Positive thoughts

Like many people, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is reaching out to my iPhone on a bedside table and checking my mailbox.

This morning, there was an email from WordPress informing me that they renewed my annual subscription. Oh yeah, my blog!

Isn’t this COVID-19 lockdown a perfect “kick in my bud” to restart my blog with gusto?

Same as my fellow Londoners, I am told to stay at home for unforeseeable future and feeling rather unsettled by this fast moving event. To be honest, I don’t know what to feel.

I am hugely relieved that Boris has decided not to throw us under a bus. The people – apart from builders who are working in the new building across the street. They are huddling, smoking and chatting like they have no care in the world – are listening to the government’s advice and behaving accordingly. And globally, every country seems to be doing the hardest to tackle the pandemic.

I feel safe at home and take a sigh of relief every time I check my body temperature and find it normal. Yet, the anxiety creeps up every now and then which makes my heart skip the beat! Ugh…

So what should I do during a time like this?

Shouldn’t I be digging up happy memories from my “mum and daughter’s road trip”? Remembering how we enjoyed our freedom in France? The idea sounds so appealing, doesn’t it?

So from tomorrow, I shall restart our holiday chronicle! Yay!

One thing breaking my heart the most is…

I won’t be able to play my passion, ice hockey, until the lockdown is lifted. I will miss the ice, the game and my teammates dreadfully. If this is not a nightmare, what is?…😭😭😭

My favourite place

Especially during the ongoing heatwave, one place I really look forward to visiting is an ice rink in Streatham.

Jimmy, who organises ice hockey practices, kindly invites me to his scrimmages when ice time are available, and yesterday was one of those weekend days.

Before setting off to the ice rink, Hubbie and I decided to have brunch at Ozone Coffee Roasters…

We found no customary queue at this popular eatery and a smiley staff ushered us to a table in the basement…

For my pre-scrimmage food, I opted for gluten-free pancake with smoked pear custard, hazelnut meringue & rhubarb ambrosia. I also ordered extra strips of crispy bacons…

The pancake was divine! It was fluffy and the topping was delicious.

Envious Bella, staring at my pancake…

Sorry, Bay Bay!

After the brunch, I headed to the ice arena with my friend who wanted to watch me playing hockey.

What a bliss! It’s so cool and comfortable on ice!!

Unfortunately, there weren’t enough players to play a proper scrimmage and Jimmy set up a few drills for us and it was fun.

Only one goalie turned up but he was a really good one – very mobile and aggressive with his stick! One of the drills was we, forward players, were to receive a pass from the defencemen standing by the blue line and to shoot at the goal. My turn came so I sprinted out, received a pass and I was about to shoot. However, before I knew it, a huge wall in the shape of a hockey goalie was right in front of me and I had no choice but simply crashing into him. Because I was such a light-weight midget with less than 95lb, I ended up flying away like a deflected bullet while he stood still, like a bloody bank vault wall! How embarrassing…

Another thing I kept on doing during the drills was losing my footing every time I tried to do tight turning.

What are wrong with my skates today?

I took my gloves off and ran my finger on the blades after skating to the end of a queue. The edges of the top halves were noticeably dull and it was clear that they needed sharpening.

After the drills, we did a 3 on 3 scrimmage using the half length of the rink. Despite my skates skidding on the surface instead of biting into it, I somehow managed to stay on my feet and enjoyed the game enormously.

‘Wow, it’s so hot and sticky!’, my friend and I moaned when we walked out of the arena.

Then, we drove by my place first to pick up Hubbie and Bella, and then drove to my friend’s to rink up with her husband.

My dinner at Andi’s on Church Street, Stoke Newington…

Pulled pork bao! A post-scrimmage protein fix.

It is a shame that I can’t come to a Monday’s practice because my skates are left in the skate shop and they won’t be ready before Thursday. Oh well, I shall work on my shooting at home then…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bird cage or fish tank?

