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Life with Lavendar in London town

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Work-Life-Balance. Blah.

This work-life balance business is a crock of shit.

It's a catch phrase used to emolliate the jagged edges of a frantic reality when you are trying to juggle it all. Not have it all, because that is a delusion.

Just juggle it all.

The Adriana Huffingtons and Sheryl Sandbergs of this world have published sound bite tomes (Thrive & Lean In respectively) advising women how to navigate this work-life-balance theory. In a nutshell, Arianna advocates sleeping and breathing more and Sheryl's advice is to work more.

Thanks Ladies.

What are the other two 'metrics'?
(ariannahuffington.com/thrive)

Nonetheless both books were bestsellers for a hot second which shows that women of a certain demographic are seeking advice and guidance on how to work, raise families, manage domestic life, prioritise one's health, have some leisure and social pursuits and remain somewhat sane.

I rarely hear men use the work-life--balance catchphrase. Men I know tend to fall into two categories. Those who work and leave the domestic everything to their spouse. Said spouse might work too but tough luck for her. The other category are men who work and are 'hands-on.'  This might mean they do housework, do the school drop-off, pick-up or shop for food and cook it.

I personally dislike the term 'hands-on' when applied to male domestic labour for it implies some kind of altruism on the man's behalf.  Again, it's not a term ever used in relation to women. It's a double standard.

The work-life-balance issue is bothering me more than normal now because I am working more. Not that I ever stopped but when you drop below three days a week, somehow it's not seen as 'work.' It's something you do for pocket money. Yeah, right.

Pretty much every woman I know
(www.ricominciodaquattro.com)

Maybe my mum has the answer when she advises me to, do less, to which my reply is, you are welcome to my laundry. 40c wash please.

Stupidly I agreed to increase my paid work hours in the lead up to Christmas; a time in which domestic chores and social activities quadruple. I get through my days on coffee, sugar and rage.

My husband's work load hasn't changed too much. Maybe a slight increase but nothing requiring Valium.

But why should he need Valium? He didn't source all the birthday and Christmas presents and make sure they are delivered to the recipients. He didn't write and send all the cards. He didn't monitor and plan the family and our child's festive social calendar which now qualifies me to become a airport traffic controller. He doesn't do the doctors, dentist and haircut appointments. He doesn't help out at school. He didn't source any of the houses we have looked at as potential buyers.  He didn't source the family dress up costumes for the Christmas parties ahead. He didn't organise childcare.He didn't look into and plan all the Christmas activities we are doing over the break as a family.

He did get the Christmas tree though. It's huge and too big for our little house.

None of the above is brain surgery. But it requires a lot of brain space.

All throughout November, my head pulsated to an alarming level. I thought I had Martian blood. Every woman I spoke to said the same. Next year we should all get t-shirts that read:

My Head is Exploding. Duck.

Amongst all this jolliness, I'm trying to write a book.  About a mum who is negotiating the work-life-balance dilemma so she can be at home with her daughter and husband, although her career (and passion) means she needs travel for long periods.

But my current work-life-balance is preventing me from writing.

And so is this rant.



















Friday, 11 November 2016

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is dead. 

He, along with Tom Waits are my favourite lyricists. I had the great fortune to see him in concert a few years back when he was forced to tour after being robbed of millions by his ex -manager. He was in his late 70s but you wouldn't have known it. The showmanship. The voice. It was perfection really, if you believe in such a thing.

He left a profound legacy. For me, he left words that never fail to illuminate the darkness.

Such as the words to his song, Anthem, which after Trunp's victory, resonate and... resonate.

The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove she will be caught again
bought and sold  and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood of every government –
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

RIP

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Donald Trump: President of the United States of America

What, the fuck?

Only time will reveal the consequences of this choice, not only for America but the world at large.

Some people I have spoken to are hopeful that it won't be that bad

Others are more despairing. The first American I encountered post result was masquerading as Canadian. Given the fact that the Canadian immigration website has crashed, it seems that it is the Mounties that need a big wall built to keep out the flood of US emigrants.

Hope is a good thing. Denial is not. There's a fine line between the two.

I sat with Dragon and we watched Trump's acceptance speech together.  I cried and she asked me why. I explained that I did not like him. I listed the reasons. Maybe I should not have explained sexism and racism to a young child who has had little exposure to these realities. Let her stay in her bubble for a little while longer.

It was not a normal morning though. And I have always tried to answer Dragon honestly, if appropriately, when she asks any question.

