14 Jul 2016

The Dawn of the European Superstate is our Doom

If you are a world supremacist wannabe looking to build a superstate, look no further than the European Union for inspiration. In order to construct the European Union behemoth, warts et al, you have to deconstruct each and every country that is a component of the so-called unity. To achieve this, you need to deconstruct national sovereignty in order to construct the so-called European sovereignty, an unelected sovereignty deeply entrenched into the Agenda 21 principles. Welcome to the globalist dystopia that is being put in place!

'Athena', fantasy art by Cynthia Sheppard

First off, in order to deconstruct national sovereignty you need to tone down national identity. Then amalgamate national pride and patriotism with fascism and racism, which has been going on in France and elsewhere stealthily for the last 35 years. This is key to undermining the strength of a nation. Once national pride has been cleverly associated with fascism, it is put down, and the orchestrated erosion of national values triggers an open-door policy for imports (goods, services and investments, hence cash-flow). The same applies to people (mass immigration), ethics, views and politics that get unified under a fake right/ left, right/ wrong, rich/ poor, black/ white paradigm. Alongside this, in order to construct a European unity, you need to deconstruct unity at its cellular level (family unity, race unity, national unity, etc.).

For European unity to exist under the globalist model, expect no elevation of spirits and values and quality of life. Expect no flourishing prospects in terms of wealth and prosperity, education, employment, trade, industry or philosophy. Expect the exact opposite. Any sensible individual capable of reflecting upon current affairs, will have realised by now that each of the countries that make up Europe is in serious trouble. I acquiesce to this with all my while, having lived in the thick of the 'Union' all of my life, and long enough to realise that things are not adding up in favour of growth, but in favour of ungrowth. We Europeans live its absurdities with every breath we take. You will therefore have to excuse our dulling joie de vivre...

'Momentum' by ibid.

Distractions might take the unguarded off course, as for instance with the Anti-Brexit millennials who took to the streets of Britain on the aftermath of the referendum berating the 'old white people' that they wish would die, including - I imagine - their grandparents? But let's not be fazed; Paul Joseph Watson got it debunked for us in less time than it takes for a pop song to play.

Socialism, otherwise known as the Liberal left, the Democrats - or in more gauche terms as Tony Blair's New Labour - have made Europe their hotbed. And wherever socialism goes, ungrowth follows, all under this forced collectivism and communitarianism, multi-culturalism and other '-isms' and chasms that the individual is forced to surrender to... Here are a few examples:-

  • Private liberties are being eroded.
  • Political correctness paralyses free speech and makes us all potential suspects; it prevents politicians and other people in the public eye from expressing themselves without having to justify a word in lengthy ways.
  • Burdening through over-taxation, over-bureaucratic nonsense, over-politicisation of public and private life with our puppet governments at work dismantling the democratic values of the Republic, so we are falling each day further down into state-controlled economy, which itself is at the mercy of global elites like the divine (deviant) George Soros.
  • Biased media and institutions bought out by the corporate elite.
  • The over-interference of the state into our everyday lives through all sorts of crazy legislation is meant to break our spirits and especially spirit of enterprise and financial independence.
  • Debt-ridden nations, directly or indirectly selling off their 'family jewels'. (Examples in France: Toulouse airport, PSG football club, Alstom Energy, Peugeot cars, Hôtel de Crillon (Paris), Gevrey-Chambertin château and vineyard). Our heritage is being sold off!
  • Meanwhile rampant unemployment, with our shipyards, foundries and traditional manufacturing industries relocated to the Far East.
  • Open-border policy for a tsunami of unregulated uncontrolled migration that pours into every nook and cranny of Europe, tipping the balance further for costly unproductivity to replace ROI productivity to channel passive consumerism! 
  • Wahey, it looks like we are truly being snookered!

'Libra' by ibid.

The European Union is a socio-economic lab, a model in the making that is being used to be carbon-copied to other select parts of the world, namely Western economies, in order to collapse them and therefore rewrite history.

In the USA, you need look no further than your current President as a living exemple busy undoing the moral values and work ethics of the working classes in order to feed the Welfare State, tentacular federal agency aid programmes and an increasing federal policing of regular tax-paying citizens, through sophisticated centralised surveillance systems (by whichever invasion of privacy they might operate under, down to smart meters and biotechs). At this point, it is offensive to turn a blind eye to what is really going on in the West right now.

Further Resources:

9 Jul 2016

Shirley Baker: Snapping the Ordinary to Write Local History

Of my 16 years living and working in Manchester, England, my biggest regret is to have taken hardly any photos of the city itself, so caught up was I in my own life, and whenever I had a moment to snap away, it would be outside the city boundaries, down the scenic coast, up the Lakes, a nature preserve or a quaint photogenic Peak District village. Manchester didn't come to mind because I lived there, and I was of the opinion back then that photography had to be escapism from everyday life.

'Two Girls Swing on a Lamp Post', Hulme, 1965, photography by Shirley Baker, via The Photographers' Gallery

Thankfully some talented - yet unsung - individuals like Shirley Baker (1932-2014) have meticulously reported back from the nitty-gritty of the frontline. For it would be a great loss to local historians if the photography-enclined had all overlooked Manchester the way I did because then the fast-changing socio-economic fabric of this industrious mill city and its industrial demise followed by its reinvention as a service- and leisure-driven metropolis wouldn't have been captured and immortalised in this poignant visual exactitude that words fail to transcribe.

