These Recent Things (Cats, Cruise Ships & Cars)

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I should have written sooner. All those days blurring busily into weeks, months. Today I’ve found, in between baking an apple cake and prepping for the Renaissance Photography Prize portfolio reviews, a pocket of time that would have otherwise been filled.

click here for more info Right now I should have been in Tel Aviv launching an exhibition, giving portfolio reviews, hunting down cakes of excellence. But, flights cancelled, exhibition postponed, I’ve found myself at home with time, and sunshine, and an abundance of autumn fruit.

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I’ve been busy, I’ve been away, I’ve been to Scotland, and Amsterdam, I’ve driven half way across Rwanda and back. I’ve seen giraffes, and baboons, and cats (no big cats) and funny little birds that roll over as they fly, offering glitzy glimpses of their colourfully feathered undercarriages. I even found myself accidently on a cruise ship (never again).

I’m not sure that, however I try, I can really remember what I’ve been up to, let alone tell you in any detail, but that’s what photographs are for, right? Right.


I’ve done some good eating out – Crown & Punchbowl, Kimchee, Dishoom, Bills in Victoria (because of the great company and velvet corner nest), and eating in – when I had the pleasure of welcoming chef Anita Kerai into my kitchen. She arrived with boxes full of food and spices, and a big grin on her face. Within minutes she’d begun, cooking up a Gujarati feast in my Fenland kitchen, completely relaxed in this stranger’s home. After a day of cooking and learning it was time to eat. We sat down, friends over a feast of delicious food, and Anita shared with me the story of how she became a chef (and I shared that story over here on Surf4).

Adam and I sprinted at Brands Hatch at the Lotus Festival alongside Lotus Cup Europe and all sorts of other wondrous racing. I love Brands Hatch. I was 8th out of 11, which isn’t particularly exciting, but I did knock just over 3 seconds off my time from the previous year, so that was good.

Then we went to Rockingham for a two hour track evening with Alan and that was great fun.


Shutter Hub continued to fundraise for the GIRL TOWN exhibition, dozens of people came forward to share their messages of support (read them here), and Laura’s brilliant article  ‘Celebrating the Culture of the Female in the 21st Century’ got featured on the World Photography Organisation blog, and in Amber Magazine.

We made the selection of work for our forthcoming ‘Artificial Things’ exhibition with Cambridge University which opens on the 3rd November, and we’ve begun work on the accompanying events – come and join us for drinks and talks on 30th November if you can. We’ve also started work on plans for an exhibition in Fleet Street, London early next year, so I’ll let you know about that sometime soon too.

I was very happy to be asked by the FORMAT team to join them at Unseen Amsterdam and give portfolio reviews last month. Unseen is heralded as one of the best photography festivals in the world, I’d never been before and I was excited to have a doubly good reason to go. And I love the Netherlands.

I left my car at the station and got the train to Stansted, plane to Schiphol, train to Amsterdam, and arrived in time to meet my friend Dagmar for Vlaamse Frieten and good chats.

I’d picked a central spot to stay, although Unseen was over at Westergasfabriek (near where I once ate a gold and silver clay covered purple potato), I wanted to be able to enjoy more of the city for my few days. The Nova Hotel (with a bit of a  Hoxton-Shoreditch vibe to the rooms, but more space) was just minutes away from Dam Square and gave me good reason to walk – apart from when I overslept, of course.

Rushing to the reviews in the morning my driver couldn’t see the map, or where he was going. He fumbled and swerved, searching for his glasses. ‘On your head,’ I told him, wishing I’d been up in time to walk.

De Bakkerswinkel was the most lovely venue for the portfolio reviews. Perhaps we could have done with brighter lighting, but the calming atmosphere and fascinating space made for a really relaxed and engaging day. I gave eight reviews in all. I felt inspired, alert and tired, all in one big bundle. I walked back across the city, stopped off to buy orange juice, grapes, salad and a big bar of Tonys Chocolonely, and then headed back to my hotel room where I sat at the table and enjoyed my picnic. It was great!

In the morning I went back over to Unseen – I saw friends and photography, I saw a pig being spit roasted in the street, and a pigeon smiled at me from a bush. Walking back to the station in the sun I met the most magnificent cat sitting outside a bakery sniffing the breeze.

That’s what I call a successful trip.

No sooner was I home than I was rushing off to Rwanda, but that’s another story, a long story, with baboons and hippos, tree tomatoes and passionfruit juice, and a crappy death trap of a hire vehicle. (Thanks Europcar!)

In stark contrast to driving freely across a African National Park, I found myself, last week, accidentally aboard a cruise ship with no hot drinks, shrieking waiters, and a Swarovski crystal staircase worth a couple of hundred-thousand Euros. Nuts. (Literally – in a cake, that the waiter said was nut free. And that’s another story, a boring one about antihistamines, swelling and excuses. Yawn.)


The MSC Preziosa was a frenzy of bloggers rushing everywhere from the restaurants to the pools, taking pictures of half-naked old men (it was an accident, I deleted it) and photographing things they couldn’t have, like cups of tea, apparently only reserved for passengers, not guests.

I’d stayed the night before in a pretty awful hotel. Always wanting to look on the bright side I made a list of good things about the place. 1. It was called The Dolphin  and 2. It looked like a prison.


What next, hey?

4 thoughts on “These Recent Things (Cats, Cruise Ships & Cars)”

  1. Karen, it made me laugh when I saw you had tagged this post with ‘everyday life’ as it always seems so far removed from my everyday life. You are always off on adventures and manage to see the extraordinary in everything. I love reading what you write and seeing your beautiful photographs. And just for the record I have only once been on a cruise ship (accompanying a group of school children) and would never intentionally want to do so again!

  2. That smiling pigeon and air-sniffing cat must surely make up for the inadvertent cruise and the driver who was unable to find the glasses on his head. Did you know that cats purr at the precise frequency level which can heal bones and even soft tissue? So clever. Imagine breaking your leg and being sent to a cat rather than a doctor. Just occasionally, pot noodles are the gourmet option. And every five or ten years, only Kraft cheesy macaroni will do. (No peas, though).

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