Later on that evening, we watched Hilary Clinton's concession speech together. I cried again. And then Dragon turned to me and said:

I wish I was white. That I had white skin.

There are moments in life when time stands still. This was one of them. The emotion I felt was cataclysmic.

Why?

Because Donald Trump is unkind to people who are not white.

Despair, regret, pain, fear, compassion, fortitude, anger, sadness. I cannot articulate how that moment felt.

The Western first world has changed and it will be Dragon's generation that bears the legacy of the decisions being made. I do not want her to grow up burdened. I do not want her to grow up unprepared.

I do not have the answers but I have no choice but to unravel my way through this maze we now face.

Courage. We will need it.












Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dance, Dance, Dance!

I was dancing with Dragon in our hallway to, Can't Stop The Feeling, by Justin Timberlake. Dragon was flailing about, wriggling her hips, arms and legs. I was following suit. We were having fun. Dancing with kids is a panacea for what ails you.



I've been thinking about middle aged dancing of late. Mum and Dad dancing have become common cultural phrases. From Ed Balls strutting his stuff on Strictly to Michelle Obama sending herself up on Jimmy Kimmel, dancing after a certain age or period of life segues into old person dancing. While dancing in your teens or twenties is seen as freedom of expression, sexiness, rhythmicality and physicality, dancing in your late thirties and beyond can be regarded as a bit frumpy, a bit uncool. It might feel the same for you, the person dancing, but there is cultural shift in how your moves are viewed.  Who is judging you? Twenty year olds? Your children? Other adults? I don't know. Yet us 'oldies' still keep at it. At Dragon's school, myself and some other parents are attending a street dance class together in en masse expression of mumanddad dancing. We will shake the rafters and bring down the house. You can stare but we just don't care!





Recently a friend mentioned her discomfort at seeing seventy-one year old Lesley Joseph perform on Strictly Come Dancing.

Why were you uncomfortable? I asked. Was she not very good?

She was very good. It's just weird seeing a 70 year old dancing sexily. It made me uncomfortable. I don't know why. We'll all get there one day.

Is it because she was dancing in a twenty year old 'sexy' way rather than a seventy year old 'sexy' way?

Which begs the question - what does a seventy year old dancing sexily look like? Should it look any different to a twenty year old ? Why are the same dance moves that are acceptable at twenty not at seventy? Or are we just not used to seeing it on a seventy year old body?

I think about this because I am someone who dances. I do wonder now in my forties whether I should be pulling the same moves as I did in my twenties. Ageism surrounds dance. Yet the boundaries around dance are socially constructed. So why is ageing discriminated against in the free dance arena? The fact that we can move at all should be celebrated.

Dancing, for me, irrespective of age, has usually been a direct connection to joy. A symbiotic expression of musicality, sensuality, personality and sinuosity. As we age, our experiences of these qualities become more profound. You would think that this would be reflected in the way we boogie. That our dancing becomes enriched with experience and age. Not defiled and mocked because of it. Let's be honest. To be able to move to music when your joints ache and muscles strain is a triumph.

As Justin sings:

I got this feeling, inside my bones. It goes electric, wavy, when I switch it on.

Keep it switched on people. Don't turn it off.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

No Man's Land

I have a list of performers I would like to see before they die. Maybe this is just presumptuous. Perhaps I will die before Bob Dylan or Tina Turner but irrespective of who carks it first, there are performers I wish my living flesh to bear witness to. Onstage.

Ian McKellen is one such performer. I first saw him play a South African squillionaire in Six Degrees of Separation; one of my favorite movies.  Ever after he was an actor I followed from Gods and Monsters to Richard III to, of course, Gandalf.  Talk about being born to play a part.

Love that Gandalf stare

When it was announced that he was partnering with Patrick Stewart for the play, No Man's Land at the Wyndham Theatre, I whooped. Then made my way like a bat out of hell (excuse the Meatloaf lyric) to the nearest computer to get me some tickets.

Much poorer after said ticket purchase, I decided to not read anything about the play, so as to have a completely fresh experience on the night.

When we arrived at the theatre, I was so excited I sat in the wrong seat. Once corrected, I chatted to my companions how great it was to be so close to the stage. We were two rows from the front so would see every wrinkle, every sweat bead. We would see the acting.  I perused the programme and began to regret not reading about the play beforehand.  It seemed that this Pinter play was the type that likes to mess with your mind.

