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Archive for May, 2012

This weekend was all about enjoying the moment. No plans for projects, no expectations, no chores around the flat and no presentations to prepare for work. No guilt, no planning, no pressure. Time to have a holiday in my home town, with a bunch of fabulous girls, dressed, mostly, as pirates.

So, a good friend was in town (visiting from Slovenia) for her hen-do, and it was time to show her the best of Oxford, which was excellent timing as it co-incided with the hottest (and sunniest) weekend of the year so far.

I really don’t think that many places in the world beat Oxford in the sunshine. It comes into its own. Everyone is out in the parks, playing, relaxing, picnicing, the streets are busy and buzzy. The city and it’s amazing historic buildings glowing sand yellow under the blue sky, it’s gorgeous green parks and the sparkly winding rivers are absolutely beautiful. There’s also an incredible stillness that seems to descend on the city, even with all the people winding through its streets, the city seems to sigh with relief as it basks in the warm rays.

Our adventures including punting, on the river, swishing our swords and sipping fizz in the sunshine, escaping for some shade at the Grand Cafe, trays piled high with duvet-soft scones and pots of clotted cream, sipping the most refreshing tea, exploring the backstreets clutching clues and gazing at gargoyles, following a historical treasure hunt, winding up in the park, relaxing and catching up.

Last night took us out on the town with dinner and cocktails and dancing to the early hours, then we were all back to the Youth Hostel to sleep on bunk beds (despite my comfy bed being a mile down the road). Today we caught more rays by the river, had a lazy lunch and then headed off for a couple hours of swinging round some poles and getting battered and bruised in the name of burlesque. Ever looking for an opportunity, I had a great conversation with the owner of the Pole Dance school and there may be some opportunity for me to run some bellydance workshops at the weekends! Hurrah!

This felt like a proper weekend, close to home but still with a holiday feel, it was wonderful to be in the moment, playing and laughing, with friends. This is what it’s about. No stress. Ahhh. When I finally came home, it was back to business, having to rustle up a birthday cake for Chris, who’s due back from his weekend in Lisbon late tonight – it’s his birthday today! Only problem is that I put the mixture in the wrong size tins and it came out a little, erm, flat. Whoops – looks like two huge biscuits, sandwiched with chocolate fudge icing. Hillarious, but who cares, I’m had an in the moment, fabulous weekend, the summer came to visit and we went out to play. Hurrah!

And if the weekend couldn’t get any better, Mystic Pizza was on the TV tonight, yes yes YES!

Now, with thoughts starting to move away from the moment (it was great while it lasted!) I am thinking about a week from now, when I will be in the desert, under the stars, in Jordan! So excited!

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I’ve been spending the last week or so watching a series of documentaries – the “7 Up” series – tracing the lives of 14 children starting when they were 7 years old and catching up with them every 7 years, so at 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, and tonight the “56 Up” programme was aired on TV. I became quite addicted, devouring the first 28 years on YouTube, fascinated by how the basic personalitites of each child remained the same, yet attitudes changed over time.

The premise is “Show me a boy at 7, and I’ll show you the man” and I must say, it’s compelling viewing. I’ve been on a journey with these strangers over the last week and I feel I’ve been through obsession to verging on depression whilst watching the films, as the reality of having watched the entire course of these people’s lives in about 6 hours on YouTube kicks in.

Never-the-less, it provoked an interesting thought-journey for me, as I went back in time in my own life to try and remember myself at 7. Of course I have no real understanding of what I was like to others, only what I remember in my head – having a lot of friends (I think!), being very social and outgoing, starting clubs/gangs (innocent ones around Mr Men and Fraggle Rock), playing the guitar, recorder, acting, playing chess, I loved space and aliens, was good at Maths – all things that have cropped up in my later life.

At 14 I was a lot less confident – just like the kids in the “Up” documentaries, awkward, angry for no reason, sullen, moody. Hello hormones.

Then, at 21, emerging from 3 years at uni, I’d rediscovered my confidence and social nature, having done a physics degree, embracing my inner geek.

And I could go on, but won’t introspect too much, these could be standard templates for everyone’s lives, but now I feel I really want to have a conversation with my mum and find out what I was really like at 7 – I’m really interested to get to know myself at that age – perhaps it will provide insights into how I am now!

Whether related or not, I’ve had a week or so of not-blogging (busy watching YouTube!), despite my “Make it Happen” May promises. I decided that I needed to spend more time doing and less thinking. I feel I’m groping for a natural equilibrium between trying to achieve everything and trying to enjoy the moment. Perhaps the problem is that I’m trying and should just relax into it…

So just how are we supposed to behave when half of the time we’re told we need to set goals and objectives to move towards our dreams and the other half of the time we’re told to embrace the power of now and be mindfull of the moment?

