Monday, 30 December 2013

Is Anyone Awake?

So Christmas is over. All that build up: the parties, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the cleaning, the visits to friends, the duty-bound family visits, the seasonal tv guide ringed with programmes to watch, the heating turned up full blast, the oven turned on and mulled wine steaming, the radio blaring out carols for 48 hours non-stop and of course the incense-filled-candle-lit church ceremony at midnight. Phew! Does anyone feel like they need a break? Is anyone actually awake right now? 

In that weird limbo period between Christmas and the start of a New Year, people all around the city have descended into The Christmas Coma. Actually probably not just in London but all over the UK too. Of course some people went back to work on Boxing Day. Those who work in retail or in the emergency services probably worked all through the Christmas period and may have only got one or two days off. For the rest of us who used up the carefully saved annual leave to take off at this seasonal time of year, a Christmas Coma brought on by over-eating and the first feeling of relaxation in about a month of craziness is in full swing.

I have barely been able to stay awake during the whole holiday period. My husband has also been groggy. It started on Christmas eve when we went to Midnight Mass at our local church. We are not religious people and I suppose it is a bit hypocritical of us to attend a church service in an Anglican church when one of us was a raised a Catholic (my husband) and the other is not sure that god even exists (me). But we like the tradition and since we live in a free country and everyone at the church seems pleased to see us, we go every year. The church is a big old drafty building that was built in 1808. But during Midnight Mass, the whole church is lit with hundreds of candles and so it actually gets quite warm. It is considered 'high church' so the vicar sings some of the Bible and she has high clear beautiful voice. The choir is sometimes out of tune, but they are charming and the organ player does occasionally sound like he has been drinking alcohol before he plays the massive organ. Members and staff of the church wear long white robes and carry holy objects around during the ceremony and one guy who is bearded and deeply serious swings the incense around in a small metal ball attached to a metal chain. Sometimes he gets so serious with his incense ball that he swings it high above his head and I fear for the foreheads of the congregation in the pews in the front of church in case he miscalculates the trajectory of his tool and brains them with an enthusiastic swing. 

We love it, we love the rituals, the singing, the lights, the prayers said over a baby in a crib, the hands we shake when we wish peace to our neighbors, the blessing the vicar bestows on your forehead, the big belting carols like 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' that leave you breathless and gasping and the vicar's timely and wise sermon. This year her sermon was about taking time out of the Christmas rush to reflect and enjoy sitting still just so you can think. A very good message to us all in this time-pressured and hectic modern world we live in. Ironically the Queen' speech (a long standing British tradition is to watch the speech our monarch gives on Christmas Day) contained exactly the same message. In fact I cannot help but suspect that the royal speech writers may have plagiarised our local vicar! 

I do wonder though if it is not a little wrong of me to attend a church service every Christmas when I am not sure of my own spiritual beliefs. I do not think I will ever believe in Christianity a hundred percent, but I do like some of the messages that most religions preach, such as forgiveness and kindness and I can't help but love the rituals involved and the music and art that is made in the name of religion. Who doesn't like Handel's Messiah after all?

But I digress...back to The Coma. The problem with Midnight Mass is that it ends at 12.30am and then we end up back home at 1am, so we aren't sleeping until after 1.15am at the earliest. Then the next day we often have to travel a fair distance to see family and so end up waking up early on Christmas morning. So this leads to a lack of sleep. Add a big Christmas Day meal like the one in the photo above and you have all the ingredients for a blackout: a sleep deprived individual with a full belly. Plus the said individual has just been working hard up until a day or two before Christmas and is only just starting to relax. I have this problem with this almost every holiday I take, I am often so exhausted from working hard before the break and then after a day or two I am so relaxed that I end up feeling intensely sleepy every time I sit down. As I currently write this my husband is on the point of losing consciousness on to the pages of his book on the sofa. The problem with the Christmas Coma is that I feel as if I am actually missing out on valuable free time because I spend so much time snoozing. Most of my friends and family love sleeping. I am sure some of them would spend all day in bed if they could. I know for a fact that my friend Foo, who has recently become a mother and is therefore naturally sleep deprived, would happily give the contents of her bank account of a full night's uninterrupted-by-fretful-baby sleep.