The curtain rose and there they were. Two old men. It crossed my mind that if I was a man, I would like to age as well as these two have. McKellen was in full flight as Spooner, the man who in the course of the play would mess with the mind of Hirst, Patrick Stewart's character.  During the first act, I managed to keep up with the dialogue that was flying about between the two of them; both playing drunk characters getting progressively drunker. They must have been very good because I started feeling a little drunk myself. The venue was warm. It was the first time all day I had sat down and relaxed. And then a terrible thing happened.

I started to fall asleep.

My eyelids drooped. Ian and Patrick disappeared from sight.

Noooo. I urged myself. Keep awake.

Doggedly I forced myself to affect a Clockwork Orange-esque wide eye stare. Eyes on Ian. Eyes on Patrick.


I did this

You cannot fall asleep so close to the front.
The actors will see you. 
Ian McKellen will think you hate his acting.
Who pays £70 to go to the theatre to fall asleep?

I managed to stay awake through the first act.  But as the surreal plot unwound during the second act, I felt my traitor eyelids drooping. This time there was no fighting it. I might as well have been shot in the bum by a tranquilizer gun. I was out for the count.

Remarkably, I do remember seeing this bit 

The Husband kept nudging me in the ribs.

Patrick Stewart is looking at you, he whispered, more loudly than was necessary. Wake up!

Mortification is not an emotion I often feel at the theatre. But falling asleep during No Man's Land with such fine actors are performing at a hairs breadth in front of me was exactly that.

Mortifying.

During the curtain call I clapped so enthusiastically my palms stung. No-one clapped harder than me. I was awake by this time and was impressed to see McKellen completely transform out of character as soon as the play ended. Just as obviously as if he was taking off a jacket. It was transfixing.

Too little, too late?

Not really. It was worth it.















Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Fail Again. Fail Better

So said Samuel Beckett.

I used to have this quote on a greeting card which I pinned up near my desk at home.



It served as a reminder that, as the 1980's philosopher Billy Ocean sang,

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Oooh Oooh 




Since I escaped from Hell, I mean, left my last job, I have been extremely picky in job hunting. Two or three days a week in the film or literary sector. Nothing with too much responsibility but also with enough stimulation to prevent brain rot. Admittedly there are not many jobs out there which fit my criteria so applications have not exactly been pouring forth from me.

Since June I've had three interviews. The first one was for an arts charity based in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The charity's aim is to develop a programme of art events for hospital patients to assist in their recovery. The timing of my interview was ironic. I myself had been in hospital the day prior for a minor procedure involving general anaesthetic. In hindsight I probably should have said No to the interview but as they say, when opportunity knocks....

No surprises that I did not get that job. I think I was speaking English during the interview but your guess is as good as mine.

Following that there were no interesting jobs on the horizon. I started temping to keep one foot wedged in the doorway of work.

Then a deluge (actually, there were two) of part-time film jobs with medium-level responsibility flooded my inbox. I duly answered the same ten boring questions that all employers seem to ask on any job application form. A few weeks later I was asked to interview for jobs at the BFI and IntoFilm.

Well...

What is there to say about the BFI. If you live in the UK and know even a little about film, you will know the BFI. Many years ago, a much younger version of myself applied for a job with them and was rejected. Surely lightning couldn't strike twice.

IntoFilm is a film charity that does excellent working promoting access to and engagement with film right around the UK for youth aged 5-19.

Man, I sweated over the interview preparations.  I knew there would be at least one film question. I asked Facebook friend's to tell me what their favourite British films were. I reread all the film blogs I have written. I looked over my old programming material from my days working at the FTI.  Since I started rearing a child my film consumption has diminished considerably. Gone are the days when I would see up to four films a week in the cinema. Nowadays I get to the cinema maybe once a fortnight.  Which is not bad for the average person but would it be enough for the BFI cineastes'?

It wasn't.

Yesterday the BFI  emailed to say that I did not get the job. It was a kick to the guts as those doors to the BFI have been slammed twice in my face now. Then about ten minutes after that cheerful news came the rejection email from IntoFilm.

Aiiyaiyaiyaiyai!

Did I perform badly in both interviews? Was I over qualified? Am I too old for the entry level positions I am applying for? Or were the interviews just a performative time wasting process for all. Was someone already lined up for the role?

Or am I just a sore loser?

On request, the BFI gave me interview feedback. They said I was a strong candidate amongst ten strong candidates. Supposedly I was one of the strongest candidate's but someone stronger got the role. The feedback made me feel like I had lost an arm wrestle with an octopus.

