Sunday, 30 September 2012

Life in The Sticks

Hello all!!

I love living in London. I love living in the city. But every once in a while, it is great to get away from the bustle of the city and enjoy the green, the nature, the simple things in life.

Last five days I've spent in Foy, Ross-On-Wye, South England. And what wonderful time I've had. But on the fifth day, I was ready to go back home, to the big smoke. I was happy to see buildings and concrete!!!

But while away, I truly enjoyed everything country side has to offer. I gazed at the stars at night (one of the favourite things to do), took long walks, enjoyed the fresh air.
Here are some of the things I saw and experienced.

In contrast to my first home Bosnia and Herzegovina, England is really flat. I admired its landscape on the way to the woods:

A big group of London kids have never seen where and how the corn grows. This boy secretly took one of the corns from the neighbouring farm. He was quite pleased with himself and his thieving occupation that day. Even though some of the adults told him off, I supported his mischief. He said: "This is better than watching TV!" I think he is right:

On the walk, we admired the river Wye. Muddy, but still pretty:

On our walk, I spotted these juicy apples. I didn't join in the thievery of the day, but I took pictures:

We all laughed at the tiny post box and took quite a few pictures posing in front of it. In London, you only get the very big ones. This was quite a big deal to all of us:

I spent quite some time watching the swans. Of course, I couldn't help recalling the fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling". It made me think of the moral of that lovely story, and how relevant it is to the kids I was spending my time with. In fact, one of the first things I did when I got back home was to re read it. I realised then that it actually resonates with adults too, not just children:

And then, on the last day as I was waiting for the children to gather, I noticed one of the young people who work and live at the activity camp we were staying at, working. I noticed how neatly he was placing the helmets he was washing:

I stood and watched him work. He'd wash one helmet, placed it on the boat, then stood back to see how it looks. It was so nice to see how much satisfaction he was having in doing this seemingly mundane chore. The activity camp was closing for the season the next day, and he was cleaning and preparing for the next season that would start in February 2013.
I went over to take pictures and of course, to have a little chat. I said: "You seem to get a lot of satisfaction out of what you're doing." He replied: "If you're not enjoying what you are doing, then you are looking in the wrong place."
And I thought, how wise he is (he is probably only 22-23), and how lucky I am. My job does not pay well. It is pretty stressful and it is very tiring. Yet, I find it very satisfying and rewarding. On a good day, I make a difference to someone's life and their learning. On a less good day, I make sure that I make someone at least smile. I am very lucky, just as this guy seems to be:


As I turned to go, I spotted these beautiful roses. Not only were they pretty, but they also smelt nice:

Nourished with everything nature has to offer, I was ready to go back home, to concrete buildings, to London.

I am going to leave you with this:

"Don’t worry about what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Have a lively and happy week everyone.

Red xx

Sunday, 16 September 2012

What Books Are On Your Coffee Table?

Hello all!

It is odd that someone (me) who loves reading and cannot live without books, has never done a post about books. Queer, or as Alice in Alice in Wonderland says: "Curious and curiouser!"
There is not a day that I don't spend at least an hour reading. No matter how busy I am, no matter how tired I am, no matter what time I get home, I will make sure that I have "me" time with my book. Even if I just go grocery shopping, I have a book in my bag. You just never know - something unexpected my happen like, the sky might fall on my head, I might get kidnapped, or stuck under a big rock, or most likely be in a long supermarket queue. You see, on such occasions, only a book can save me.
I read something today that Sebastian Faulks said in his interview in The Guardian:

"I don't know how you can understand other people or yourself if you haven't read a lot of books. I just don't think you're equipped to deal with the demands and decisions of life, particularly in your dealings with other people... I wouldn't know how to break bad news, how to sympathise, how to be a friend or a lover, because I wouldn't have any idea what was going on in anybody else's mind."

So, what have I been reading lately? The last book I read was actually Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. Absolutely beautiful and harrowing narrative of the senseless World War One as well a a heartbreaking love story, that had me thinking about it for days after I've finished it. If like me, you are late in catching up with this beautiful book, I strongly recommend that you start your autumn with this one.

This year's Booker shortlist looks very interesting, but until I get my hands on those new stories, here is what I am going to be catching up on for the next few months:

I have been meaning to read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood for years now. I have had it for long enough, and I am finally ready for it.

Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It is his memoir, but more about Murakami, in a moment.

And then, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, (by the way, allow me to show off a little here, this is a signed book!!). This is arguably one of the most controversial books of the last, well,... at least 20 years if not longer. In February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for blasphemy on its author and things have never been the same since then. This act showed (amongst many, many other things) what power a written word has, what it means to fight for freedom to speak, or express a view, what it means to stand by what you have created even if your life is at stake and what significance burning a book has. I've tried to read the book in the past, but I think I was too inexperienced and naive to understand it, so I left it and decided to come back to it, when I am more mature and able to understand it. Well, the time has come, and this is my next adventure. I am so excited, I cannot wait!

Pablo Neruda's The Captain's Verses is there on my coffee table, because I go back to it all the time. It is a beautiful collection of poems that gets me through life whether I am happy or sad. A must have, in my world.

And now, to my favourite writer, the mad, the odd, the funny, the strange, the wonderful Haruki Murakami.
I have been reading him for years, and I am like a kid in a sweet shop when I hold a book by him that I haven't yet read. If you don't think you are ready for the book I am going to recommend next, I suggest you start with his Norwegian Wood or Kafka on the Shore.

