What Does It Even Mean?

I saw a clip today whilst procrastinating and scrolling through the realms of misspent time on social media and it made me smile with such intensity I was near tears.

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It made me want to raise a fist and exclaim:  “yes, go you! This girl is on to it!” because I so admire her honest, youthful feminist attitude to gender stereotyping and how they explicitly affect her at such a young age. Daisy hits the nail on the head when she says: ‘Everyone thinks girls should just be pretty, and boys should just be adventurous…I think this is wrong, why should boys and girls clothes even be separated because we’re just as good as each other?’ Amen sister.

Where the boys’ slogan on a tshirt reads “Think Outside The Box” and the girls’ tshirt reads “Hey” Daisy doesn’t even know what sort of inspiration she as a young girl is supposed to get from wearing a tshirt with the slogan “hey”:  ‘What is that even supposed to mean…I don’t get it…what does it inspire you to do?’

My favourite part of the clip is where we see young activist Daisy with sheer joy, giggles and silliness take a stand against the separation of the clothes in the supermarket: ‘I want to be adventurous, and I think girls want to be heroes so I’m going to put them (the tshirts) in the girls section’ and off she goes; so bold, high-five Daisy.

Seeing such a reaction in a young girl is such a wonderful way to engage people in thinking about how we raise our children and the accepted labels and expectations we have for our boys and girls.

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I’m reading a book that I picked up on a little bookshop in London on my birthday by Irish writer Emer O’Toole titled ‘Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently ’. This book caught my attention in the same way this clip has done so today, and both are adding to the development of my own views on gender and exploring what it means to ‘act like a girl’. I think it is very important for me to think about this not only on a personal level as a woman in the twenty first century but also the impact that my attitudes towards gender and equality will equate in my professional practice as a teacher.

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Hello You

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‘One inspirational letter can change your life forever.’

Well that’s something I can certainly stand behind.

 It’s no secret that I have an active enthusiasm for the written word, and written correspondence by letter is right up there amongst the favourites. It was much joy that I came across another avid epistolarian, and Jodi has taken her passion one step further by engaging in an letter-writing drive.

Browsing through the latest issue of ‘Oh Comely’‘Issue 32 in which we talk about letters’-this one had me at hello- I earmarked an article titled ‘Dear Stranger’ about author and poet Jodi Ann Bickley’s project: ‘One Million Lovely Letters’.

To summarise, finding herself swallowed up in darkness whilst suffering from meningoencephalitis (Google was required) Jodi thought of others who were similarly losing themselves. She decided to set up a website, send messages out to the world via Twitter: ‘I’m going to write you a letter…just to make the day a bit better or to remind you of the bloody amazing stuff about you you’ve forgotten.’ Overnight she received two hundred responses from strangers, and Jodi responded to these individually with much care and attention. The project has expanded and unique, thoughtful letters are sent and received across the world by Jodi and her team at ‘One Million Lovely Letters’.  Jodi has even brought out a book with the same title to tell her story, and I have just added it to my online “shopping cart”.

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We’re the same age, Jodi and I, and that caught my attention on top of the subject matter of the magazine article. We are two individuals, strangers to one another with a shared appreciation for letter writing and understanding of the subtle power which one small gesture can have for the life of someone just at that right moment in time.

This morning I wrote my own contribution to Jodi’s project and future exhibition. Encouraged by the invitation at the end of the ‘Oh Comely’ article: ‘something which would make a stranger’s day’,  I sat down with a cup of tea and put pen to paper to scroll out three pages to someone, anyone. I wonder where it will end up. I included a letter for Jodi herself full of praise and enthusiasm, because she should know she’s doing something really inspirational.

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For anyone else who might want to take part, you can find more information about ‘One Million Lovely Letters’ here.

And of course, I wouldn’t even know anything about the project without the article by Lottie Storey in ‘Oh Comely’ magazine, and their website can be found here.

“…when I’m letter writing it feels a little bit like magic”.

A Sardo Celebration

One year. They call it the Paper Anniversary, so we chose Easyjet boarding passes.

