It was hailing moments ago – big ass chunks of ice falling from the sky. And now it’s sunny and the birds are singing and the only thing left of the apocalypse is the distant rumble of thunder and rain drops on my window pane. Welcome to spring in London – where the lilacs are in full bloom but you still have to wear thermals in the evening.
Hey, you wanna hear another crazy story? Joe and I signed up to cycle from London to Brighton (a fifty-freaking-four mile journey) this June and then we thought, hey, while we’re at it, why don’t we hike the 3 biggest peaks in the UK under 24 hours? Because we’re mental that way. And maybe I’m trying to convince my soon-to-be 38-year old body that it’s still a spring chicken. Buck, buck, buck, bocuuuuuck.
So, after you have donated to Oklahoma’s Tornado Relief, if you fancy reaching into your pockets again and contributing to my sorry (and soon to be very sore) arse, please donate here. Because hearts are like, super important and we all have one and anything we can do to help them keep ticking is a good thing. But hey, if hearts aren’t your thing, maybe cute little baby orangutans are. If you don’t do it for me, do it for the fluffy baby orangutans. Seriously, can you resist those faces?
Another feat of a non-physical nature (but crazy none-the-less) is my brother-in-law writing a novel. A NOVEL, people. A whole book with 344 pages, which took him a year to write. I’m reading the manuscript as we speak and it is seriously bone-chilling good. I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m ridicously proud, if not totally jealous of his commitment and determination because whilst he was writing his book, I was at the pub ordering a pint (again and again). So, please won’t you head over to his Facebook page and like him. You could win a chance to have a character named after you in his next book or screenplay. How many people can say that a character was named after them? Not many, that’s how much.
And last but not least, this, because I feel like dancing.
it was just a minute-long moment,
60 little seconds at the local shop
buying a pack of gum
i dumped the contents of my change purse on the counter
brown pence mixed with silver coins
searching frantically for 50p
but not wanting to be that old lady getting rid of her change
and holding the line up
of which there was none
but one is always worried about such things
in a city that is constantly spinning
and the old man behind the counter said
“here, you give me change and i count for you”
and he counted the pence and two-pence coins
and took all the small change away
and then he smiled and said thank you
and that was that
i told you
it was just a moment
but in that moment
his was the face of kindness
and i left that shop
The other day, I was reading Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg and on page 14 was this single sentence:
“Tell me what you will miss when you die“.
When you die, not if you die. That one little word makes all the difference. And it shook me – this inevitability. I forget about it all the time and yet, it’s always right in front of me, the simple fact that I won’t always be here to enjoy those things that I love. And then I started thinking about all those things and the list is massive. I could write a 100 blog posts and it still wouldn’t cover everything I love about this world. Just to name a few:
The smell of tomatoes on the vine
The way Joe calls me a sausage when I’m being silly
The sun on my face
Both my sisters’ giggles
The sound of crickets
Fields of wheat in August
The click of my camera
Dogs (I hope heaven is full of puppies and kittens)
That feeling you get when everything just feels right
Warm summer nights
The smell of asphalt after the rain
The golden light of dawn
The blue light of dusk
Days spent by the ocean
My mom’s corn fritters
A good stretch
Being woken up by birds chirping
Nature – every little bit of it
Swimming in cold rivers
Airplanes and where they can take me
The cafetière gurgling on the stove top
Every single friend I’ve ever met
Goosebumps (the good kind)
Blueberry tarts from the French bakery
Reading a good book in a hot bath
The scent of cinnamon
Big bear hugs
Saturday morning breakfasts
Snuggling up to my husband
Red wine in big glasses
And the list goes on and on. All the little things that make life so sweet. Aren’t there just so many of them?
Tell me what you will miss when you die?
The great thing about shooting film is that very few people do it anymore, which means that ex film photographers are more than willing to give you the 35mm that’s been sitting in their fridge since 1995 — for free. This is how I’ve become the lucky recipient of many a roll of expired film over the years. Recently, a lovely reader saw one of my photos in an issue of Spirituality & Health and sent me a dozen rolls all the way from California (the above shots are the result of one of those rolls). Even more recently, a bloke from Brussels offered to send a whole whack of expired B&W film after seeing me on an episode of Man Lab and subsequently finding his way to my blog. It’s like Christmas in May over here, peeps.
But the first time this happened was in Montreal, where one of my neighbours on Casgrain Avenue gave me an entire bag of film upon seeing me walking the street with a Pentax K1000 glued to my eyeballs (film shooters have become somewhat of a cult and the clunky click of the the Pentax does not go unnoticed). My first attempt was with a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten, expired in 1986. The results were perfectly flawed and grainy and eerie, evoking nostalgia and the feeling that they’d actually been taken in the 80′s. I initially struggled to like them because there was something somewhat dark and spooky about them and OMGee what if I freaked people out? But then photography is entirely subjective isn’t? Where one person sees the light, someone else notices the shadows. One might see the smile on someone’s face while another focuses on the sadness in their eyes.