"If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." - Edward Hopper

Shirley Baker got late recognition in life for her work as a street photographer and photojournalist of the mundane, snapping street scenes, capturing life as it occurs, spontaneously, lived by the ordinary folks, not the celebs, not the royals, not the captains of industry. She was her own Robert Doisneau and Henri-Cartier Bresson, the latter she admired. She made it to the broadsheets (The Guardian and The Telegraph) obituaries when she sadly passed away, which is - I guess - a form of posthumous recognition of her art and talent.

'Women and Young girls out in the Street', Hulme, July 1965, ibid.

Meanwhile I am looking up to the Mancunians (the inhabitants of Manchester), who since the inception of the Industrial Revolution, from the rising of Cottonopolis to the post-industrial cultural errances of Madchester and beyond, have had to adapt to an ever-changing physical, social and financial landscape and show resilience, acceptance and adaptability to conditions forced upon them, and ultimately turn away from despondency, and turn adversity into opportunity in order to survive the transformation and earn a living within a reconfigured, unrecognisable city. I would sum it up this way: -

Manchester is - despite itself - a fascinating social laboratory and an architectural experiment that has explored - and keeps exploring - the good, the bad and the ugly. 

One of my personal observations that resulted into my 202-page University research paper about land planning management programmes in post-WWII Manchester, is how historically the northern city has been treating history: ruthlessly. This was accomplished along the years in a series of high-profile public, private and mixed land grabs and compulsory purchases repurposed as redevelopments, some of which badly needed (the slum clearances) and others of a more questionable nature. Redevelopments were/ are not solely limited to Manchester, for the blueprint was/ is applied to other major cities and their satellite towns.

As unconventional as I may sound, I  believe this is the way that Britain as a socio-economic collective deals with the past, and how this ruthlessness helps it move on. The nation refuses to dwell on the past too long for it refuses to become complacent and dictated to by nostalgia. It does however boast 500,000 Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, fondly and meticulously preserve traditions and memories (through, for instance, extensively-documented WWI and WWII commemorations, and lavish Royal protocoles), painstakingly curate ancient artefacts into museum collections, and document the past via specialist research and education institutes.

'Young Girls playing in the Street', Hulme, 1965, ibid.

Yet at the same time the nation's history shows how quick it is at making a clean slate out of, not just a couple of old buildings at a time, but large swathes of land, several streets at a time, that have been deemed ripe for redevelopment by a clique of office suits removed from life on the front line.

These drastic changes occur at the expense of the local communities that keep getting fractured, both externally and then internally, and lose their cohesion and identity, as the wards face their redundancy and economic fragility head on and their weakened state attracts social underdogs and castaways (drop-outs, thugs, drug dealers), who drag the wards down further through a climate of fear, before the bulldozers move in. The clearance of old housing stock started in the 1930s and resumed after WWII. Between 1955 and 1975, some 1.3 million homes were demolished nationwide to make way for modern accommodation with comfort and sanitation. However those came at a cost:-

"(...) many of the people lived in dreadful conditions and their houses had to be pulled down. Then of course, when they built up the new stuff, it wasn’t very long before they pulled all that down too.”- Shirley Baker

Let's bear in mind that Britain has been ruthlessly quick at wiping out its heavy industry and traditional manufacturing base over the last sixty years, leaving only a few traces here and there of its industrial past. And then the socio-economics that are linked to those sectors of employment have too been obliterated. In this 'sink or swim' environment, unless the locals move away altogether or retrain and relearn (which is not always possible), they become casualties, and long-term unemployment a fatality. Alvin Toffler's Future Shock springs to mind.

'Cycle Salesman', Hulme, 1965, via BBC

By making that clean slate, government officials, financiers, investors, economists, land planners, property developers, each contribute in effect, to directly or indirectly wipe out the architecture, culture, social fabric, heritage, legacy that root in the communities. The blue-collar workers, or what is left of them, are the social demographic most likely to be displaced within the city: the now-redundant factory workers and miners and their families, now either essentially workless and put under the patronage of the State through total Welfare dependency programmes for subsistence, or they take that post-industrial leap into unskilled low-paid service jobs, joining the ranks of the working poor.

"I cannot claim that my photographs represent anything other than a few wisps teased from some of the countless threads that form the intricate tapestry of our lives.” - Shirley Baker

On my last visit to Manchester 21 months ago with my mum, we drove through parts of East Manchester (namely Ancoats, Ardwick, Beswick, Gorton, Openshaw and Denton) and blimey, did I struggle to recognise anything! The last time I had driven down those areas had only been five years prior, in 2009... It seemed that what was left of the old industry-related (Victorian mills, depots, warehouses, sheds, traditional two-up two-down terraced houses and their end-terrace corner shops, workers clubs, stores, picture houses, small pubs, local banking institutions, etc.) had made way for sprawling housing estates, modernist tower blocks, supermarkets, shopping precincts, leisure centres, brand new roads and tram lines. I did not spot one major factory building still standing, apart fom the iconic Daisy Mill (now too due to be demolished!). The odd Victorian pub at a corner of Ashton Old Road or Ashton New Road woud stand out as both the only tangible, significant landmark and witness of a bygone era. Everything else had been flattened out, reworked and retuned in a tabula rasa exercise that has been radically transforming those areas since the 1950s, first off as part of the extensive post-war slum clearance programme.