Failure is a very different thing at 42 than at 22. In your twenties the horizon seems endless; possibilities infinite. If you fail at 22, you wait for the next opportunity you assume is coming. At 42, failure fucking sucks. Time and energy is not on your side. You hope you are still alive when the next opportunity comes; if it comes at all. At 42, you realise not everything works out the way you thought it would.

Let me in you fuckers!
Mr Beckett urges greater failure. Greater effort. No matter the failure, Just work towards the next one. Eventually you will get there he implies.

Would you trust this man's advice?
Is there sense to bashing one's head against a brick wall a la Beckett style? In this case the impenetrable doors of the BFI?

We'll see. Watch this space.








Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Captain Fantastic

Viggo, aaah Veeeeeego.

Loved him in Eastern Promises. Loved him in A History of Violence. Loved him in The Road. The Two Faces of January. Good. The list goes on.  

And yes, loved him in LOTR. Who knew someone called Aragorn could be sexy?

For weeks leading up to its premiere, I saw posters for Viggo's new flick Captain Fantastic everywhere. So often did I see this poster that I started to wonder if I was hallucinating.

The Poster

Admittedly there are worse things in life to see than a shaggy Viggo kitted out in a retro red suit.  Dead rats. Nigel Farage's face. An empty Cadbury's chocolate wrapper.

The mass advertising campaign worked a treat for as soon as the film came out in my local cinema, I was bunkered down, ready to spend the afternoon with Veegs and his fake film children. I had read that the film centred around the complexities of a father trying to raise his brood of children off-grid; a return to nature existence combined with Chomsky-esqe home schooling. 

I've always been fascinated by people who choose to carve out a lifestyle different to the 'mainstream' and the challenges they face. Having known several families doing this very thing, I was curious to see how the film would depict this lifestyle and what message it would impart. And the fact that Viggo was in it certainly didn't hurt. Or am I just repeating myself?

The tone of the film was different to what I had expected. From the poster design, I had anticipated a Wes Anderson-type film with quirks and curious characters. Instead I found Captain Fantastic much more meditative and reflective. The first half was essentially a Captain Von Trapp militaristic fantasy of how to raise children in the forest naked but with no singing nun. But for all the liberal leanings of Ben Cash (Veeg's character), his approach was essentially that of a despot or fascist; the very paradigm that he was rallying against.

Wes Anderson movie poster. Similar right?

His character reminded me of certain people I have met in the past. In particular one guy called Gympie who rejected all mainstream leanings. He lived and travelled around the country on his 'Magic Bus' with his consort of female partners and various children. Shrouding his fascism under the guise of mysticism and anti consumerism, I watched him manipulate situations for his own gain. He was a Class A prat and a study in self deception.

For me the film came into its own when Cash's' tightly controlled world crashes into mainstream reality when his children realise there is more to the world than Russian literature and five am yoga drills. Mortensen's depiction of a good man grappling with the contradictions in his belief system alone, is worth seeing the film for. As he struggles with the cracks in his idealism against his love for his kids; the film shows that the lives we lead, no matter what ideas they are founded upon; are ever changing and constantly complex.

Aaaah Viggo, you did it again.












Thursday, 15 September 2016

It's (Not That) Quiet on the Western Front (II)

If Perth had a heart, then that heart is the port town of Fremantle. From the moment my Dad started working at Fremantle Hospital in 1977, Fremantle, or ‘Freo’ as the locals call it became a backdrop for my formative years.

Fremantle Port

My first memories of Fremantle are eating fish and chips on the Esplanade; a park nestled along the Freo foreshore. Cicerellos was the place to go for freshly battered cod and chips.  My parents would order at the counter whilst I peered into the vast tropical aquarium that was always my highlight during a trip to Cicerellos. Clutching our newspaper bundles, we would cross the rail overpass down into Esplanade Park. Sitting on the grass amongst the Norfolk Pines, I remember the crunchy saltiness and fresh white flakes in my mouth, with the sea breeze cooling us on a sunny Perth day.

Being a port city, Fremantle has always had an outward looking mien. Immigrants from Italy and Portugal settled in the town and contributed significantly in creating the character of Fremantle; essentially a working class immigrant community for whom family was important. These roots of Fremantle’s heritage is still very much visible today. The main road, known as the Cappuccino strip is well known for its proliferation of cafes and restaurants where you can sip and dine alfresco. Gino’s coffee shop reigns supreme on the strip having outlasted other stalwarts such as Old Papa’s and Interfoods. Across the road is Pizza Bella Roma where nightly queues form as people await the opportunity to dine on delicious oven baked pizza and pasta.

