Friday, 31 August 2012

Topsy Turvy

Today, working with some charming ladies in my yoga class I managed to do this:

Again: not me.
As you know, I am quite scared of inversions, but the ladies were very supportive - both physically and mentally! At first I needed help up, but my yoga teacher showed me how to get my legs up there on my own. Then I managed to take my legs away from the wall using just my core for balance. Then we  got up there and had our legs in a V. It was totally disorientating when I got back upright again.  This was a first for me, and I'm pretty proud of myself. Woo-ha!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Soaking up the Sun

There is a story for children, by Leo Lionni, about a group of mice who spend the summer gathering resources so they don't starve in the long, cold winter. One of these mice, Frederick, sits on a rock in the sun, collects colours and words and other things.  When the other mice ask what he's doing, he replies that he is gathering memories of the summer to keep them going later. The other mice laugh and carry on harvesting.  Later, when the winter comes, the mice have their reserves to fall back on, but eventually these are depleted as well. The mice are cold, hungry and scared, but Frederick reminds them of the feel of the summer sun and the smell of the fields and all the beauty that will come and they warm up and survive the winter.

On the last day of my visit, Jules catches me looking out from the balcony and says that I remind her of Frederik the mouse: storing up memories to take back with me.  When she was pregnant her midwife reminded her of this story and told her to store up memories of good times so that when hard times come the family have something to fall back on, something to warm them up inside.  She says that this advice reminded her to keep her perspective when things were difficult and to appreciate wonderful things while they were happening, to notice the beauty around her.

Before we left for the bus, Jules hands me a small tupperware container. 'This is your Frederiken', she said, 'the flower for beauty, the lavender for smell and the tomato for taste.  Now you have something to take back with you, to remind you.' 

Store up beauty in our hearts for when we need it

Thank you for the reminder, these memories will keep me warm through the days where it feels like winter in my heart. I can still smell the lavender now....
What would be in your Frederiken?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Play Me, I'm Yours

I was passing through St. Pancras station and I saw this:

The Magic Piano (possibly belonging to llamas)

The chalk writing below the keyboard says:
'Part 9: The laughing llama blushed and and then said "I have such dull and shaggy wool for a coat, would you make me all COLOURFUL like you and then I'll make your wish come true." At that moment... MAGIC!'

.... I'd love to meet a magic llama who would make my wishes come true!

Many more random street pianos are adorning London, see here:

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Fading Light

'I used to be very busy once. But not anymore. Finished.' Grandma sighs and looks straight ahead. We have more silences between us than we used to, she is wrapped up more and more in her own memories.  At one point my mum asks 'What are you thinking?' and she replies, 'Thinking? What am I thinking? Oh, this and that. Thoughts come.' She shrugs and withdraws into herself again.

We spent a lot of time alone this visit while Mum was sorting things out or watching the Olympics in the room next door. She asks me again about my life: 'Do you enjoy your life? Do you have any hobbies? Do you still paint?' When I reply that I do still paint, her eyes gleam. Slowly she says, 'It's always important to have uninterrupted....air. Paintings need air in them.  I never liked it when people make it full full full. I like some air.' She catches me looking at the sketch hanging near the television. 'I loved using charcoal, with a little you could say everything you want.' She fades out again, glancing at me from time to time.

I've noticed that she says less. There are less stories, and what feels like less connection between us. Less of a gleam in her eyes every time I see her. The light is fading and every time I see her my heart aches, losing her piece by piece. Some times she forgets who I am for a few seconds. 'Do you know England? Ah, you live there? We lived there for a while. My husband was a Chemist, we lived mostly in Jerusalem, but we lived in London, many places.' She waves a hand impatiently, and then the moment passes.

She reminisces over her past briefly, the stories getting shorter with every visit. 'When I was up and about I was very happy. I always had places to go.' Occasionally she adds some detail, but not too much now. 'When I first came here from Vienna, I was about 10 or 11, I missed it' She nods and cocks her head. 'Ben Yehuda Street was the main street we went to when I was young.  Not now, of course.' And then the silence, then followed by the usual exclamations about the weather ('It's all changing so much these days, it never used to be so hot like that.') or my life ('Do you enjoy your life? do you have any hobbies? where do you live?') Sometimes she alludes to a happier past and the sprightly gleam comes back into her eyes, the one I remember from when I was young. 'How old are you? Really? You look lovely! You must have many boyfriends....' She gives me a smile and leans forward, 'I had lots of boyfriends. I liked it.' She leans back into her pillows again.

Mum comes and goes, spends a bit of time with us and then bustles out again. Grandma watches, impenetrable. When she leaves, Grandma and I catch each others eye and shrug. 'Do you get on with your mother?' I nod. 'Good. That's important.' Another long silence ensues, she stares off into the distance thinking her own thoughts and holding my hand. 'It's not easy getting old. I'm tired.' She looks straight at me, 'I'm glad you came. I love you. I really love you.' I tell her I love her too. She gives a sad chuckle. 'Not much left of me to love now.'

A friend comes round and in all the hustle bustle and the talking, Grandma seems to get lost, to go further into her own space inside.  We still hold hands as her carer, Mum and her friend chatter.  I watch her, trying to memorise the way her hair circles her head, the softness of her cheeks or tilt of her head. Sometimes she pauses to see if she can catch what is being said, but she gives up. The friend, who is a regular visitor, addresses her, 'Aren't you happy to have your grand-daughter here?' She smiles up at her and waves a hand in my direction, 'Yes! She's very fine, wonderful!' We look at each other, and she shifts in her bed, the moment ends and she is lost again.

