Tuesday, 10 August 2010

End of the Road

Just back from our mad dash / leisurely saunter - Yosemite to Big Sur via Grand Canyon, Vegas and Hollywood. Some highlights from Rach' include...
LA Skunks - not a baseball team just a skunk making its way home across a park in Los Angeles.
Breakfast at Linn's in Cambria.
Jumping the waves on Sand Dollar beach along the Big Sur.
Chasing trains along the rail road in the dust and dirt of the desert.

Stories to tell and photo's to upload as we prepare to pack and get the bus home...

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

San Fran by Millie

San Fran is amazing. At night the world lights up with bursting colours and dazzling lights that fill your eyes with happiness and laughter. The streets are swarming with people. The trams are going up and down the city like giant never stopping yoyos.

On Monday we hired some bikes. We rode for a long time until we finally got to the golden gate bridge. It was swarming with different kind of cars. It was very windy and cold when you were on the bridge, and scary because you didn't know if you were going to fall off, except you knew it was safe. I took some brilliant pictures.

We locked our bikes up and bought drinks and planned what we were going to do. We went all the way around Sausilito to the ferry for a ride back to San Fran, then rode all the way back to where we started. Dad then bought a massive Ben and Jerry ice cream and me and Evie shared a candy floss, which Jessie kept on pinching.

We are having a really nice time in the camper van.

Monday, 2 August 2010

San Fran - 10 highlights...

It's Sunday night Arizona where petrol is even cheaper. Found a posh RV site Papa would love on Route 66. Instant WiFi at 11pm - so with kids asleep we are having delightful moments of checking week old emails, and touching base with life back home (hello).
Life since our wonderful week in Lex has been non stop. So much to say, and after a 16 hour drive brief bleatings can only ensue!
Here are mine and Andy's highlights, in no particular order! (for those that know the place our 'hostel' was on the cross of Post and Taylor, central, lived in and popular with back packers looking for somewhere central.)

Hills.. wow! what character they give the place.. proper hills of the Bath and Sheffield variety, (and then some...) good for the thighs and heart!
Trolleys and Trams.. to save the thighs and sweat - san fran is a living transport museum with trolleys shipped in from all over the globe. loveit.
Breakfast... eat all you want bagels and coffee - part of the deal at our accommodation.,. lots of students,
Banksy. One of six found by chance at the top of China town/ Broadway... "if at first you don`t succeed, call an airstrike"
Walking.. everywhere and some.
Cycling.. 20 mile trip over `the` bridge to Sausilito and Tibruon, with a ferry back and our favourite Pizza house round the corner... great day.
California Academy of Sciences.. Underground, overground state of the art glance of life now and how to ensure a future (including Claude the albino alligator!)
Meal with Sarah, James and Julian.. childhood friend of Rachel`s, precious reunion, wonderful food (great meal out), Millie`s dream home.
Baseball.. an unlikely and spontaneous induction to rules joys and frustration of the game from a fellow diner over at a favourite pizza diner... brilliant.
Hidden gems.. Aadvark book shop, pool on Powell Street,
Glide.. church 2 blocks away, surprising mix of soul, soup and Sopranos. There`s real poverty on the streets of SF... lots of homeless far more evident than NYC... And Glide host various responses - including provision of 3 meals a day. Great service - and a preach on real religion. Jessie loved it. we stayed for coffee...

Some pictures...

Lex to San Fran'...

A final mash of Lex' photos... including a gathering of Communality (a collective, a community, a calling to be part of...) near the new allotment at London Ferrill (another story for another time) which was very informal, inclusive, relaxed and friendly... a hint of church, with lots of food - we felt very welcomed, with Eve and Millie off and making friends. Find out more at http://theashram.blogspot.com...


Lovely Lexington moments.

We're in Arizona (we arrived later than planned...) and free WifI shows up at this posh Recreational Vehicle (RV) camp site we've landed at. Just had a one-off 16 hour drive with a brief brunch stop at Bun Boy in Barstow on the ol' Route 66... No casualties. So - some snaps... and an update soon.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


We went to the cinema.
We saw Despicable Me. It was in 3D.
It was VERY funny… The best bit was when the little yellow fella who was the same shrunk. He was really small, though not as small as an ant though, and he squeaked. I liked it when the man went into outer space.