Gino's Cafe - still standing 
When I visit nowadays, I find the Cappuccino Strip greatly changed. The street that once held an Italian deli, a butchers, a burial home, a fishmongers and one of the best bookshops in Perth is now dotted with too many ice cream parlours, tacky pubs and tourist shops.  Rents are so high that many local businesses have left. Still, the reputation of the strip precedes its reality and every weekend, the tourists still come and spend their money on ice cream, coffee and trinkets.

The Cappuccino Strip

Friday, 9 September 2016

It’s (Not That) Quiet on the Western Front (1)

Many years ago in a pre - child life, I started writing about the place where I grew up which is Perth, Western Australia. I starting writing to commit to memory all the things I loved about it. I found this old piece of writing today and have decided to post it in excerpts as a homage to the Perth I knew and loved.  Perth has changed significantly in the past five years due to the mining boom. Rampant development and consumerism has affected many parts of the city which I held dear.

So in memory of the Perth I once knew:

Perth

My hometown hugs the shores of the West Australian coastline. She nestles there like a faint diamond amongst the vastness of the state. The fact that Perth is the most isolated city in the world of its size, is useful for dinner party conversation or when someone asks:

Where in Australia are you from?
Perth.
Which side is that?
The west coast. The other side from Sydney and Melbourne. The side no-one visits.
Oh.

Silence.

It’s the most isolated city in the world.
Oh really. I didn’t know that.
Yes. It’s closer to Singapore than its own capital city.

At this point, the consideration that you are from the most isolated city in the world has entered the person’s head. The neurons in their brain come to a silent conclusion:  HICKSVILLE.

Perth is the capital city of Western Australia; the largest state in country
(www.wordtravels.com/Travelguide/Countries/Australia/Map)

Coming from Perth, I’m used to this kind of geographical prejudice. My hometown doesn’t have the international status of Sydney, the unofficial capital of Australia or even Alice Springs, home of the much clambered upon Uluru. People who grow up in Perth have a love-hate relationship with this remoteness.  We dislike the isolation for it breeds cliques and a small town watchfulness. It fails to rate on the international stage despite world class beaches and the best weather in Australia. Perth could disappear tomorrow and would anyone know? But the isolation gives us space to create, develop and initiate away from other influences and trends. It is an immensely creative city with a Mediterranean outlook.

Arriving

When the plane approaches Perth, my nose is pressed up against the window. If it is a daytime descent, the land below looks like an Aboriginal dot painting. If anyone were to doubt the complex physical and psychical connection that the first Australians have with their land, all you would need to do is view the land from an airplane to have those doubts diminish.

The view of Oz from an airplane 
(http://www.japingka.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Marlene-Jap-011996.jpg)

In daylight the clarity of the sky is unlike any other place I have been. The combination of light and space and air forms a blue clearer and sharper than any other. This blue is my homecoming. If it is night, I look for the lights of the Perth skyline. Harder to spot than a vastly lit metropolis like London or Hong Kong, the Perth city lights flare against the inky darkness like a lighthouse beacon guiding the aircraft towards the landing strip. I am always impatient to get out of the plane and the airport; eager for the first few deep inhalations of West Australian air. Dry, crisp and tinged with leaves and sun. Arriving at daytime, the glare of the sun and bright blue sky hits you as you exit the building. You immediately feel as if you have been zapped intravenously with high dosage vitamins.

Breathe in. Out.
Breathe.

I'm back.

Horror Vacui

Oh I had so many ideas of what to write about for this next blog entry. Our trip to Iceland; our first 'family summer holiday', a.k.a what to do with a really active child 24/7 for six weeks; an abridged version to all the books I am reading/not reading; my transcendent experience at a Paul Kelly gig and many more ranty bits which are not making it on here because of the weird reality that I am busier now not working than when I was working.

This makes no sense right. After all, I was working four days a week before. How can I have less time now that I am gainfully unemployed?

Friends ask if I am enjoying my free time.

Free time, I laugh, Yeah I am enjoying it. This is it right now. Us talking.

They say that nature abhors a vacuum. Applying this principle to the increased hours in my day, I concur with 'horror vacui' as first postulated by Parmenides. My diary is living proof of this theory.

Is it a law of nature that the more time you have, the more things you do? Certainly this is something I have always been guilty of.  I am more tired too as a result. At first I blamed myself for doing too much but now I realise I am just following the laws of physics.