On the last day we come earlier in the morning, before we go for our flight back.  Grandma is in a wheelchair in the other room. She has made an effort to stay up after her morning exercises (which she loathes) and her hair is freshly washed today.  She applies some Nivea cream on her face. Her carer hovers about, getting us a coffee. Grandma sees me drinking coffee and gives me a smile. 'I hope all goes well with you.  You must take care of yourself.' I hold her hand and she lapses into silence again.  As Mum and the carer talk about her health and other matters, she leans over and whispers, 'I love you, I really love you.' Then she smiles shyly and says quietly, 'We don't even need to say it.'  She starts to shift around, getting uncomfy in the chair.  Her carer moves her back to her bed. 'It doesn't matter if we're together, we're always here' she pats her bony chest. 'I'll think of you.' She pats her heart another couple of times.  When it comes to saying goodbye, we look at each other and hold hands for a long time. I tell her that I love her and she replies, 'I love you' and looks intently at me, gives me a little smile '....and how.' She squeezes my hand one last time and blinks affectionately at me. 'And how.'

Friday, 17 August 2012

Shooting Stars and New Arrivals

I've been away for a couple of weeks on a well needed break.  First, I went off to see my Grandma (more about that later) and then I spent the weekend with Mr and Mrs-is-thinking.  It so happened that this coincided with the Perseid meteor shower. So we hung out for the day and attempted to go blackberry picking (pretty late crop this year) and went to the crazy shop that has amazing indian food. We made and ate curry and did some gardening  - ah, the sight of Mrs Im shut in the greenhouse, getting the aphids off by dousing the chilli plants in washing up liquid using a bubble gun.  Then we looked up perseids on the internets and had a look at the timing of everything and then hopped in the car to find a quiet spot away from light sources.

The meteor shower happens when earth's orbit gets in the way of debris from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle.  The shower is visible from mid July every year, but it's peak activity is from 11th to 14th August each year, when the sky is filled with shooting stars as meteors burn up in our atmosphere.  The best time to watch them in this part of the world is about 3am through to just before dawn but we decided that we would settle for a clear patch of sky a bit earlier in the night.  We got together some warm jumpers, a torch and Mr.'s amazing camera and jumped in the car about 11pm.  We started off on top of a hill near Overton, but the glare from the town lights in the distance was too much.  We moved onto Lavestoke where the sky was much darker, and finally ended up down a dirt path in the middle of nowhere right next to a hay bail.  We were there for about an hour before the sky clouded over, but we managed to see some shooting stars.  They were much brighter than I expected.  I saw a few and Mrs. Im  saw loads! She stood really still trying not to blink for about an hour - her eyes were totally weird after that.  Mr. Im got some long exposure photos of the sky.  It was really exciting! The sky clouded over soon enough, this being UK after all, and we went home and had a hot chocolate and a chat before finally heading to bed at 2am.

Perseid meteor shower
The next day I headed off to see Jules and the family and to meet the new arrival - well, she was born in June, but I hadn't met her yet, so she was definitely new to me. This was also the first time that I had been to their new house so it was really lovely to have a good look around. I have to say that I love it! It's a homely, messy flat, filled with interesting bits and pieces.  It's high up but still has two floors and much to my delight a balcony out the front and a corridor out the back way with a view of the black forest in the distance and where we ate breakfast every morning.

View from the balcony,
you can just see the black forest in the distance

I love balconies anyway, but this one essentially functioned as an extra room that's communal with all the other neighbours.  Cats roamed about and lazed about in the sun, people said hello and came and joined us for coffee sometimes, amidst shouts from kids running around downstairs in the playground and the smell of summer barbeques.  It's the ideal place for bringing up children because everyone is so friendly and there is plenty to do for the kids, it feels like a proper community.

The kids themselves are growing up merrily - chattering away and getting interested in everything.  Even the baby was pretty alert and looking around.  I got a chance to carry her around a fair bit in the papoose and I must say that even for three months old she's getting heavy - she's going to be a pretty tall girl when she's done growing. We went and explored the neighbourhood a bit, and we went to the petting zoo which is not far off and saw the llamas and emus and deer and goats -  pretty up close as it happens since you can walk through the goat enclosure. I have to admit I got a bit scared, city girl that I am, but I stuck it out and got used to them in the end.

A goat. Quite close to me.
We also went to the market to have a coffee from the coffee van and sat in the sun watching everyone buying their vegetables. When I say van, it's more of a moped really, but it's the best coffee I've had for ages. The man running it is charming, and on a rare quiet moment you could see him having a good old chat with his customers or playing with the kids.

All in all, I loved discovering their new community, I'm really happy that the family has settled somewhere friendly and beautiful and interesting.  It did my soul some good to sit on the balcony and think with some good coffee and some wonderful company.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Plus One

I love ampersands - they remind me that I'm not alone... and that there is always a plus.

Ampersand by Nick Slater

Ampersand by Okaytype

"&" by Wow Rainbows

This doesn't really count, I know, but is equally as stylish:

Tea/Coffee? by Sean Rees
All these and a great deal more can be found at