And so, I started my summer holidays with his epic (over 800 pages) 1Q84. I gobbled it up in two weeks. Trust me, it is no mean feat to read something so mammoth and heavy in such a short time, but I just could not get enough of the world and characters he created. I am not going to do a silly thing like try to give a summary or a review of this complex book. It would be pointless. However, I will tempt you with this: the world he has created has two moons in it, cults, a man and a woman looking for love and it is all set in the year of 1Q84. And yes, it has lots to do with George Orwell's 1984.
There were days when I would read it for 5-6 hours, go out for a drink with friends in the evening, then come back home and continue reading until the small hours.  
One night, I stayed up till dawn, enraptured in its world, went to sleep for a few hours only to wake up after a sweet slumber to have breakfast on my terrace with the characters from he book. In my book, a perfect night and a perfect morning. Something I will remember for a long time to come.
Here are few lines from 1Q84 to whet your appetite: 

"Someone once said that nothing costs more and yields less benefit than revenge."

"But you can't possibly tell that much. Tengo's name has never taken a step outside my heart.
Please, Miss Aomame, the man said. Then he released a brief sigh. There is nothing in this world that never takes a step outside a person's heart."

"This is what it means to live on. When granted hope, a person uses it as fuel, as a guidepost to life. It is impossible to live without hope.

And, so that's it for this edition of my book club. The only fear I have is that I will die before I have read all the books that I want to read in my life. I know how this story ends; I know I will die having not read everything I'd like to read. However, while I am here, I am going to try my best to continue this most exciting of the love affairs with the most perfect of art forms and continue broadening my horizons through the stories from all over the world.

PS. To my shame I have never read a Si-Fi book. I will be correcting this strange behaviour in the next few months.

So, what is on your coffee table or by your bed? What is your favourite book? Maybe you like reading dictionaries? (I am quite partial to that too.) Any suggestions would be more than welcome.

Happy week everyone, and of course, happy reading!!

Red xx


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Little Things in Life That Make Me Happy

Hello all!!

After a somewhat "serious" post, here is one that is on a more positive note; things that have made me happy in the last month or so.

Of course, food. Good, delicious food makes me happy. I eat healthy food and take care of what I eat, but I also allow myself less healthy stuff, every once in a while. It is all about balance. My mum makes the best baklava in the world, and so here is half of one, together with a roulade made of chocolate and walnuts. Seriously delicious:

Then, my aunt's famous custard buns. She makes it every time I go back home. It is a real treat, and it reminds me of my childhood:

Of course, a good pizza is always welcome (and can I just say, Balkan countries do know how to make a good pizza). And, a good salad to go with it:

A good, strong coffee is a staple in my diet :-) and this one was especially delicious as it had my sister's silhouette in it when I was taking a photo of it:

This picture has nothing to do with food, but I like it and I agree with its political sentiment. I saw quite a few of these in Sarajevo. This one was in a dark alley and it made me smile:

And of course, bad spelling. Who doesn't like that?

What makes you smile and happy? What do you see when when you look up?

Hope you all have a lovely and fun weekend.

Red xx


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Out With the Old, In With the New

Hello all!!

It has been a while since I last posted. I still go through my favourite blogs on a daily basis, but just couldn't write anything myself. Inspiration just wasn't there.

I think, that's because I was trying to put myself together. Every once in a while, I re-evaluate my life and what I am doing, and the big re thinking of my life and me as a good person happens every 10 years. I suppose I do it almost on a daily basis, but the BIG re-evaluation happens when I turn the big, in this case 40! 

When I turned 30, I felt a sense of being at peace with myself. After very turbulent 20's, 30's felt like a new life began.
Then 40 came on the 12th of August, and I was waiting for that BIG change, that BIG shift. And it finally happened this weekend, it just happened. I realised, I need to re-think the way I think and the way I embrace change.
Change is something I find difficult, but have had so many big changes in the last three years, that I just went with it. Now, I have decided that I am going to treat "the changes" a little bit differently. Not as something I have to fight and go along with, but something I embrace and welcome. In fact, I will seek it on a daily basis. Whether that be in the route I take to work, or what I do once I leave school where I work, but in everything else. Not only a change in what I do, but how I think too. At least one change a day, of any sort will do.

I am on the whole a positive person and always see the good in things and people. It's my default position and I am often told I am too naive and I trust people too easily. 
I have been questioning that lately, and started to think that I might be doing something wrong. Then, my gut instinct said that is the exactly the way to go, I just need to take care of myself in the process.
So, I stopped listening to the sceptics, and went back to thinking that everybody is good, unless and if they prove otherwise (and I am determined to stay that way and not make the change in the way I think on that front). 

So, here I am, that much older, maybe not wiser, I don't know, but definitely ready to embrace whatever life has to offer next. I am ready. A little bit scared, but innocent and naive the way I have always been, curious, but now a little careful too. I am determined that my 40's count even more that the 30's did.

And, so what has this picture have anything to do with what I am writing in this post?
Well,... pictures I take usually drive my posts. This time, it is a bit different. I took this one on my last holiday, and I was amazed how even through concrete, nature found its way, and blossomed.
So, I suppose the picture is a metaphor for how I am feeling at the moment.

I know that this post is unusually "heavy", but hope that you at least enjoy the wonder of the picture, if nothing else.

Hope you are all having a good week and are able to embrace the challenge and the change that comes your way.

Red xx