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For five days we wandered around the capital of Sardinia, Cagliari. We meandered through colourful cobbled streets, queued for the best restaurants down in hidden alleys, and revelled in agenda-less days and bright blue cloudless skies.

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We tried the local Sardo cuisine, from ‘pasta-bombs’ stuffed with pecorino and nuts (culurgiones), roasted pig (su porcheddu), tiny circular pasta that looks like lentils in a seafood stew (sa fregula), more pecorino, dried meat, and more pecorino. It was delicious, but somewhat…heavy.

We stayed in an Airbnb, a few streets removed from the main centre of the old town, so we did spend a fair bit of time speaking Ital-nish in corner shops to buy tickets, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible (or lack of adherence to) timetables and running after the number 6 bus. The public beach, Poetto, was absolutely packed with Italian families and their deckchairs. We took our trusty volleyball with us every day, which was a surprising (to me at least, who has never taken more than a book to the beach before) amount of fun.

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Selective photo taking on Poetto beach to create the optical illusion that we had it to ourselves!

Luckily we did manage to escape the hustle of the city one day, as we went on a little adventure with our good friends H & Q, who were also holidaying in the same spot. They had hired a car and so we went off to find a more secluded beach. Obviously, being August in Italy, this was no easy task, but we managed to find a beautiful spot on the rocks. We spent the day snorkeling, reading and eating ice-cream.

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‘Sweaty post-hill climb’ dream team!

Cagliari wasn’t the most picturesque of all spots I’ve visited in Italy, and felt a bit run down. But it had some wonderful details that stuck out: pink flamingos flying in the distance at over the deepest orange and crimson sunsets, poems typed on papers stuck to the walls of the city, all the ways possible that you could ever eat pecorino, ice cold spritzes, and on our final night, a local man named Carlo who overheard us speaking Spanish and saw an opportunity to practice the language he was learning, showed us the city from a special viewpoint, taught us some words of Sardo (the local language), and introduced us to the mayor of Cagliari. Wonderful.

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Above all, it was a perfect opportunity to spend quality time together, and reflect on and be grateful for our first peaceful and happy year of marriage. On that note, I revisited my favourite words from our wedding ceremony, written and led by my dear sister-in-law one year ago:

“We are here to celebrate the wisest and holiest paradox of humanity: that the greatest individual freedom can only be achieved by connecting us with, and committing to, other human beings.

This is the profound truth we are here gathered to acknowledge and to celebrate:

that the best of us can only be achieved with the help of an Other.

An-Other, who, like a mirror of clear water, can return us to ourselves. Because we cannot stand face to face to ourselves.

An-Other, who puts our lives at risk: who makes us question all we thought we knew about ourselves, suffer the loss of our identity and become someone we never thought we could or would be.

An-Other, who is willing to embrace our continuously changing selves, not out of worn-out or prescribed loyalty, but because they know our transformation also brings them forward.

An-Other, who does not expect us to follow them till the end of time, but who would ‘simply’, humbly, wish our company on their way to eternity – so long, and as long, as we want to.”

To my Other, felice anniversario!

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Violet

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Last month I found the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday: a beautiful recipe book filled with ideas and pictures of baked goods, the stylish cover catching my eye on the shelf and calling out: “pick me, pick me, pick me!”
So I did; the reduced sticker winking at me with a knowing look, you’ll be back, and oh how it had me at hello as I did go back to buy a second copy for myself, and I love it.

It wasn’t just the bargain price tag that made me covet the gift and will me into buying a second copy of my own, but there was something else which rang a bell, as if I had come across ‘Violet’ before. On reading the foreword I realised perhaps my instincts were correct. The ‘Violet‘ bakery finds itself in Hackney, East London and started life at Broadway market before opening as a café and bakery in 2010. I think the darling little bunting bedecked stall was in fact pointed out to me by my friend Sarah when I was in London with her in March, so I knew there was something magical about this purchase a few months later.

Four recipes have already been followed to great success, and I took great pleasure in seeking out the shop front itself when in Hackney once again last week on a wee holiday.

