Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jive Night: The Straight Aces

The legendary Phil (my dance teacher) has a shindig once a month with a live band  for us to jive to. This month he brought in The Straight Aces. You've got to love a band with a double bass! I arrived half way through the first set, said hello to everyone and promptly got grabbed for a dance by Red. There was no one on the floor when we got out there but within a couple of minutes a few other couples joined us - look at us starting the party! As we were flinging ourselves about I heard Phil shout, 'Rock n' Roll!' as he strolled past. As usual there were some incredibly dapper gents and some very glamorous ladies - I had some quite sincere dress envy and definite admiration for some of suits about the place.

The band were fantastic, though pretty fast for jiving to... though we gave it a good go. They were proper Rockabilly and I was pretty happy to chill out and listen to the music when the band were on. I went on for all the strollers and I do admit to having a little bop at the back where no-one could see me (I'm not so confident with my bopping). They did an amazing cover of The House of the Rising Sun and Brand New Cadillac.... and they even did Duelling Banjos with a guitar and a double bass! It was awesome! They had so much energy and sparkle. Towards the end, on about the third encore, they just started messing about and the drummer was 'helping' play the double bass and the guitar with the drumsticks and they were generally jumping about. 

Once the band had finished the DJs played some slightly slower classics and I got a few dances in. I refused to leave until I'd had a dance with Phil.... I got to him somewhere at the end of the evening when he was a bit worse for wear (and also blind drunk) so we had a pretty slow dance. At the end he exclaimed, 'You were magnificent! I was appalling!' gave me a little bow and wandered off to the bar. I was on my way out the door, saying good bye to Red and some of his friends when Hound Dog came on and I couldn't resist dragging him back in for a dance or two before walking home.

A fabulous evening as usual! I can't wait to see who Phil's got lined up for us next month!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Well, I Wasn't Expecting That....

Surprising things that have happened recently:

* One of my friends has a severe stationery habit and put out a call on facebook for people to write to so she could use up some of it. I was so excited when I got a nice little bundle of cards and postcards from her, with little stories about where she got each one and why she purchased them. It made me so happy! Hooray for hand-written letters!

* On the downside, my car went on a voyage to Norfolk and got sick. Middle B borrowed her and the speedo went and she went to the garage to get her checked out and they said there's loads wrong with her, and to be honest, it would cost more than the cost of the car and should probably scrap her and get a new one. She was working just fine the other day, but you know, she is an old girl, so if she wants to give up and retire to a life in sunny Norfolk, that's fine. A blue car would be lovely, maybe Tardis blue...

* I was in the High St today listening to an amazing Russian man playing the Xylophone when a bunch of lads started having a dance with each other. It was great! Then one of them asked me to dance, and so thus it happened that I was having a little dance around with a complete stranger in a crowded, public space. (Another guy asked my friend to dance, but she very sensibly said no.)

Some chaps have a little dance to a little bit of Xylophone music. Rock n' Roll.
I wonder what will happen this week....

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Cooking Club do Curry!

By a fortuitous turn of events, it appears that I have had an awful lot of curry recently... so I was delighted when it was suggested that we make some today for cooking club! I got this recipe from the truly wonderful Best Ever Indian Cookbook which really does live up to it's name - it has step by step instructions and plenty of photos so you can't go wrong! It also has over 300 recipes and some handy little tips - eg. whisk yoghurt before you put it into a hot dish so that it won't curdle. That came in handy for this recipe.

Balti Potatoes with Aubergines
serves 4

10 -12 baby potatoes
6 small aubergines, or 2 medium sized ones, cubed
1 red pepper, sliced
1 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, sliced
4 - 6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp onion seeds
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed dried red chillies
1 tsp chopped fresh fenugreek leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp natural yoghurt

- Boil the potatoes for a few minutes until they are just starting to get soft.
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan or a wok and fry the onions, curry leaves, onion seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds until the onions are a soft, golden brown, stirring constantly.
- Add ginger, garlic, chillies and fenugreek, followed by the vegetables. Stir, and cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat and cook for 5 - 7 minutes.
- Add the fresh coriander and the yoghurt and stir well. Serve with fresh coriander as a garnish.

Potato and Aubergine Curry. Yum.

