Sunday, December 16, 2012
Now, I know that this sounds just a little boring, but it doesn't have to be. It's not just the carpet that is beautiful, especially the hand-made ones, but there is also the whole process of buying a carpet. I'm talking about buying a carpet in the Middle East, although your local trader might give you the same service. You don’t have to buy a carpet; you can simply enjoy the show.
There is something incredibly relaxing about sitting in the shop, having a cup of tea brought around to you, and then going through the styles of carpets on offer. The number of carpets seems to muffle the stress of life and take the sharp edges off the day. I have spent a long time in such places, learning the difference between those carpets from Tabriz, Kerman, Esfahan, Qom, Nain in Iran, Bukhara, and Samarkand, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, along with various tribal designs from the Middle East. And I have enjoyed every minute of it.
I should note at this point that I hate shopping, but shopping for carpets does not feel like shopping to me. There are the different materials, from the wool on wool carpets, cotton-based carpets, the silk inlaid wool carpets, the silk on silk carpets that are so fine that you’d be scared of walking on them for fear of causing damage. But this is the point about carpets; they are made to be walked on. The more you walk on a wool carpet, the more you smooth the coarse wool fibres and make it feel soft and almost silky.
I am a sucker for a good Persian carpet, but that is my preference, there are many other options for fine carpets. And carpets don’t lose their value either. The more you wear a carpet, the more character it gets, and, provided that it is a genuine hand-made carpet with good tight knots, the better it will become. A good carpet is a feature of your house, both as a work of art, and also as friend to your feet.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
I don’t know about you, but I love going into a restaurant, or visiting another country and looking at a menu filled with dishes that I am totally unfamiliar with. The options are to either stick with something safe and known or to take a plunge into the unknown. I love taking that plunge. It can be particularly exciting when you aren’t sure that you really know what the ingredients are, and some caution is warranted in some instances!
When the plate arrives and you see what is before you, you can smell the aroma and this gives you a clue, but it is the tasting that makes this event so special. You are going to taste something totally new to you, perhaps something you’ll never get the opportunity to taste again. This has to be a great event, even if you don’t like it.
A new way of cooking a chicken, or beef marinated in exotic splices, or a combination of vegetables that dazzles your tastebuds – it could be anything, but it’s usually good.
And the same goes for having a drink, particularly new places or countries you haven’t been to before. Try the local drop of wine, beer, spirits, or soft drink. Get into the texture of where you are and allow your senses to absorb the new experience. Basically…try something new.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Yes, daydreams. There is something very relaxing and almost energising about a good daydream. I can remember waiting for my lift to work near Weston Road High School back in 1992, and seeing jets tearing through the sky above me leaving vapour-trails. I dreamt of getting on one and flying off to remote parts of the globe - and I did just that at the beginning of 1993.
When you’re sitting at your desk wondering why you’re doing the job you do, take a bit of time to dream, you might even have a brainwave that will help you, or perhaps come up with the idea that changes your life – you never know.
Daydreams allow you to escape from the world for a brief moment in time and think about something more pleasurable than what you are doing. They also give you a sort of hope – hope that you can be doing something different. And let’s face it, without a dreams we would have no ambition and be drifting through life rather than having any purpose. Even if dreams don’t come true, we have fun while we’re in them. So dream, and one day it might even come true.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Monday, October 1, 2012
It doesn’t matter what kind you listen to, music must be one of the most exciting experiences that you can have on your own. Who cannot close their eyes and not start to move something in response to music? As it soars higher your eyebrows raise and you have that expression of bliss on your face. It takes you on a journey that removes you from the present and takes you off on a ride of fantasy. A composer has built a piece of music around and image that they have in their head, be it a pop song, thrash metal anthem, or a symphony.
You can hear the canons in Beethoven’s later work, and he could too even though he was deaf. The imagery created by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons takes you on a journey through the year. When Cyndi Lauper wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, you can hear the joy coming through. When George Harrison penned Here Comes the Sun, the expectation and anticipation became part of the experience of listening to the song. The tenderness and angst is so much a part of Pat Benatar’s Don’t Let it Show.