As an aside, I must point out that the reworked cityscape looks bland and non-descript, like one long stretch of identikit suburbia, punctuated with tower blocks, mile upon mile, and the end result looks - dare I say - un-British. Indeed it has lost its Britishness. These areas, where locals were once involved in the making of the nation's wealth through their hard relentless unrewarded labour, had remained poor. Yet 50 years ago, the locals were still able to hold a job that helped them raise a family and have a roof above their heads, no matter how humble the abode, without the charity of the State, and making do without resorting to detbt. They owed society nothing and their pride and self-esteem were theirs.

'Ice Cream Van on Terraced Street', July 1965, photography by Shirley Baker, via The Guardian

Nowadays, as contribution to the nation's wealth has been robbed from these people, these former workers' wards/ districts have become wards/ districts of passive - i.e. unproductive - consumerism. This model is replicated throughout our Western societies and this passive consumerism, detached from production and purpose, is the sign of a fractured society. Because having a purpose in life drives you. Having no purpose other than wait for the cheque from the social, while the world is passing you by, is no driver in itself.
Meanwhile Shirley's photographic legacy reminds us that there are no rose-tinted ways of viewing poverty, only compassion, through the respectful, non-intrusive intimacy which her eye and lens share with her subjects. It is a social documentary with a heart, the photographic labour of love about a labour force caught in the midst of times achanging.

Looking Back to Look Forward should have been a motto for Council chiefs, private sector entrepreneurs and their acolytes to apply to Manchester for its successful transition into the future, while taking into account the best elements from the past (including values) and the expectations of four generations of the population (from cradle to the grave, if you pardon me the phrase), with the design fitting their lives rather than the other way around. I believe in integrated sensible redevelopment, based on brand-new builds based on classical design, and renovations of designated buildings. I do not believe that redevelopment should require the utter obliteration of the wards.

Further Resources:

7 Jul 2016

Inspire Aspire - Looking Back to Look Forward

What's in a tagline? More than meets the eye when it conveys a powerful motto that strings two phrasal verbs that together convey past, present and future harmoniously like three peas in a pod. The tagline is a pep talk all to itself!

Brought to you by Primus Hotel Sydney

The context of the Looking Back to Look Forward tagline is in relation to a newly-opened 5-star hotel in Sydney, Australia, set in a 1939 heritage-listed Art Deco edifice that used to be home to the Sydney Water Board. The $2 billion refit was a two-year labour of love that not only integrated but also totally revived the old, to which was added that light touch of present modernity - just enough to take the Art Deco into the 21st century and beyond, with no compromise on either period elegance or modern comfort.

This called for equilibrium between the old and the new, a balancing act, a synergy that only a sensible, measured, concerted, thoughtful upgrade could create. That meant not ripping up the period features, as sadly we tend to witness elsewhere when architects and con artists are let loose in the 'now for the now' vibration, with no clear instructions or simply no intention to preserve original features. Here the original design stays centrestage, and the future of this building of character is written with its history and period features in mind. The PR tagline had to translate this fluidity, the flow of the past into the future via the 'renov-action' of the now.

A grandiose foyer set to rival New York's Waldorf Astoria! (AFR)

Looking Back to Look Forward is to draw on the past in order to build a lasting future. Rooting, anchoring the future in the solid, tried-and-tested foundations of the past applies to sensible architectural renovations like we would like to witness them more often. The tagline is smart, neat and to the point, and it has a certain familiarity to it, as experience teaches us that a past needs a future and a future needs a past, and how successful the integration of both into the present occurs relies upon our skill to interpret the values of the past and be able to carry them forward. This is what we call heritage and we need it bad, because heritage is history and history allows us to face the future.

This is a tagline that is relevant not just for architectural design but also for the way we design our lives. For life experience teaches us that as we stand in the present we should draw the lessons from the past and remember and honour our elders legacy, in order to create a strong, meaningful and (g)rounded future to pass on to our children. 

Cocktail functions in the lobby area

Meanwhile as the world is moving faster and the planned obsolescence of models and beliefs is getting shorter, society is being engineered to get stuck in the now of their needs and wants to their very consumerist levels, and entertained by their time-consuming social media hobbies. We witness the obliteration of our heritage by the governing and financial elites which are busy rewriting elements of our past to suit their agenda and ulterior motives, and disenfranchising us from the past. It remains therefore urgent for us to take that step back, acknowledge and own that past back in order to be able to move forward whole and empowered into a future filled with scope and perspective.

The only way is up!

Primus Hotel Sydney, 339 Pitt Street, Sydney, Australia, 2000.

12 Jun 2016

An Afternoon at the Beach and Tickle's Health Check

A couple of days ago Tickle and I went down to our local beach. It was nice to resume that sweet habit that we had been neglecting over Autumn and the Winter months. We walked down the main road and then obliqued through the back lanes, past a cluster of houses, and then embraced the lowland and the marshes, checking the wildlife as we strolled along, an eye to the right where just above the lush pasture line, the blue of the sky meets up in conversation with the blue of the sea and both shimmer and mesmerize.

We took that little curved lane that gently and whimsically leads us to the beach, past myrtle bushes and other hedgerow delights. And then the path opened up to the shoreline, cluttered with heaps of dried up Posidonia oceanica, otherwise known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean Tapeweed, an aquatic plant endemic to the Mediterranean sea that grows as clusters and forms dense meadows on sandy seabeds (typically 1–35m deep, i.e. 3.3–114.9ft). The grass sheds its ribbon-like foliage either naturally or during storms, that ends up shored up onto beaches and accumulates into compact cushion-like stratae, resulting into heaps of brown narrow leaves that we call 'banquettes'. Those might look disgraceful once piled up there on the sand but think what they look like under the sea when they are still attached to their clump, dancing to the current like a mermaid's mane hiding in its strands a rich sea life and oxygenating the water at the same time!