Horror Vacui, would be the perfect heading for my gravestone as cause of death. I am sure when the time for my eternal rest comes, it will be from over exertion.

But until then, excuse me. I have stuff I need to do. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Writing Life

I am trying to finish the first draft of a children's book that I started last October. It is frickin' hard. Everytime I sit down to write, I have to resist the urge NOT to write. I have a series of well honed avoidance procedures to avoid the laying of font onto the blank page. My writing process goes something like this:


  • Drink coffee at a cafe. Surf social media.
  • Remonstrate self and get off social media.
  • Write a few sentences. 
  • Feel disillusioned about the crapness of the sentences just written.
  • Suddenly remember something urgent that needs doing. Such as Googling a random fact or Whatsapping a friend to say Hi.
  • Look at the time. Only an hour left before writing time is up.
  • Read through the last page that was written. Write a few more sentences.
  • Sigh. Look out window. Get more coffee.
  • Sit down. Get up. Go to the toilet.
  • Sit down. Feel a sense of urgency.
  • Call the Husband who is really busy at work. Moan about nothing. Look at self from above and think self needs a slap.
  • Write a paragraph.
  • Review total word count of the 'day's work'. 
  • Word count is 246 words.
  • Shit. Self imposed writing rule is 1000 words per session. Minimum.
  • Write nonsense for 10 minutes. No clue what I am writing about anymore.
  • Look at clock. 25 minutes left.
  • Force myself to write up to 900 words, knowing at least 800 of these words will be cut in a future edit.
  • Eavesdrop on the guy sitting next to me in Starbucks.
  • Decide to write a random blog entry on writing.
  • Write the blog entry in 5 minutes.
  • Check phone. Clear emails and messages.
  • 10 minutes left.
  • Write. Time's up.
  • 1251 words further in to a story that is a complete mess.

Welcome to first draft hell.

Amen to that 







Thursday, 18 August 2016

Stranger Things

Netflix is a phenomena I have been slow to embrace. For someone as compulsive as me, the opportunity to watch whole seasons of desired shows in one long sofa visit is dangerous. However the Husband loves to embrace technology so a few months ago, we got Netflix so that we could watch the fourth season of House of Cards (in about 3 days). Afterwards I surfed it randomly, finally settling within the documentary section whereupon I watched Chefs Table, Going Clear, I Am Not Your Guru and Under the Influence; all well worth a view. However I was still not 100% sold that Netflix was earning its keep. We had access to zillions of shows but too much choice is a killer at times. Where was the wow moment?

Well....

I had read that Winona Ryder was featuring in a Netflix drama called Stranger Things. As a child of the 80s, I grew up with Winona and will watch anything she is in. All the publicity material for the show hearkened back to my childhood. I could have been looking at a poster for E.T, Indiana Jones, Goonies or Star Wars.

This poster screams 80's!

A few weeks ago we sat down and started to watch it. Instantly, and I mean instantly, I was hooked. By the actors, the plot, the incredible, incredible detail to all things 80s within the scenes. I thought they didn't make shows like this anymore. The synthesised score plunged me back into a time where I was a kid riding my bike and having adventures. When Atari was cool and tape decks meant that you could record music off the radio.  I was in homage heaven. It was Pans Labyrinth merged with the Goonies. It was a nostalgic gluttony and I lapped up every single episode of it.  Nostalgia aside, the show itself was excellent, propelling the suspense and action along via the portal of some truly wonderful child actors with not a scrap of  'drama school diva' affection between them. These are kids that I would adopt.

We whizzed through the season in two nights flat, the Husband as enthralled as I with the journey into our past. Landing back in 2016 with a bump, we scratched our heads and got off the sofa, suffering from escapist withdrawal.  The wow moment had been had. We were now truly Netflix converts. Addicts some might say. We were not alone though, proved by websites like this one:

After our true Netflix baptism, we went on holiday which meant we could not feed the beast. Upon our return, I fell ill which meant nights in and sofa time.

'Have you heard of this show called 'The Killing?' asked the Husband, 'I think you should watch it.'

It's truly killing me but I'm enjoying the slow death

And bang. Instantly hooked. We've been up past midnight every night since binge watching and getting by on little sleep. I'm not sure which it is that is killing me. The Killing, my flu or this strange new world of Netflix.

I love it though. I'm a believer.