20160819_095234 The summer light rain that morning was the only thing which dampened the mood as my friend Sophie and I sat sheltered under the peach coloured awning of the unassuming ‘Violet’ bakery. We started the day right with black coffee and a slice of sponge cake with coconut cream icing. I may have been slightly overwhelmed by the strange familiarity of finding somewhere I had seen in pictures in a book yet had never actually been to and therefore in retrospect I might have made the wrong cake choice. I don’t actually have a very sweet tooth,  however not a crumb was left and even if the cake was a little too sweet for 9 o’clock in the morning I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sitting watching the world go by and smiling at the worthy locals popping in and cycling away again.

 

Tucked away on an unassuming residential street in Hackney, ‘Violet’ was a gorgeous find and is truly worth a look if in the area and like me enjoy feeling like a local, people watching, and sampling delectable baked goods at any time of the day.

The successes so far from ‘The Violet Bakery Cookbook‘ are:
-Chewy ginger snaps
-Banana buttermilk bread
-Wild blackberry crumble tart (made for my return from London by my mum for my birthday cake)
-Tomato and marjoram tarts (which we had for tea this evening/as a snack on returning from a dance class later on)

Childhood Memories Shared

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Found, squirreled away for safe keeping and prosperity, this is a typed copy of the transcript of an interview with my favourite childhood babysitter and beloved family friend Morag Turnbull. Recorded on tape and painstakingly written out word for word (in pen, a great achievement at age eleven) to hand in as part of my World War Two personal project in my final year of primary school.
I am about to embark on a career in primary teacher, and it is with great fondness that I look back through the small collection of school work from infancy which I have kept and filed away, knowing and reliving the feeling of pride and achievement that I felt at the time.

This interview has been left in it’s original state, with only minor alterations to punctuation and spelling. I love how Morag so wonderfully captured events of great fear and uncertainty in her own childhood and told some of her story to me with such warmth, a young girl completely naive to struggle and suffering; I was then and am now enraptured by every word. A wonderful woman, and a great story teller, she has all the words.

What age were you at the outbreak of the war?

I was a baby. I was born in 1938 and I lived in China because my parents were missionaries. The Japanese invading China was late 1939/early 1940. The place where I lived wasn’t “captured” ‘til 1942 and after that we were all under house arrest, it was like a constant curfew.

Where about in China did you live?

I lived a thousand miles up the Chiang Jiang (Yangtze River) in a place called Icheng in the province of Hapeh which was a smallish town, though bigger than North Berwick, and it was right on the banks of the Yangtze. My father was sent there as a missionary by the Church of Scotland in 1936.

Could you tell me the story of your life in China?

I lived in Icheng quite happily until the Japanese invaded it, determined to conquer China, and that was happening at the same time as the war was here in the UK. My parents and I, as well as other missionaries, were eventually moved from Icheng and we travelled down the Yangtze sometimes by boats, sometimes by trucks. At night we stopped and some slept in the trucks and some slept underneath them, until we finally got to Shanghai where we were told that we were going to be put on repatriation ships which were meant to take us to our home countries. But Shanghai was full of people desperate to get out of China so our seats were taken by people who could bribe their way on board.

So we were all interned in a big concentration camp, and there were many of those in Shanghai, so instead of being on house arrest we were all put in the same place. The camps were big buildings stripped of everything. We were actually interned in a building which had been called ‘The Canadian Country Club’, which sounds very nice, and looked nice from the outside but, as I said before it had been completely stripped of everything on the inside. Cubicles were made with curtains in all of the big rooms; the bar, the ballroom, the bowling alley were all divided up into cubicles for all the different families. My family was in a tiny cubicle with all of our belongings stacked up the way and you had like a little nest. We had been told when leaving Icheng that we could take two trunks I think it was, so everyone took rugs and warm clothes because Shanghai is very cold in the winter.