Tickle & Posidonia oceanica

I sat on the beach and Tickle laid down by my feet. And there we were, soaking up the views and the sunshine. My little companion is taking life in a mellower stride these days but it never takes long for the boisterous JRT natural instincts to spring up to the surface! Notwithstanding age is catching up with him somewhat. Although I will never know for sure his exact age, having rescued him as a young dog from the pound back in August 2006, I can only assume that he may be 10 and a half years old, maybe 11.

With this in mind, I took him to the vet's two months ago in order for him to undergo a full health check. In his case, he fell under the Senior Dog Health Check. He was weighed (just under 10kg, approx. 20lbs, which is ideal for a JRT), had a general inspection of his body, and a blood test. The vet was satisfied with the fact that Tickle had been on a veg-rich diet all of his life, which is now becoming more significant as he's reaching his golden years. Then off for a little dental clean: his teeth had a scale and polish under light IV sedation in order to remove built-up tartar which - if left unremoved - will bring a variety of ailments. The result was impressive as Tickle came out with Hollywood gleaming white teeth!

A scratchy nose?

Then the mutt had an echography to check his internal organs and, thank God, he passed with flying colours! All in all, he was given the all-clear except for one (currently minor) health concern: early-stages cataract. This has been creeping up on his eyes for the last 4 months, I believe. The condition affects most dogs as they age and leads to blindness if left untreated. I had noticed a very faint very localised clouding towards the centre of his lenses but this isn't noticeable unless you are actually looking for it, and there it was confirmed to me by the vet. She prescribed an Omega 3-rich fish oil treatment combined to an amino acid food supplement that both claim to slow down the onset of cataract and will keep my little friend comfortable. Eventually his eyesight will get affected to the point that eye surgery may have to be considered, as the only viable treatment to reverse cataract. It is a common practice nowadays with excellent results - if undertaken by a competent vet surgeon. Mine doesn't carry out eye operations but she would be happy to refer Tickle, should we wish to go ahead with the operation.

If you are a pet owner, I would recommend regular pet health checks, especially as regards life stages. In any case, once they get to a certain age, I would insist you have your pet(s) undergo a thorough health check and then keep up with bi-annual visits at the very least, or as per the vet's recommendations. In our case, we'll be back at the vet's in 4 months from now for a follow-up. In the meantime, we'll keep on enjoying the little pleasures of life, and our walks down the beach are definitely one of them!

Further Reading on Senior Dog Health:

2 Jun 2016

Harambe to Homo Sapiens: 2 Degrees of Separation

Here's another irony. Only one week ago, we might have not heard of Harambe while he was still alive but now that he is dead, his Swahili name full of fortitude and noble grace has come booming centrestage as a rallying cry from behind the locked Gorilla World enclosure of Cincinnati Zoo - the second oldest zoo in the US - as a painful reminder of our human failings. Such a tragedy is imputable to us in our tampering with the natural order, with the laws of nature.

Harambe the Western lowland gorilla

It's all about control with us. Yet animals do not belong in zoos or circuses. As the manipulators and controllers of nature - that we never leave alone to sort itself out - we humans have thrown it out of whack. Today we are faced with a shrinking wildlife count, the looting of our natural resources by Big Corporate (TransCanada anyone?), pollution at every corner of the globe and a galoping worldwide population whose consumerist needs and fads cannot be sustained.

Here the laws of nature had been flawed from before Harambe had even been conceived. The magnificent Western lowland silverback male gorilla, part of a critically-endangered species (traditionally found in the dense Central African rainforests), was born in captivity (at the Gladys Porter Zoo) on 27th May 1999 and relocated to Cincinnati Zoo in September 2014 in order to fulfill the gene pool and as a star attraction in his own right that got the zoo a bang for its buck in the entertainment stakes. Then last Saturday, an unsupervised 4-year-old kid intent on getting close and personal with the young primate, fell into the exhibit moat at Gorilla World. By that point, the writing was on the wall, bearing Harambe's name.

"Despite its massive size and ferocious reputation, the gorilla is actually a peaceful and social animal. Gorillas and humans are close relatives, and share many things in common. They are very intelligent, have emotions and personalities, and live in family groups." - Cincinnati Zoo, Western Lowland Gorilla

The inquisitive gentle gorilla, described as 'very intelligent and curious' by the zoo itself, dragged the kid out of harm's way (see video footage). Harambe wasn't acting out of sorts or displaying any animosity towards him. Yet the keepers didn't take any chances, because as much as zoos are artificial environments, we are still dealing with wild animals forcefully confined into unnatural habitats. And in a country where litigation and media are trigger-happy, so had to be the next course of action. Except this was anything but happy. Taking a chance with an inquisitive wild animal was not on the agenda, so the zoo’s own SWAT Team, the Dangerous Animal Response Team, was dispatched over and put control back into the controlled environment of the zoo: they shot Harambe dead.

It was, as The Conversation noted, a lose-lose situation that claimed the life of a gorilla pottering about minding his own business, a curious kid who soon enough will realise the consequences of his decision, and the keeper who ruled out tranquilizer shots, and instead took the great ape's life. No doubt will that guy be forever haunted by his decision, despite it being for the kid's best interest.