This was really yummy! We served it with rice and naan and it was good - I have to say that if I do this again, I would probably add a bit more spice, but that's just me. As usual, we had a round of a board game afterwards - today's pick was the London Board Game which is based on the Tube lines in London. You have five places that you have to reach and you have to get all five and back to your starting station but every time you change line you have to pick up a hazard card which can seriously disrupt your journey. It was really fun and a great way of getting to know all the stations and some little historical bits and pieces about London. And, for once, I won! Fun times! 

We finished off the afternoon by watching Howl's Moving Castle which was really great because I've read the book loads and never watched the film. I loved it! It's a little different from the book, but it is equally as wonderful and well worth a watch if you like something a little bit quirky and animated.

All in all, a really lovely Sunday afternoon.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Little Bit of Loveliness

Some little snippets of loveliness that emerged from a conversation with The Doctor:

Husband and wife,
drinking tea,
your smile, my smile
your tears, my tears
                         - zen koan

'The Sweetest Little Song'
You go your way
I'll go your way too
                        - Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

It's Ever-present Everywhere

So I was going to write an upbeat, perky little post to compensate for the gravity of the last one, but I'm not sure I can manage it. The last few weeks various things have been surfacing and it looks like it's time to have an emotional spring clean. I have to say that it hasn't been easy - I feel like I'm on a rollercoaster and I'd quite like to have a nice sit down and a cup of tea now please. Alas, I think it will take a while longer, so I'm at least trying to enjoy the view.

What I have been thinking is this: What is love? Really? I'm not sure I believe that it is just a feeling, I think the feeling is the tip of something much bigger. I can't shake my basic conviction that when it comes down to it love is all there is. Like darkness is a relative absence of light, so fear and pain are a relative absence of love. But I don't think it's ever truly gone. I've been through the wringer - heartache, loneliness, unrequited feelings, sadness - I've known them all. This belief is not founded in pretending these things don't exist. I'm not talking about fluffy, cute, hearts-and-flowers love... I'm talking about faith in love. What if I really honestly believed and acted like love is all there is? How would my life change? What if I took a stand for love - and was able to look all that horribleness in the eye and still believe that love is all there is? Like on a cloudy day I still believe in the sun, so in the face of heartbreak I still stand firm and know beyond any doubt that love exists, that it is always there, that it is wrapped up in the very core of our existence, that we can't be separated from it.This is my challenge to myself: in my moments of despair and isolation, when I think I'm terribly unlovable, I must remember that this is not the truth, that love is the only reality I'm willing to believe in.

I think I might be on this rollercoaster for a while longer, maybe even for the rest of my life. But I'm trying to learn to love the view.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Chasing Away the Shadows

I've had an interesting thing going on for a few days now - I've started thinking a lot about the situation that I was in about 5 years ago before I moved back to the UK. I traveled for a while and ended up living in Canada for a year and a half. The first 9 months were glorious - I desperately wanted to stay and thought about living there permanently. The place where I worked was in a bit of turmoil and there was some confusion about my role there, and eventually some confusion over my intentions. The people were nice ordinary people, but a culture of fear and paranoia started to develop and (though I didn't think about it at the time) little moments of bullying started by the management team. Over time the atmosphere and the moments increased  - the next 9 months were some of the hardest I've been through, and partly because of that desperate desire to stay I didn't get out of the situation as quickly as I might have done. In some ways, it was important - I stayed long enough to really learn lessons, and eventually to watch that team get taken out of their positions and to see a new, healthier approach start to emerge with the new people coming in. The whole thing was so bitter sweet, there are so many good memories I have mingled with an incredible amount of fear and heartbreak.

Five years later and I'm just starting to consciously think about the impact that experience had on me. I learned a lot and the experience made me a much more honest, grounded and compassionate manager in the time since and it taught me to spot genuine humility and distinguish it from arrogance dressed up as being humble. But it also messed with my self esteem - I have flashes of thinking I'm an awful person, that I'm difficult, that I challenge people's faith, that I tear apart communities and I know that this is a direct legacy of the things that were said to me then. I wish I had been braver and stood up for others that were in the same position at the time, I wish I had been more insightful to see just how many others were in that position at the same time as me, and I wish so sincerely that I had the faith in my own gut instinct rather than clinging to an idyllic vision that I wanted it to be. Someone I know recently told me about an experience that they are having at work and my heart ached for her - I told her in no uncertain terms: report this to whoever will listen, find a way to stop this, notice if others are in the same boat as you, please take care of yourself and get out of this situation when you can. I wish I could have taken my own advice.