Thursday, 28 July 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe

When I hear the words, Georgia O'Keeffe, I think of flowers.  Big, voluminous, wafty flowers. I try not to think of the other theme (that starts with the letter 'v' and rhymes with 'angina' ) that is associated with her work but I'm afraid I do.

'Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1' (1932)
(http://www.tate.org.uk(

I have nothing against flowers and bones and the arid New Mexico landscape which features so heavily in Ms O'Keeffe's work. But the real reason I am drawn to her art is  the force of personality which was required to make it. It is tough now to make it as a creative artist and I imagine that during the early 1900s it was tougher still for a woman to stake her claim as an artist and make a living from it.

I am drawn to O'Keeffe's work because I am intrigued by her life.

Therefore when a friend asked me if I would like to attend the Georgia O'Keeffe retrospective at the Tate Modern, I was game. I had never seen an O'Keeffe painting in real life and was curious to learn more about her.

On the day of our excursion, we were four school mums who had met courtesy of our kids attending the same school. Our other commonality was a shared interest in the creative arts. Dropping our kinder off, we felt free and easy as we travelled to the Tate in our sandals and summer clothing. It was the hottest London day so far of the year; a fitting atmosphere through which to view paintings of bones bleached white by the sun and the blues and reds of the desert. One of our party was knowledgeable in art history and gave us a background brief on how the relationship between O'Keeffe and Alfred Steglitz  had helped O'Keeffe as an artist.

'From the Faraway, Nearby'
(http://www.metmuseum.org)

The retrospective once we arrived was extensive and thorough. It guided us through sequential phases of O'Keeffe's life as an artist and the influences in each period.  Her flowers were blousy and beautiful; vivid in the way I had imagined them to be but it was her work at Lake George which resonated most with me. The cool, calm and serene images were a balm to my senses on a hot London day. Below was my favourite painting from the exhibition:


'Lake George' (1922)
http://sfbaytimes.com/modern-nature-georgia-okeeffe-and-lake-george)

Paintings not withstanding, I was equally drawn to photos of O'Keefe displayed throughout. Even as a young woman, her face gave nothing and everything away at the same time. It had a proper, 'don't fuck me with me look about it.'  Most of all, I liked the photos of O'Keefe as an older woman going about her life in New Mexico. Her face looks worn in and etched, as if the artist herself had chosen the patchwork of lines which decorated it.


http://www.photographydealers.com/

Afterwards as we walked back out into the sunshine and made our way to lunch, O'Keefe's face was still in the forefront of my mind.

I wonder what Georgia O'Keefe would have looked like as a four year old?  I mused aloud.

She would have looked like an old lady, came the reply. She was born looking like an old lady.

It's true that some faces take a lifetime to grow into. Georgia O'Keefe had ninety-eight years to do so and in that time, she gave us her work and her life.

It's an inspiration to all of us with old faces.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Tate ModernJuly 6 - October 30, 2016
Bankside, London, SE1 9TG



  

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Parolitics

It's Dragon's last day of school today.  Her first year at school is soon to be over and I find myself unexpectedly emotional. Maybe it was wrapping the large quantities of alcohol I had purchased for her teachers that did me in. Thinking about all they have done for her in the past year. Or maybe it was the epic meltdown she had yesterday due to her sadness at school finishing. Or maybe it is the fact that time is flying and she is growing up.

Dragon's first school year has been a big eye opener for me and the Husband. We have discovered the meaning of a 'school community.' We have met and gotten to know our neighbours because our kids all go to the same school. I have embraced the mum's Whatsapp or Facebook messaging chat group phenomenom. I drink more coffee than I thought possible during mum coffee catchups. I have a new collective of small people who I can chat with just as easily as their parents. I have met some great people who I like as people, not just because we are all parents. In a place like London, it is rare to find this type of solid community and so we embrace it.

Reflecting on all that has happened within the last year has made me think about the politics of parenting or, parolitics. When Dragon was a baby and I was venturing out into new playgroups, baby meetups, activity days, it dawned on me that negotiating your way through the world of parenting is a political act. In fact, I wrote a short piece about it during Dragon's first year:

There are many secrets to parenthood. Things that remain unspoken and once experienced are tucked away, not for discussion. Once the baby is here, it is too late. You have opened the door to the other room, and the room within that. On a good day, this exposure feels infinite, sublime even. On a bad day, endless.

You discover these secrets, one by one but you don’t speak of them, or rarely, for there is some social contract it seems, which forbids us to speak truthfully about becoming a parent.