Even something as basic as a rhythmic drum-beat calls to us, and when you add in counter-rhythms your body just gives up and moves of its own accord. There is something primal in such simple music, something that comes from within our history, the deepest and most obscure part, that convinced us that drumming was addictive.
So close your eyes when you listen to music, whatever sort of music that may be, and feel how your body instinctively reacts. It will move, it will alternately relax and tense, and your brain will drink in the purity of the sounds so skilfully moulded together into a melody.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Have you ever looked at painting - I mean really looked closely? Examined the brush strokes up close? Looked at the colours and the different shades within each part of the picture? It doesn’t really matter what the picture is, although I must admit that I am quite partial to landscape, it’s how the artist has meticulous constructed his painting, his vision.
Stand back from the canvas and then stand back further. As you move back, the individual brush strokes lose their coarseness and start to smooth out to produce an even shade, and as you move back further the form of the image starts to become clear. The green shades magically become a field, and the blue the sky, or perhaps a lake – a bit plastic perhaps, but that change as you move back further.
Then the picture starts to gain life and depth. The colours no longer look uniform; you can see the subtle differences and shades. The pale bits in the sky suddenly become clouds and the trees have leaves. A little bit further back and there is movement. You can see that there is a breeze blowing from left to right and leaves on the trees look like they are in mid-sway. The smudge of yellow in the field is somebody’s hat, and the pale red is the shirt of her companion.
This is the magic of a painting. On their own the brushstrokes are simply a line of paint on a piece of canvas. But the artist has, through clever use of colour and an eye for the texture of their subject, made a group of colours into a picture that can draw you in and let you almost feel the scene in front of you. This is an awesome talent.
It doesn't matter if it's Lenoardo da Vinci, Reubens, Van Gogh, Monet, or Joe Bloggs from up the road who's never been heard of. They have the talent, and seeing it is one of the great joys of life.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Red wine is a fantastic liquid. I think it provides untold pleasure, and I’m not talking about the rolling around drunken pleasure that ends in a hangover the next morning. No, wine complements so many other activities.
The traditional wine and cheese combination provides a combination of tastes and textures that makes the muscles relax and the mind take notice. A piece of crumbly mature cheddar cheese eaten with a Cabernet Merlot, or my favourite, a Malbec, will dissolve in your mouth in such a way that the two tastes meld into one delicious experience. Cheese on its own won’t do this – it needs the wine. And it should not be disappointed by being left on its own.
A good red wine will also add an extra element to a well-cooked steak, the type that just falls apart when you go to cut it. This sort of steak needs a strong red wine to help it down your throat and aids digestion - well it might not, but said wine will bring an extra dimension to the meal and probably encourage lively discussion around the table.
I could go on, wine complements so many different types of food. And, a bit like, a cold beer, a glass of wine at the end of the day is a wonderful way to relax and cleanse your mind from the hassles you may have had at work, or just to simply enjoy the feeling of sitting and relaxing.
People also use wine to cook or as an investment, but I’m not a huge fan of either. Somebody has spent a great deal of time and effort to make such a great thing, then the least you can do is do them the courtesy of drinking it. Yes, red wine is a wonderful thing.
Monday, September 17, 2012
I just love mountains. Whether it’s the view once you get up to the top, or staring up at a magnificent snow-capped peak from the valley below, they have a presence that dominates. I have spent many serene moments sitting t the top of a pass and staring at the scenes around me. I can’t think of too many more relaxing things to do.
There is silence. There is often a gentle, cool breeze drifting down from above. There is the sun that glistens off the top of the peaks, where the snow and ice still hugs the rock.
At night you can still feel the presence of the mountains towering over you. They have a sense of weight, of gravity, pulling you towards them. They block out the stars with their bulk and the ice reflects the twinkling stars.
Lying on your back watching the clouds swirl around a peak, each little eddy curling back on itself; listening to the rumbling of distant avalanches; sinking your hands into the fresh icy snow as you sit looking down into a valley from the top of a mountain; drinking a cup of lemon tea as you just appreciate the serenity; these are all magical experiences.