There is no happy ending to the story and no winner. Just one hapless chain of events triggered by an unsupervised kid (where were the parents?!) that spelt disaster along the way, not only to Harambe, but to the other gorillas, his former caretaker, the zoo staff, the kid's family, the local community, conservationists (Dr. Jane Goodall), animal lovers, and the animal kingdom at large. Hereby we have witnessed yet another failed experiment of human foray into wildlife, snatching it from the wild, parking it into zoos for breeding programmes and boosting the balance sheets, and making spectacles out of jailed animals plucked out of their natural habitats for our eyes only.

King Kong (1933), movie poster revisited by graphic artist Laurent Durieux, commissioned by Mondo.

And you know what? I cannot help but think of King Kong as I am penning this. Do you remember how the story goes? A magnificent gorilla plucked out of the jungle and brought back to New York City, which he then tries to escape, cradling in his hand a young American woman he had saved earlier on from an unchartered faraway island. No happy ending for this guy either. Before I bow out to honour Harambe's memory and legacy, I shall leave you with a ponder:

"Surely we can begin to agree that animals which share 98 per cent of our DNA should not be kept as entertainment for us to gawk at in a zoo." - Mimi Bekhechi, PETA UK Director, via The Independent.

Please join me in signing the Justice for Harambe petition.


25 May 2016

Elderflower Glory

It is claimed that the oldest memory trigger is smell. One particular example of that experience in my life is everytime I walk by a blossoming elder bush (Sambucus nigra), in Spring. It reignites a nostalgic journey down memory lane. Not only does the sight of this old-fashioned hedgerow favourite and its tiny off-white flower clusters (corymbs) get my full attention but so does the delicate honeydew-like aroma that pervades! Watching with the eyes gets superseded by watching with the nose!

I get closer and bury my nose in the lacy inflorescence and the sweet balmy jasmine-like aroma envelops me into a comforting embrace and transports me back to my childhood days, when my friends and I used to venture on the edge of our small housing estate, eastbound of a sunken path that used to wind down past a bosquet and remnants of pasture and orchard, a surviving testimony of the countryside that was being fragmented into suburbia as my hometown of Saint-Quentin was expanding.

Back then, you could still notice those vestiges of mature, bucolic cottage gardens that were standing still in their semi-neglected state, rife for development in what had become an encompassing suburbia, yet still within walking distance from the countryside. And my most vivid memory is that hedge of closely-knit elder bushes that thrived on an elevation, our perfect adventure ground, vantage outpost and hiding place as kids. We loved it when the bushes were blossoming, less so after the flowers had wilted, and their swollen bases had turned into those clothes-staining dark berries!

Later, life took each of us kids down its wondrous and less wondrous ways, and off a tangent from those dreams and ambitions we had woven under the comforting canopy of those elder bushes. With higher education, relationships, marriage, family commitments, work, milestone achievements, celebrations, and some disillusions, losses and dramas along the way.

I moved 300 miles away from home to University. Then I moved to England. When I did come back to Saint-Quentin a handful of times a year, it was with joy and a pinch in my heart, always to witness things that used to be and were no more, people who used to be and were now gone. One day, I drove down the road and the land where the elder bushes once stood had been flattened. And in their place stood a rendered breeze-block wall that hedged a newly-built property. And that flattened landmark at that very moment defined in my mind the joylessness - and flatness - of suburbia.

Elderflower Cordial by Things {We] Make

Many years later, I found myself reacquainted with elderflower, this time in Britain, my country of adoption. I got to taste their fabulous elderflower cordial, the drink that I have been fondly associating with Albion ever since. Smell might be the oldest memory trigger but sight and taste are a close second!

Elderflower-scented Custard Tart by Belvoir Fruit Farms

P.S: Take the proverbial pinch of salt and read the fun elderflower facts compiled by Belvoir Fruit Farms.

13 May 2016

Pink Poppy Day

If I had to describe where I live in three words, it would have to be: (1) Medieval. (2) Corsican. (3) Hamlet. It sounds like a statement although I don't mean it that way, as the obligatory envious clichés are invariably bound to jump off the page: vacational island, coastal living, Mediterranean climate, panoramic landscapes bathed in the wonder of blue yonder, nature on the doorstep, and ancient off-the-beaten-track dry-stone buildings.

Those three words forebode a sense of adventure, I agree. Yet adventure is to be found at the start of your state of mind. Adventure may be found in 'Salford studio flat' or 'industrial Dusseldorf complex' all the same. It's that old chestnut again: life is what you make it. You may want to play it safe and never investigate your surroundings and that is your decision.

Yet should you be seeking adventure in the mundanity of your surroundings, you are spoilt for choice. Any restrictions will be set by how far (or near!) you wish to expand your imagination and curiosity. In fact, the best way to turn anything into an adventure is to take nothing for granted because that Renaissance building that had stood the test of time till now might be gone tomorrow, because that noble cedar tree might be chopped down, because the sweet old lady down the road might sell off her bungalow and pack her bags before you've RSVPed her gracious invite for Pekoe tea and Bourbon biscuits. Because as it is, natural entropy is being accelerated by the planned obsolescence of our modern model, which puts us mere mortals at a disadvantage.

The transience of life expressed through our mortality needs to force us to be aware of every instant that is lived within the environment at large. To cultivate curiosity, be curious by nature about nature, and an explorer of life rather than a passive consumer fed by the media is what I recommend to young and old - especially the young ones - as the 'future-holders' of our world.

