Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Ain't no party like my granny's tea party

I'm going off to see my Grandma tomorrow for a few days.  She hasn't been doing that well the last few years but I still love to see her.  She is 87, full of stories, and I inherited many of my interests from her: she used to take us to the National Portrait Gallery and the theatre and for tea at Selfridges in the afternoon.  She used to paint, bake and knit - all of which I do now.  These days I'm not so sure what I'm going to get when I see her: I don't know even if she will remember me sometimes.  But for me, I'll always remember her as a huge cultural influence on my life - she definitely contributed to the making of me, in so many ways. I will tell you all stories when I get back.

My Grandma is not as flamboyant as some of these lovely ladies in the video below - I'd say she was more on the graceful and demure side, but she definitely had a twinkle in her eye sometimes, and these ladies have more sparkle than you can imagine.  This trailer made me delighted to see people with such joie de vivre, it gives me hope for my old age.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Seven little days

This week has been full to the brim with excitingness!

Last Friday, three of us piled in the car at 6am and set off for Manjushri Centre for the Spring Festival.  Or should I say the Winter festival, because it was definitely pretty cold at night, and as usual I didn't pack quite enough clothes. Apart from that, it was lovely.  The festival was pretty small this year, at only 1,500 people, so there was plenty of space and hardly any queues.  It is run by volunteers so most people sign up for a job while they are there - most years I end up doing something to do with food (quell surprise!) and this year I was heading one of the teams serving supper.  It's generally a nice job, because, hey, everyone loves the person who brings them food....or most of the time at least.  I haven't had a Green Tara empowerment for a while, but she's one of the Buddhas that I connect to most and the energy during the ceremony was restorative - just what I needed! The teachings and meditations were truly wonderful, I'm always inspired by the festival atmosphere to put them into practice more. I met some great people from all over the world - one lady invited me to visit her in Finland! I managed not to spend too much money as well, though I did buy the World Peace Cafe, Hong Kong cookbook which I'm quite excited to try out. By the time we came back on Monday, I really felt like my batteries had been recharged.

The venerable lady, Green Tara

Yesterday, after work I hotfooted it down to Covent Garden to meet my mum and my cousin Michal who is over from Israel for a few days and her friend Neil.  It was really great to see her!  As we both get older, I realise how much we have in common.  If we lived in the same city, or even the same country, we would probably hang out quite a lot.  She has been travelling for a while and spent some time in various parts of Africa and she has also been doing some interesting peace work.  She takes beautiful photos and writes poetry.  The reason she was in the UK was because her work has been exhibited in the Ben Uri Gallery in London and she won an award for it so she came over for the award ceremony - so exciting! Can I just make it quite clear that I knew her before she was famous.  Really.  So once my sister and her boyfriend had turned up we had dinner at Food for Thought, a teeny tiny vegetarian place on Neals St. I had the Vietnamese Stew which was delicious, and I managed not to buy a cookbook. A great time was had by all, and I suspect that I may end up going there again...

Yummy yum yum
And then last, but definitely not least,  I managed to pass my driving test today.  Yes, really.  After all this time! My driving instructor was delighted, I'm going to do pass plus with him so hopefully it will have sunk in by then.  Now all I have to do is get tax and insurance and I'm ready to go.  Watch out, people!

What a week, eh!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Non-verbal Communication

Things we do when we aren't speaking:

Imitating birds

Showering each other with apple blossom

Play-acting with llama biscuits

Is that what they mean by non-verbal communication?!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Oh, the places you'll go!

Can I start by saying that I now have over 1000 pageviews! It may not be much to other bloggers, but it means a lot to me. Hello to all of you in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Philipines, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and finally, Venezuela.  This makes me appreciate how global the internet really is.  Loads of love to you all!

It's that time of year again! I have to admit it, I'm not much of a birthday person, but it's a fabulous excuse to do get people together and do fabulous things.  The last few years, I've used my birthday as an excuse to do at least one thing I've never done before.  In 2008, a few of us went to a pottery cafe and painted plates.  In 2009, three of my girls and I ran around London in exciting frocks and then went to The Ritz for Afternoon Tea.  In 2010, I went to see Torvill and Dean at a matinee showing of Dancing on Ice up in Manchester with an old friend.  In 2011, my dad was teaching in Warsaw for a few weeks and I spent the weekend in Poland with him, eating fantastic homemade Polish food round at a friends house and drinking much, much tea.

So, for this year, what is the plan? Well, we have plans for a few of us to go to The Icecreamists and get positively tipsy on ice cream cocktails, but all that will come at a later date.  Today, I was up at work for the afternoon, and I had to teach in the evening, so no chance of doing something super exciting today.  I did, however, manage to do something I'd been meaning to do for some time and that it to explore some of my local history in the form of the Westgate Towers museum.  It's actually been open for a while and I used to go into the cafe a lot, but then the owner died and both the museum and the cafe shut and I spent a lot of time wishing I'd gone and had a look.  I noticed the other day that the museum is open to the public again and now free for resident's card holders, hooray!  So I thought it would be a lovely way to at least get some excitingness into the day.