There is just something very comforting about mountains; they provide an aesthetic experience, and if you are so inclined, a physical one. A world without mountains would be a poor world indeed.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
There is something rather wonderful about waking up in the morning knowing that there is no urgency to get out of bed. You can simply lie there and watch the light brighten the room. For busy people these days are like gold. You can stretch and glory in the fact that you did not need to set the alarm; you might even want to turn over, hug your pillow and snooze for another half-an-hour.
Then you can have a leisurely breakfast while you unhurriedly read the paper and consider what you want to do with your time. If it is a nice day you might take a book outside and sit in the sun; if it is a cold day you might decide to stay in watch some television. Sometimes you might decide to stroll up the cinema and watch a movie in the middle of the day, or go down to the beach to swim in the glorious ocean.
Days where you have nothing planned give you time to think about things in a clear and undistracted way. They remind us of what a day is, and the fact that we often don’t appreciate how precious days are because we are so busy. Days with nothing planned is 24 hours of total ‘me’ time that is all your own. Treasure them.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
It’s everywhere and most of us could not imagine a world without it – so we take it for granted. It’s colour, and it is simply the refraction and reflection of light of different wavelengths. The sky is a pleasing blue because light is refracted through the atmosphere – can you imagine a sky of a different colour? Perhaps you could, but would it bring you the uplifting experience that comes with opening up the curtains in the morning and seeing a clear blue sky?
You choose your car for its colour, your phone for it colour, you carefully choose the colours to paint your house, and so many more things as well. And what about the pleasing green of a nice lawn, the deep blue of the ocean, the bright white of a cloud against the sky, or the myriad of colours that flowers provide. You only have to look at a city to see what a lack of colour does. How many times have you walked down a street surrounded by grey buildings situated on grey streets, with grey footpaths, that suck the life out of the day? And then you go out of the city and there are fields of yellow canola, green grass, freshly ploughed brown fields, and the wildflowers growing by the side of the road. As soon as you are out of the greys your heart lifts and the day feels better.
But colour is everywhere. Your workspace at wherever it is that you work is going to have colour. Even the mundane things like files have colour codes that, as well as making them easier to find, brighten them up. There might be a pot plant that brings a softness and colour to your area, your own choice of highlighter pen, as well as your favourite coloured ‘sticky’ notes.
We all have a favourite colour(s). Colour lifts us, keeps us interested. Colour adds texture to life, and it comes in uncountable shades and hues. Colour makes art come to life, defines different sporting teams, defines national flags, makes people smile. Colour makes the world go round and is all too often overlooked. Colour is one of the joys of life.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
There is a very special moment that can happen at the end of a stinking hot summer’s day. I live in a city that suffers hot summers, and during the peak months of that season, the temperature soars over 40 degrees Celsius with a relentless regularity. On days when the sea breeze doesn’t arrive to cool the city down, the maximum can occur between 4 and 5pm.
By that time the clouds would have had over five hours to build up and start to rumble their song around the skies. The cottonwool style cumulus is boiling up to the north and gradually blocking the sunlight. After a long day at work it is time to sit on the veranda and watch the evening’s entertainment. All of the storms are bound to be drifting east and there is only a very slim chance of any rain coming to cool down the air. It would only increase the humidity and make the evening more uncomfortable.
The hot air is pleasant on the skin and the warm easterly breeze reminds the city that summer packs a punch even at night. By 7pm the temperature is still over 30 degrees Celsius and there is a cold bottle in your hand and a sheen of sweat on your face. Rubbing the bottle over your brow brings instant relief, but nothing a good as the first sip of the ice-cold liquid slides down your throat. Ahhh!
For a short time, sitting feet up, there is hope that this time the rain will come, but it is not to be; they drift off to the east content to tantalise and torture with hope, leaving you to enjoy the beer and watch the lightning illuminate the sky and the enormous clouds. As the thunder fades it is time to retreat into the air-conditioned comfort of your home and settle in for the evening. But tomorrow may provide the chance to do it again; the chance to watch the grandeur of nature put on a free firework show. Then you can crack open another beer and relax once again while enjoying a refreshing drink.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
One of the many pleasures of life is getting a hug. There is not much better a feeling than having some arms wrapped round you and feeling the warmth of somebody else. And a hug is such a versatile thing. It can be used to signify compassion, joy, or even just a simple acknowledgement of your existence. I’m not talking about the hug for appearances’ sake, I’m talking about the hug that comes with strong arms and long embrace.