By the end of 1942 the camp was all barbed wire and was just like a proper concentration camp with armed guards with guns at the gate so everyone was economical, just as it was in Britain. My father stayed with us, as well as other missionaries who were also trained doctors, and he had previously trained as an engineer so was made the plumbing engineer for the camp. He helped unblock drains and put up cubicles so that kept him with us. There was a Japanese Commandant and every morning we had roll call, and everyone had to come out the front, and no one could miss it, and he called out all our names and everybody had to be there.  Well one day another little girl and I weren’t there and everyone was getting annoyed because we had been told not to go far because it was nearly time for roll call. The guards got angry and fetched the Commandant and eventually, after everyone had searched all over the place, my father found me. He had had told me if I ever heard him whistle in a special way  I was to stop exactly what I was doing and go to the whistle*. Well, I was standing with my head through a hole in the fence with this little girl looking at pigs on the other side, all the barbed wire was around us and we were sitting looking at pigs… We were removed from the fence, given a huge row from the “Jap” guards, and our parents.

We were there from 1942 ‘til the beginning of 1945. That was when we were told to pack up all our belongings because we were being moved to another camp.  We were moved to another place down the Yangtze which was right beside a Japanese ammunition dump, which was so the Japanese bombers wouldn’t drop anything on the Westeners, or the dump. It was a terrible place because the buildings were just like shacks and it was near swamp grounds and was names ‘Changsie pou’. It was a very similar situation to the camp the boy was in in the film ‘Empire of the Sun’. I am still in touch with the Stills, the family of the girl I saw the pigs with.

We stayed there until early 1946. When the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima (August 1945) some of the others in the camp said they could feel the tremors, and as soon as the bomb was dropped the next day the Japanese guards all disappeared, and we were left with no way of getting any food. Soon after this people were told there were boats coming to take them home. The most moving thing about the end of the war was when the big gates opened and my father, who was a piper, brought out his bagpipes and played the pipes.

When it was our turn to get on the first boat, ‘The Glenuern’, we sailed to Colombo in Sri Lanka where the Red Cross had a base where we were fattened up and kitted out with more clothes. Then another ship came to pick us up which was called ‘The Athloan Castle’ which we all boarded and low and behold there were some of the people we knew from the camp. We sailed to Southampton and from Southampton we took a train to Glasgow and there were all of my relatives.

We went back out to China in 1947, but had to come back to Scotland because of the Communist invasion.

*  Sadly, the very endearing demonstration of the whistle recorded on tape at the time of the interview has been lost over the years.

 

Alpentraum

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For the past three months, it’s been all go, trying to navigate an internship in a humanitarian organisation and a masters degree at the same time. I’m starting to get into the rhythm of it all, coming up with ideas rather than just pleas for clarification at work, getting my essays done in little chunks rather than cramming sessions the night before. However, I have been operating somewhat on survival mode and so I’ve been stumped to find a topic of inspiration to blog about.

Luckily, oh so luckily, this weekend I managed to slow time down a little, and enjoy some peace, as Carlos and I escaped to the mountains in the Valais. On Saturday we set off ready for my favourite hike in Evolene, which involves taking the cable-car up and then walking down across a barren mountain top, through lush forests, past a lake and then down back to the village. Prepared we were with our picnic packed, only to find that the cable-car was closed. However I pulled my bottom lip back in soon enough, as we meandered with no particular aim for a while, taking pictures of little wonders found by the walking trail.

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My mum is an excellent photographer (check out her main website here!) and so for many many years of holidays and traveling, I have never picked up a proper camera or attempted at more than a few heavily filtered instagram snaps on my iPhone. But after appreciating many wonderful blogs lately, and feeling a need for some creative exploration, I decided to bring Carlos’s camera along. While I have no notion of photography beyond the difference between manual and automatic focus (embarrassing to admit – I know plenty about refugee law and would be happy if anyone wants to do a tandem, any takers?!), we all have to start somewhere! It was wonderful to walk slowly, notice the movement and colours in the various wee nooks and crannies on the way.

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Walking slowly in nature is what my main man Carlos does best. As an evolutionary biologist, he spends much time in the lab and in front of impossibly complicated looking datasets on his computer, but his spirit lies outside observing different species and pondering the majesty of nature. He also has an uncontrollable need to get as close as possible to these different species, as demonstrated in the following photos. (Disclaimer: no animals were harmed in this post, they all scuttered, swam and scrambled back off to their pals after a few terrifying seconds in the hands of a very gentle biologist)

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Look how happy he was to catch a lizard, salamander, frog, and to see a snake:

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Stoked.

