Archive for March, 2016


The weather has been slightly more schizo than lately, but we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the rain (and hailstones!) from inside with this lovely long bank holiday weekend! I’m sure you know I have an obsession with trees (and chocolate) so naturally I took the chance to take a picture of these today when rushing out to the shops to buy snacks for a lazy Sunday!

Enjoy the weekend all!

xxx

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Today we had a minute’s silence at work for the attacks in Brussels, which was a horrible, unjustified event only a few days ago. It made me feel sad and a little pessimistic because we did the same thing in the office after the attacks in Paris not so long ago – a minute to reflect on events and pray for the lost victims, and hope that world events get better, that there are no more attacks, no more anger and no more twisting of beliefs to perpetuate more unreasonable violence.

It also made me sad, however, because there was no minute silence for Palestine, Turkey, Syria or various parts of Africa. You may think I am biased because many of these are Muslim countries, and this is why I feel affinity to them, and of course there is a part of me which does. There have been several attacks in Turkey in recent weeks, air strikes in Syria and on-going violence in parts of Africa such as Nigeria quite recently which have been ignored or sidelined, and which is pretty upsetting. But having grown up in a Western society, I also feel an affinity to Europe, to Britain, and it is more than my Muslim heritage speaking here. One of the things Islam teaches us is kindness to everyone, empathy and respect for all others, and as a human being it is natural to feel compassion whenever there are attacks on fellow people in any country. Naturally, the spotlight right now is being turned on refugees who are arriving all over Europe and who are homeless, scared and trying to protect themselves and their families. While there has been a lot of welcome for them, there is also a lot of resentment about whether they should be entitled to help and whether they are simply bringing the ‘enemy’ with then,

I’m sure I am not the first one to point out that all of the refugees arriving around Europe will be tarred with the same brush – when in fact it is these mindsets and violent groups that the fleeing refugees are trying to get away from. It makes me think back to my parent’s generation who arrived in the 70s and 80s, and even that ‘Windrush generation’ of the 50s, who came from across the world to Europe (and Britain) to make a new life and were treated with contempt and hostility by those who didn’t understand them, or those who believed the worst and didn’t trust them. It has taken a long time for these generations of incomers to build lives, trust and a place within this society, and it is attacks like this which can make immigrant groups feel unwelcome and undermined.

It is easy to be afraid. It is harder to stand up for what you believe in even when you are afraid, yet you stand up anyway. A part of me wonders whether there will be a time when we don’t have to worry about attacks like these. Maybe I’m naive, living in a modern age such as we do now, the horrors of war, hate and anger seem far away because we think we have evolved our minds and relationships since the World Wars, Civil Wars and battles for Independence which have taken place all over the world.

I do not mean to belittle the victims of Brussels or Paris, nor imply that what has happened is not a serious issue, because it is. I’m hoping we can learn from these to understand the hate behind these attacks and make sense of the senseless violence, so that it makes it easier for us to deal with. I am a strong believer of the idea that we can show Islam is not a hateful religion, and that those who twist it for their own agendas are not acting on our behalf. My point here, I suppose is the idea of fairness, while we are devastated by what has happened in Brussels recently, we should be equally outraged by the events in the Eastern countries. At the risk of making this a slightly hippy-fied post, in the end we are all people and we should share our prayers and compassion with everyone.

I recently posted about some upcoming events happening in London as part of Find your London Festival, so made sure I  kept an eye out for local events that I could attend. This weekend saw the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Valentines Mansion and Garden, which was a really fun even put together for the kids to enjoy (and the adults!).

I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (you can see the pictures from my own tea party for evidence!) and I always love seeing different takes on the idea of a quirky tea party. I love the idea of doing a tea party in the park, and what better time than spring?

My sisters and I took along my nieces and nephews to enjoy the fun, and were able to walk around inside the mansions and have a look at the historical site inside. The Tea Party was organised next to the mansion in the gardens  which had plenty of games, activities and equipment for the children, which we all managed to make good use of – I also loved the fact that there were plenty of people in costume!

One of the highlights of the Tea Party was the entrance of the Queen of Hearts, who told us we were very lucky to see her and that everything was “Marvellous!”, following with a parade with the White Rabbit and the Card Men, complete with pink flamingos!

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My favourite thing was probably this oversized Mad Hatter’s Top Hat, which we all took turns to sit on (and which didn’t collapse surprisingly), which was laid out for us to look at next to a giant plate of (foam) biscuits and some giant playing cards scattered around, as well as some very misleading direction signs!

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There were plenty of games which my younger nieces ran off to enjoy, which I thought were a great idea for kids to do in a park – I especially liked the fact that there was a croquet set!

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I also loved the random small touches laid out – oversized teacups, several top hats, a few Alices wandering around and plenty of flowers, cards and Chesire Cats, which really made the whole thing feel much more fun.

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The Mad Hatter’s Party was a fun day out (including the bit where the Queen made all of the children hold hands to make ‘hoop’s while the smaller children were hedgehogs who ran through them, croquet-style!) and it’s great to see something like this organised for free somewhere local. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more things like this for the Easter Holidays which make a great distraction and let us enjoy the local park.

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I’ve been keeping an eye out for events in London after the wonderful Lumiere London event a couple of months ago, so I was pretty glad to see posters and programmes for Find Your Festival in London, which are a group of free events over two weeks from 18th March until 28th March this month, which I wanted to blog about quickly as a lot of people weren’t aware of the Lumiere London one when it happened.

