Reflections #22: A Month of Several Corona ‘Firsts’

Zarina sitting along the canal at Kings Cross with giant ice lollypops in the background

Once a month I write my personal review of the previous weeks. August proved to be an eventful month filled with several ‘corona firsts’. Read all about this in my personal reflections which also includes my monthly recommendations for films and series!

My August: a month of several ‘corona firsts’

Zarina posing at Coal Drops Yard Kings Cross

How have corona restrictions been recently where you live? In the UK, lockdown restrictions were only starting to be eased over July. National and international travel was finally allowed again, which resulted in chaos at airports at the start of summer. As I wanted to avoid the summer peak season, I still haven’t been travelling yet.

Instead, I was hoping to book us a little trip into the countryside. However, trying to find something was obviously easier said than done. Since the majority of Brits preferred to holiday in the UK, every place I looked at was either fully booked or seriously overpriced. We might try again later this month, as it would be a nice break from sitting at home 24/7 for seven months now!

One of the highlights this month was receiving the book Trage Man (Slow Man) in the post. It’s the fiction debut by my university professor Hans van Driel who was my thesis supervisor in 2004. (Ooph, that’s a long time ago already…)

the book 'Trage Man' (Slow Man) by Hans van Driel
One of the highlights this month was receiving my university professor’s fiction debut in the post

We’ve stayed in touch through social media over the years and I’m honoured to have been sent this semi-autobiographical book which is set in my previous hometown of Tilburg in the Netherlands.

All proceeds of the sales go to charity. If you’re Dutch and interested in a copy, please have a look at his website here.

First wanderings through Central London during corona times

Instead of a staycation, Hubby and I ventured into Central London again for the first time since March. Although I usually tend to get highly irritated by the huge crowds in Central London, it was quite eerie to see it so empty everywhere now.

I had never seen the city so quiet before! Tube rides were suddenly so fast as there was no one getting on or off at most of the stops.

Photo of a practically empty St Pancras International during the coronacrisis
St Pancras International is usually heaving with tourists during summer

Seeing all theatres closed and the streets deserted, was a really strange sensation and sad sight. I wonder when tourism will return again and the entertainment sector will be revitalised as these are two of the major sources of income for the UK.

desserted streets around St Paul's Cathedral, London
Even the streets around St Paul’s Cathedral were completely deserted (except for the pigeon on Queen Anne’s head)

We’ve been hearing alarming stories of friends in the gigging scene, who have been retraining for new jobs as the UK live music industry is considered to be done for for at least the next few years. You can imagine this is a worrying situation for Hubby too whose work is largely based on live performances.

Jim Vision mural in Shoreditch of three female figures made out of abstract forms
It was great going out to see new street artworks again, like this amazing mural by Jim Vision in Hanbury Street, Shoreditch

Trying to find the positive in the current situation, we took advantage of the lack of annoying passersby and took tons of photos of the regenerated area around Kings Cross station.

overview photo of the shops and restaurants at an empty Coal Drops Yard Kings Cross
Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross

Known for its chequered past, it was strange to see it now being filled with fancy shops and restaurants. I do enjoy the contemporary architecture that utilises the original industrial features. Take the Victorian gasholders for example that have been transformed in fancy (and obviously outrageously expensive) apartments.

Victorian gasholder that has been made into apartments in Kings Cross, London
Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross

I especially enjoyed walking around the newly developed shopping complex Coal Drops Yard which I will write about in more detail in a future guide to Kings Cross.

neon sign at Coal Drops Yard saying 'Let's make this much of the rest of summer'
Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross

First museum visit during corona times

Hungry for culture, we meant to get our first culture fix in months at the current exhibition at the Design Museum, Electronic: From Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers.

entrance to the Electronic exhibition at the Design Museum, London
‘Electronic’ exhibition at the Design Museum

At the moment it’s only possible to enter a London museum if you have pre-booked tickets. If you tend to see several shows in a day as we normally do, it requires some planning as you have to book your ticket for a certain time slot.

Numbers are kept low to ensure social distancing inside and everybody is required to wear a mask. I didn’t have any problems with any of this, but the entrance to the first room made me quite anxious as it was so poorly designed (quite ironic for a design museum), it formed a serious bottle neck. This meant it took us nearly 40 minutes to reach the first exhibits.

Once you pass that first room, there’s far more space to walk around for everyone and to spread yourself out. I enjoyed hearing some classical house tunes and even discover some of our friends featured in the exhibition, but frankly I was terribly underwhelmed by it all.

The scope of this exhibition was very limited, highlighting mostly the curator’s personal friends (I felt) and ignoring some major genres, subcultures and pivotal figures in the electronic music scene.

All in all, our first museum visit during corona times wasn’t that fulfilling and put me off any future museum visits. But since we don’t like to be defeated, we’re going to try again tomorrow at Tate Britain. I’ll probably tell you about that experience in next month’s personal review.

section about Aphex Twin in the Electronic exhibition at the Design Museum, London
Section about Aphex Twin in the “Electronic’ exhibition at the Design Museum

First cinema visit during corona times

Thankfully, our first cinema visit during corona times was far better! UK cinemas have only reopened recently and as a lack of new releases, have been showing primarily classics such as Jurassic Park. The first corona UK cinema release was Christopher Nolan’s new mind-bending film Tenet.

Did you think Nolans’s previous film Inception was hard to follow? Well, that was nothing compared to Tenet! I hadn’t read or seen anything about the film before our cinema visit so I couldn’t work out what was going on for the first twenty minutes or so. But that didn’t matter one bit, as the opening scene is truly exhilarating. You’re thrown right into the action and the powerful soundtrack will certainly get your blood pumping from excitement!

