Eid-ul-Fitr 2014…Food Mubarak!

Eid has come after a month of fasting, which admittedly was a lot more tiring than we all realised. But at the end of it all, we are sad to see it go, as so many things are happening around the world which has put a lot of things into perspective for us.

I completely forgot to take any pictures of food for once, it was too busy going into my mouth rather than being captured by my lens, but be assured that it was good food, with good company!

Here’s a few snaps of our days, we had babies running around looking cute and mischievous, lots of amazing food, a bbq out in the garden and as always, lots of laughs and gossip.

Hope your Eid was a nice as ours, I wish I had more pictures to share!

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Cloudy Mirrors

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
Khalil Gibran

I love mixing two mediums, surfaces and colours together, particularly with photography and have been experimenting with this recently, using jewellery, mirrors and beautiful patterns. This is something I did recently, a compact mirror reflecting a cloudy sky, hinting at something philosophical and whimsical. Neither the mirror nor the clouds dominate the picture, and you’re left with something that feels almost like a painting.

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These beautiful gemstone compact mirrors are available to buy here.

Containers: Not just about food.

I thought I’d contribute to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, which I thought was a good one, about Containers. It gives me a chance to reflect on the idea of the sort of containers I’ve been seeing lately, which is of food. Ramadan time for us is usually symbolised (among a lot of other things) by the samosas in my mum’s famous hot-pot container – the smell of samosas instantly brings back memories of early mornings with parathas (buttered chapattis) and iftars spent hovering over my mum’s shoulders while she fried delicacies which we usually see at Ramadan times; afternoons spent salivating over plates of watermelons and strawberries, and waiting for tall glass of cool water.

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Not everyone has the luxury of containers of food that we have though. The whole point of Ramadan, as well as getting close to our spiritual side, is to empathise with those who don’t have the abundance of food that we do, and those who don’t get to end their starving days with a feast. It is easy to forget your hunger when you are biting into a juicy fruit chaat or some hot pakoras, measuring your fasts by the clock instead of by experiences.

Not everyone in the world has the luxury of making everyone wait to eat while they take a picture (yes I’m one of those), while everyone sits back amused, because they know they’ll get their food once that picture is taken. Some parts of the world do not have food to Instagram/Facebook/Tweet the way we do, and do not have the choice of beautiful food.

Not everyone has the luxury of loving making their food, taking their time to eat and savouring their meal. I’m sure you have seen plenty of images and heard news about the horrific things which are happening in Gaza, as well as Palestine right now. There is growing unrest about this, not just the heartbreaking violence, but the lack of action from the Western world, the lack of reportage and the outright refusal to acknowledge events by the major powers – the Western media, the politicians and prime ministers, and those who do have a voice. We have seen protests, rallies and several movements, which are not just online but on the streets all over the world, and which are fighting to give these people a voice, to make change. I can’t help but think about these people who have lived their lives in fear, worrying about whether they will ever eat their meals in peace, whether the roofs over their heads will stay in one place, whether they can let their children sleep in homes without worry. I can’t imagine what Ramadan must feel like to the Palestinians right now – whether it is something they can experience without fearing whether they will see the end of it.

It is apt that it is Ramadan right now. It is the best time for us to truly reflect, think about what we can do to help the disadvantaged. If there is one thing I have learned it is that there is no point in bettering yourself, reflecting spiritually and empathising with the poor by feeling hungry if you don’t use those lessons learned to help others and to further the messages learned.

It is a container of samosas, yes. But it is also so much more – it represents all the luxuries we have which we can so easily forget in our sheltered lives and take for granted. I don’t mean to belittle the lives of our #FirstWorldProblems#, it is easy to be cynical and undermine the efforts of those who actually have tried to make a difference – the things I have seen recently makes me proud of so many of my brothers and sisters. But perhaps, this is a gentle reminder, to appreciate what we have – look at things from a different angle.

London Film and Comic Con 2014

My sister and I were able to visit the London Film and Comic Con this weekend, over Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we just went to the Saturday event, though), which was a really fun experience, especially as this is the second comic-con showe we’ve been to after the MCM London Comic Con last year. The event was held at Earl’s Court and showcased a number of things – I love that Comic Con has now become much more than just comic books and superheroes. This one covered film and TV series, comic books, computer games and also fiction books. There were a number of TV and film celebrities available for photos and signings, and also comic book artists and book authors who were in attendance, ready to sign their work.