I don't feel that way about the Land of Nod. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem sleeping, not just at the annual Christmas Coma-time but also during the average midweek night. I fall asleep like a toddler or those cute kittens you see in videos on Youtube: immediately and usually flat on to my face. One moment I will be talking about politics or the meaning of life and the next I am out like a light and snoring. It drives my husband mad, mostly because he never gets to actually hear my finished thought on what I believe the meaning of life is. I could sleep all day if we did not own an alarm clock or if didn't have a small bladder to empty. But sleeping just feels like such a waste of time. I know sleep is incredibly important to help repair our bodies and without it we would probably go brain-crazy, but I feel the same way about eating custard and apple crumble. Sure I could do without custard, but I would be pretty miserable if I never got to eat it again in the future. Or listening to Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring or drawing a wrinkly apple with charcoal or baking Chocolate Guinness Cake or taking a really good photograph with a digital SLR camera. My time on this planet is not infinite and I will probably spend a total of 26 years of it sleeping! What a waste! I could be photographing Guinness cakes and listening to inspiring classical music at 2am! People who don't need that much sleep must get a lot more done. Think of Margaret Thatcher, apparently she only had to sleep 4 hours a night. No wonder she became Prime Minister and destroyed most of Britain's rail network and stole my free state-sponsored daily milk in nursery school. She probably snatched it when I was busy sleeping! And on a more risque note, if we all slept less, we could all have more sex! And I am sure everyone would agree with me, that there is NOTHING wrong with THAT idea.

Ah well, since I need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to function as a walking talking responsible human being, I don't have much choice. I need the sleep. I need the Christmas Coma too, as much as I am loathed to admit it. I need the time to stop, as the vicar preached at Midnight Mass. I need to calm down the frenetic pace of life, to reflect, to lie about and to snooze. And is that not what holidays are for?

On another note don't get me even started on the 46,800hrs of housework that the average woman does in her lifetime! Given the choice of cracking out the hoover or lying in a state of dreamy doziness, I will grab a pillow and chose my bed every time!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Looking down from on High...

Today was the first day of pre-Christmas food shopping at the supermarket next to my home. As it was last year, Chaos reigned. Children cried. Motorists drove badly. Horns were honked. Mince pies sold out. Tiny Sausages were compulsively bought in their thousands. Shoppers yelled at each other and sprouts littered the floor. I watched calmly from the window of my flat.

I guess my feelings of smugness could be called schadenfreude.....

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Warmed by Disney's Frozen

Well, it has been a long looong time since I last wrote in this blog. Funnily enough I have been busy (I made my own photo Christmas cards!- I missed the last postal dates for international post - shit! I ate quite a lot of cake! I cleaned the kitchen, I held my best friend's new baby - don't drop her! don't drop her!, I made two deserts for a dinner party and cooked chocolate sea-salt fudge and finished my Christmas shopping!), but I have also felt a little blue in the last few months and a low mood tends to make me lazy when it comes to writing.

I can't explain the reason for feeling melancholy. Sometimes it just comes over me. A little wave of sadness and I am low for a while. I still go to work and see friends and eat dinner, but everything feels a bit muted as if I am doing it all through steamed goggles. Once I come out of my funk (and usually do quite quickly), everything looks sharper and brighter and my creative juices start flowing again. It is the same with photography. I stopped taking photos in November because life got just a bit too stressful. And then I was ill. I must have a very crap immune system since I catch everything that comes along. I was sick for a whole week of my holiday and then sniffled and snuffled my way into work the week after.