What is the relation of all that precedes with the Pink Poppy Day title, I hear you say? I haven't been on a diversion course; there would be no Pink Poppy Day post without this natural curiosity of mine and sense of adventure woven out of the mundanity of life. Now here is my story.

A couple of days ago, I went for a stroll up the hamlet and found that a beautiful wild poppy bush blossoming on an elevation by the side of the path had been pulled off the ground by a local landlord, and tossed down the path like a dirt bag. Sadly I encounter this attitude a lot around here, this total disrespect for nature's own floral gifts. Understand nature and the nature of wild plants: they come impromptu and spontaneous, like uninvited guests of sorts. But they don't come to burden you; rather they come to enliven your day, and their inflorescence - little bits of charm and beauty they scatter around their foliage - is free of charge. A big bonus if you want flower delight without shelling a dime! Yet instead of being left alone, the wild plants get pulled out or cut back or doused in herbicide, and this infuriates me!

I went on a poppy rescue mission there and then. I brought back home the pulled-out poppy bush, cut back its foliage and managed to fit the root system into an XXL jar with a little water in the bottom. In the next few days, I shall plant it in my parents' garden and we'll monitor its progress. Meanwhile I salvaged the blooms - which were looking sorry for themselves - and improvised them into a tabletop posy in an improvised vase, an empty glass jar! From that moment on, I witnessed the blooms gather strength and perk up.

I saved the poppies from their downtrodden state and they made my day in return with their charming blossoms that I couldn't cease to admire. Yet their place should have been out there in the wild rather than in a vase but I had to compose with the vagaries of the human mind, that interferes with nature because it wants to control it.

On the third day, my lovely poppies had scattered their petals by the time I was down for breakfast. I carefully picked those, and laid them flat inside a paper bag that I placed under a heavy contraption for a spot of drying before I use them in a paper collage at some point in the future.

This is how my Pink Poppy Day came about: a reversal of fortune for the wild flowers and an eleventh hour rescue from the ditch. The moral of the story is that nature belongs to itself and we are welcome to enjoy it, not tamper with it to the point of destruction. Yet you can bring positivity to a situation by turning the little drama around, and embracing it as an adventure in the everyday.

P.S: Jason Silva's Existential Bummer 'philosophical espresso shot' about entropy is bound to perk up your day and stimulate your thought! Three minutes of bliss!

6 Apr 2016

Blogposts with Attitude #BWA - March 2016

LBM squeezed every last drop of March before handing it to you, my friends. And what have we got in the #BWA department for the month that eased us from Winter into Spring with a little sweetness from a secret stash of Easter eggs? Read on to find out!

In this day and age of digital burn-out, it is easy to forget the basics - like how to write. National Handwriting Day (23rd January) pops in once a year to rekindle (albeit briefly) the dying art of putting pen to paper. Jewellery designer Emma Mitchell, the lady behind Silverpebble, has taken the exercise a few steps further, inviting her readers to join in the fun through The Handwritten Letter Exchange and enter into a correspondence with a penpal, with all the anticipation that goes with it: from the writing paper to the handwriting itself, and more elaborate calligraphy, to drawings and other embellishments that enter into the composition of a letter. And then pop a nice stamp on the envelope, and posted it goes onto its journey over to its recipient, bringer of glad tidings and joy! To take the time to rediscover the art of writing a letter is time well spent. If you are a little stuck and in search of inspiration, why not give Letters of Note a browse?
Emma @ Silverpebble's correspondence letter to Mirta Tyrrell @ Modern Botanics, (via Instagram)

04-May-2016 Update: Did that first paragraph of mine mention something about sweetness? Well, short and sweet is how I will have to keep this #BWA post because I am right in the middle of setting up a company with my husband, which is both very exciting and busy! It also means that certain things have had to give, hence my falling off the 'blogwaggon' over the last few weeks.

Now trying to play catch-up with this post - which I had published half-finished  four weeks ago with the hope of finishing it eventually - was just not gonna cut it. I shall however state that The Letter Exchange remains my favourite blog read of March! Get that lovely writing paper out and may you be inspired to pen a letter to a penpal or reconnect with friends and family members! In my busy schedule of late, I managed to squeeze in two letters, to aunties and uncles!

#TFISpring by Silverpebble

21 Mar 2016

Little People, Big Hearts

I have a problem with today's society. There is an urge for 'being somebody', for being noticed, being with it, breaking it, making it, becoming famous. What rigs it even more is that the quest for be(com)ing somebody is defined by one parameter - the popularity contest. It is driven by celebrity culture, inflated by social media (creating the ephemeral buzz and elusive cool factor) and misguided by the reality TV agenda (whereby we are sold the idea that anyone - just anyone - can be someone). In a world where individuals are hungry for fame and still stand famished as the fame they're craving for does not sustain in the long run, I am wondering: what's wrong with just wanting to be/ stay ordinary - as in not famous - at all?

My great great grandad Ferdinand's village in Picardie, France (pic source)

Ordinary and be of worth, able to accomplish worthwhile things, like a job done right, and be a caring child, spouse, parent, friend, neighbour. To establish and maintain one's value system and cause no harm nor prejudice. Respectful of life in all its representations, down to nature that surrounds us. Give a meaning to life that is not dependent upon external objects.