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My sister had the foresight to buy ‘Earlybird tickets’ – which still meant queuing up but it meant that buy paying a little extra, we could get into the venue at 9.00am, which we managed to do. While queuing we saw a huge variety of costumes, merchandise and cute little children dressed up as Supergirl/Superman/Spiderman/that little girl from Dispicable Me which were a fun prelude (and a sign of who the real fanboys were).
When we finally got inside, the place was already busy and there was lots of things to see and visit. The venue was divided into different ‘zones’ for varying interests as well: the Book Zone, the Comic Zone, the Anime Zone, the Video Game zone, the Cosplay zone and Artists Alley, alongside the talks, celebrity photoshoots and signings which were going on, not to mention various raffles, stalls and competitions.

As always, this year’s Film and Comic Con was full of costumes which had been really well thought out, I loved some of the originality of costumes, not to mention the attention to details which made some of these look really good (a lot of them stayed in character too, Chewbacca spent the whole time growling and making squealing noises everytime we went past him).

The celebrities were a big appeal for us. We managed to see most of them with the exception of Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia in Star Wars) who we missed, and comic book legend Stan Lee, who was in a separate area and which we would have had to buy extra tickets for (which were expensive but still very popular!) Below are just some of the celebrities we saw, there were a lot more which I haven’t included! We recognised pretty much most of them, partly because I watch too much TV and also because some of these people were pretty cool. The celebrities all seemed really nice and down-to-earth, which was great to see.

There were also a lot of talks going on during the day with various actors and writers, my sister and I are big Sherlock fans (the British version) and there was meant to be a talk called ‘Sherlocked’ with the writers and producers of the show, which we wanted to attend. However after we took one look at the huge queue and the fact that it would be at least an hour and half wait, we decided not to go (and just stream the talk online at home!) – it was just too hot and would have made the long day longer, if we hadn’t been fasting it would have been worth the wait.

I loved the fact that there was a separate section for YALC – Young Adult Literature Con, which was apparently the first one in the UK. I’m a big book-reader and aspiring author, and it’s always great to see support out there for people who want to write. There were also a lot of names I recognised, many from books I read as a teenager whom I was a big fan of like Malorie Blackman, Darren Shan and Patrick Ness, who are pretty well-known.

And of course there were hundreds of stalls, booths and tables to buy all sorts of things, comic books, costumes, gadgets, computer games, toys and souveniers. We kept an eye out for anything we wanted to buy, but some of the things were a little pricey (I wanted a comic-book print dress but wasn’t really prepared to spend £65 on it), but it was still good to see the buzz of people selling all sorts of things.

My sister and I spent a lot of time looking at various comics, gadgets and quriky stuff, and we ended up at the table of an emerging artist, Hameed Catel, creator of kirucomics which we had a good discussion with as he told us the premise of his two comic book series (and also sold us one, which he also signed!) I really like the idea of both of his comic series, one about a young thief who is suddenly given powers, and who doesn’t behave as heroic as he should, which sounded pretty funny – the Champion of Dema graphic novel is the one we bought. He also told us about his other comic series which was waiting to be published, about a detective called Hani. We both really liked the idea of this one because it seemed more Middle-Eastern based, and also very Muslim-friendly, goodness knows there aren’t enough Muslim superheroes out there, although it’s a growing niche! The series is still waiting to be published very soon, I’ll post about it as soon as I hear more!

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We also stopped to play a few vintage arcade games, as well as look at the latest games being released (I beat my sister at Pacman, naturally). It was good to see people of all ages at this place, there were an area of old-style arcade games grouped together which gave an arcade-feel, as well as lots of computer and television monitors around with the more modern games.

 

Throughout the venue were plenty of displays, from books, TV series and films, and all pretty spectacular. I love the Sherlock set (I have no idea if its the original one, but I wouldn’t be surprised), and the Batmobile (something my nephews would love).

Because we were fasting, we didn’t want to spend all day at the Comic Con and left in the afternoon after we had spent time looking at everything and stopping again to peeki again at several celebrities. It was also a really warm day, and as we walked out of the building back to the Underground Tube station, we could see the queues of people waiting to come in were still getting longer and going down past the roads – it really was astounding how popular this London Film and Comic Con is, and how far people travelled to come.

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All in all we had a good day, and it was interesting to meet various fans who interpreted film, TV and comics in their own way. I don’t think I’m as big a fan as some of the people who attended, but it was fun, and who knows, maybe next time I’ll go in costume!