Inside one of the cells
You go up some stone steps and past one row of cells that are locked up, but on the second floor you can actually go into the cells and explore.  There are about four cells on each floor.  They are relatively spacious considering (much more inside than it looks from the photo), and they all had a iron bedstead that was so heavy no-one can move it (so it couldn't be used as a weapon) and a tiny loo behind the door.  Having running water meant that it had to be pumped from somewhere near the river using a big wheel that was turned manually, which was incredibly hard work.  The prisoners would pump the water by hand (among other types of hard labour) because it was believed to be good for them. The flush is located outside the room, but would only be flushed once a day by the prison warden, effectively making it no better than having a bucket - but all that labour was believed to be part of the penance.

Being inside the cell was a bit creepy and I couldn't wait to get out!  They could see out of the window by standing on the bed, and it's a fairly nice view, all things considered, but I was pretty happy to leave.

I then walked across the bridge (that would have been encased in copper plate) to the other side of the museum that housed more weapons and information on what happened to various criminals in which eras - the ones who were treated much worse than the ones in the cells.  There were many documents that listed various people convicted of crimes and what their punishments were.  Most of them were caught stealing, some of them as young as 15 years old. There were lots of weapons ranging from a span of time periods and also information on particular people who had stayed in the gaol.  It was quite fascinating.

Finally, I went to the top of the towers, where there is a magnificent view of the city.  Can I first say that I am a bit afraid of heights (or rather of falling off high places), and slightly scared of small spaces (especially stairwells), so this was a bit of a feat of endurance for me.  But I got up the worn stone staircases and was well rewarded for it.

The view up the High St - see the Cathedral and the new Marlowe

The view over the Westgate Gardens
I'm really happy I took the time to go and have a look around.  The staff were all so friendly, and they work hard to preserve this history for us.  If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend having a gander.

As for the rest of the day, there were no real surprises until at the end of class, the nun came out with this amazing cake that Fluffy O'Bunny had baked me while I was at work. Look at this beauty:

Yeah. Really.
The green bit was a bit squidgy on the outside but mostly solid.  And that thing behind is an urn, not a normal sized kettle, just to give you a sense of scale.  

Anyway, I'm sure that there will be more birthdayness throughout the week - not least cocktails with the girls on Thursday - but I can say that today was just lovely.  To round off, I got this little poem in my Note from the Universe today:

You're the kind of person, Nat,
Who's hard to forget,
A one-in-a-million
To the people you've met.
Your friends are as varied
As the places you go,
And they all want to tell you
In case you don't know:
That you make a big difference
In the lives that you touch,
By taking so little
And giving so much!

Even the Universe loves me! What more could I ask for!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Milkshakes and Mallards

The other day, well, a while ago, Miss H's friend Alan happened to be around the house wearing a very nice t-shirt.  The legend said 'I drink your milkshake'.  I got quite excited about the typography they had used, because I'm geeky like that, and then realised I had no idea what that phrase means.  I asked about it, and he explained that it was a quote from There Will Be Blood, but he was happy that I had asked.

A few days later it occurred to me that M liked the film, so I asked Miss H to ask Alan where he got the t-shirt from, for future birthday or Christmas ideas.  It turned out that he had no idea where he'd gotten it from.  That made me a bit sad.  But then he said that he would just give me the shirt, and then he had an excuse to buy a new t-shirt.  I looked at him slightly incredulously, and filed it in my head under things that people say on the spur of the moment and promptly forgot it all.  Then I told him a stupid story about some boy ducks (mallards, I think?) chasing a girl duck, and the girl duck getting all cross and me hovering in the background wondering if I would have to do an intervention to stop the abuse. And that was that.

Until Miss H knocked on my door a couple of days ago and gave me the t-shirt. I was surprised and delighted and it reminded me that people are really kind and that Alan, in particular, is quite fantastic. Maybe I should tell stupid stories about ducks more often.

They even remembered a full stop. Classy.

So the question now is: Do I give this to M? Or do I keep it for myself?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

For Fukushima, with Love

I am participating in a project at the moment called 100 Artworks from the World for Fukushima.  It was an idea dreamt up by Chiyuky Itoga, an artist in Japan.  Here are her words:

March 11, 2011, it had big earthquake and Tsunami in Japan as you know.
Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima 3 provice were got huge damaged, espacialy by tsunami.
Re-establishment has not done as our exspection, many escaped people live tentative house, and not back to their house.

This project is for Fukushima resitents people, I think.
Somebody have been ordered to escape from their house by government.
Somebody have lived separated familiy, because to remove their children from radioactive pollution.
Somebody have lived in Fukushima, but, actualy they want to leave there even though fear about radioactive pollution.

I have no word to tell them.
I live in Tokyo, maybe safer than Fukushima, maybe.
I'm just artist, impossible to stop radioactive, to donate big money, to clean up there.
I don't have no power.
I just do it, make them smile and heart warming by your art.
The world care about them, I want to tell them.
It's purpose of the project.

She started off trying to get 100 works of art, now she has over 400 people on the facebook group from all over the world, all of whom have contributed at least one piece of art.  It's been a beautiful project to work on - I like the idea that my doodling will be going somewhere meaningful, warming hearts that need warmth.

This is a collaboration with Mrs Im:

and then I did a couple myself:

The works will be exhibited from June 1st - 30th at Rock Cafe, Nishiogi, Tokyo, Japan. Then from
21 July - 18 August in Mianmi soma, City Central Library.  From 18 August, "Kangaeru-Shiro Kan", Kawauchi mura. We'll be internationally exhibited artists! Woo!