But now it is one week before Christmas, I am about to embark on a seasonal break from work until early January and of course the idea of eating, sleeping, reading and watching Christmas movies fills me with a calm sort of joy. The first seasonal thing I did was decorate Christmas cookies at a cookie decorating party. Below are some of creative efforts (I was going for a tartan theme):

Woah! That's a lot of gingerbread....and food colouring.
Once I was into decorating the cookies, I was then in full blown Christmas mode and I started decorating the flat. Unfortunately my track record with Christmas trees is pretty bad - ie. they die. Then they lie around dead for three weeks after New Year until the council comes and picks them up - which is rather disturbing. Imagine a residential street strewn with piles of dead fir trees, lit only by faded yellow street lamps. I half fancy they are going to shuttle jerkily to life and descend upon London like an apocalypse of tree zombies.

But...more to the point Christmas trees are very expensive in my neck of the woods (eg, urban city area with no actual 'natural' woods), so I popped off to Waitrose and bought some fake berry branches. I was not going to let a little thing like a lack of tree stop me. With the help of my mother (an expert at all things Christmassy), we came up with a beautiful, yet beguiling table decoration:

I name it 'The ClaraJean Berry Tree' - with added origami birds.
After decorating the house, attending a cookie party, five Christmas parties and events at work (one of which ended with the whole room smelling of alcohol and my colleagues doing the Macarena at 8pm - much to early in the evening for such cheesy music) and a visit to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (complete with rum laced mulled wine and currywurst), I decided it was time to force my husband to sit through one of my favourite Christmas traditions - the obligatory Disney movie! This year I chose Frozen. It seemed appropriate. The heating in our flat has long been dysfunctional and this year two heaters gave up the ghost completely. Kaput. No warmth or interest from landlord to fix the situation. We migrate from room to room dragging our oil radiator on wheels behind us like sad pilgrims. We have blown the yearly-thermal-long-underwear budget and I routinely wear four to five layers of clothes, even in bed. Luckily my husband and I are now used to this state, having lived without heating on and off for more than three years.Someday we will be able to afford our place and fill it with insulation and heat it like the Bahamas whenever we want. Until that day, we visit the local multiplex regularly to indulge in their utterly environmentally-unfriendly habit of roasting a movie audience.

Frozen is a great Disney movie. It has all the classic elements of what you wish for in an animated production from Disney - a love story, family values, a plucky heroine, a sarcastic hero, some pleasing musical numbers, beautiful animation and a talking snowman. Who doesn't love a talking snowman? I also really enjoyed the design of the world the movie portrays, which appeared to be both Swedish and Norwegian. Even my husband, who professes to be not interested in children's films, yet eyeballs them with gusto whenever I persuade him to watch one with me, loved it. The whole experience was made all the more charming by a little girl in the front of the cinema who giggled hilariously whenever the talking snowman, Olaf, appeared on screen (see! I told you! Everyone likes a talking snowman!). Before long, my husband and I were giggling at the little girl giggling. One of my favourite scenes of the movie was this one.

For those of you watching on a mobile device:

I have a Swedish colleague at work and she even finds this funny. 'He's Swedish!' she exclaimed when I showed it to her! I spent the rest of the day going 'Yoohoo' at her, which she seemed to enjoy, until I was finally silenced by a mince pie.
But of course one of the main parts of a Disney movie is the music. I can sing from memory many of the Disney songs I heard as a child, including from films such as Bambi and Dumbo (which I must have seen when I was four or five). The big number from Frozen was 'Let It Go' performed by Idina Menzel (famous for her role in Wicked, the Musical and Glee). Idina has a pretty powerful voice and I felt that she fitted the character of the Snow Queen Elsa perfectly.

