Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A heavenly night

Last night I cycled through Crane Park Nature Reserve and it was utterly beautiful. The still winter-bare trees were silhouetted against the fading dark blue sky, dusk was hovering down low, there was no one else around, and I was cycling along listening to strains of Miles Davies wafting in my ears courtesy of the iPod... Last time I cycled through it in the evening there was a bright full moon lighting my way and a fox darted across the path. I'm beginning to get very fond of the place.

I also felt like a proper grownup cyclist in my flourescent yellow jacket! Goodness knows what it'll feel like when I actually get a helmet...

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Yesterday as I was making paper with some children I managed to put my right foot in a bucket of water.

I was absorbed in the intricate details of explaining how to squidge water out of the paper pulp when I noticed a funny sensation in my foot and looked down to see my foot (and shoe!) soaking up loads of water. As a professional I merely shrugged inwardly, pulled my foot out and carried on making paper. Afterwards we all laughed, of course, as that really is a rather stupid thing to do! And to manage to get my foot wet without noticing I was doing it - that's quite something.

My shoe is still very wet.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Moore at Kew Gardens

Yesterday afternoon after a house Sunday lunch we ambled over to Kew Gardens in the glorious sunshine and ambled right through the Lion Gate as Botanist waved us past the attendants with his staff card. It's an exhilirating feeling going into somewhere as expensive as Kew without having to pay a thing!

There is an exhibition of Henry Moore's sculptures dotted around the Gardens at the moment and you can go around taking in as many of them as you wish while still looking at the trees and plants everywhere. I really enjoy the interaction of walking up the the sculptures and walking around them and seeing them from all angles, and also how they did work in the settings they were placed in. Some worked brilliantly, but there was a particular sculpture that I disliked in "real life" as it felt all angles and slightly aggressive. But when I saw a picture of the same sculpture in a different location with far more space around it it looked as if it were dancing and I took to it immediately. Actually, I didn't even realise it was the same sculpture until HM1 pointed it out to me.

Several of Moore's sculptures explored the space and tension between related but not touching parts of a whole. Some of them were almost like a rubik's cube or other such puzzle in the way the separate parts joined together, and the gaps managed to frame the Gardens in a wholly different way too as you peered through the circles and curves of the scultpures. Several of the sculptures looked so climbable and inviting to climb I had to restrain myself! And having looked after a young person a few weeks ago at Kew who was sorely tempted to do exactly that, I know it can't be just me... Sadly, there were plenty of signs telling me I really ought not to climb them! But I do find that quite an interesting response in me. I imagine it extends from exploring the sculptures and following the lines and curves round the bends with my eyes, but them being so enticing that my tactile senses wanted to get involved too:)

The afternoon light was perfect for enjoying outdoor art, and it also worked brilliantly in the palm tree house. One of my favourite colours is the green light that you get as sunlight shines through plant leaves, and there was plenty of that going on yesterday. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon.


My life seems to revolve a lot more around food at the moment. Eating it, making it, thinking about it...

It is probably due to our Lenten experiment, but I currently feel like I might be simultaneously going down the Maslow's Hierachy of Needs (towards the need to meet the physiological needs like food) and up towards the Self Actualisation by attempting to live what I believe. It is a very interesting balancing act.

So far we've had three dinner parties and I'm very pleased we're keeping up with offering hospitality. For one of them we only had to purchase an additional £2 worth of food to feed a two course meal for 8 people! (Our friend kindly brought a scrumptious pear and chocolate crumble to round the meal off.)

I've also started making lunches for myself again, a habit I had slipped out of. Now, I've not always been very impressed with what we've had in the fridge and the resulting lunch I've ended up with, but I have discovered a positive side to making lunches. It is a chance to reflect on the day ahead and it is an act of taking care of myself which is something I can be very bad at. Other things that I've restarted, like sprouting beans and baking, have a similar effect of taking longer but somehow helping a more holistic approach to my life. There is also a pleasing amount of creativity involved when faced with a red cabbage and some left over mayonaise from a school retreat HM1 led and creating a very nice red cabbage slaw...