We then decided to make an effort and climb up half the mountain.

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It was definitely worth it when we got to a tiny hamlet with a cafe selling ice tea in five decilitre glasses. Again, stoked:

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Now we are back to the world of humanitarian crises and datasets, but with a renewed burst of energy and peace. A bientôt, Evolène.

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Interview with a Friend

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Parachute Dance, who are you and what brings you together?

Parachute is myself, and a few close friends, including my boyfriend, who met through my studies at the University of Edinburgh, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where I’m currently a student. When starting a creative project, you want people who are talented, open and willing to try new things, and I’ve learnt through previous work the crucial importance of trust at the centre of productive creative relationships. One of our producers and I worked previously together on an academic yearbook for the University of Edinburgh in 2012, and Kayla (one of our dancers) and I happily suffered through choreography assessment together as part of our studies at Laban. The arts, while in general are underfunded and offer a very low rate of pay, is full of people who enjoy what they do – I’m here because, ultimately, I find making dance to be highly enjoyable and worthwhile, despite frequent fluctuating levels of stress that it imparts; I like to think the others would agree with me.

-I have to admit I am yet to read ‘Catch-22’, and feel I must do so immediately if not definitely before opening night in August. In what way did Joseph Heller’s satirical novel ‘Catch-22’ inspire you?

“Catch” is such a funny book, really, and I don’t often laugh out loud while reading but with “Catch” it was every few pages.  This only increased with further readings, as I appreciated more the subtlety and craft of Heller’s writing. The end of a sentence is never where you’d thought you’d end up, and the absurdity has a beautiful simplicity.  And yet, what it deals with is that very fundamental aspect of our being – our mortality, and how it is so fragile, especially in the hands of those who see you as disposable.  In Heller’s book, those that are disposable are the young men enlisted to fight.  I’ve always found, however, that the comedy and the more serious message are not contradictory, rather they are two sides of the same coin – it is almost as though laughter sits right next to crying, with Heller we laugh because the situation is stupid and bizarre and horrible and bleak all at the same time. Our laughter is that of absolute clarity and despair.

-Sounds intensely captivating, I can’t wait to see a performance. Can you tell me a little about ‘Entrails‘, what it’s all about, in a nutshell? 

Hmm, in a nutshell… the piece is inspired by, but is by no means a direct adaptation of the book ‘Catch-22’.  So, we’ll be in a place with these three individuals who are clearly trying to deal with a situation that is fused with hostility and indifference. That environmental hostility could come from each other, as well.  I don’t want to impose a strict narrative, really, I prefer pieces that give you a clear setting and atmosphere, but that don’t impose an ‘a then b then c’ storyline.  A bit like Beckett – clearly something has happened outside of the theatre space, but you’re never quite sure what.

 

-Coming from a literary background, as well as one of dance and music, the music soundtrack for ‘Entrails’ must be as significant as the movement on-stage. Is there a specific soundtrack for ‘Entrails’, and if so, where has it come from?

A lot of what I have learnt at Laban is to not slavishly create a dance piece to the rigours of a set piece of music rather that you have an idea, and that the sound and dance are two parts of that idea.  Artists in the Parachute Dance playlist right now include: Goldmund, Max Richter, David Lang and Mira Calix.

-You outlined previously what influences you drew from the literary work ‘Catch-22’, do you draw from any other inspirations? What or who, are these inspirations?

I could list for days my inspirations, and they change each week. Last week I saw Crystal Pite at Sadler’s Wells – I had never seen her work before, so as always I was struck by the specific voice of the choreographer. Pina Bausch is such a dominant figure in dance theatre it’s almost silly to mention her influence, but for me, her humour is very similar to Heller’s – it lies in the border of social conventions and their ultimate arbitrariness. I love ballet, though I’m not sure if it will feed into this piece in an explicit way- but Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe are up there.

-It’s lovely to hear how the things that influence you change and merge from day to day, I find the same thing, and it’s a great way to live in the world. This is the first production from Parachute Dance. How have you found the process of bringing it together and directing?