For those of you on a mobile advice, you can access the video here:

I loved the visual effects on the big cinema screen during this scene. Several people in the audience swayed back and forth during this song and I was sure someone was going to spring up and pounce around the aisle to this musical number. I also loved how this story was set in the same universe as the Disney film Tangled. What can I say? I love continuity in films! In November there was some controversy surrounding the design of the female characters in Frozen. Feminists objected to their large doe-like eyes and their tiny waists. I suppose they thought it would give little girls an unrealistic idea of what a female body should look like. I can see the point they were making, but since it is animation, most of what is in the film is exaggerated anyway and unrealistic. There is a talking snowman for god's sake! It is a cartoon and designed to be fun. I think if we want start a dialogue on bad female body-image then I think we should look at the front covers of women's magazines and the amount of photo-shopping that is done to produce those images. The female characters in Frozen were the stars of the show. They were brave heroines and they took charge of their destinies in a far more liberated way than Cinderella or Snow White ever did in previous Disney adaptations.

All can say is Well Done Disney! I will be singing 'Let it Go' in the shower tomorrow!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mid-Week Video

Oh, it is that time of the week when you need a pick me up. How about a cat dressed as a shark on a roomba? Yep. Job done.

For those of you reading this on a mobile device:

Monday, 4 November 2013

November Photo Challenge Day 3: Sunday Breakfast

Here it is! Day 3 of my photo challenge and the theme was Sunday Breakfast. This breakfast was made and delivered to me in bed by my lovely husband.. Peanut butter and honey on toast. Yum!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

November Photo Challenge Day 2: I Was Framed!

Gosh, since it was raining today, I was stuck indoors and my husband did not want to be photographed (poor fellow - I need to get another model), I had no idea what to do for this. So here is my best attempt.
I Was Framed! - a sad story of a stuffed Totoro framed for the murder of a puppet-finger duck in a French seaside resort. A mystery in the style of Agatha Christie - had she been trapped indoors all day with a grumpy spouse.
(the blood is ketchup. No Toys were hurt during the making of this photo)

November Photo Challenge Day 1: The Weather

The weather.The British weather. Oh how we love to talk about it. Oh how shit it was this week. Storms on Sunday and Monday, wind on Tuesday, rain on Wednesday and who can forget the grey skies and dark nights of Thursday and Friday. In fact as I write this, the wind rages on outside my little flat. I am actually about to go see the movie, Thor: The Dark World at my local multiplex cinema. How appropriate. A film about a superhero named after the God of Thunder. Some of which is set in the UK. I bet it is also set during the month of November. Anyway enough chatter, here is the photo. The Weather (from my office window):

The 30 Day November Photo Challenge

So in an effort to be more creative in my life I am undertaking The 30 Day November Photo Challenge! This challenge is posed by a photographer named Michelle who I once met at a craft event and whose blog I have been following. You can see her work here:

The challenge is:

I am very excited to be using my camera regularly again and now that I have an IPad too (yes! I am now one of the technology advanced), I thought I might try with some photos from that too.

Back to the World of the Living on the Night of the Undead

The last few months have been hellish. September is always one of the busiest periods for me in my job, but this year the beginning of term was extra crazy, with my colleagues and I working well into the evening without breaks or even meals. My husband is also been working extra hard and the strain of such an effort is starting to show. Stress is one of those things that actually does not always really affect you at the time of a crisis or busy period but then a couple weeks or months later you start feel fatigue, sluggish, unwell and emotionally messy. The work schedule of September and a summer full of stressful family obligations ended with October being a month of colds, flu, general tiredness and long bouts of sleep followed by sleeplessness which I can only describe as 'burn out.' I suppose the only lucky aspect of the whole situation was that both my husband and I suffered from the 'burn out' at the same time and so we have spent the rest of October recuperating and taking it easy. I am emerging from the funk and taking a much more philosophical approach to work. As one close friend of mine said to me recently, 'The job is replaceable. You are not.'
My husband is taking a little longer to return to normal life, he still very tired (he attended three political conferences and worked for around 26 days straight with only two days break), but even he is starting to smile again and feel more relaxed. 'Never again' he says and I agree with him.

