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Archive for April, 2012

Welcome to Make it Happen MayI’ve been inspired by the folks at Screw Work Let’s Play to spend the next 31 days focusing on exploring my creativity and “playing”. For me, I’ve decided that this means committing to writing a blog post every day and hopefully throwing in some random acts of artist endeavour along the way. The SWLP approach is known as the “30 day challenge” and costs around £200 (unless you get the early bird discount, which I missed due to dawdling..) So I’ve decided to go it alone and I’m badging my version as “Make it Happen May”. So this is a road test to see if I can commit, gives me free range to try to fit more creativity and fun into my month and hopefully I will see some interesting things come out of it! Anyone wanting to join me in Make it Happen May? The fun starts tomorrow!

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Along the beach

There’s something incredibly inspiring about being on the coast. This weekend I’m taking a trip to the Suffolk coast, close to where I grew up, to spend some time with friends in a cottage by the sea. We are sitting in the main room drinking wine and eating crumpets and cake and tonight there’s a rack of lamb. Today we walked along the wild and blustery beach, caught a dingy a short hop across the river and continued along, getting battered by the wind and sea spray.
Southwold Pier

The sea was wild, thrashing and foaming as it battled with itself before flinging its white foam against the sand. Bright coloured beach huts line the front, all with their quirky names and peeling paint. And then the long pier stretches out into the squally grey waters, we all pulled our hoods against the wind as we carried out the ceremonial walk to the end, to look out into the nothingness before heading back inland.

We found a pub at the top of the hill. The Lord Nelson, and walked into a wall of warmth, cosy light, red wine and fish and chips.
Doris the Beach Hut

Then, back out to face the elements, but not letting that put us off the walk back. Everyone was marching back to the warmth of the cottage and the promise of those fire-side crumpets, but I wanted to go back to the waters edge and spend some time with those crashing waves, and feeling more of the salty breeze on my face.

I miss the sea, the air, the cawing gulls. The coast is at its best when the weather is a little raw, the wind is up and the water is turbulent. I could spend hours collecting pebbles and just gazing out to the horizon.

Huts and wavesSo now we’re back in the cottage and it’s still raining outside, wellies and discarded brollies barricading the door shut. I’ve just taken a bath in a beautiful roll top bath to warm my bones, and I’m feeling particularly inspired. Inspired to take photos, to try to capture something of the magic here. I’m also wondering what it is about escaping to the country when you live in a city. The bliss you can get from it, the pause in your otherwise crazy life. It’s good for the soul, it’s stopping time, it’s a dose of goodness to keep you topped up.

And apparently there are ghosts of a man and his black dog who walks from the Church to the Bell Inn- right past our cottage…

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As I was falling asleep last night, I thought about the passage of time and how we, as humans, like to package time into weeks. Every Sunday is almost like a little death of the week before. I sit on my sofa and say “wow, there goes another week” and it’s almost like a small mourning period of the fact that another week of our lives has just passed us by. I’m not sure who invented the week – whether it’s a predominantly western thing (reminder to self – look into this) – but I think the main problem with the week is that there is a weekend. Thus signalling the end. It makes it painfully clear that a section of our lives is over, never to be relived, and that is sad.

I wonder instead if we labelled our Saturday and Sundays to be the “Weekstart” and reframe them to actually be the beginning of the week (in the way that Sundays often start a week in diaires), whether that would spin the week in a much more positive way. Our Saturdays and Sundays would become fun, relaxing spaces to kick start the week, with work following on, so you would actually be well into your week before you had to think about the office. And Fridays would be a true celebration of completing the week, rather that a signal that the fun is over.

I often think about communities around the world who place less importance on “weekends” – people who have to “work” every day to keep themselves and their families clothed. Do they notice the passing of the weeks, one by one, or is theirs more a day to day existence, since they don’t have the luxury of a break to rest or play, or perhaps they do when the wind blows them. They won’t necessarily have the time or inclination to pause every 7th day and mourn the passing of another set of 7 days.

In fact, time itself is pretty unnatural. I mean I know we have to have it to place order in our society (and god forbid we don’t have order…), otherwise nothing would get done and no one would show up, BUT it’s through forcing ourselves into these pockets of man-made time that we get ill and stressed.

I want to wake up when the sunlight hits the back of my eye lids and go to sleep when it’s too dark to do anything else. I want to be in tune with my “natural” biorhythms, I don’t want to force myself to work on certain days and play on others and every time I hit a Sunday feel that it’s time to reflect on what I didn’t get done that week and how I’ll never get it back.

So, I propose campaigning to reframe the week. I campaign for the “Weekstart” – starting means optimism, opportunity and potential. Ending is tainted with sadness and regret. I’m not asking to change the number of days in a week, the numbers of hours in a day, or even the names of the day. I’m asking just to adjust the layout of diaries and calendars around the world, put a new word in the dictionary and phase out an old one. All in the spirit of making everyone a little more happy at the start of their weeks, and to banish the Monday blues forever… Now, who’s with me?