When you hug your partner and close your eyes you can simply stand there with a feeling of absolute belonging and acceptance. If you are unhappy and somebody hugs you, you immediately feel comforted by their concern and not so alone in the world. They might not be able to solve your problem, but they’ve shown they care.
If everybody is ecstatic and leaping around for joy as part of a team, a hug seems the most natural and necessary thing to do to show that you’ve all achieved something together.
And a hug can also signify forgiveness. A simple sorry might not carry much weight, but a hug at the same time will show that there is genuine meaning behind the apology.
So go home and hug your partner - a hug is wonderful thing.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Let’s get back to something that happens every day, just like sunrise. I’m talking about sunset. It is one of the most beautiful times of the day.
It happens no matter where you are; up in the mountains watching the sun drop between two snow-capped peaks, it’s rays glistening off the ice against a darkening sky; sitting on your back porch watching the sunset between the trees while you sip a cool drink; and my personal favourite, sitting a beach looking to the west at the end of a summer’s day.
On such days the sea breeze has stopped blowing and I am sitting on the warm sand, feeling it's rough texture between my toes before the cool ocean washes rhythmically up the slope to gently cleanse the skin.
On the horizon the sky has begun to cycle through its evening colours that reflect off the base of the clouds, providing an ever-changing oil painting for a view. The blue is replaced by a bright yellow that then fades into an orange when the sun finally lowers itself beneath the horizon. The sea is then a brilliant blue against the still light sky, before that colour fades to grey with the departing light.
Then a deep scarlet hue infuses itself across the cloud base, before it gradually fades to a darkening purple. At this time the brighter stars are poking through the gloom and night is encroaching. Soon the light will have gone completely.
All you are left with the gentle puffs off the cool humid air that carries the memory of a summer’s day and leaves the taste of salt on your lips. Just perfect.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
I don’t know about you, but one of the small joys in life that gives a disproportionate amount of pleasure is finding a book that is pure gold, by an author I’ve not read before. In fact, one of my favourite pastimes is shuffling around second-hand bookshops leafing through dusty tomes that were published before I was born. These days, you can also flick through pages on the internet to do the same thing, but I still love the feel of paper beneath my fingers.
In these bookshops you find little gems, mysteries that were published in the 1930s that use language you’d never use yourself these days, but still take hold of your imagination, still make you turn the page to find out what happens next. And in these bookshops you also come across old books from your childhood – the stories you read when you first began to get interested in books. You might not read them again, but they briefly take you back to those innocent times when books were a new discovery.
And second-hand bookshops are cheap too; they allow you to get a book for a few dollars and are sometimes willing give you some of that money back if you later want to exchange your book for another one. You can’t lose in these places; you can only find yet more treasures or memories. If you are like me, you lose track of time and miss appointments because you are lost between the dusty shelves, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a smile on your face, head bowed over a book.
Time slows down in here – you are in another world where reality has lost its grip and fantasy is in control. Long- live second-hand bookshops!
Monday, August 27, 2012
Forget the big mega lottery wins, which often bring stress and anxiety, it’s the small wins that provide moments of pure happiness.
When you’ve bought your scratch-and-win game and the numbers come up that signify you have won five or ten, or even 100 dollars, you feel elated. Similarly when you put your lottery ticket in the machine and it comes up with Congratulations – Winner you know that some money is coming your way. Most of the time it’s only twenty dollars or so, but it means that you can buy a bottle of wine, have an extra cup of coffee or tea at a café, or it can go into the jar marked ‘Holiday Spending Money’ that will go towards making your next vacation more enjoyable. You might even use it to put into somebody’s birthday card as a gift, or buy a bunch of flowefs for somebody who is feeling down. You can do something useful with this win either for yourself or somebody else.
Then there is the fun in sitting down with your lottery ticket and checking it against the winning numbers. As you go through and you realise you’ve achieved a win, your evening is made. Fortune has smiled on you and it feels good! A totally random bonus.