I have discussed the ordinary folks before now and to me they are anything but ordinary. I hold so much respect for them! No need to be searching high and low for we are surrounded by them in our own lifelines. Take my maternal great great auntie, Claire, an industrious Corsican woman who worked her land her entire life, with nothing like a day in lieu or a pension to fall back on. Take my paternal great grandad, Louis, who started work at 6 years of age down his local textile mill in Picardie, northern France, and later took his leave... to experience the trenches of the Great War. Or how about Louis's dad, Ferdinand, a weaver and family man whose life was stolen off him at 45 on his way to work, engulfed by snow drift in the wee hours of the morning... His tragic passing didn't make the news.

Ferdinand is buried in the Fluquières cemetery (pic source)

Those are ordinary folks, working-class heroes in their own right. They glide in and out of the grand scheme of things, and get no mention in history books. Yet in the great architecture of the universe, those are the artisans who laboured their lives away and still managed to grow spiritually and enrich their communities with a strong set of values. 

Dignity, pride, honour, honesty, respect, grace, compassion, loving care, knowledge, inner wisdom, gratitude, acceptance, resilience, bravery, labour - and an immense strength of character that we, the modern folks in quest of the un-ordinary, should take a leaf out of. These 'behind-the-scenes' folks were used by governments and corporate but still held their all while acting as the cannon-fodder that fuelled the mills during peace and the artillery during war. They still found the time and energy to be creative in their frugal ways, attend to their land agroecologically (way before the term was coined!), make do with little they owned, fix and build things, make life beautiful, feed a family and raise the kids right, go to church, believe in Heaven and redemption and hone their own conception of the after-life, and an earnest belief in the continuous betterment of man.

They lived in rural communities and were in tune with nature that they nurtured, knew every plant, concocted herbal remedies, understood the weather patterns, nature cycles, the seasons and the lunar calendar, and referred to the almanac. They were fabulous story-tellers, and the guardians of family anecdotes, local legends and folk tales. They met up with family and friends in a spirit of conviviality. They always had a bowl of soup at the ready for someone even poorer than themselves who would come knocking on their door. They were hardly school-educated, and so what? They could function autonomously, solidly grounded in common sense and observation. They were entrepreneurial, inventive and never backed down. They lived a simple life but that didn't make them the commoners they may be described as by whoever is hungry for fame and a material lifestyle that ends up tarnishing their soul. For to be rich is to own inner riches, and these cannot be bought.

19 Mar 2016

How to Foolproof Your Windows 10 PC in 10 Easy Steps!

My parents bought a new PC lately, an ASUS X553M Notebook. Price was the catch, but as the more savvy amongst us are aware, price does not (always) dictate quality, especially when it comes to technology. Roby, my Apple-devout better half, had warned them that they should go for Mac rather than PC but they went down the supermarket instead, and halfway between browsing the DIY aisle and the books section, had a quick nose round the IT shelves for a pretty-looking piece wearing an ice white shell and a shiny logo on top, then asked a couple of lame questions to a nearby vendor and the deal was sealed. When they got home, they called me and asked me to work my magic on it. And faced with Windows 10 - an adversity all to itself - this is what I came up with:

  1. I registered their ASUS machine online, following the prompts, and had to create an ASUS account in the process but kept personal data to a minimum. 
  2. Personalised the 'Welcome' message that pops up when Windows loads.
  3. Set the date and time (yep, can you believe that this is not an automatic Windows feature here?)!
  4. Uninstalled the preset anti-virus software and unleashed my trusted Kaspersky, as I own a Kaspersky licence for 2 PCs.
  5. Installed Iolo System Mechanic, a programme (not a freebie but well worth the cost!) that does a great job of decluttering registers and system drives and all the behind-the-scenes shindig!
  6. Killed off Internet Explorer and installed Firefox as the defacto internet browser. I bookmarked a handful of websites that I know my parents will be using, to make it easier for them. I tweaked the design to make it more personable to them and added the Ghostery plug-in, an advert blocker that works wonders!
  7. Uninstalled the Microsoft Office free trial bundle. Who wants to shell out cash for more crawling chaos? And here whizzed in OpenOffice! While I was at it, I installed Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, and PhotoScape free photo-editing software, a pared-down cheapo imitation of Photoshop Elements that does amateur photography the trick of the tweak!
  8. Installed Skype and created and configured their brand new Skype account, adding a couple of family contacts to give my parents a headstart with the application!
  9. Customised their task bar with all the basic programmes and features, like Open Office, Adobe Reader, Calculator, Screen Capture Tool, Kaspersky, System Mechanic, Skype and PhotoScape. I doubt they will use WebStorage and Evernote but I added those on too. Cleaned out the Windows start menu off any unnecessary items.
  10. Created a table in a word document that holds their account logins and passwords, so that they are never stuck! Of course I encouraged them to change their passwords and update the sheet accordingly whenever they do so.
Finally I downloaded the Lexmark printer files off the manufacturer's website in order to connect my parents' old printer to their new computer. Unfortunately I couldn't find drivers compatible with Windows 10;  yet another dirty little trick that Microsoft loves to play on us whenever they upgrade to a new OS, forcing folks to purchase new bits of kit... This is the Microsoft Windows diktat, and another reason why I begrudge the IT behemoth.

Now a little rant. Unsurprisingly, Windows 10 has failed to impress me, and already I can spot error messages creeping up and discrepancies brewing up just under the hood... You wonder whether Windows' clunky and notoriously dysfunctioning operating systems are not a justification for keeping IT departments and the IT sector as a whole superstaffed, because if we were dealing with efficient systems, we wouldn't need all those dedicated Windows technicians!

