Esmerelda, Ben Howard

Everyone has that one song they go to for a reflection of their innermost feelings.

Mine is Esmerelda by Ben Howard, the video in particular.

The waves unrolling back in reverse is what gets me every time. It may be for the symbolic value of rolling back time and rediscovering today’s desires by the method of review.

The moving images are taken in the winter, the British winter many complain of. As a surfer, Ben Howard is staring at the swells as he would have done at any other season, reflecting on the conditions, the possibilities. The weather is not a hindrance, but an opportunity for assessment. A million components pulled together; I could ride that wave, I know I can, I can do it this way or that way. Maybe I will come back to it, maybe I will sit it out, watch it and leave it to perform before my very eyes.

The solitary imagery of Howard looking out from the cliff’s edge over the treacherous weather is a message of renewal. In the knowledge, majestic moments happen in the most apparent challenging conditions. Our approach to them is the liberating experience that emerges from the merging what is on offer and the available energy that pulls the surfer to float on the surface or let go and dive into the water. These are not polarised experiences of bad or good, of success or failure, but of a journey of becoming one with nature, embracing it and re-establishing our relationship with it as our home.

Theorists have made the case for connecting with our histories in our pursue of conserving our natural habitat. Mythologies of Homer’s Odysseus seeking his Ithaca, and the realism of Caribbean slaves fishing out in the open waters on Atlantic Ocean’s edge have required an intertwined relationship with nature and its elements. The skill of reading and floating decisions in communication with the elements is a human condition that can not be aborted.

There are thousands of journeys to Ithaca, Caribbean fishermen and surfers connecting with nature in that way. The sea is a pool for everyone to explore their search for a home.

Passionfruit

Passiflora edulis is a fruit cultivated in subtropical Latin America.

I picked a packet in Asda, no questions asked how far it travelled to get to that corner on the Isle of Dogs. I was just too glad they looked ripe, juicy and god damn tasty.

The first question people ask is how to eat it. I recommend slicing it in half and scooping the seeds out with a tea spoon.

Passionfruit is rich in potassium. So you know it helps calm down anxiety. I call it the natural chill out scoop.

50% of the vitamins contained is vitamin C. Now in the middle of the winter, or any season for that matter, that’s a win.

Rich in fiber and carbs, it gives a nice boost to your energy.

For the avid bakers, there are plenty of recipes for tartlets, tropical Eton mess, vegan pavlovas, lemonade, yogurt and honey mixes to name a few.

Grateful for in 2019

A shortlist of the people, experiences and lessons I’ve been grateful for in 2019.

Feeding Sami reindeer in the Arctic in February.

Me in Tromso early 2019.

My pal in NYNY. Balsy girls rock. Sharing vegan ice cream at King’s Cross on my birthday. She’s so smart and I miss her but I know I’ll visit her soon. She’ll go far and I’m clapping her on all the way.

Knowing you can’t please everyone and sometimes people might get disappointed and that’s OK. They may force their opinion of your experiences with them on you, for their benefit. Like, are you being serious?

Letting people apologise, it makes them feel better and takes you out of that equation. 2019 was the year of apologies, four to be specific. Accept and move on.

Hiking partners in the Pacific North West; kindred spirits, great convos, quiet encouragement. A diverse yet unique bunch I am looking forward to rejoining soon.

Columbia River Gorge, OR
Cannon Beach OR.jpg
Cannon Beach, OR

Having the time to hang out occasionally in creative settings like Sit on This, below.

The incredible outpour of love from those close by towards someone overtaken by psychosis unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy anymore aka living in pseudo-delusions. Not different to a kid putting a costume on and running around the house believing they are superman. Initially, it’s sweet but in reality, it’s sad (quoted). Humanity matters, without interacting in a meaningful way with our peers, none of our emotional and physical evolution can happen.

Travelling on my own in the Pacific northwestern coast and hiking the Columbia River gorge.

Viewpoint on the Columbia River, OR

Being challenged with the right questions. “Is it who you think they are, or who you want them to be”. Two people; O and R. Thank you.

Pike Street Market, Seattle, WA

My life as is: taking each day as beautiful as is by binning stale loaves of bread aka those who are trying to interrupt your good vibes forcibly by not taking ‘no’ as the answer, under the pretence of love. Block block block self-absorption. Lie if you have to. Manage it until it exhausts itself while making sure they stay out of your spiritual and physical space.

Early morning calls from my cousin, chatting over a coffee.

Choosing to be with people whose energies feel settled and comfortable to be around. For the comfort adopted families bring when you don’t have your own. Reciprocated by being respected and loved unconditionally. “We just want you to be happy”.

Strangers and friends I bump in the Greenwich tunnel regularly. We are made proximate, the natural smiles, the flirty exchanges, the unforced kindness/consideration, makes my world, every single time.

That one person this autumn. Acting on what I want instead of what others want from me. I owe you a lot for that time. 🧡

Cycling in crispy cold weather, breathing in, taking the colours and the views, listening to the sounds of the city, connecting and extending.

Manchester Beach, Isle of Dogs, London, UK

New pals, I made in uni. Study-related debates were top quality but staying on after and seeing life through each other’s lens is the worth for every penny invested. A bunch of smart, compassionate, honest as fuck sweethearts to challenge and make discussions interesting. Grateful you’re in the world and lucky that two have stayed near where I live too. So fucking fortunate!