It’s these little wins that come along with surprising regularity that help make the days brighter and happier.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
The Night Sky
When the night draws back the curtains to reveal the universe within which we live, I find myself gazing upwards in wonder. Light is reaching us over unimaginable distances, distances that would blow your mind. And that light has taken thousands of years to get here. What we actually see is what once was, not what now is. We are looking directly into the past. Wow! A colleague of mine once told me that Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years - well he said absolutely everybody would come to see it. And I think he's right.
Those distant twinkling points of light, the blues, reds, whites, greens and oranges (if you ever get a chance to see The Jewel Box formation, you'll see all of these colours - it's magnificent) might even harbour life. How amazing is that? Are there planets circling those far off stars? If you can escape the city lights you’ll see the Milky Way, our home galaxy, stretching across above you – vast gas clouds obscuring some of the stars, the centre a dense, if distant, white mist of light full of countless stars, and perhaps even a large black hole.
And if you look hard enough, or are fortunate enough to have a telescope, you might even see distant galaxies, collections of billions of stars slowly spinning tens of thousands of light years away, maybe even further. We are in a big, big universe and every night we get to see it, to gaze up and see our home. It’s awesome.
To cap it off you may be lucky enough to see a shooting star tear across the sky, a brilliant ephemeral streak of light that sparkles into obscurity. Once or twice I fancy I heard them – a faint ripping sound. When I worked in the Kimberly I made a rule that I would see five before I went to sleep each night, and I was rarely disappointed. I was looking for diamonds, but the only ones I saw were in the sky – but they outshone everything else.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
There is something special about a bunch of flowers. I’ve been in so many dull rooms that have been hugely lifted by the simple act of placing flowers in them. The dullest of small apartments can feel ‘happy’ with such a small addition. If you get a good florist, and at this point I’ll plug my local florist Evergreen Florist in Dianella, Perth who do awesome colour arrangements, then you can bring vibrancy to wherever you live and also wherever you work. So many offices lack any colour or soul and yet it’s so simple to remedy this.
You can also give a bunch of flowers to brighten up someone’s day. I don’t know anybody who would not be uplifted by this gesture. It may be a cliché to send your partner some flowers but, like most clichés, there is reason that it is so popular. The scent and colour of a bunch of roses can take the sting out of most disasters. A bunch of flowers says that you care and you’re thinking of somebody.
When I was recently in London there was a florist, The London Flower Shop on Long Lane, just down from where we were staying. It was selling single stems rather than bunches and I wondered why. Perhaps because there were so many small flats nearby and people might not be able to afford a big bunch. But even a single flower carefully placed in a room brings happiness and light. The young lady in this shop fussed over us and put us together a small bunch that brightened up our apartment. She also made sure that we got flowers that hadn’t fully opened so they lasted longer - and we were able to pass them on to my aunt after a week. When we left England two weeks later that same bunch of flowers was brightening up another small apartment and still going strong.
It’s just one of the many small things often overlooked or taken for granted that makes a real difference and can lift people up.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Your bed ...what more do I really have to say? We all know and love our beds; they are our best friends. After you've have had a busy day, be it good or bad, sinking into your bed is pure joy.
When your muscles are fatigued, your brain is fried, or you're simply just partied out, your bed welcomes you into its warm embrace. Your pillow gently cradles your head and you begin to drift into that period of semi-consciousness. For a few moments you can feel your body becoming pleasantly heavy under the weight of the blankets. Your think hazy half-coordinated thoughts as you fade out. You never remember going to sleep - how could you? But you sleep the best deep sleep imaginable.
Then you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and relaxed, a nice tingle courses through your muscles as you stretch under the covers. You're just happy to lie there for a while as light infiltrates the room telling you that another day has arrived. You cling to the pillow, reluctant to move from this moment of absolute bliss, but your sleep has energised you and soon you are up and about, motivated and ready for anything.
Your bed is one of those small things that make life grand! Treasure your relationship with it.
Monday, August 20, 2012
When I thought about the list of small things that make life great, sunrise was up there staight away. The beginning of a new day is always special - if you see it it means that you are still alive, and that has to be good. It's also the start of a new adventure...what is going to happen? If you are awake when the sun rises then take some time to watch it without distraction wherever you may be. Use all your senses.