Tricky.

So I’m thinking, as I start to move towards the end of “Make it Happen May”, that it may be time for some “Just enjoy the moment June”. To stop planning, stop fearing procrastination, just have fun and be here, now. At least for June. Let’s see where that leads me!

Be prepared for your weekend to disappear – start watching the “7 Up” documentaries now…

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I’ve having an exceptionally busy week. Which is what I ordered (perhaps cosmicly), after my desire to act more and think less, my prayers were answered with a trip to church.

EnlightenmintIt wasn’t just any church, or any congregation. I had to mission it all the way into London during a rush hour on a Monday evening for a start. The church of choice was Union Chapel in North London and the event was The School of Life (TSOL) live London. The eager congregation sat down to listen to six fabulous speakers (including Alan de B himself, founder of TSOL) talk on all the big subjects we worry the most about – Work, Money, Technology, Sanity, Sex, and Changing the World.

Of course, there is a lot of blog-fodder therein, and my navel-gazing gal-pal Lara and I were furiously taking notes whilst crunching dutifully through our Enlightenmints…

20 questionsApart from being inspiring and moving and funny and full of lots of ooohs and ahh moments, it was a great way to spend a Monday evening. At the interval we were encouraged to escape to the bar (OK then) and take with us our programme, which, on the back had 20 questions that we had to ask random strangers.

Well, it took about 15 of the 20 minutes of interval to pop to the loo and get a glass of wine, so Lara and I spent the rest drinking the wine and deciding to do the questions later, perhaps as a blog post.

It would have been nice to spend the time asking probing questions to handsome strangers, but we’ll save that for another time.

The twenty questions… and my responses

1. Does your work draw out your best abilities and qualities of character? If not, how big a problem is this for you?

It certainly goes some way, in terms of both abilities and qualities. I would say enough to satisfy the work part of my life. Other qualities and abilities are used in my “play” life!

2. Have you ever received genuinely helpful career advice?

I once went to a career’s advisor who asked me whether I would still love my job if all my colleagues were replaced by different people. I realised then that people are 70-80% of what make me happy at work

3. Is the idea of having a successful career important to you?

Yes

4. How should you work out how much money you really need?

This is a toughy but I would say avoid spreadsheets, they kill any fun in planning your money (if it could ever be fun). *I’m avoiding this one…*

5. Are you the author of your own economic success (or woes)?

Yes, with the help of my money tree!

6. What is your own experience of the link between money and personal happiness?

This is a whole therapy session, but I would say that when I grew up my parents always told me that you don’t need money to be happy, and I still believe it.

7. Is there a particular person who looms large in your mind when you think about the meaning of success? Why that person?

Kate Humble. Cirque de Soleil performers. David Attenborough. All doing what I want to be doing. Travelling, diving, working with nature, performing, learning…

8. What is most important for you to do in your “unplugged” time?

That I can recharge my batteries – whether by relaxing or stimulating – and get away from work!

9. What are the best/worst traits that technology amplifies in you?

Best – it lets me write naturally. Worst – encourages lack of attention to detail

10. Could technology evolve to make our lives more serene?

Of course. Just. Need. An. Off. Button.

11. What techniques do you have for keeping calm?

My boss once commented that people like to make dramas of things. I try to ignore the drama, life’s much easier that way.

12. Do you live more in your body or in your head?

Head, but I’m working on moving into my body!

13. What keeps you going when you feel like giving up?

Future gazing, I’ll get through it.

14. What makes someone attractive to you?

Height and a smile.

15.Is long-term sexual compatibility between two people a realistic hope?

Yes. Optimistic, but still realistic.

16. What is the most helpful lesson you have learned about relationships?

Don’t loose yourself in a relationship, you can become dizzy with love, but right yourself before embarking on the long-haul

17. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Delete the hate.

18. Is there a gap between your ideals and your actions?

Yes, I’m sure of the gap, not sure I know my ideals. Must investigate.

19. Do you feel genuinely responsible for future generations, or do you merely feel obliged to say so?

Weirdly, I feel more responsibility for the planet than I do the people on it.

20. What is the most surprising converstaion you have ever had and why?

Conversations with strangers at parties when I discover I have unusual things in common. They suprise me because often I think I’m alone with those experiences.

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South Park

A beautiful Oxford day

I’ve been really reflective of late. Spending more time on blogs, browsing people’s thoughts and dreams. Downloading books and samples of books to read, started reading them and then flitted over to something else. Thought about the courses and workshops I should attend. Planned out my fantasy round-the-world trip. Pondered alternative careers and lifestyles, once I have my theoretical family (after weighing up the pros and cons of having that family in the first place). I realise I am spending more and more time in my head, and less out in the world doing stuff.