I’ll definitely be attending some of these events and keeping an eye out for what’s on, and it doesn’t end there either, there’s also a few other events coming on in April too!

You can download the full programme here to see what’s on in the area – perfect for the Easter holidays!

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A Grand Entrance

Its not often I get a chance to stop at beautiful gates like this, but naturally when they come on a beautifully grand scale like this, a picture must be taken. It brings me to mind stories that I’ve read in the past where the hero (or heroine) has to reach the gates fast enough to get their happy ending – or even Greek Tragedies like Orpheus and Eurydice‘s tale of lost love. Inspiring enough to try my own hand at a fable like this, if I manage to finish it, I’ll post my story!

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“my mother
is pure radiance.

she is the sun
i can touch
and kiss

and hold
without
getting burnt.”
― Sanober Khan

Primrose Bakery is a little tea-and-cake shop I found hidden away near Covent Garden yesterday while wandering around the cobbled streets after lunch (and making my husband step into makeup shops with me to buy new lipsticks). I love luxurious, sumptuious afternoon teas but every now and then I prefer something quirky, sweet and prettily put together with odds and ends for a boho, funky look.

I’ve been trying to moderate how much chocolate I eat these days, so we stuck to a single (very chocolatey) cupcake with some coke (for me) and a latter (for him). I loved all the little touches, like the fresh flowers on the table.

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I love finding places like this because you can see from a glance how much character it has, and also how much work has gone into it to make it memorable and beautiful. It’s also great to see everything is freshly-made and that there are books, posters, aprons and cupcakes everywhere to create a great atmosphere.

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There was a little corner hidden away in the room for those who wanted some privacy (to stuff down their cupcakes) which I thought was really cute too, not to mention the random clothes-line!

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A quick mention of the treats too – there were plenty of different flavours of cupcakes and brownies, including a ‘Flavour of the Month’ (this month is lemon meringue, last month was cheesecake!), all waiting to be lusted over by customers.

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Its worth stepping in if you’re walking past this place, it’s slightly hidden away but it’s in a great location, just a stroll down from the busy shops in Coven Garden – worth sitting in to relax after tiring yourself out shopping!

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But I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.
Anselm Keifer

It’s not often that I find a book which strikes a chord with me, even if it’s not a topic I don’t know much about or can relate to as well as others. It brings me to mind similar novels, simple yet amazingly written stories like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ and ‘Room’, both which handle sensitive issues well yet still engages the reader to a level which makes us think about the book long after we have finished reading.

EIM-pb-jacketElizabeth is Missing follows the narrative of 80-something-year-old Maud, who has been forgetting things more often lately, suffering from a growing but unnamed problem (which could be dementia, Alzheimer’s or just elderly senility), that makes her forget where she puts things, how many tins of peaches to buy (even though the cupboard is already full of them) and at times, who her daughter and granddaughter are. But Maud has her good moments too, gossiping with her friend Elizabeth, her love for her daughters and her granddaughter Katy, and the fact that she still has her own house that she can walk to the local shop from.
Lately Maud has been concerned with her friend Elizabeth, who has gone missing and which no one is telling her about, which causes ripples further than the questions she asks. Despite being told not to worry by her daughters, Elizabeth’s son, her caretakers and even the police, she becomes more and more convinced that Elizabeth is in danger.

As we follow Maud’s investigation into this disappearance, we see that she is hampered by her inability to remember things which happened just a few seconds ago. Yet there are some things from her past which come much more vividly to her, most importantly the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her older, newly-married sister Sukey when Maud was a teenager 70 years earlier, and the subsequent incidents following her disappearance and the fact that she was never found. Remembering back to her sister’s life following up to the time she went missing, Maud also examines the strange behaviour of the people who knew her, such as her husband, her parents, their lodger and even the crazy lady who lives up the road.

As we follow both of these mysteries, we see how Maud’s obsession with Elizabeth’s disappearance parallels her memories of her sister, interconnecting past with the present so that her quest to find Elizabeth begins to overlap with Sukey in her mind and her memories as the book goes on. While we may not necessarily be able to understand how dementia feels, it’s beautifully written so we are able to sympathise with Maud’s fragmented mind, drawing us into the story even when the scenes feel so every day.

I read this at the same time as The Girl on the Train, and although both feature mystery, missing memories and a feeling of disorientation, the results are a lot more striking in difference. While in The Girl on the Train can made me feel a little lost and even disappointing at times, Elizabeth is Missing successfully lets us see the effects of old age and dementia even while we are lost with Maud. Throughout the novel, whether it is the elderly Maud we see or her 15-year-old version, her character is unforgettable – funny, warm and even at times unexpectedly impressive even when her frustrating memory loss lets her down.

This sounds like a depressing novel, but it’s not – there are comical moments in the mundane, ordinary events of Maud’s life, beautiful moments in the midst of heartbreak, and her character is one we embrace, rather than be embarrassed of. Not only does it address everyday routines we take for granted, it unwaveringly presents the embarrassments, the small frights, the patronising attitudes and remarks, and the simple limitations that comes with old age. And whether it is funny at times, embarrassing or even moving, these little stories all ring true to life. It’s worth a read to see another view of everyday life, even if it’s to answer that age-old question “Where is the best place to grow marrows?”