Is it really November soon or sorry I think I must have misplaced my brain

Artwork – “Where is my mind” by Andrea Constantini

Hello there. Where did the last few weeks go? I’m looking at my google calendar to try to figure out what I’ve been doing since the beginning of October, but when I actually try to remember anything my head feels like a tangly bunch of damp wool. This could or could not have anything to do with me having caught the annoying cold/flu/virus that seems to be affecting half of London.

I’ve spent the weekend on the sofa, mainly sleeping and sometimes mustering up enough energy to play candy crush or watch Twin Peaks with my brother, who kindly bought me sushi and made me gluten free pancakes when Gerry was at the market.

I’m feeling a bit better today, but I’m suspecting that the last few weeks of art-markets and Plane Clothing work combined with the cold has somehow allowed me to misplace my brain. I’m looking for it. If you’ve seen a brain walking around East London looking lost and confused it could be mine. Things to look out for are lots of ideas popping out randomly, excited bounciness as soon as there is a cup of coffee around and a certain attraction to books about psychoanalysis. I’m sorry if this isn’t making sense, like I said, I think I’ve misplaced my brain. Hopefully it will return before the end of the week when I have a couple of writing deadlines.

In case this entry as confusing for you as it is for me here is a list of what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks.

  • A photoshoot for Plane Clothing.
  • Spitalfields Art Market with Gerry
  • The Other Art Fair
  • I started a storytelling course at City Lit
  • We took the train out to Sudbury and bought a car!
  • I’m learning how to be a mentor at the Ministry of Stories, which is even more fun and fantastic than I could have imagined.
  • I’ve started reading a book by Karen Horney which looks at neurosis from a psychoanalytic perspective. I’m not sure if this is the best kind of bedtime reading for someone who’s prone to overthinking stuff. I think I might have opened Pandora’s Box.

I think that’s it. Now I’m going to drink some more coffee and attempt to contact my brain.

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Hello October, month of witchery

Hello October. I like you because you make me think about stuff like this.

“Mysticism” is derived from the Greek μυω, meaning “I conceal”, and its derivative μυστικός, mystikos, meaning ‘an initiate’.

For mystical London-based events in October, check out Bad Witch’s blog.

All image sources can be found here.

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Why the protestant work ethic sucks or what would happen if things just got better and better all the time

Image by Dukepope.

When I was little and very happy about something an older female relative of mine told me a story about a friend of hers. This friend had managed to trade herself a very beautiful glansbild (glossy pictures of angles and flowers and stuff – less trippy than the one above), the type that young girls traded back in Finland in the 1930s and 40s. She was very proud of her glansbild and held it up for everyone to admire.

She was so happy and so proud that she took it with her when she went to the outdoor toilet, so she could perch there, legs swinging, and admire her picture. But what the little girl hadn’t counted on was that life is horrible and cruel and she dropped her picture in the loo. And that was the end of the story. And I wasn’t happy anymore.

That story has stayed with me ever since. Not because I heard a silly parable at a susceptible age, but because this kind of thinking is hardwired into my being. My parents are generally happy and well adjusted optimists and have done their best to shield me from older more pessimistic relatives, but unfortunately for all of us this mentality has been passed down in my culture, it’s in my blood.

I will call it the protestant work ethic (“the catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to consistently work diligently as a sign of grace”).  A tabloid headline might say that if you’re from Northern Europe or the US there is probably a 95,6 percent chance that you too will be suffering from this! It’s a mindset that tells us that we’re only worth something if we work hard, we can only learn something if we suffer and that life is hard, the rewards will come later.

Even though many of us don’t believe in a glorious afterlife we’re still stuck with the mindset that made that afterlife so appealing.

This way of thinking flared up with gusto a few nights ago. I was sitting in the living room, wine glass in hand, an amazing meal polished off the plate. I looked at my husband and my brother, who is staying with us for a while, and I thought, I’m so happy. This is how life should be. As soon as that thought appeared in my minds something in me reacted – don’t think that, it said to me, it means something bad will happen. And this is what it’s like to be me. As soon as I’m happy about something, as soon as I’m happy in life, I’m slapped in the face by some old misery-guts-preacher from the 1800s telling me thoughts like that are sinful, thoughts like that will mean that there is an end to the happiness.