It does make me wonder about the nature of our modern lives and the stress that its causes us. Most of my friends have or are still suffering from long-term stress at some point during this year. The single friends I have are stressed about not having a partner and the married ones are stressed about the expense of children. The friends who hate their jobs are miserable and the friends that love their jobs are worried about being made redundant during the recession and so working much harder than they should. And all of us, well most of us, are totally and utterly disillusioned about the idea of ever being able to own our own home. Perhaps we are the generation that entered the world with expectations of life that were far too high? Perhaps we embarked on some big stages of life development (such as career progression, marriage, kids, buying a house) during the wrong economic time and a period of massive technological change that society has not caught up with yet.

Either way, it is up to us individually to change our own lives and more importantly, raise our own spirits when opportunities for change do not immediately present themselves. I have always been a big fan of coping with whatever life sends you. Dolly Parton once said 'The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain'.' Taking to heart words of advice from a woman who has had a fair amount of plastic surgery and opened a theme park called Dollywood might be a bit risky, but her words do ring true. You have to experience the bad in life in order to appreciate the good.

In an effort to claw back some of my life from my job, I have been leaving work on time, visiting friends, attending events, reading books, taking photos and even sending a lot of Halloween cards. This week was of course Halloween! The spookiest night of the year! On Thursday we traveled to The Forum in Kentish Town to see Birdy play live. Birdy is a young singer songwriter who first came to fame two years ago when she was 15 years old and covered a song called 'Skinny Love' (a song originally written by an artist called Bon Iver who composed and recorded the song after a particularly messy breakup from his girlfriend).

Birdy's version was a hit, especially after it was revealed how young she was when she recorded it. Her first album was filled with soulful covers and melancholic, but beautiful tunes. Two years later and she is now 17 and her music has only improved. When we saw her perform live on Thursday, both my husband and I felt that her talent and music will only get better as she matures. She has naturally beautiful voice and despite being very small on stage (she is quite short), it was clear, her lungs were very big. Her new music uses a whole band of instruments and is a lot bigger and more dramatic.

Birdy at Kentish Town Forum - Photo by Dan Massie
Photo by Dan Massie
We had a great time at the concert and I loved hearing the songs that I had been listening to for months, sung live. Her accompanying band were very good too and it was nice to do something fun during the week instead of working and the usual household chores! The Kentish Town Forum is a rather strange venue though. Firstly it is huge and decorated like a massive old victorian music hall, with two bars and big booths at the back of the second level. Most of the venue is seats, except for a section in front of the stage that is for standing audience members only. For this concert it was stuffed with people who sat on almost anything, including some stairs to the emergency exit. Throughout the event people were talking the entire time, including one pair of women behind us who spent the whole night complaining about a mutual friend who was absent and subsequently not able to defend herself against their extended tirade of fury. Audience members were constantly dripping in and out of the hall for drinks, snacks, to find friends, to talk to security (who seemed to be conversing on loud walkie talkies) and as soon as Birdy came on stage a million phone cameras popped up as people tried to take photos from more than 10 meters away. At one point I felt like I was viewing Birdy through a dozen tiny screens as a crowd of people in front of me vainly tried to take a good photo using their IPhones. I felt like saying 'Oh for god's sake, just remember the experience, will you! Stop trying to preserve it with a crappy tiny photo!' The velvet-covered seats proved that even too much of angood thing can be bad for you, as after around 4 hours of music and chatter, our butts started to feel sore and our legs got stiff. I have been to my fair share of gigs, but not to one in a good long while and so I think I forgot how many hours you sit around while the venue does sound checks before each performance, how many people talk over the music and how often you have to queue for the toilet. Perhaps I am getting too old for all of this?

