend two hours at the bus station waiting for a bus whose driver has decided he doesn’t feel like going back to work after his lunch break.
  • It rains.
  • South African politics seem to be a lost cause. I loved the open discourse between the UK government and its public, facilitated by organised protests and shows like Question Time.
  • I watch a British film/series.
  • I listen to dance music. Or maybe I just miss dancing in general.
  • I can’t find clothes I like in my size. The H&M launch in Cape Town could not happen soon enough.

I love being in Cape Town when…

Table Mountain and Cape Town

View of Table Mountain and Cape Town from Blouberg

  • I drink good wine and eat good food. Thank heavens for bobotie, potjiekos, melktert, koeksisters, droëwors, Ghost Pops, biltong, Bakers Eet-Sum-Mors, Bakers Romany Creams, Bakers Nuttikrusts, Bakers Zoo … ah, you get the idea: Bakers biscuits are awesome.
  • I can hear the ocean while lying in my bed at night.
  • The sun shines.
  • I have at least one friend in common with every new person I meet.
  • Elephants wander into my backyard … just kidding!
  • I watch the sun set over the ocean.
  • The cost of living is relatively manageable.
  • Random strangers on the street offer to help me get my wheelchair up a hill.
  • I see all the open space around me and the plants that remind me Cape Town has more endemic biodiversity than anywhere else on earth.

5 reasons winter is my favourite season

Summer, spring and autumn, I concede the glory of your sunshine, blossoms and golden leaves, but winter is still the season for me.

1) Rain

I love rain. Rain is beautiful. Rain makes the earth smell fresh and fertile. Rain is cleansing. Rain feels soft. Standing in the rain is liberating. Being inside when it’s raining is comforting and soothing. Also, rainbows.

2) Amazing fashion

Onesies at Topman

Onesies I liked at at Topman (Westfield Stratford City)

I love winter clothing. Jerseys and scarfs and gloves and hats and coats and jackets and thick shirts and long pyjamas and yes, onesies. There is so much opportunity to express myself. And layers! If I go outside, put on another layer = new outfit! Go inside, take off a layer = new outfit! And if wearing so many layers does cause me to perspire a little, at least I won’t be sporting any sweat patches (see below), because they’re hidden underneath all those layers!

3) No sweat

What I cannot stand about summer is being hot and sticky with sweat. I can never tell whether I look good or smell good and half the time I couldn’t care less, because I just want to make the heat stop NOW. At least when I feel cold in winter I can add another layer of clothing or turn on a heater or wrap myself in a blanket or snuggle up in bed or huddle with someone, but no amount of undressing can free me fully of summer heat. Also, I think underarm sweat patches are super duper gross.

4) Snuggletime

There is no better time to be in bed or under a blanket with a film or a book or a boy than wintertime.

5) Hot food and drinks

Illy coffee and carrot cake at the Hummingbird Bakery in Spitalfields

My coffee and cake at the Hummingbird Bakery (Spitalfields)

I love carbs. If I still had the metabolism of a teenager I would eat carbs almost exclusively. Pasta, pizza, stews, freshly baked bread, scones, confectionary, hot puddings… And hot drinks can transform my body from an ice block to a breathing hot water bottle. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cocoa, malt drinks, mulled wine… Also, chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

6 New Year’s resolutions to review

I never used to make New Year’s resolutions. Not sure why. Maybe I thought I should just try to be awesome all the time, rather than in one particular area for one particular year. Or maybe I thought it would be pointless, because I would never be able to see them through.

Anyway, this year I decided that making several resolutions would help give my life the sense of purpose that it lacked. As we are just over halfway through the year, I thought I should review some of my resolutions to see if I am on track. These are my New Year’s resolutions and my progress with each:

1) Be kinder to myself.

It turns out that much of my depression is a result of many false assumptions I have about myself and the way others see me. My psychiatrist has recommended keeping a journal, which has helped me to identify certain thought patterns. The most difficult thing in each situation is choosing to believe that everything I have held true about the world and my place in it is wrong. For now, at least – until I retrain my brain to make different connections.

2) Make more time for the people who matter.

I “borrowed” this resolution from my friend Nicola’s list. At first I did quite well, but alas, I have always been bad at keeping in touch with people I don’t see often. I don’t like speaking on the telephone and it’s become so unnatural to send long emails or, heaven forbid, letters via snail mail.

Now that I am dependent on others for transport, I see all my friends less frequently, because I hate inconveniencing anyone or asking for help. Of course, none of my friends would feel inconvenienced by seeing me, but I can’t help feeling they’d much rather be doing something else (refer to resolution #1). That is, however, no excuse for not letting my friends know that I care, so I am resolving to do better at this resolution over the second half of the year.

3) Be able to lift my own weight in free weights by the end of the year.

The journal containing my  NY resolutions.

The journal containing my NY resolutions.

Please, before you dismiss this as a particularly douche-y jock* resolution, let me explain:

Until last year, I had never lifted a weight in my life. Even on the few occasions I went to gym, I stuck to cardio workouts or classes like Pilates (which I really miss, FYI). After I lost my legs, I spent four weeks at a physical rehab centre, where I had to lift weights every day. It was never more than five kilograms, because the aim was not to bulk up, but rather to improve my upper body strength to the point that I could easily lift myself from the ground into my wheelchair and wheel myself around all day without getting ridiculously out of breath.

It was very difficult for me to maintain this level of training at home after my rehab ended, so I set myself this resolution as a goal to keep me motivated. By April I had gotten about a quarter of the way, but I was really struggling. I was very fortunate to be invited to exercise with a personal trainer whose gym is a block away from my home. He is teaching me a lot about mental, emotional and physical training, so it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Since I began exercising with him twice a week, I have lost track of the exact weight that I can lift (so I have no idea how much progress I’ve made on this resolution). All I know is that I am in better physical condition than I have ever been before (besides the fact that I now have no legs, obvs). I can do pull-ups for the first time in my life, so I feel like I have already achieved this resolution in spirit, if not in technicality.

4) Learn to speed read.

After making my list of resolutions in January I Googled how to speed read and it turns out that it basically means skimming over the text, rather than being able to take in each word much faster. I could skim if I wanted to, but I am too paranoid that I would miss some vital piece of information, so I have crossed this resolution off my list as no longer desirable.

5) Learn shorthand.

Why?! Why would anyone make this their New Year’s resolution? I don’t know what I was thinking – most people hardly even write these days. And apparently learning shorthand is way more complicated and time-consuming than I thought. I am never going to be someone’s full-time secretary, so this is another misguided resolution that has been crossed off un-attempted.

6) Start helping others like myself.

This blog is my first step towards achieving my last resolution. I have looked into doing counselling courses and discussed studying psychology with my psychiatrist, who has put me in touch with some of her colleagues who can advise me, so I feel okay about my progress with this resolution so far.

If you made resolutions at the beginning of the year, maybe now would be a good time to take stock – not so that you can feel guilty for not achieving them yet, but because there is still loads of time to pull yourself back on track before the next year rolls in. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

*No offence meant to all the non-douche-y jocks who genuinely enjoy weight training. I envy you. Also, I think you’re hot.