As all of this was going through my mind I had another thought – what if I ignore all of this cultural programming and even conventional wisdom and decide to think that things will get better and better all the time. If I’m happy now, so what, things can get even better. What would happen if I adopted this mindset? Could things get better? At this point my brain started hurting.

I’m not sure if this is the right antidote to the preacher from the 1800s who lives in my mind, but there’s no harm in trying something new. And I’m tired of expecting a catastrophe as soon as I feel happy. I’m tired of thinking I’m not worthy of being happy. Because in the end that’s what it boils down to. I’m thinking this way because somehow I don’t see myself as worthy of happiness unless I’ve earned it (by working fucking hard, by sobbing and going through some kind of personal/spiritual/emotional crisis, by fighting, by worrying).

Unless there is hard work involved I’m not worth it. Well fuck that I say. What if I feel happy when I drink this coffee. What if I feel happy sitting on a bench in a park, enjoying the sunshine. What if I don’t have to do anything to deserve happiness. What if?

Image by Dukepope.

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5 places I dream about travelling to

Image by Ingolfur Bjargdmunsson.

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the five places I dream about travelling to in the UK. I was approached by a company who asked me to dream some more. Here are the five places I’d like to visit outside the UK.

Image by Edwin de Jongh.

Morocco

A lot of the places I want to see in the world have been planted in my imagination by books. I first wanted to go to Morocco after reading Esther Freud’s Hideous Kinky – where a hippie mum of two leaves London on a road trip to Morocco with her two young daughters. It’s set in the 70s. There are kaftans, men with long hair and adventures. It’s a good book.

Recently I’ve been reading Anais Nin’s amazing diaries and in her second one she writes about visiting Fatima, the queen of the prostitutes, in Fez in the 1930s.

Fatima had a beautiful face, straight patrician nose, enormous black velvet eyes, tawny smooth skin, full but firm … She could only move with difficulty on her enormous legs. She was both queenly and magnificent, opulent and voluptuous.

She sat among pillows in a room shaped like many bedrooms in Fez, long and narrow. At each end of the room she had a brass bed, a sign of luxury and success. They are not used as beds, they are only a symbol of wealth. In between the two brass beds lay all the pillows, rugs, and low divans. Fatima not only collected brass beds but also cuckoo clocks from Switzerland. One wall was covered with them, each one telling a different time … The atmosphere was heavy with perfume, enclosed and voluptuous, the womb itself.

Fez is a drug. It enmeshes you. The life of the senses, of poetry … of illusion and dream. It made me passionate, just to sit there on pillows, with music, the birds, the fountains, the infinite beauty of mosaic designs, the teakettle singing, the many copper trays shining, the twelve bottles of rose perfume and the sandalwood smoking in the brazier, and the cuckoo clocks chiming in disunion, as they pleased.

I know Anais Nin has a sensual way of writing about things, but oh I would love to visit a surreal and magical place like the one she describes. Morocco and Fez have probably changed a lot since she visited, but the winding, narrows streets are still there, so are the colours, the sounds, the smells, the market places. I would like to see the vividness, the magic, the cacophony of life that exists in a place like that.

And I’m also a bit of a hippie. I dream about going to Morocco because it seems like the right thing to do. Is it too much of a cliché to want to go there in an old Volkswagen bus, wearing long skirts, lots of jangly jewellery and never brushing my hair? Probably.

Greece

For a long time I was a bit skeptical about Greece. I looked at pictures and thought – the sky is just too blue, the sea is too pure, the whites are too white. Can this place really be possible? Would it not hurt your eyes? Is it actually just photoshopped? It somehow looked too perfect.