I was just thinking today, the creative process is mostly a lot of lows with one or two highs.  But those highs, when they come, do make it all worthwhile – I know, pretty clichéd, but I think that it’s true.  Mostly, I’m struggling with the responsibility of bringing together such a long piece having only choreographed shorter pieces before. Obviously the dancers and producers feed a great deal into the project, this is by no means a solo endeavour. A lot of the time I simply worry whether I am pushing this in the right direction, and if my idea can stand up to the needs of a longer work. But I guess, that’s exciting too…

-You currently live and work in dance in London, so why choose the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016 for your debut production with Parachute Dance?

I’ve worked as part of the Fringe team a number of times so it’s always seemed completely obvious to me that I would try at some point to bring a production to a stage there.  Obviously, it is expensive to embark on such a journey but Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an open access festival, anyone can submit something, so if you can, why not, right?

-Absolutely! My personal attention to ‘Entrails’ was initially caught by an online promotional video that you posted. What made you turn to crowdfunding? How has the process worked for Parachute Dance, and would you recommend crowdfunding to other creatives?

I would without a doubt recommend crowdfunding. I thought we would mostly receive a lot of small donations and the process would take quite a lot of time to reach our target, but people have been incredibly generous. Obviously, you have to make people want to support you, and our producers Aran and Laura have been great at thinking up and providing great perks and incentives for the backers of Parachute Dance.  Going in with this support, not just financially, but from so many different people, takes the sting out of this big step we’re taking.

-Interview with Róisín O’Brien, director and choreographer with Parachute Dance

For further information about Parachute Dance including how to contribute to their crowdfunding pot of gold follow this link.

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Take Me By The Arm

I really enjoy learning about the lives of others, which is something we all do as an audience when we listen to music, read a book, or watch a film. It’s not simply because I am nosy – I prefer to say inquisitive – but one of the purposes of storytelling is to take an individual on a journey and to show life from another person’s point of view. Stories told through written word, visual performance, and musical arrangement are often a source of inspiration on a subtle or even subconscious level to both the teller and the receiver.

I watched a film today and there was a moment whilst watching when my heart pined a little for my best friend whom I saw recently (though I must note, it was a mere moment because I can equally hear his scoffing half-laugh chiding as he casts me a withering look).

The film was set in England in the 1950s, it’s autumn and the scene that caught my attention sees a man and a women strolling arm in arm in a garden bathed in late afternoon sunlight. Autumn in the UK is my favourite time of the year and when I close my eyes to daydream more often than not I am transported to such a scene, with the russet and gold leaves casting a dappled warmth across the path and faces of two friends. The story of the film is about two individuals who at this particular point are sharing those first simple moments when two people realise that they really enjoy one another’s company; there is no confusion in this relationship, no lust or words going unsaid, no feelings beyond a shared platonic connection of friendship.

I think there is something so lovely about walking arm in arm with a friend, feeling close to that person with such innocent tenderness, as if are you sharing in a secret as you take a turn around the room. In such a moment you are in a little alliance, it isn’t necessarily a romantic gesture but it is a sure expression of companionship. I don’t stroll about clutching the arm of all of my friends though, because sometimes it doesn’t sit quite right in that relationship.

That being said however, just you try and wipe the smile from my face as I step out next time arm in arm with my best chum, whenever that may be. Why such an unspoken, gentlemanly gesture makes me so happy inside I couldn’t tell you, especially since that same friend will no doubt tell some ridiculously embarrassing story about me within five minutes, utterly spoiling the moment. I love him and he drives me round the twist sometimes too, but perhaps that is the perfect balance in our friendship.

Coincidences

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Life is sprinkled liberally with strange coincidences. It’s the beginning of the week and you’re listening to a friend share stories from a recent holiday in Iceland. Before the week is out you will bear witness to numerous seemingly subliminal signals about Iceland from work colleagues, TV programmes, magazine articles and Instagram posts that eventually you’ll seriously consider looking up flights and buying a Lonely Planet guide so you too can be in on the action. I won’t be the only person to have experienced a scenario like this and perhaps on some occasions the coincidences are actually symptomatic of an omniscient marketing strategy to “guide us” through our day to day lives. However, some coincidences are downright weird and truly warrant the reaction: “what are the chances, spooky or what?”