In my opinion, expired film is just like using a moody filter on Instagram. Suddenly, photos take on a life they didn’t quite have before. And the beauty of expired film is that no two rolls are alike. Each roll gives completely different results. Some are unsaturated, most underexposed, some grainy, others flecked, many are dull and lacking contrast, while some come out too red or slightly on the green side. If Forest Gump were a photographer, he might have said that life is like a box of expired film… you never know what you are going to get. And for a control freak like me, the magic of expired film is a welcome breath of fresh air.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Yo homies! What’s up? You could ask the same of me, you’re thinking. True. I haven’t been around much lately. But I have super valid excuses.
You see, last time I wrote, I was deep in the belly of the unemployment underworld. And then, suddenly, I received 3 job offers in the span of 2 days. I rejected one and accepted 2 and spent the past 5 weeks juggling both jobs and trying to fit them into a 5-day work week, all the while hating one of the jobs and pushing on through because I thought that’s what one must do and surely I only hated it because it was new and different and anything new and different comes with its share of discomfort. But it turns out the discomfort was coming from my she-devil boss and her she-devil ways and the beauty of getting older is that you claim the right to say “I’m too old for this shit“. And so, today, I drafted a masterpiece of a resignation letter and wrapped it with a pretty bow and sent it on its merry way and then I made this “Take this job and shove it” old school hip hop mix. Because that’s how I roll.
So, ding-dong the witch is dead and I can now fully focus on the job I love – working for a great company with 4 cool lads. What more can a girl ask for?
Also, did I tell you I sold our flat? “Um! No, you didn’t because you disappeared five weeks ago and left us hanging with bits of poetry strung together by a series of Mondays.” Right. Good point. So yeah. I did that too. Pretty much single-handedly sold our flat. If all goes well, the new owner will take possession next month. And I’m kind of freaking out because, you see, we don’t actually have a new house to move into yet. So… yeahhhh. That’s that. And secondly, Joe and I met on this very doorstep. We shook hands by his yellow door. He made me tea for the first time in this living room. Actually, lots of things happened for the first time in this living room – ahem. So we’re both feeling a little nostalgic about leaving. But we have our eyes on a place down the road so there’s a chance we might not be moving too far, which means that I can still walk by the yellow door where it all began. Fingers crossed.
What else? I lost my wedding ring yesterday, which, you know, sucks. I know there are worse things in the world – famine, war, Justin Bieber – but I can assure you this is one of those things that is NOT better than a poke in the eye. I would have gladly taken a poke in the eye over losing my wedding ring. Sigh.
But hey, on the bright side, spring recently popped its cherry in an orgasmic show of colour and noise, trees blooming like fireworks around the city, pop-pop-pop, birds singing sweet symphonies. April was pretty hormonal weather-wise but May is looking promising. So I’m on the roof, under the sun, listening to hip hop, sipping a glass of celebratory wine and waiting for the husband to return to have another glass of celebratory wine.
I think that covers it: starting jobs, quitting jobs, selling flats, buying houses and… spring.
What have you been up to?
it pushes against me, this wall of wind
i want to rebel
and ride against it
at full speed
but i give into it
and let it
slow me down
and i watch what it does
to the trees and how
they rain pink and white petals
confetti on concrete
reminding me that you can’t always be
in full bloom
but somehow, someone
will always be there
to see beauty in the broken pieces
We watched them jump
from one precarious ledge to another and climb
concrete walls and do back flips
in the sun,
long shadows landing on green grass.
Running and vaulting and spinning
on an imaginary axis.
Every single move calculated and linked
to a single breath.
In the housing estate
a hundred red doors,
each the same as the next,
and buildings with names of classic authors and poets,
and the sounds of rough kids
playing rough games, shouting
“Hey! whatchu taking pictures at?“,
in a thick north london accent.
“The sky“, I said,
convincing myself that I wasn’t intimidated.
The photography teacher talked about the philosophy of parkour
in an environment much different from the one we were heading to.
The prestigious RIBA,
a library rich with the works of a thousand architects,
buildings made of marble and steel.
He talked about the martial arts-like focus
of the man who looks danger in the eye and then defies it.
“What they do looks unsafe“, he said,
“but watch their faces the split second before they jump…
the intense focus, how they already see
the goal and there is
The troubles at home,
the pressures of life in “the hood”,
the general uneasiness of teenage years – that chrysalis of life,
the quiescent mind of childhood breaking into adulthood.
None of that matters in that split second.
And then they leap with faith
and land with control
back in the real world, they are faced
with all of life’s petty challenges,
they stand tall with a confidence
I can only aspire to.
At the end of the day,
an old man walked towards my lens and stood in front of me,
with not an ounce of self-consciousness, he said
“I haven’t broken one yet“, pointing at my camera,
with a finger as gnarly as the branch of an old apple tree,
and then he leapt across his 70 years and told me a story
of how he had been daring,