Friday, November 15, 2013
Walking is something that you take for granted; you probably don’t even think about much. Maybe you’d rather take the car or train because it is quicker. But imagine if you couldn’t walk – you’d miss it. Just ask people in that situation. However, it’s not all about speed. Walking makes you slow down and look around. It gives you time to think.
Taking a journey by car or bus, or train is quite two-dimensional. There are fleeing images, none of which stay with you for very long; it is all so very superficial. All you get is a pretty picture, some nice colours, but no real warmth. All too soon you find yourself back home with some fast fading memories and a vague feeling that there was more to see and do, or that an important experience was missed. If you drive through this landscape there is an indeed an experience that you have missed.
I love walking; it’s one of the small things that I think enriches life. I go on walking holidays – it’s a way to get to know a country, experience the world in which we live. Walking makes sure your journey is not rushed. It insists that you do not brush off the views, the smells, and changes in the weather and light. You can’t close windows, turn up the lights, or turn on the air-conditioning. Walking in the country or bush demands that you cast off the shackles of urban life and surrender to the whims of Mother Nature. But just walking down the street to the shops is something to be treasured. You are out in your community; you can feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin, and the ground beneath your feet.
Walking is such a simple thing. One foot in front of the other, repeated. It is almost meditative, soothing. Long treks simplify life. There is nothing but getting up, walking, eating, sleeping, taking in the landscape. It’s how we were meant to travel. Don’t take it for granted – it was what your body evolved to do. And a long walk presents a chance to cleanse the mind and body of stress; to return to that peaceful place we all need to go to reclaim our sanity and our humanity. And it costs nothing
Do some more walking – you’ll thank yourself for it.
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.