I am having a really nice time. I am excited. We’re going on the camper van today.

Also I lost my tooth in the front. It is a top tooth. The tooth fairy gave me a dollar, which was kind of her.

Love Eve.

Finding William Wells Brown

Staying with Geoff and Sherry isn’t just a moment to catch up with mates, enjoy generous hospitality, some stunning beers at Pazzo’s... I give you Rogue Hazlenut Brown and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel, (a process recycling old whisky barrells…) or to revisit familiar conversations and begin new ones, and enjoy some wonderful, stimulating company. It was also a moment to experience Kentucky life in Lexington’s East End.

The East End has a familiar catalogue of concerns that confront its residents. 40% unemployment, crime, crack dealers dealing openly on the streets, gangs and guns, pimps and prostitution, becoming a drive through neighbourhood. There are huge issues here… race, economics, education, health care… isolation, alienation, alcohol, violence. It’s a hard context to live in.

While distant politicians and policy makers may get round to debating ‘what to do’, may dream up their own top-down responses to grinding poverty (and while bloggers blog), the stories leak out of people living in Lexington's East End getting on with it. Finding ways to resist the advanced erosion of public services and resources and nurture relationships, growing confidence, capacity, opportunity.

When Sherry mentioned she had a neighbourhood association meeting coming up on the Thursday evening of our visit, Rach’ and I immediately offered to come along too. With Geoff on childcare duties, we set off.

Neighbourhood Association meetings have a familiar feel. Despite great intentions meetings often feel designed to confuse – with formality, process, acronyms and jargon locking out the stranger, or sending you to sleep. Our loyalty to Sherry heightened my tolerance levels. I was curious to see how residents were working with the professionals and vice-versa.

The meeting kicked off with welcomes, and a briefing from the police, a young white officer, with opportunity for comments on crime and police responses. Knowing looks are exchanged as familiar streets, people, groups and behaviour are all clocked. Questions are asked about specific groups of young people – is it anti social behaviour or just hanging out?

A discussion starts hosted by a local community organisation that with government funding has purchased a plot of land in the area. Feels familiar - lots of jargon and warm words about process, empowerment, choice, listening, process, engaging – about how the land could be used. However when the furrowed audience throws up questions, it becomes clearer only that this isn’t a blank canvas after all. Actually, this organisation has ideas, criteria and a template. Is this really about listening and working up ideas – or is it really a type of consultation? The expectations shift across faces in the room and ambitions are checked.

The site of the associations meeting is a new school and community centre surrounded by lots of new housing – some huge apartments, and large stone buildings. It’s all a massive contrast to the familiar weatherboard housing dominating the neighbourhood. This is an attempt at social engineering – a mix of housing tenure. However the houses haven’t sold, the rich aren’t moving in and vast numbers remain empty. For those that do arrive, the questions is how can the association provide welcome?

I counted 23 attending – with a few paid workers. Of the 18 residents 15 were women, 5 were blokes – at the grassroots the matriarchy rule in this part of town as elsewhere. After the meeting one grandmother explains that the association had come about from residents, deciding to reboot their older resident organization (the old glory days long gone). They had decided to rename themselves after William Wells Brown – a Lexington born slave and abolitionist. Wells Brown had escaped captivity, fled on the Underground Railroad to the north and eventually reinvented himself as a writer, (travelling to the UK, living in Aylesbury and hanging out with Charles Dickens).

Despite the everyday content for discussion, the real challenge and struggle, there is a consistency from people – a clear sense of warmth and pride in the place and the stories.

As the meeting closes the Director of the centre informs us she’d noticed someone outside taking photo’s of the building. It turns out the photographer is an academic researching the life of William Wells Brown for an official biography due in 2014. The building our meeting is in the plush new community centre next to the new William Wells Brown School – and the final destination for a professor undertaking years of research. The group invites him in and listen enthralled.

A spontaneous summary of William Wells Brown provided by the Prof’ is inspiring. After all the business, you can feel the room lift. Wells Brown is increasingly regarded as the most significant 19th century African American writer. For these East End residents it's not academic, this is the man and vision the new William Wells Brown Neighbourhood Association draws inspiration from today – a key figure for the community rediscovered and a rich source of significance and pride. A great moment to be in on.