ACTION. I need action. It’s all very well sitting on my sofa twiddling with the laptop, or up at my desk tapping away, or in my bed, under the covers with my kindle and its built in light into the wee hours, reading about it all. I need to start doing stuff, otherwise it’ll remain in the realm of possibility forever.

Flower

At the botanical gardens

It was a beautiful day today, the sun finally made an appearance and the rain, that seems to have been falling steadily for the last month, finally ceased. I went into town with zero purpose and headed to the Botanical Gardens for some quality time with the flowers.

OxfordAfter that, I started walking up the high street and stopped to sit down by a bus stop and just watched people carrying out their business for a while (behind my sunglasses). It felt good just to be amongst people, not interacting, just being there.

I then went to Trailfinders and booked a holiday to Costa Rica.

Whoops.

Well, it’s not 100% booked, just “on hold” for a few days. But I’ll confirm it tomorrow. I’m such a creature of impulse, this is me trying to be less impulsive and giving myself 24 hours before releasing the funds on the credit card.
I just couldn’t help myself.

The guy on the phone (at Gap Adventures, my favourite travel tour company) said that the worst thing about Costa Rica is having to come home. I’m so excited.

So I think I’ve had enough action for today. Back to thinking tomorrow, it’s much cheaper.

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My mind is buzzing. I’ve been browsing new blogs for the last hour or so, it’s so addictive. There are some incredible people out there and just far too much to read for one lifetime. This guy, Scott H Young, is amazing. I want to marry him. Or his mind, at least. Without wanting to sound condescending, or like his grandma, he is seriously wise beyond his years. His post, Show Up Every Day is inspiring. I just read his whole, free, ebook “How to get more from Life” and you must too (he told us it’s OK to spread the word).

But information overload is starting to kick in, so I flipped over to GoogleReader to operate through my channel of choice – VISUAL. Doghousediaries is awesome. I’ve been laughing out loud for the last 15 minutes, scrolling through the back-posts. My mind has cleared a treat. This cuts right through the deep fog of words and brain clogging ideas (albeit brilliant ones) and I’m left light-minded and laughing out load. Sometimes it can be tough going dealing with your own rush of ideas with all this inspirational mind-fodder. I think it’s good to have some time just kicking back and taking a little lighter moment to have a giggle.

Visit the Doghouse every day to get some downtime with your GSOH and tickle your laughter reflex.

Doghouse - Tomorrow

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Yay! Tonight my bellydance classes start up again after a 5 month deep freeze over the winter. I’m crawling out of hibernation, throwing off my winter skin (euw) and dusting down the hip-scarves for a summer-session of classes a la Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang style.

It’s been a while since I was regularly hip dropping and figure eighting, so I’m planning tonight’s intro class to be mostly about waking up the body after the long break and getting back into our groove.

I’ve been inspired by Jilina’s “Shape up n’hip out” DVD to bring some sections of that into a moving warm up – I’ve been doing this myself on morning when I need to move to wake up, but yoga has been too demanding – it’s a great way to uncreak the bones…

I also have started (2/3 completed) a new choreography to “Whatever Lola Wants” (Natascha Atlas version), which I’m excited to teach and hoping that we will be able to secure a performance gig for some point over the summer.. Festival season beckons!

It feels good to be getting back onto the bellydance scene, I’ve had a few months without routine and I’m ready to get some new dances learnt and some rocking costumes at the ready – time to get this show on the road! Charles Street, if you’re nearby (and interested…)!

P.s. Check Gwen Verdon’s version of WLW – not what we’re doing but amazing inspiration nether-the-less!

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I was just in the bath and had to get out to get my camera. I don’t often take my camera into the bath, but I was experiencing a truly beautiful moment that I felt I needed to capture in time. I was feeling pretty strung out after a crazy day in the office and couldn’t face any activity other than enveloping myself in a hot bubble bath. Our bathroom light is broken at the moment, so I had to light some candles. As I sank beneath the hot bubbly water, with steam rising off the bath, I just thought, what a beautiful moment.

We have an alarm clock in our bathroom, I don’t know why, and it was tick, tick, ticking. But that didn’t bother me, or remind me of time passing, more it was like a gentle heartbeat. I lay back and listened to the sounds coming through the walls of our flat. Other people busying about in their worlds. It was so relaxing.

Bubble bathI did spend about 5 minutes trying to get the right settings on my camera to capture what the human eye can see (obviously impossible, what marvellous creatures we are!). The problem of a lot of light from the flame, and complete darkness in the middle. I’m sure a professional would snap it properly in a shot, but for now, here’s my attempt.

Everyone needs a simple moment in time in their days to enjoy, and just be. Mine was totally bubblicious.

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