I spent a good 6 months in the Kimberley region living out of a swag and sleeping under the stars back in the early 90s and sunrise was the most magical time of day - it was serene. I have used this extract from a novel that I am writing (that may never be finished, but still, I enjoy writing it).
Sunrise in the Australian bush is of one the most beautiful experiences. If this is not something you have seen, please let me describe it for you in some more detail. Imagine that you have just opened your eyes…
It is cool, even cold.
The sun still rests below the horizon but the sky is already a soft blue colour infused with white.
It is perfectly still; faded green leaves hang limp.
There is a sweet smell in the air, a cool damp aroma that comes from the vegetation. It’s as if someone has doused the country with air freshener. Condensation clings to leaves and the makes the soil moist underfoot; it also carries the smell into your nose. The chorus of birdcalls that greeted the first light of dawn some half an hour ago has ceased.
There is only silence.
This is as peaceful as it gets anywhere in the world, as serene as you can be. Soon the sun’s rays will hit your swag and make any further rest unbearable, just as they had this morning, and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to experience this again. So drink it all in and feel your muscles and mind relax. Just feel the serenity...
As a teenager living in Stafford, in England, I would sometimes go on an evening run after eight o’clock to try to escape the slightly claustrophobic feeling that comes with close living in the suburbs. My route would take me along Sidmouth Avenue, across the Yelverton playing fields, through to Torrington or Falmouth Avenues, and then onto Porlock Avenue. On warm summer evenings (to all those Australians reading I promise they do exist in England) there were times when I went up the old bridle path that snuck between two houses and led through to the fields beyond. This marked the edge of the town.
Where the path came to the farmland there was a fence and stile that provided a secluded and quiet seat. From here I could gaze out to the east over rolling hills covered with golden fields of cereal, or the green forests of Cannock Chase. On a still day, I might see the columns of steam from Rugeley Power Station soaring up like solid pillars supporting the sky. I would shut out the houses behind me, the road, and Walton High School to my right, and just concentrate on the rolling hills that glowed in the soft evening light.
The gentle evening breeze would agitate the crops, each stalk waving at me from across the hill that curved away to the east. The gentle puffs of this wind extracted tension with the ease of the hands of a well-practiced masseuse. Sitting with my back to the houses, fully hidden from view at my vantage point behind high fences, this was a little sanctuary of peace only five or ten minutes from home. I might continue the run from here, five-miles in total, or if I was feeling suitably relaxed I might just amble slowly home.
This was in the late 1980s, and that view unfortunately no longer exists as I remember it; the powers that be have plonked houses by the road below. Such is life. However, that was my little piece of open space, and ever since then I have been able to find such places wherever I have lived. Just a little bit of patience is all it takes to find yourself a personal space where you can escape. I can still go there every day if I want to, despite it being 12000 miles away. The memories of these places are one of the little things that bring a moment of happiness to any day.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I could just dribble for a while as a sort of introduction, but I will resist the temptation and jump straight into the small things that bring joy to life.
There is a moment that happens out of the blue. It usually happens when you are in the middle of cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen, or the oven (well perhaps not the oven. I might happen when you are in the middle of dealing with a pile of paperwork, bills etc. It might even happen when you are cooking a meal, writing a book, washing the car, or maybe even just reading the paper top catch up on the latest disasters and incompetence of politicians.
Then you hear the first bars of a song on the radio. This is a song that takes you back to a great time in your life. It might be to do with a great time of your youth - your first crush at high school for instance, a great event at university, a personal achievement that made you feel on top of the world. Before you know it your foot starts tapping and your fingers follow along; your head begins to bob to the beat and you find yourself mouthing the words to yourself. Your knee then starts flexing, encouraging your hips to move to the rhythm. Arm movements follow and then suddenly you are down on your knees air-guitaring the guitar solo or dancing like a maniac around the room, the garden, or the office, singing in your toneless voice.
This is a priceless moment (and not just for those lucky enough to see you making a twat of yourself) that lifts you up for the whole day. You can’t help but feel better for it – the mundane reality has been pushed to one side, washed away by a moment of pure uninhibited joy. It’s the little things…