The Kentish Town Forum (and the strangely sore velvet seats) - Photo by Dan Massie.
On the way home at Kentish Town Tube Station, I definitely felt too old. Kentish Town Station is an interesting station because not only was it decorated in plants (planted by TFL staff) but it was also decorated for Halloween. It was also besieged by people in Halloween costumes, most of whom were pretty drunk and all of whom were in their early twenties. There was some ingenious costumes, one woman was dressed in the style of the Mexican Day of the Dead (even with a full made up skeleton face). The escalators down to the platform were being repaired so we all bundled in a big crowd down onto the staircase to march down 177 spiral steps into the dark depths of the Northern Line Tube. After about 50 spiral steps, you start to feel a little dizzy and the group of ornately and creepily dressed drunk youngsters behind me (who were much too excited to be travelling on some stairs - one woman was applying fake blood on to her mouth while skipping down the concrete steps) made me feel all of my 30 years. Ah to be young again!...and drunk and dressed flamboyantly!

In fact I have noticed more adults dressed up for Halloween this year. When I was kid, mostly children dressed up for trick or treating. Adults, especially in the UK, did not seem so bothered. But this year, people went all out. On Friday I counted three dead nurses at Baker Street and on Thursday there was a geisha at Waterloo, two ninjas on the Northern Line, a giraffe and crocodile in Kentish Town and six sexy Vampires, complete with blood and fangs on the Jubilee line. Camden was full of inventive costumes. I always prefer costumes that have shown real originality of thought. Anyone can dress up as a 'sexy witch' or a vampire, but the really creative costumes that require time and effort are the ones that I admire most. Of course all week people on both sides of the Atlantic have been posting photos of themselves in their costumes online. Below are my three favourites:
Game of Thrones style costume - obviously the best part of this getup is the baby dressed as a mini dragon.

A very original costume based on the saying 'When Life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade'

I love this costume simply because I actually fancy making a huge cardboard house and wearing it about.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Monday, 9 September 2013

Sweet Potato Falafel...

I have become addicted to Sweet Potato Falafel. They are delicious and they do not only have sweet potato-yummyness in them, but also carrot, chickpea and raisins. I like a good raisin in an semi-savoury dish. You can also have lots of fun with falafel as illustrated below:

Falafel + Bill Clinton Plate = unintentional hilarity. Okay, so slightly intentional positioning of last two falafel.....

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tokyo 2020!

Well done Tokyo! The capital of Japan won the bid to host the Olympics in 2020 last night and there was footage of elated and ecstatic Japanese citizens awake at 5am (Tokyo time) hugging and embracing and crying.

Years ago on 6th July 2005 when London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, I was not so ecstatic, but I do remember feeling a sense of quivering excitement. I had lived through various Olympics and seen them on TV, but never in my own home city. I was working in a big bookstore in Central London at the time and we announced the news of the win over a large tannoy system and cheers went up throughout the store. Of course the next day four Islamic extremist terrorists boarded tube trains and a bus and killed 52 people and injured hundreds more with suicide bombs in their backpacks. So any jubilation we might have felt as Londoners was quickly replaced with horror and then deep sorrow (and a fair share of anger).

Seven years later, the Olympic Park, Olympic Stadium and other sporting venues throughout London were finally finished and the Olympics in London began with a bang and a fantastic opening ceremony that truly represented our Sceptred Isles. And what a fantastic two weeks it was and then it was followed by an amazing Paralympics! I will never forget watching some of the events I went to see and walking around the amazing Olympic sites and feeling the energy from the volunteers. One of the most memorable moments was sitting in the main Olympic stadium and cheering with 80 thousand people all at once as David Weir crossed the finish line in first place during the Paralympics. The noise was deafening, like engine of jumbo jet suddenly roaring to life, the heat from the Olympic flame was flickering up towards the stands and people were rising to their feet shouting and clapping in excitement. I went silent with surprise. (I often go quiet when I feel overwhelmed or experience sensory overload) My husband laughed at my shocked face and clapped and cheered. 'Look! Look!' He shouted, 'Look, he's done it! He's done it! He's got the gold!' The city felt positive then, we all felt like winners and nobody felt scared anymore.