The Murder of Snow White

“Skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony and lips as red as blood.”

At first glance, Nele Neuhaus’ bestselling novel now Snow White Must Die seems to be a typical thriller, one full of tense narrative, dramatic conspiracies and elaborate wrongdoings – and I suppose, in a way, it is. But there is nothing of the American, stylized, sensational thriller in this novel – it’s dark , mysterious and depressing, but it’s also very human, and has nothing of the cold, easy solutions wrapped up in the usual whodunnits.

Translated from Neuhaus’ native German, the story issnowwhitemustdie one that creeps up on you as you get deeper into it, and the narrative trickles into several voices and characters, with a few sub-plots, different timelines, flash-backs which are seen in different perspectives, as well as a twisting storyline which is actually quite believable.

I’ll admit, I love my murder mysteries and thrillers, although a lot of the ones I seem to read these days are either junk-book-style or good ole’ Agatha Christy, who, as much as I love her , becomes a little predictable once you’ve read all of her books (it’s never the butler who did it, it’s usually the secretary).

Set in a small village in present-day Germany, the plot begins with a tragedy that has already taken place a decade earlier. Newly-released from prison, Tobias Sartorius returns to his home town after serving eleven years in prison for the conviction of murdering two girls, the beautiful Stefanie, dubbed Snow White, and ex-girlfriend Laura, both missing in mysterious circumstances which no one, including Tobias himself, have ever figured out. The bodies of both girls have never been found, and the village has never quite recovered from the shadows of the murder, shaping the inhabitants in ways which have changed them.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff and DS Oliver von Bodenstein are in charge of a new case, that of a discovery of some bones dug up in a nearby quarry, thus re-opening suspicions about what really happened on the night of the double homicide. As the village inhabitants close ranks and remain tight-lipped about what they know, and the atmosphere in the tight-knit community becomes more and more strained, it becomes apparent that there is a something much more complicated going on, and suspicions that perhaps Tobias isn’t really the guilty party. Through random acts of violent, heartbreaking revenge, the false veneers of the deceiving behaviour of the villagers, and the arrival of a young girl called Amelie (who resembles the missing Snow White), it is clear that although Tobias has served his time, there are still plenty of secrets leftover, and plenty of people willing to go far to keep them.

Nele Nauhaus’ book has taken the book world by storm, and after reading it, I wasn’t surprised it had. I initially thought this was going to be a typical, dumbed-down mystery, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t – if anything, it twists several strands of genres to be more than just a typical murder mystery. It reminded me also of popular Danish series The Killing, a gritty, depressing and well-written drama which also follows several characters in the aftermath of murder. Snow White Must Die is similar in style, and in successfully creating an atmosphere which stays long after the book has ended. As one reviewer put very well, “Neuhaus is terrific at creating the complex claustrophobia of a village where the same families have lived for generations” – there’s a real sense of right and wrong being muddied, and loyalties being blurred and confused.

What I loved most about this book is that it evokes an era unique to the village and to German culture – I’m used to very English settings, American pop culture and even the usual fast-pace of thrillers and murder mysteries – but this is different, showing the livelihoods of the villagers, the close-knit community and the law and justice in this village. The end of this novel leaves the reader thinking about not only the butterfly effect of one night which ripples out into the present; but also the fact that there’s no clichéd concept of the ‘hero’ and the ‘villain’, all have been touched and damaged by the tragedy, and all have to confront the truth when it is revealed. It is certainly a good read, and one which draws you into the lives of more than one character, but it may not appeal to everyone – it is gritty and it is depressing, and there is no easy solution at its end. It draws home the fact that there is a petty, ugly side to everyone, that in the ordinary and mundane there can also be jealousy, deceit and misplaced loyalty which can  lead to something more sinister. I would definitely recommend this as something to try even if you don’t usually read murder mysteries – the characters will draw you in and there’s even a slight touch of The Count of Monte Cristo about it which resonates.

A Snapshot View of Tour de France 2014

We were lucky enough to have the Tour de France cyclists whizz past my office today, and of course we all took this as an opportunity to leave the office building for an hour while we cheered passing floats, followed by the superfast cyclists.

We all cheered when they came (although there was a lone, non-Tour-de-France related cyclist who rode past first and got the shock of his life when we all screamed), and there was plenty picture-taking/mobile waving/jumping up and down.

And then, as quick as they came, they left, and the crowd just as quickly dispersed and went back into their offices.

A good way to spend a Monday at work : )

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