Although I was completely lost at times, as the theory of time manipulation which the film is based on was rather complex, I truly enjoyed our first cinema visit during corona times. It was such a joy again to be completely immersed in a film, sitting in the dark, surrounded by loud sounds and watching the big screen.

It might be convenient to be streaming films on demand at home, but my return to the movie theatre proved to me that the home cinema experience could never beat the real cinema experience!

First time eating out during corona times

Hubby and I don’t eat out often, mostly only when we’re travelling. So, I haven’t particularly missed going out for dinner these last months. However, I did suddenly have a craving for the Wagagama katsu curry!

We ventured to the Wagamama restaurant near Borough Market, one of the London tourist hotspots. Not sure what to expect, it was obviously dead quiet. And after so many months, I think this was my finest Wagamama meal ever!

Films and series recommendations

Without a doubt, Tenet was the cinematic highlight of August. Not only because it was joy to be totally immersed in a movie again, but also because there haven’t been many great on demand releases.

We saw a mixture of old and newer films in the last weeks and hardly any of the new releases excited me. I think we saw the best films on our 7-year wedding anniversary on 3 August which we celebrated by watching a bunch of heist movies. My input for the day was Se7en, obviously because it’s such a romantic film…

wooden figurines representing Zarina and her husband in their wedding attires

Below are my recommendations (indicated with a *) for films and series, based on everything we watched this last month.

Films

  • Ava
  • Blue Iguana (Amazon)
  • Creepy (Amazon)
  • Force of Nature
  • High Hopes (Amazon)
  • How to Build a Girl (Amazon)
  • *Lucky Number Slevin
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  • Rock the Kasbah
  • *Se7en
  • *Small Time Crooks
  • *Tenet
  • The Bank Job
  • *The Quake (Original: Skjelvet) (Amazon)
  • The Town
  • Too Late (Netflix)
  • Tower Heist
  • Triple Frontier

Series

  • *Brooklyn Nine-Nine SE04-07 (Netflix)
  • *Justified SE01 (Amazon)
  • *Loudermilk SE02 (Amazon)
  • *Norsemen SE03 (Netflix)

Documentary

  • *John Was Trying to Contact Aliens (Netflix)

Blog posts I wrote this month

In last month’s review I announced I’d be taking a break from my Dutch Girl in London website over summer and wouldn’t be writing any new articles.

Considering tourism in London has practically come to a halt due to corona, I didn’t feel there was a need for London travel articles. So, instead I concentrated on updating old blog posts and new content for my travel blog Miss Travel Clogs instead.

Brand-new Miss Travel Clogs travel articles

Besides updating some old blog posts on Miss Travel Clogs as well, I also wrote two brand-new articles for my travel blog. I especially enjoyed reliving part of our epic New Zealand road trip whilst compiling an itinerary for the spectacular West Coast route which covers some of the most amazing landscapes in the country!

fjords in Milford Sound, New Zealand
The magical fjords of Milford Sound, New Zealand

The second article was set much closer to hand as it celebrates the unique architecture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Curiously, whilst growing up in the Netherlands I always considered Rotterdam as one of the ugliest Dutch cities. But in recent years, this important port city has undergone a complete transformation, gaining international fame for its striking architecture.

As such, it was time to set my outdated hesitations aside and explore what makes Rotterdam so special. Head down to my travel blog and let me know what you think of the Rotterdam cityscape!

exterior of food market Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
The covered food market Markthal Rotterdam

A dive in the Dutch Girl in London archive

The first articles to update on Dutch Girl in London were the two parts of my interview with our friend Graham Massey of the influential British electronic music group 808 State. I relaunched the interview on 8 August which marked the annual 808 Day, a day that celebrates the original Roland 808 keyboard.

Portrait of Graham Massey during our interview before his live performance with 808 State in Den Bosch, the Netherlands
Graham Massey of legendary British electronic music group 808 State

But I also returned to my very first blog from October 2013 about the Brick Lane street art and graffiti. It was quite cute to see my slightly naive enthusiasm at the very beginning of my street art blogging adventures.

Soon afterwards I played detective in the streets of graffiti-filled Shoreditch and uncovered some of the street artists behind the numerous artworks I used to see on an almost daily basis.

I maintained that same level of excitement in my second blog post that was an ode to the special seasonal ‘bock beers’. You can read all about these specialty beers in my post about the Utrecht Bock Beer Festival.

Finally, it was interesting to read about the Gunpowder Plot on my blog again, explaining the failed attempt to blow up Parliament on 5 November 1605. Hundreds of years later, this unsuccessful terrorist plot is still commemorated annually on 5th of November across the country with large firework displays.

My favourite song this month

This song by Macklemore is actually already a few years old, but it still sounds as exciting as the first time I heard it. The last week was quite a challenge, but as a coincidence I heard Can’t Hold Us every day on the radio which was a wonderful distraction from everything else for at least a few minutes.

This song is best appreciated when it’s played LOUD over the speakers! (It kicks off around 1.15.)

As you can see this month has been a modest return to ‘normality’. However, filled with several ‘corona firsts’, I still miss real-life meet-ups with the people I care about. Having not seen friends or family for nearly eight months now, I hope that can finally happen soon again.
But tell, what has your month been like? Let me in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xxx

3 thoughts on “Reflections #22: A Month of Several Corona ‘Firsts’

  1. Naus

    How was my last month?
    Interesting question!
    I really don’t think back often in detail. Even now typing this the only thing comes into mind is that I was able to work.
    In the Netherlands the restrictions aren’t as strict as in the UK.
    The governement does recommend that people should be working home as much as possible. Our company has changed policies so that all the people can go to work.

    Beside work: I still haven’t watched any movies in the theater. But am able to travel to other people.

    Take care and I hope the situation in the UK will turn quickly for you and your hubby!!

    bN

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