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I’m feeling a lot of love for weather today. And in particular, the British weather. British weather gets a lot of bad press around the world. On my travels I frequently hear people weather-bashing my wonderful homeland’s weather system. It always rains in the UK, right? No, not true. Britain doesn’t even have cities appearing on the Wettest Cities in the World list.

Of course it does rain, but most of the time we just have a rather uninspiring greyish whitish sky. I don’t know what they’re printing in the textbooks around the world that teach kids about British weather, but I’ve got a feeling it’s drizzle, thunder, grey skies and puddles. Don’t believe what you read people! Britain does not equal rain. We have a lot of clouds, sure, and then there are the things that fall out of them and peek out from behind them, and clouds make THE most beautiful sunsets. We should celebrate our cloud-i-ness more!

The best thing about British weather is that we get so much of it in one day. Take today, in Oxford we woke up to the brightest purest sunshine, with clear blue skies and a light wind. What a wonderful way to start a Sunday. Promises of hula hooping in the park, I threw open all our windows to get some of that fresh air circulating.

This afternoon it clouded a little, but was still fair, I disappeared into a shopping centre for about 30 minutes and emerged into torrential rain and skies thick with grey. Having to purchase an impulse umbrella, I began the walk home and within 10 minutes the rain transformed into hail stones. As big as frozen peas. Bouncing off the roads and forcing me up against a shop window to take refuge. Then, an almighty clap of thunder overhead, crackling across East Oxford with an equally shocking bolt of lightening. WOW. Speedwalked up the hill under my flimsy umbrella as the water rushed down the hill.

Then the sun came out.

Now we have a gorgeous glow of sunshine, set off against a raven sky. Just in time to illuminate the trees (blossom being blown off now) as it sets behind the spires…

As Brits, we talk about the weather a lot. It’s part of our makeup, what defines us. It’s exciting, not knowing what it will do each day. We get the forecasts but who knows what will happen. We have to dress for summer, winter and inbetween every day when we leave our homes. It keeps us guessing, it keeps things interesting, it’s one of the things that makes Britain Great, but perhaps most importantly, keeps Britain green.

My advice to any travelling souls who come to our fair land, pack your brolly, your sunglasses, a jumper and some shorts. Who knows what will lie in wait for you, but isn’t that half the fun?

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Today was always meant to be about going to Essex and hanging out with my best girl friends in the whole world. Here we would gossip and eat clam vongole and laugh and snort and guffaw and giggle until tears roll down our cheeks and stomach cramps kick in. We would then put on some dresses and head out into our old stomping ground from 20 years ago (yikes) and talk about the good old days and how it’s all gone to pot. Still giggling, come home for tea and toast and mutter that although things haven’t changed, we’re probably too old for this now.

But the evil toe-rag who pickpocketed me on Monday on the way to work and then called me, pretending to be the bank and wiping my balance to zero put a stop to that. Well, I could have gone, but I felt vulnerable, without cards and with my electronic and “on paper” identity at risk, so I decided to have a “relaxing” weekend at home instead. I need to clear the jet lag once and for all, it’ll be good for me.

Having a sofa daySo I ended up spending the entire afternoon in my flat, in my living room. Normally I would see this as lazy, perhaps a waste of a quarter of my weekend. But I had a lot of fun….

Surfing. Mapping my Facebook photos across the globe, seeing my journeys and adventures through pin points on the map. Revisiting memories from Peru, Borneo, New York, New Orleans, Slovenia and more. Reading blogs, random blogs, selected at will and discarded or followed by chance.

Peeping. Out of my window at the world going by. Watching the crazy English weather – April showers and moody skies giving way to bright sunshine and blue skies, until finally the sunset bathed our blossom trees in golden light as evening took over.

Thinking. A lot. Enjoying the time to have thoughts, remembering a book I saw earlier this week “The Ten Women You’ll be Before You’re 35” – thinking about the women I’ve been. Split at this three way fork in my life – babies, travelling, career…

Reading – or more like browsing two of my favourites “The Road Less Travelled”, plotting journeys to Italy, Nepal, Bhutan, Japan. Looking at these crazy inspiring photos of amazing worlds and landscapes. Reading “Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance” ahead of planning my new bellydance class, reading about the power of intention and putting all your thoughts into your movements. Wearing your character’s underpants. Love it.

Dancing. Spinning around on the parquet floor to the TV sound track (Kung fu film, recent TV crush ‘The Voice’), with my blanket on my back like a crazed super hero. Who cares what the neighbours think?

Drinking a lot of tea with caramel waffles melting on top. I am addicted and happy about it.

And finally swinging… my new hair cut. A little shorter, a little blonder, a lot smoother. I did get out this morning to get my locks chopped, you didn’t think I’d been in the flat ALL day did you?