Would you trust this man with your computer? Me neither.

Anyhoo I tried to streamline and foolproof my parents' computer as best I could. Considering they will be mostly surfing the internet and typing up the odd letter, a PC put through my 10-step programme should suffice.

14 Mar 2016

The Lambing Season

With the call of Spring only one week away and Easter a week after that, family gatherings are back on the menu after the post-Christmas interval. Now pardon me for sounding blunt and direct, but may I ask you a personal question: How do you like your lamb?

Cory Weber Photography, via Wedding Sparrow

No, it's not a strange question, and yes I do mean the cute cuddly baby sheep! Hmm, before the juices start running and baby onions start rustling up in the oven, you'll have me beg you to spare me the trimmings. Why? Because it just so happens that I like my lamb au naturel and with little else. That means I like it without the mint sauce and the garden peas, and the basting unless it's a typo and you mean 'basking', because I like my lamb basking in the sun (and not in gravy!). I like my lamb so much that it has got to run free through the herb garden and the potager, and across pastures new of tender grass, with no fear to be had, and a long life to look forward to. I am a vegetarian and I like my lamb alive!

Cory Weber Photography, via Wedding Sparrow

My lamb may lie on a carrot bed should its fancy be tickled by it, but not on a bed of steamed carrots. I shall be able to gaze into its eyes while calling it cute, and not have to bear the double standards once it has been slain and laid to rest on the Easter platter for all of us to share, cutting the chop and cutting away the idea that said meat belongs to an animal that we call cute and pretty and cuddly! So cute awww, it hurts! So huggable, it loses out in the food stakes, to the hug of the carnivorous diet...  

Pause and think: do you really need to eat a cute little thing like that little guy in order to satisfy your wondrous appetite? Or are you just getting so caught up in tradition and habit that you don't even realise what is going on on your plate anymore?

This coming Easter, may your 'Aww!' moment be your 'Aha!' moment. I'll meat you over the nut loaf.

Cory Weber Photography, via Wedding Sparrow
Cory Weber Photography, via Wedding Sparrow

Wait for it! There are more farm animal cuties to be seen, via exPress-o and A Playful Day!

7 Mar 2016

The Art of Slow Blogging

Recently I came across an interesting and thought-provoking post by Kate O'Sullivan @ A Playful Day that mused over the Art of Slow Blogging. The topic instantly resonated with me... and my blogging style which happens to bear a close resemblance to the art form. Thus it was both flattering and encouraging for me to find out that the methodology - Movement even! - had been acknowledged by insiders within the blogging community!

I started blogging over six years ago - in earnest. But I had started the journey a few weeks prior, writing a dozen posts in advance, all collated together in a Word document. I published my posts at the rate of one a day. Meanwhile I knew I should be pacing myself but in those early weeks, blogging fever had taken over me! I never ran out of ideas or material or steam. Then just before Christmas 2009, I changed lives and I moved countries, and blogging had to take a back seat for a while. Yet I missed blogging so bad, I pined for it! When I finally managed to settle into a routine a few months later, I resumed the blogging, after writing a series of ready-to-be-published articles behind the scenes. I knew nonetheless that the daily post formula would not be a viable option.

Besides I had high standards and high expectations of myself, and I wanted blogging to remain an enjoyable experience - keep the flame alive - not having it turned into a chore. My priority was for content quality to improve consistently, presentation to be on a par with professional blogs out there, and topics to be more and more daring. And to me, aside from a few notable exceptions, those bloggers who deliver daily tend after a while to run out of creative steam, or get too comfortable and start cutting corners, getting sloppy, giving the finer details the shoulder, and discussing the same topic over and over, under a different title, and ripped off Pinterest pictures, for the sake of the daily publish. Or turn the daily post into the daily mall, with a shopping list and a wish list to boot that link to a list of affiliates that kerchings blogging out! The Art of Blogging, in all its capital letter glory, falls off the wayside. All you get is a series of images, and a bit of lame text that painfully stretches the distance from side bar to side bar, flashing with retail links. This leaves us readers in search of 'substance' questioning our loyalty to material that is not worth our while (anymore).

My prerogative has always been to keep my integrity of spirit and keep writing from the heart, and alongside this, develop further as a writer, and eventually move towards a non-fiction book project. In the meantime, as a blogger I choose to pace myself in order to have the time that helps me deliver quality. Slow does it for me. But careful, slow is not lazy! It might be so in relation to certain bloggers, but those won't last the distance. The slow I am on about, you need to allegorically associate it to the Slow Food Movement, that rediscovers the traditional way of cooking honest, simple food and sharing it in a convivial, nourishing and paced fashion. Slow is crucial to a stew or a fine cheese or a good wine. The produce takes a little longer in the making, it needs that little extra time and loving care in order to come together and mature and deliver taste. Good things come to those (readers) who wait and to those (bloggers) who take their time to write them. This creates a synergy.

Forget about the stats. I might not be writing a post a day, but rest assured that every single one of them is no casual affair. It takes me a fair amount of time to put together. Some posts require me to push the envelope further as they involve research that may span weeks. But in every case, I enjoy the process and I can safely say without sounding pretentious that all of my posts convey a message, provide food for thought, and give lifestyle that little edge of attitude. This, to me, is the recipe for a blog to last the distance - and what Slow Blogging is/ should be about.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for reading and appreciating my blog! This means a lot to me.


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