I tend to prefer grey northern coasts, storms and angry dark waves. Greece just seemed too pleasant. Recently I’ve started to change my mind. And it all started with the food. By reading different blogs and listening to friends it slowly dawned on me that Greece is a good place to find excellent, fresh food. Wine made locally, olives picked from the trees, fresh salads, fresh cheese. It’s making me hungry just to think about it.

Sarah Wilson wrote about Ikaria, a Greek island where the inhabitants live for an unusually long time because they have a healthy diet and a healthy family-focused lifestyle. Suddenly the beauty of Greece didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. It seemed inviting. And I now keep dreaming about a spontaneous trip to one of the Greek island.

I dream of finding a cheap flight on a late night browsing binge, everyday stress looming over my head, a cup of tea going cold next to me. But there is that deal for a weekend, the thought “fuck it” and then there you are a couple of days later, eating healthy food, walking and writing.

Photo by Jerry Law.

Portugal

Where to start? The people, the food, the wine, the sea, the tiles(!) and interesting cities. It’s only a short flight away from London. I can’t believe I’ve not been to Portugal yet.

When I was blogging in my teens I got to know a few people from there and I’ve kept following them online since. The photos they post from their home country are always stunning. I would love to see Lisbon and I would love to see the coast. I think Portuguese is an amazingly beautiful language, it sounds like a song. One day, when I want to go somewhere to just have fun, to rest, to eat. This is where I’ll go.

Iceland

I know the previous three places are all warm and sunny – but I’ve always felt even more attracted to northern places. I’ve been through Iceland while flying to New York, but sitting in an airport eating Skyr doesn’t really count.

There are so many places I would like to see. The lagoons, the geysers, the coast line, the barren volcanic landscape. I love that there are still people in this country who think about asking the elves for permission before building a road.

Their political life sound quite interesting and forward-thinking. Reykjavik looks like the perfect Nordic city. I imagine it as a mix of everything that is great in all the other Nordic capitals. I imagine the Icelandic people would know how to throw a pretty good party. This is one of the first places I would go if I had a spare week and some extra cash.

Image via tumblr.

Svalbard

I have written about this place before. I don’t really have a bucket list, but this is definitely one of the places I would like to set foot on in my life. It’s about as far north you can go without being a full on arctic explorer. You can stay in hotels and live pretty comfortably, which is great since I’m not very good at camping. There is an abandoned Soviet mining town. There are polar bears and seabirds and whales. If I was a better photographer I would apply for grants and spend a couple of months taking photos of the changing sky, the water, the ice. That would be a pretty nice way to live.

If you don’t want to put together your own travel plan, companies like First Choice offer cheap package holidays. Although I’m too stressed to start browsing for last minute deals at the moment. That’s a bad excuse right?

This post has been contributed to by First Choice.

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37 hours in Camden

image

Take 7 days. Add one pop-up in Camden. A Music 4.5 event. Three deadlines. Some video editing and an open studio night. What do you get? Lots and lots of empty coffee cups.

I’m spending a lot of time in Camden this week, at the Camden Collective pop-up shop, where Gerry and I are taking turns to sell some Plane Clothing wares. The coffee and the company is good. I get to make new friends and hang out with fun people like Natasha of An Original Leroy and Jennifer of Sosome. I’ve also met one of the few other Lottas in London.

Then there are the hours when I stare into space as my brain slowly freezes. There is the person peeing in a rubbish bin outside, the sirens rushing by, the fire alarm going off. Lots of candy crush. Dancing around to bleepy electro and Beyonce to keep the blood flowing. Trying not to look at the other brands in the store because the last few months of creative writing adventures has left me bank account in the state of a starved toddler looking longingly at other people eating chocolate. Retail is hard work, it’s also awesome.

There is one thing I ponder as I sit here – how do people with young children/young animals/a regular exercise routine do it? Where do they find the time, you know that extra time… the time that has been squeezed out of this week. The time that means that dishes are done, clothes are washed, books read, thoughts organised, empty wine bottles taken down to the recycling. I’m looking around for that time, suspecting it might be hiding somewhere amongst those hours I use for sleeping.

One more week of time squeeze left.

Ps. I love periods like this.

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