Tomorrow the pain starts. Spring cleaning the flat. Well it is Spring, and I have been spending the whole day today in my living room…

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I’ve just returned from a business trip to South Korea, well, part business trip and part adventure. The only way to business trip! I was lucky enough to be invited along to our Asian sales conference to do some presentations and fact finding, and due to a lucky coninciding with the Easter bank holiday, I got to do some exploring with my good friend and colleague Anita, from Dust in the City fame.

We had a wonderful whirlwind tour of Seoul, exploring palaces, subways, backstreets and teahouses (delicious Quince tea), discovering the world’s smallest book (1mm x 1mm) and then we caught the high speed train south to Gyeongju. Here we hired bikes and rode all over the nearby countryside visiting burial mounds, cycling past the observatory, touring through the cherry blossom tunnels (the blossoms burst into life on our last day!), and generally getting lost and sunburnt.

I had my experimental food experience chomping through a fried silk worm larvea – eeee – tasted kinda crunchy and woody.
Also spent time experiencing the local “bathhouses” where they strip you naked, cover you in milk and baby oil and scrub the first 10 layers of your skin off EVERY single part of your body. With the same cloth. Wash, sweat, rinse, lather, scrub, steam, slap, rinse, slide, shower, done. Phew.


We also checked out an underwater tomb on the coast, where we watched shaman women banging drums and sacrificing vegetables, dried fish and chestnuts to the king (seaguls reaped the rewards). I collected stones from the beach. We clambered up hillside shrines filled with buddhas and checked out simple temples along the way.

Our journey brought us back to Seoul and we moved from our wonderful traditonal Bukchon guesthouse with our thin mattresses and sliding doors to the central business district with their high rise marble floors and spangly hotel lobbies. Here I got to encounter the fabulously bizarre Japanese toilets that are in use all over South Korea – with heat settings, as well as all manner of squirt, spray, span left, span right and blow dry settings. Hillarious and functional!


We took a day tour to the North/South Korean border, and we had a defector on the bus who answered our interrogation about her escape from the North and struggles along the way… fascinating! We were shepherded into the Army base on the border and were driven to the frontiere where we stood in two lines staring at North Korea. Watching a North Korean solider watching us through binoculars.
We were paraded into Freedom House and crossed the official line into the North, where we stood for a few minutes before being herded back onto the bus and into safety. I bought some North Korean whiskey and an amethyst necklace to mark the occasion.


It was then time for the work section of my week, 2.5 days of intense activity and bonding with my wonderful asian colleagues, punctuated with a korean bbq, visit to a local kareoke bar, lots of drinking and laughing. Wonderful! Our final night took us up the North Seoul Tower to get a final glimpse at this wonderful city, all lit up in bright lights.
I had such a fabulous time in South Korea and really fell in love with the place, the people, and the food. I had little or no expectations before I went, and it surpassed any pre-conceived ideas I had. It was interesting, cultural, beautiful, peaceful, scary, fascinating, easy to move around, welcoming, and above all left me wanting more. I may never get the opportunity to go back, but there is still plenty to see there, I’ve tasted a little and now want MORE! I need to be in Asia more. It feels like my spiritual home…

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48 hours at work this week, made it through half way and feeling like I’m in the middle of an information overload experience. Bounced out of a very energetic long weekend at Centre Parcs, with mum, bro, boyf and dog. In my attempt to relax I ended up cycling, walking, playing golf, pool, badminton, swimming, crazy golf, bowling, and knee boarding around the cable-ski circuit on the lake. Certainly flexing my “play” muscle, and definately got work out of my system, but it meant that last night, when we finally arrived home, I was completely shattered and every muscle in my body was shouting in pain…
Work is crazy, catching up on the deluge of emails and projects that I need to kick start this month, and of course I need to prep for my business trip to South Korea. Oh, and I leave the day after tomorrow.
Yikes. Everything is piling in and I need to set my Out of Office…
I’ve been on tenterhooks all day today trying to decide whether I’m going to sign up for the “Screw Work Let’s Play 30 Day Challenge”. Apparently you sign up (and cough up) and then join 200 like minded souls who are searching for a play-cheque and taking the first steps towards doing what they love for a living. Oh the temptation. I’ve been umming and ahhing for weeks about this. I missed the first Early Bird booking and now the 24 hour window is open again, and only a little more expensive than the first early bird price. A marvelous piece of marketing, that almost has me in its gnashers…
The ONLY problem is that I am already over committed to other programmes that I’m not taking fully seriously. Week 7 of the Artist’s Way and skimping on some of the activities – not sure how it’ll fair once I get to South Korea. Struggling to stay on top of the Mindfullness programme I started around 5 weeks ago – I think I’m still technically in week 3… so do I have space for another 30 day programme? And what would I do on it? I’m already re-starting my bellydance classes in May and hoping to stay posting on this blog. I feel like my time would be best spent actually remaining committed and focused on my current tasks. Right, operation “Obliterate Information Overload” commences. I WILL remain focused. I will not sign up to any new programmes.I will finish what I have started. I will put on my out of office, and I will pack…

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