A couple of days ago I was catching up with a dear friend of mine, and as we exchanged messages back and forth like a virtual ping pong match between ourselves we shared current life updates, old memories and screen shot pictures of the music we were listening to. Combined, we have the best music tastes-as far as we’re concerned that is-with music at the epicentre of our relationship over many years. I reminded my friend of the day he burst into my bedroom on a whirlwind of elation whilst exclaiming with such joy that he had found his funeral song. It was a slightly morbid turn of events for what was a beautifully sunny spring day but I listened to the track and heard why it was so inspirational and significant for him. I certainly haven’t forgotten that day, neither have they and the song is still “the song” to be played. Good to know.

Here is an excerpt from the following day’s conversation:

“Today is quite good, finished my book and now I’m walking to work.
It smells like rain”
“Ha.
I love that smell”
“Which is a good smell.
Yeh!”
“Correct”
“What are we like”
“I know.
Had a car crash last night”
“Bonfires are another great smell
Wait, what?!”

As I whittled on typing my responses quicker that he could respond, I almost missed the key statement and on first reading it felt like a punch to the gut that stopped me in my tracks. One day we’re making each other smile with our shared black humour, the next one of us plays dice with death and I’m left stunned at the evident fragility of life. I’m always on the way to somewhere when things like this happen, when I really don’t have the time to work through the emotional upheaval. Just because I know the song that someone wants played at their funeral, does not mean I want the opportunity to do so to arrive any time soon.

I have since been assured the crash wasn’t too serious, another broken nose and a few cuts and bruises, so blasé as we joke about sueing the French for the malfunctioning airbag. But in all seriousness, that was a close call, and a strangely coincidental situation that I do not want revised or repeated.

A Walk About Town: Part Two

A mere stone throw away from the Castlegate, I continued on my treasure hunt trail to experience the Look Again Festival by locating the Peacock Visual Arts centre down a little alleyway so surreptitious in its location that I almost missed it completely. Thankfully, I did not and found what was to be my favourite discovery of the whole festival: ‘The Brutalist Playground’, by architect collective Assemble and artist Simon Terrill.

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The juxtaposition of the marshmallow-esque building blocks and austere minimalist structural positioning really struck my fancy, and was very effective in establishing ‘a contemporary narrative’ for the post-war urban planning prevalent in and around London ’50s and 60’s. Fun, engaging, and provocative, ‘The Brutalist Playground’ was originally commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 2015, and asks the audience to reconsider the original Brutalist designs and intentions, and our own contemporary attitude towards risk assessment and freedom to play. Not just for children, the light hearted nature of the ‘The Brutalist Playground’ inspires joy in people of all ages, something special and to be commended.

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The public is invited to be part of the installation, what is a playground if not a space for play, the reconstituted foam providing a gloriously springy, playful platform for sensory experience. Not one to shy away from silliness, I was at first surprisingly self conscious as an adult on my own and felt an awkwardness reminiscent of infancy watching the big girls playing together and wishing they’d let me join in. One trip up the squishy pink staircase and down the appropriately adult-hipsize wide slide dispelled all social inhibitions prerequisite to maturation into the “grown-up world” and I fell a little bit more in love with the whole concept and piece.

There were a number of excellent events and exhibitions which I was unable to take in on my cultural treasure hunt including the ‘Unreal Estate’ commission, although I was amused to come across ‘Locked’, one of Iain Kettles’s two inflatable structures as part of Interzone, whose undisclosed locations encouraged the puplic to participate in a hide and seek game and question the relationship we all have with our surroundings. The playfulness of the Look Again Festival taking residence in such a rigid city centre surrounding built primarily of cold, grey granite was enchanting and I am delighted to discover that several of the exhibitions will still be accessible for the month of May, so there’s still time for more enlightening discoveries.

Aberdeen, you’re not so bad, and just like the bare Scottish landscape coming out of the winter and welcoming spring there are small signs of life starting to poke out and bring a little smile to my face. The year ahead is looking a little less grim and I hope to continue to find inspiration in my surroundings now I’ve seen the benefits of giving a place a second chance to show just what it has to offer.