You know what, I went to a training last Monday. I thought I left ice hockey behind twenty months ago but I was wrong.

I found myself, sitting on a bench in the changing room at Streatham Ice Arena and wondering how did this happen?…

I was so happy to be reunited with the teammates and the sport!

My blog was linked to my Facebook and the people who read the last entry through it left me loads of messages, telling me the door to the team and ice hockey was always open for me and it was very touching.

Ice hockey is like a tropical disease. Once you are bitten by this amazing sport, the fever never leaves you alone, EVER.

Why did I walk away from this joy, I asked myself when I was catching my breath after a drill.

Having thought that, leaving the sport and the team two seasons ago and coming back again was the right decision. After the time-off, what I am left with is a simple desire to skate and to touch a puck. My mind is clear and my expectation is realistic. I have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. I just want to enjoy myself.

My Tuesday morning ritual is back…

Leave my kits alone, Bay-Bay…

After the Monday night’s practice, it had always been customary to dry the equipments at home before re-packing them in a kit bag. The reason was because the damp kits would develop an unsavoury odour if they were left in a bag without being aired properly.

I still remember how badly one of the male hockey players smelt during an open practice session at the old Streatham ice rink. Basically, his equipments were falling apart, literally disintegrating, because he wasn’t looking after them properly. I imagine that he stuffed his wet kits with sweat and everything else in his bag as soon as the practice was over and forgot about it until the next session. I wish if he knew how antisocial his smell was! During the practice, we all stood in a queue, waiting our turn to participate in the drills and I happened to stand behind him. Oh god, how pungent he was. The smell hit me like a blast and it made me dizzy. It was like my face being surrounded by ten sweaty armpits! It was just too revolting to stand and I had to scarper all the way down to the end of the queue, as far as possible from him…

Please know that my kits will always be as fresh as a daisy because they have been maintained properly and they will be cared for as long as I play the sport.

There is a new addition to my kits though…

I have changed my full face protection from a polycarbonate shield to a titanium cage. I always preferred an unobstructed view given by the polycarbonate one. However, it had some drawbacks, such as fogging up and sound blocking. Until I discovered a brilliant anti-fogging fluid for a motorcycle visor, my shield steamed up badly towards the end of a practice and it drove me crazy. And also, I had to shout louder through the shield because the Perspex muffled my voice.

After last Monday’s training, I was awaken during the early morning by a fit of coughs. My throat was very dry and a bit sore due to too much shouting during the session. By swapping the shield to a birdcage one, it may spare my vocal cord, I thought.

Another benefit of wearing the lighter cage is how it can reduce the load on my neck. A typical stainless steel wire cage weighs 329g while my RE-AKT titanium cage by Bauer weighs 165g. Since the previous polycarbonate one weighs 256g, my head will be 91g lighter by changing the shield to the cage. 91g doesn’t sound a lot but a hockey player looks down often and the load on a neck changes dramatically by the angles of the head. For example, the weight of my head, my helmet plus a polycarbonate shield is 4,606g (4kg + 350g + 256g). While standing straight and looking ahead, my neck is loaded with only 4,606g. However, if my head is angled 45° looking down, the load to my neck will increase to a whopping 25.3kg! If I can reduce 5kg from the load my neck has to carry by shaving 91g off from my head, I will do it. It is a no-brainer.

I hope I will not be bothered too much by the grids in front of me during the next training. I am sure I will get used to it soon (I hope!)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Silence is golden

One thing I really loved about the past two days, especially those mornings, was how quiet my neighbourhood was. It felt like I was waking up in the countryside during one of those weekend-away trips. How well and deeply one sleeps if the surrounding is free from the usual clamour of urban life, I admired as I sipped a cup of tea which was kindly brought by Hubbie.

Our Christmas Day was a quiet affair. We watched some old black & white films produced by Ealing Studios and nibbled on mince pies and chocolates.

Then, Hubbie decided to jazz up the atmosphere with his Les Paul…

Van Halen wasn’t very Christmassy. However, I was already a bit sick of benign easy listening which was prevalent during the Christmas period so I was happy with him strumming.

