First trip out of London: Rye | 1-70620

Yesterday, we saw some seaside, smelled some fresh salty air, heard some seagulls scream, and felt the windiest breeze in a while wake us up a little. And fell in love with sweet Rye.

Saturday’s road trip. North London → sheep farmland in East Sussex → Hastings → Rye → sheep farmland in Kent → Whitstable → Margate → North London. It’s our first time leaving London in 3 months, and / but it’s not that we are craving getting out … we’ve loved each and every day of being able to just potter around in our flat and on the Heath. In fact, waking up on Saturday morning, slightly hung over after a hearty and hilarious 5-hour dinner with friends (one of whom made us his own take on an espresso martini, 3 times the size of the bar-kind, after having refilled our glasses with, fortunately for us and our heads, really good quality red wine), and comfy as ever in our Hampstead cocoon, we wonder if we even want to go, or what … we could also just .. do yoga, read, go for a walk on the Heath, make some chai, cook shakshuka, i.e. follow the same procedure as every day. Hm. We pull ourselves together, take a shower, down a quick cup of chai, haha, and then we’re off. In a car. Down Holloway Road, through Highbury, Islington, Dalston, and Hackney, further East, through the tunnel (we’re under the Thames!), South, and finally into expansive fields and meadows and forests as far as the eye can see! Wow. BBC 6 disco on the radio. It’s cloudy, windy, and just 13 degrees (quite a drastic drop compared with the past 3 months’ nearly 30 degrees!). Fresh.

Sights and impressions. First stop: a roadside cherry stall. The seller asks where I’m from. Lights up in a smile when he hears, as it just so happens that he worked for Greenpeace and Unicef in Jutland for 7 years, and has a Danish son. What are the chances! Next sight: cute rabbits in the grass along the country roads, winding their ways through the stunning expanse of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, known for its pristine landscape, numerous medieval manors, farms, and woodland. Third: we stop to buy freshly laid eggs from a farmer, who is feeling a little lonely because the lockdown is keeping away the camper van guests from all over the world that would normally be crowding his fields around this time. We chat for a while. He recommends buying black seed oil — he and the missus take it daily; it cures all diseases. He also introduces us to his horse, Dusty. Fourth highlight: Caribbean takeaway lunch (goat curry for Sanoop, vegan curry for me, plantains to share) in historic Hastings, where, finally, we see water. It is super grey and misty, but the sight of the channel still makes me smile after so many landlocked months. Fifth: Rye, wonderful Rye. We go for a long, excited zigzagging meander along the steep cobbled lanes that are lined with half-timbered medieval houses covered in roses and ivy. When the sun shines, when the delicious-looking fish restaurants, cute galleries and antique shops, charming pub gardens, church tower panorama platform, and other highlights reopen, and when we need another reminder that the UK isn’t just London, I wouldn’t mind another visit to Rye. And the sweeping dunes and clear waters at nearby Camper Sands. I really wanted to go to the beach on this trip, but it’s just so bloody cold, so we’ll save that for next time, when we’ll also do the coastal walk around Dover. For now, today, we drive from Rye through the rolling hills and idyllic sheep farms of Kent to the sixth highlight of the day, charming Whitstable, for freshly shucked oysters from a little shack overlooking the wide, oyster-shell covered beach. Seven: finally, we swing by Margate for some romantic sunset views across the water. The colours are so intense and dramatic, what with the little bit of sun pouring through dark grey clouds, the yellow-brown sand, the luminous silvery water in-between, and the cheerfully painted artsy shop and eatery facades lining the coastal promenade. We understand why people say that Margate is East London on the beach. Even in pouring rain and a hurricane, with everything closed and deserted due to a pandemic, it feels super … vibrant. We’ll be back. Before it gets too dark, we head back to London, fresh air caught in our cheeks, eyes, hair, and minds.

Sunday’s personal reflections after a week of international focus on Black Lives Matter, racism, antiracism. Compassion, privilege, structures, unconscious bias, solidarity, discomfort, curiosity, possibilities. What can we do, learn, do more of, do less of, learn more about, spend more or less energy on. As who we are now and with what we’ve got so far. White, born and raised in a relatively homogenous, relatively calm society, where at least 10 people in any school year had the same name and circumstances as me. Brown, born in Nigeria (which his, at that time, in that context, as teachers, privileged parents eventually left due to political unrest), raised in India and as an immigrant kid in Jersey City, with lots of friends of all sorts of colours and backgrounds, lots of fear of being mugged. College in Atlanta. Work in Asia. Using his last name, Luke, for lots of things, rather than the more … exotic-sounding Sanoop. Which I thought had an alluring ring to it when I first saw it on a dating app 4 years ago. Now we’re here. Looking in and looking out.

Monday-Friday this week, by the way, was: running, yoga, work, worrying about the world, feeling excited about the world, having wonderful conversations with sweet friends, reading, being restless, cooking, and making a lemon cake with lots of lemon peel. For the latter, here’s what I did, following Peaceful Cuisine‘s soothing recipe:

  • Ingredients: 400 ml almond/chestnut flour, 200 ml plant-based milk, 200 ml lemon juice (3 lemons), 50 ml coconut sugar, 100 ml coconut oil, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda; for the lemon peel: 300g lemon peel, 50 ml coconut sugar, 300 ml water.
  • Instructions: put lemon peel, sweetener and water in a pot and gently keep simmering until water is almost gone (20-30 min). Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes.

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