In the meantime, I guess I'll be thinking and processing and figuring out where I go from here, trying to let go of this heartache that still resides and understand what to keep of that experience and what to lay to rest. I know that work on my shadow side needs to be done, I know that things will keep coming up and peeling away. I'd quite like to cast off this shadow now please, and walk in the sun for a while.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Change is as Good as a Rest

I spent the weekend with Mrs Im and the rest of the gang eating curry and having a giggle. The curry was amazing and the company splendid as always. I love reconnecting with the people who have known me since I was a teenager, it's nice to get that grounded feeling, like you don't have to explain anything because they already know. I got to have some real heart to heart conversations and some hilarious light banter, both equally important. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep, but the contact refreshed my soul as much as the sunshine outside did.

A while back, Immy painted us all paintings, and for some reason mine took quite a long time, and then I spent even longer forgetting to bring it back with me. This visit I finally remembered and I am now the proud owner of this painting:
It's so exciting having a painting made just for me! I just need to put some nails in the wall to hang it now.

In the course of the evening someone put this on  - it's so cute and catchy it had me humming this for ages:

A super cute way to make a safety point, no?

Here's hoping that some of that sun today will stick around for a while, and that some of the connection that I got from the weekend stays in my heart for a while too.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Book Club: 'Never Let Me Go'

It was our 2nd meeting of the book club today and we were looking at Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really enjoyed reading this book, it was quite meandering and gentle in style, but every now and then you would see flashes of detail that built up into an underlying tension. As the protagonist reveals more and more details you start to see that there is something really strange about the situation that is described and eventually it had a big impact precisely because of the ordinary style that it is written in. You get a real glimpse into the details of the characters lives and their thoughts and feelings and you begin to build up a relationship  - when the full situation is revealed you feel the full force of the moral question that is being asked. It got me to think about the way that I treat people that I consider to be 'other', how are they envisaged? what does it mean to be human? what does art show us about who we are? if people can think and feel, are they the same as us no matter where they came from? It was incredibly thought provoking, all the more so given that it is a slow paced book essentially about someone reminiscing about their past. It also brings up themes of friendship, love, rejection, loyalty and hope. This was such a beautiful way to explore human nature and although there is a great deal of sadness in the book, I was actually hopeful by the end - we are not in this mess (yet!) and we have the capacity to think about the impact of how we treat people now, before technology gets that far ahead of itself. I came away with a feeling that I need to think really carefully about the example I put out in the world, the voice that I use, who I consider to be people - we are powerful, how we treat people has an impact.

We discussed the book and ate carrot cake and then got round to watching the film version. It was beautifully shot (and I have to admit I was partial to some of those 60s dresses....) and the locations were stunning. From my side, it seemed like the film focused much more on the love triangle between some of the major characters while leaving out a great deal of the moral conundrum. I felt like the dialogue was a little heavy handed, while I appreciate that some things need to be spelled out in films, a lot of the writing felt stilted and overblown. While in the book I saw the stories of love and friendship as a vehicle to highlighting the humanity of the main characters, the film seemed to leave out a lot of the complexity and a lot of the nuance which felt somewhat reductionist. I really liked Carey Mulligan's portrayal of Kathy, and Andrew Garfield had definite charm. The film was well done, but I didn't come away with the same feeling or the same essence as the book.

Coming up next month: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

Monday, 1 April 2013

Guest Post: Chocolate and Nut Muffins

This is a Facebook update from the wonderful Mrs Im that I pilfered just for you - mostly because I nearly choked on my tea with laughter, so naturally I had to share. Enjoy! 

If I ever write a recipe book it will be both hilarious and labelled with a parental guidance sticker...

Chocolate & nut muffins

1: Add flour and baking powder to bowl. Apply very sharp knife to bar of green & black's [no injuries, mild expletives]. Apply rolling pin to almonds and hazelnuts [minor injuries, major expletives]. Mix dry ingredients in bowl.

2: Beat together eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla essence. Melt butter allowing for 20% margin for error [consider adding health warning label to cake tin]

3: Mix wet and dry ingredients. Realise am wearing a lot of batter. Consider licking self. Indulge in smutty snorty laughter.

4: Apply further butter to cake cases. Aliquot batter into cases, wonder if batter is a bit stiff, indulge in further smutty laughter.

5: Open oven and discover washing up in there, previously hidden by husband. Be a little sick in mouth. Put washing up in husbands amazon boxes.

6: Bake cake for 20 minutes while considering whether its too early for a gin.