Bella was quite happy with a variety of doggie treats she was showered. We had been indulging her a little more than usual because the bad weather was stopping us from taking her to the park.

She seemed to adore the salmon treat especially. However, all the extra treats made her ever more hyperactive…

Why am I not receiving any attention from you two? Bella demanded to know. Please please Bella, can I have some peace and quiet for a change? You should stop being a diva because it is so un-Christmassy…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

‘Aren’t you a bit peckish?’ Hubbie asked me as he squinted into the viewfinder of his Leica which was pointed towards Old Royal Naval College across the Thames. ‘Yeah, I am hungry but is there any place we can eat around here?’ I looked around and found a small kiosk which appeared to sell some hot tea and candy bars in the far corner of Island Gardens. ‘Shall we have tea and a bar of chocolate?’ Hubbie wrinkled his nose and replied curtly, ‘Nah.’ ‘What shall we do then?’ I threw back a question while sticking my icy hands into the pockets of my lumberjack jacket ever so deeper. ‘Let’s cross the tunnel and eat something hot in Greenwich!’ Oh, cool!

Greenwich Foot Tunnel, a subterranean walkway under the River Thames, connects the south bank of the Isle of Dogs and the north bank of Greenwich.

The tunnel’s construction commenced in 1899, right at the end of the Victorian Era, and completed in 1902. The purpose of the tunnel was to provide a more reliable and less costly method of commute for workers who lived in the south side of the river and worked in the docks and shipyards in or near the Isle of Dogs.

Today, the tunnel is classified as a public highway and it is in use 24 hours a day.

Let’s go down the tunnel…

During the 90s, I used to walk down the passage at least once a week. The reason was because there was a riding school at Mudchute Farm & Park and I rode with them every Saturday. The farm was rather a pain to travel to, especially during weekend. However, the fee was significantly cheaper than the one at Hyde Park and which afforded me to have two sessions for the price of one in Central London. I used to have one session in the morning and another one in the afternoon.

The stable at Mudchute Farm was not as snooty as Hyde Park’s and I enjoyed hanging around the yard, chatting with the fellow student riders and petting the horses and ponies. The only shortcoming of the farm was a lack of facility for food and drink. There was no cafe or kiosk in and around the farm – literally, the farm stood in the middle of the council flats and wasteland then, therefore, I had to travel to Greenwich if I wanted to eat lunch.

Until 1996, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was not extended as far as Greenwich, and I had to ride DLR to Island Gardens so I could walk across to the south bank via Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

The lift looked different then…

I can’t elaborate exactly what was different with the lift then but the doors wasn’t like these. It may have been a pair of steel doors.

We came out of the tunnel on the south side and the first thing greeted us was the famous Cutty Sark

In the 90s, the ship was moored on the quay like HMS Belfast near London Bridge. I remember the tall masts of the clipper decorated with rows of ensigns. The newly restored Cutty Sark after the fire in 2007, however, was hoisted up on the custom made structure designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, away from the water. This treatment aroused controversy because it made her no longer sailable as a ship. However, the state of the timber of the tea clipper and the modification done in the 50’s made her structurally too weak for the actual seafaring.

It is sad to realise that we will never be able to see her in full sail like this…

Still, all is not lost. The new exhibition space which is created underneath the ship allows the visitors to admire her famous keel which contributed to her legendary speed while she was in service.

The wind by the Thames was extra chilly…

Does Cutty Sark want to be as free as a bird like these seagulls?

We wandered around the crowded weekend Greenwich Market and looked for some hot food. Every stall we passed had a long queue, and in the end, we settled for hot dogs…

It tasted okay but the benches were in the shade and it was a bit too cold for our comfort.

After finishing our hasty lunch, we headed for the tunnel entrance…

It was a fun day out. But next time, I shan’t forget to bring a pair of gloves…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Blog at WordPress.com.