People in Japan have had their fare share of sorrow in the last few years what with their flagging economy and the earthquake and subsequent nuclear leak in Fukushima and it would be ridiculous to imagine that hosting the Olympics could erase all the pain and solve all their problems. But I can safely say that for those two weeks when the host city is staging the event, everything feels new and possible and the optimism is infectious. So well done Tokyo, get ready for a cultural adventure!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Post August Break Day 21: Something Old

The August Break 2013

The photo subject for Day 21 was Something Old.
It was a hard challenge, partly because I have so many old things knocking about my flat. Do I photograph the old typewriter I bought from an antiques shop in South London on an impulsive whim? Do I photograph the fossil in a tiny stone that I brought back from Cornwall after a particularly life-changing holiday when my husband proposed to me atop a small cliff? Or do I photograph my collection of old biscuit tins that said husband despairs of me ever getting rid of? How old should I go? I have an 1883 copy of a collection of Keats' poems and I have a Dr Who annual from 1980. The possibilities are endless!

After some serious consideration, I decided to use an object that also reflects the instrument of the challenge, ie. a camera of some kind. So here it is, my photo for the August Break Day 21 - Something Old (including my rather unwilling model):

This old Kodak camera came from the loft of one of my in-laws. The unwilling model was plied with beer to pose with the object. I enjoyed looking at it because it reminded me of my grandfather who worked for Kodak for most if his life. That is the beauty of an old object. It is infused with meaning and memory and can often make you think or reminisce.

August Break Delayed Response...

So I was doing so well with the August Break challenge and then as usual my day job (University Administrator/Communications Officer/Photographer/Social Media expert/Student Agony Aunt) took over and I lost track of the blogging. I have still been taking the photos this whole time, just not posting them online. The last three weeks have been a flurry of work, coming home and eating dinner and then sleeping to try and recover from the 10 hour days at work. I feel just like that Beatles' song 'Hard Day's Night.' It has been a hard days' night and I have been working 'like a dog.'

But this morning I awoke and realised that although I still a heavy month of massive work ahead of me, the main event of Orientation for my new students is done! The sun was shining this morning and I felt all inspired to do something creative. I ate a crumpet with butter for breakfast, had a cup of coffee and sat down and promptly wrote 8 letters to friends and family (complete with decorative envelopes and washi tape) and then decided to attack the blog!

Blogging and snacks go hand in hand. You can't really spill your random thoughts on to a online journal without having a cup of tea to hand and something yummy to eat (normally something sweet). Today my choice of accompanying snack is: Rose Tea infused all butter shortbread and a coffee with milk in my favourite mug.

So now that I am all caffeinated up, I am going to finish the August Break Challenge! Better late than never...

Here is August Break photo no. 20 - Taste.

I wonder if Susannah Conway, when posing this challenge, accidentally included 'taste' twice or she did it deliberately to get bloggers to think about different ways to interpret the word 'taste.' Unfortunately I only really think of one thing when I read 'taste' and that is FOOD. Lots of food. My favourite food. And all the different tastes available....sweet, salty, savoury, umami...etc.

The last great meal I had that tasted amazing was a traditional English summer pie with a glass of cider. I was having dinner with a friend on the Southbank and we went to the British restaurant Canteen. I have had really good meals in Canteen and some bad ones too, but they do cook a good pie and I can't resist a pie. Even in the heat of summer. So here it is, a photo of a tasty summer pie:

Of course I did get a fair number of funny looks from diners as I whipped out my digital SLR camera and started intensely snapping at my meal, but hey, lots of crazy hipsters photograph their food in restaurants nowadays. The cookbooks in Waterstones bookshops are littered with photos of 'food porn,' so I don't feel that out of the ordinary....

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Office Lonesome.....