I've been surprised by things, thoughts and ideas being tossed around my head since we started Lent. It has been a real vehicle for prompting memories and thoughts from the past as well as aiding a reflection on my daily life. It has also been a far more public matter than I had originally imagined and I am most definately placed out of my comfort zone in terms of people outside our Flat knowing what I am doing with my life!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Last Will and Testament...

We are currently sat round the living room and talking about our funeral plans and testaments. HM1 has bought a make-your-own-will kit, asked us to witness her will and we've been talking about our funeral wishes. And we've shared where we keep information, ie passports and addresses of next in kin, just in case we should die. It is a rather surreal conversation to be having with your breakfast. I don't think I've ever had this conversation with other housemates before.

My lack of assests have meant that I've never really considered making a will (and would thus die intestate...I'm even learnt some legal jargon this morning), and I guess I want as green a funeral as possible. But I think that's about as far as my thinking on the matter has got to!

HM1 has just handed me a photocopy of her blank will just in case I want to fill one out too. Perhaps I should give this some thought...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eating out

Our friend celebrated her birthday today with a meal with lots of people in town (ie central London). Which is all very fine and good until you have to start explaining to everyone there that you can't actually contribute a 16th of the bill and will only pay for your own food... It sounds very antisocial, and it feels it too! But there is only so far we can stretch the £13 handed to us from our communal pot at the beginning of the evening. It is a bit embarrasing though, although I guess it did provide a conversation starter with other people on the table. However, once that bit was over with the meal and company were very nice.

Being awkward in a social situation is quite difficult to do.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Our Lent Experiment

This Lent period my flat will be living at income support level. The three of us will contribute £59.15 each into the weekly budget and we will be paying for our food, transport, utilities, and other small random things out of it for the six week period. The money that we "save" (ie the difference of what we might normally spend) will be donated to our individually nominated charities.

We started talking about doing this ages ago, even if Lent starting tomorrow seems a bit too soon, and I think there are a whole variety of reasons for us taking this sort of action. We are trying our best to be an intentional community and I think this is part of the larger community experiment. What will happen when we are so dependent on each other's actions? Iona community members are accountable for their use of time and money and I think this will make us be more accountable to each other about our use of money, something that hasn't happened much so far. And it isn't just our little community, but the bigger one around us. We've been fairly public about our plans so I hope others will be interested in what and why we're doing - even if they aren't taking part in this crazy experiment themselves!

It's also about our ideas of justice and simplicity. They are very complicated ideas and sometimes feel difficult to live out but I'm hoping this will provide an opportunity for it. Lent is also a time of taking stock and focussing on where we are and where we might want to be. In a pre-Lent buying spree I finally got round to buying two bread tins. Not difficult to do, nor that expensive, but it's something I've been meaning to do pretty much all year but never quite got round to doing it. (There's nothing like an impending spending cut for a bit of focussed panic-buying...:) Somehow that exemplifies for me what Lent/life should be about: living life fully, intentionally, and not always putting stuff off until later.

I agree with what we're doing and as an experiment I think it'll be fascinating to do. However there is also a part of me letting out a little sigh. I've just spent the majority of last year on income support or unwaged and having finally got a decent paycheck I've suddenly agreed to voluntarily cut my spending. The most boring thing about being poor is having to think about money all the time. I'm also slightly worried that my previous simplicity was more to do with frugality and not having any resources rather from the high moral ground I thought I was on!!:)

Nonetheless, the challenge is exciting and I'm ready to be creative with what we've got and what we do. As was said in our house meeting: "We'll just have to drink more gin." Our wine consumption will probably have to become more moderate over the next few weeks, but as we have a fair amount of gin and in the spirit of using up what is in the house we might just have to make do with that...

So I think it will be frustrating at times having to make awkward choices. But I am looking forward to it all too, as a chance to reflect on my own priorities as well as the household ones, as a challenge, and as a chance to make a difference.

I'll keep you posted...