the long way home.

“Paying attention, I learned again, is the foundation of great travel writing – and as a bonus, it deeply and resonantly enriches your everyday life as well.”
–Don George, Gadling

It had been a week to remember. A brisk drop in temperatures preceded Britain’s earliest snowfall in nearly two decades, since November of 1993. But a surprisingly mild weekend set about erasing all sign of the record-setting snow and Sunday’s cloudless blue sky filled my lungs with crisp chill air. It was the perfect sort of day to bridge autumn and winter, I thought as I set out for Tolworth, a little area just south of Surbiton. My editor for Kingston’s student magazine had wanted me to go report on a sports alumni event taking place that afternoon, a series of matches playfully pairing current and ex-students against each other.

Me being me, lacking the standard allotment of common sense and all, didn’t think to check with my editor first to see if the snow, the same snow that incapacitated nearly every other aspect of British life this week, might not have had a similar effect on the sports event. Indeed, as I rushed off the bus and down Tolworth Broadway towards the sports grounds, I was greeted by nothing but lonely, snow-streaked fields.

I kicked the fence bearing a cheery blue sign: ALL SPORT CANCELLED. My typical self would have been, to put it lightly, annoyed, perturbed, even angry, perhaps? But for some reason, as I headed back to the bus stop, I was fine. With my afternoon suddenly as clear as the sky above me, I felt something close to happiness and made a deal with myself: if I walked the hour back to Kingston, I could use the money I would have spent on bus fare on a coffee from the library cafe (yes, I am on that kind of budget right now…).

Once I started walking, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my decision, iPod popped in and set to a dance/house playlist to put a little pep in my step. Gratefully I’d brought my camera along, as I was just in time for the rich sunlight that comes with the Golden Hours (which sadly start in mid-afternoon this time of year). Ordinary rows of shop buildings were gloriously illuminated, shadows dancing blithely on their walls, and I started to shift into travel-writer-mode, i.e. giving attention to the details so easy to overlook: the items in an antique shop’s storefront window, the diversity of restaurants and food markets to choose from, and a road sign for Kingston Town. How cool, I thought, to live in an official “historic market town.”

But what I loved most is what I will always remember of England in the winter: church spires and barren branches. Sunlit and standing tall, the steeples were everywhere, appearing above houses and shops and framed often by spidery branches stripped of their leaves.

There’s something to be said for taking the long way home.



Filed under London, Photography, Travel

11 responses to “the long way home.

  1. Jen

    Delightful. 100% delightful reading! This weekend blew me away – I went to Brighton and prior to leaving Saturday morning checked the Southern Rail website to find out if the train would be running. I was so surprised to walk outdoors and hear ‘drip drop’ sounds – snow and ice melting! Brighton was warm but very wet, but today we had sun and blue skies, as well as the crispness that you experienced in Kingston area.

    On another note, I’m on a similar budget, although you seem to be sticking to yours better. Perhaps I should do the same.

    And final point of interest – did you know that Surbiton is the station that Harry is hanging out in at the beginning of the sixth Harry Potter movie? He was in the coffee shop!

    • Thank you, Jen!! As always, great to hear from you 🙂 I read your latest post about treating yourself…sounds like you’ve got quite the handle on your budget, too, spreadsheet and all! How was Brighton, btw? Interesting choice visiting it in December–I’m hoping to make it down there next summer, at least for a quick trip.

      PS–I actually haven’t seen Harry Potter, but if Surbiton Station makes an appearance I might have to make that happen 🙂

      • Jen

        Well, it wasn’t warm by any means, but it was a fantastic weekend none-the-less. Very adventurous! I’m writing about it on my blog right now!

  2. Love the post as always! especially love the photo of the train tracks! nothing for a bit of spare time to click the shutter 🙂

    • Thank you, Erin! 🙂 I seriously loved those train tracks as well…I had to stand up on my tiptoes to get my lens through a chain-link fence that was on top of a wall, but I think it was worth it! I couldn’t get over the sunlight glinting off the tracks. I read your post about getting published with the square photos, too…congrats!! How exciting, let me know when the book’s out!

  3. Wonderful photos! I, too, would’ve been peeved with myself for showing up to a likely canceled event. Way to turn that frown upside down 😀

    • Thanks so much, Joey 🙂 Well…I did my best. I certainly wasn’t happy about the cancellation, but I was like, what can you do? How’s Chicago, btw? Looks like you’re keeping busy with the writing…so exciting!

      • Chicago is great right now! And yeah, it’s nice to have so much writing coming my way. A friend of mine is heading to London and I have half a mind to stick myself in his luggage.

  4. Hey, I work with the CheapOair travel blog ( and we’re interested in having you guest blog for us. Please contact me if you’re interested. Thanks! Aldo.

  5. Your photographs are just lovely dear. Great, great work!

    • Hi Stefanie, thanks very much for the comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. I’ve gotten into the habit recently of posting more of them each time…I can’t help including them 🙂

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