I am all alone in the office for the entire day. Time to:
A. Crank up some folk music and have ceilidh by myself around the printer.
B. Take off all my clothes and type naked, while listening to 80s pop music.
C. Introduce the Pigeons on the window ledge to the office as new pets.
D. Order a large cake from Patisserie Valerie and eat it off the floor with chopsticks.
E. Paint a poetic and deeply moving mural on the wall of the office showing the emotional journey of a graduate student.
F. Do my actual work.
Obviously I am going to go for option F, but I do fancy taking off my shoes and dancing over to the printer....

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

August Break Day 19: White

The August Break 2013

Yesterday's theme (yes, I finally caught up with myself!) was White. Not an easy theme in a grubby city like London!

August Break Day 18: Looking Down

The August Break 2013

The theme for Day 18 was Looking Down. Luckily, that day I was in a loft with a little balcony and so I took a sneaky shot from above...looking down!

August Break Day 17: Touch

The August Break 2013

One of our plants started inadvertently growing moss and it has a nice fuzzy texture to touch.

August Break Day 16: Floral

The August Break 2013

Sometimes you can find the inspiration for Floral in the most unusual of places....

August Break Day 15: Books

The August Break 2013

Hmmmmm....the theme of Books. Let's I have a problem with not being able to find a book to photograph? The answer is no. Nope. Nada. Not a problem at all. I am literally (no pun intended) drowning in books....

And then.... a modern interpretation of a book:

Monday, 19 August 2013

August Break Day 14: Stillness

The August Break 2013

So Day 14 was Stillness....I found this quite a difficult theme since things are rarely still in my life! I am always busy and bustling about and I live in one of the largest most busy cities in the world, so being still is not much of an option sometimes.

But that is the challenge. To find a little bit of stillness, a little bit of peace among the chaos of over 8 million people in 659 square miles! And guess what?! You can find it. Even in Central London there is stillness as illustrated in the photos below:

And of course, everything feels rosy and still as the sun goes down. One of my favourite times of day....

August Break Day 13: Home

The August Break 2013

Wow! I seem to have taken a break from The August Break itself! I must confess that my blogging has become a bit sketchy of late. I spent the weekend cleaning our flat so as to prepare it for the first ever visit from my Father-in-law this week. Although I generally despise chores and cleaning (I am a pretty messy person who loves clutter), it did feel cathartic to get rid of loads of stuff and to scrub the bathtub.
Between scrubbing and wiping and washing and a rather traumatic dentist's appointment (he revealed that I will not need my wisdom tooth out, but rather a root-canal on another tooth instead. This is my 'new' dentist as I am so disgusted with the last one I went to, that I have decided never to darken his dentist's chair again), I did not have time to blog. So here are the last few entries:

The theme for Day 13 was Home. Rather than take a photo of a 'home,' I decided to photograph what 'home' means to me as a concept. So here it is! My husband's wedding band. Because 'home' is where he is and by sealing our love with a ring, he has given me my 'own home' with him forever.

It is very unlike me to be sentimental. But that's marriage for you. It makes you all mushy!

While I was out and about last week in Central London I came across another idea for the theme of 'home.' A whole crowd of several hundred Scottish men (and a few women) had descended on Trafalgar Square to take part in basically a giant piss up in honour of a friendly football match between Scotland and England that evening. I spoke to one man who had a sweet disposition, a tartan kilt, a rather large furry sporan and a can of beer in his hand. He told me he had travelled all the way from Glasgow and was 'far from home.' So of course that immediately put into my mind the idea of 'home'

Here they are. The Scottish sipping beer in London, far, but not too far, from home.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

August Break Day 12: Far Away

The August Break 2013

Yesterday's theme was Far Away. I found this a difficult theme and I don't think my photos really work well with the idea, but hey I gave it a go. What do you think?

August Break Day 11: Play

The August Break 2013

Day 11 of the August Break was play. The last photo in this series was taken when I beat my husband at Monopoly. I was not expecting to be good at the game, but I bankrupted the poor fellow and left with more that £3,000 in my pocket!