Once you become a parent, you become a politician.  Parenting is political. Friendships may crumble. Allegiances change over cloth or plastic nappies. Your new parent friends believe in the death penalty and vote for UKIP but it doesn’t matter because your kids are friends and playdates take priority over execution.

Who am I?

Where do you draw the line in this new world of relationships lived through your offspring?Unwittingly you are bound to this group of men and women whose children will be invited to your home for playdates and birthday parties. Whose faces you will recognise over time from pick-up and drop offs at the school gate. These people are your people now.

This is your parenting community.

Is this what you choose? Not necessarily. If you had a choice, you would choose your old-life friends. But they have disappeared from your daily life for they are far away, geographically or philosophically. Some old-life friends become unrecognisable once they have children. Some return, as do you, to a semblance of your former self but some are lost forever; their identities forsaken in the fog of parenting.

Friends without offspring miss you too. Some cut you loose. This is devastating.

‘I am not a leper,‘ you think, ‘but I am a shape-shifter.’

I have grieved the loss of friendship due to children. No-one speaks of this but it happens. 

Five years in, I am still earning my stripes as a parent. But I have ventured far from those early days where I struggled to make sense of the incongruencies inherent within parenting life. Nowadays I love the contradictions. I don't need to understand the whys and wherefores as much anymore. It just is the way it is. I like this new world order, far more than I ever thought I would. 

It's reassuring to be surprised by your own life on occasion. 






Friday, 15 July 2016

A Year in Books with Heywood Hill and the Beaumont Hotel

Books and Art Deco decor are two things in life which merge quite seamlessly. Like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or caviar and blinis, I find the two are mutually complementary. For example, I post this blog whilst sitting here, which is infinitely more appealing than in Starbucks where I also go to write:

The American Bar @ the Beaumont Hotel

A few years ago, Husband and I had dinner at the Colony Grill; a restaurant in the then newly opened Beaumont Hotel run by restauranteur duo, Corbin and King.  Husband was already a devotee of the Delaunay where he has breakfast at least once a week and we had also dined at the Wolseley and Brasserie Zedel. We always enjoyed the art deco luxe in their establishments in addition to the straight forward menus and attention to detail. So when we found out that they had opened the Beaumont, we hotfooted it there and found the same consistent attention to detail, luxurious interiors and lack of snootiness.

I love this place, I breathed to the Husband as I wafted out of their public restrooms, quite possibly the most gorgeous public restroom I had ever used.   I could sleep in that toilet.

Possibly worried I would do so, the Husband purchased for me as an anniversary gift the package called, A Year in Books that the hotel is offering in conjunction with Heywood Hill bookshop. This package allows for one night stay at the Beaumont and a special consultation meeting with Heywood Hill who then send you one book a month over the course of a year.

As I had recently quit my job, I decided to commence unemployed life by cashing in on my stay. After all, who needs an income when you have Art Deco? I found a selection of books in my room for me to peruse:

Team with the theme. Books a la 20s

Immediately I wanted to stash three of the titles in my luggage and 'forget' to take them out again. But I guess this is called stealing.** I was impressed by the range of titles for they were all books I would read. I looked forward to my visit to Heywood Hill. But before that, I luxuriated in my hotel room. Consistent with my prior experience with the public bathroom,  my very own bathroom was beautiful too. Luckily for my back, I also had a bed to sleep in.

My dream bathroom

When I arrived at the bookshop later that day, I saw that it is a blue plaque building. Turns out Nancy Mitford was a shop assistant here in the forties:

Step inside book lovers. You won't be disappointed

Once inside, I was placed in the capable hands of Karin, the staff member who would be deciding which twelve books I would be receiving over the next year. We had a chat about what kinds of books and genres I like and dislike. What my interests and inspirations are and why I was subscribing to the package at all.  After our chat, I knew that Karin is an angel from Book Heaven and has one of the best jobs in the world. Lucky lady.

How was the bookshop? my Husband asked me later on.

Imagine going into the wand shop in Harry PotterSlightly ramshackle and completely charming. The air is thick with words and books and the staff are book aficionados in that they seem to live and breath books. All books. I could live there.

The Husband laughed. We're back to that again are we?

But I am serious. I really would.


** I asked if I could buy one of the books from my room and they gave it to me compliments of the hotel. What's not to love about the Beaumont. Class act.


The Beaumont Hotel, 8 Balderton Street, Brown Hart Gardens, W1K 6TF 

Heywood Hill, 10 Curzon Street, W1J 5HH