SOAS cafe

Loving being back home from travelling, and an intense work-wise 18 months, in my gorgeous home. Falling in love with the city, its pubs and the golden people that make it, that I loved since my teens, and falling for it again every single morning I walk out the door.

East London, pubs and views

The impeachment enquiry ringing Boom up History back into memory. Played on repeat. Impeachment won’t happen but the feelings of happiness making me dance around like a rapso carnival queen.

Sonia and the kids on Williams Street in Portland Oregon. US is segregated as fuck but these folks are not selling their 750K USD home to make gentrified Alberta any whiter. I stayed there because it felt home, like my Trini mother in law’s. We sat on the porch, talked, people watched the weird and wonderful, watched the kids play with the water hose. Love you girl.

Fortunate meeting S and his two sons London, SLC to LA only days ago this December. ☀️🌟☀️

Watching my pal P dance to Michael Jackson after a few pints in Canary Wharf. Magda and I bitting our tongue smiling. Chunky chips and a drive after. 💙

NHS staff in the Newham clinic. 4 hours later walking away filled with kindness and good news. #savethenhs #thankyounhs

Poplar docks wildlife.jpg
Poplar docks wildlife

Loving all the people you have crossed paths with, as they are, and letting them discover themselves unconditionally.

Packing my suitcase for the north, log fire, scotch, walks in the cold, good coffee and pud.

Merry Christmas and a beautiful 2020 my loves.

New blogs will be in the new year now.

Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them –

Source: Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them –

Christmas gift wrapped points:

They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them.

Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you.

They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

Enough will never be enough.

Summary:

Short term ear noise for long term pleasures.

Please please please walk away and never look back. Whether that’s dumping them right before their birthday, not picking up their calls, leaving messages unread, or changing your flight destination to spend holidays away from them, and with normal people, you’ll feel much more better in the long run.

Motivation and commitment in the winter

I read a really succinct article about finding the motivation to your sport during winter in a cyclist’s magazine recently.

It identified the challenge between rationalising between the elements, the reality of enjoying time indoors and maintaining motivation.

We are all humans, and at times of pre Xmas binges, cozy nights in with friends or the SO at the pub or infront of the telly, it is easy to postpone and get distracted. We are not robots or operate in a purely mechanical mindset either.

“The distinction between motivation (the desire to do something) and commitment (a dedication to doing it) is subtle.”

On days we are not motivated we need to accept we are not in the mood however finding a way to meet the commitment to doing it, will pay off by feeling better at the end of it.

Finding a way to committing can be as simple as organising training in a group, or with someone else. You may not need the words of encouragement depending what stage you are in your sport, but knowing someone else is waiting for you, and that your absence will affect their training is the game changer.

The organisation of committing is the process to making it work. Putting the plan, into action, and knowing what is happening, and when.

If you start thinking what’s the point, you’ll miss the opportunity to feel stronger and build on your fitness. Acknowledging why the session is good for you, is often the bedrock of a building on your plan.

Getting together

Ray phoned up three days ago. We realised last time we saw each other was in November last year. A year ago, when I was frantically settling into postgraduate writing, him chatting away as I was writing one of my assignments. Then a brief discussion early in the year about our concerns for a friend.

Two weeks ago, I got an invitation to someone’s retirement drinks. Didn’t know what to expect, some old souls, maybe not. I was going to go anyway. Then Ray’s call meant he also joined in (he also associated with the retiree the same years I did), and to my surprise he went on to the next level dropping emails to some peeps from our then years.

I picked him up from his studio and we headed to the working men’s club in Bethnal Green, not knowing what to expect.

There were lots of familiar faces in there. More than we expected and lots of peeps we were really close to ten years ago or so.

Most of us were more or less the same but some material changes and a comfort you find in your own skin as you grow older.

My good pal complained about someone missing. I dismissed him saying that person would never turn up.

Then catching up with my old girlfriend and rusty soul, I turned around and the double take clicked me into frame. Our pal had turned up and I was so freaking happy to see him, give him a big hug and chat in all his awesomeness and full on honesty about how things around have been making us feel.

Walking back with my girl to the bus stop we reflected on how the night went. Our fears, uncertainty of what to expect after all these years and yet how grounded and sorted things felt.

We did pick a bone with someone, which was funny, and was extended with ‘well we’re all here now’ and a big hug.

That’s my take away from the get together. No words, promises, expectations or plans. We got together, each to our own, and found each other.

Judy & Punch film preview – spoiler alert

I went to the UK launch of the Judy & Punch movie at the Picturehouse Central near Picadilly Circus.

The event had a live puppet show and actors portraying the audience husslers you’d get in the 17th century pre show crowds.

Drinks flowing, the pre movie event was comic, dark and intense with high pitched call outs and bashing noises, floating between comedy, with hints of tragedy, to fairy tale like medieval perkiness.

Now onto the movie.

Set in the mountain village of Seaside, the scenes are made in 17th century English/western European surroundings with a forest, unwavering views over the mountains and further away and filled with all the weird and wonderful characters you’d find in the dark streets of London mid century.

The story of the name Seaside goes like that. The villagers believed the sea would rise to near the top of the mountain, making their village a seaside settlement. They went on as far as building boats, which coincidentally and comically the housekeeper of Judy & Punch wonders what happened to them.

The script takes you through the success of a puppeteer couple who have returned to Seaside after the money and drink thirsty husband burned through their earnings from the big shows in the Big Smoke.

They start very successful shows at the village, waiting on the day talent spotters will come through and open up a new chance for a show in the city.

Whilst all of this rolls out, the husband keeps on failing. Whilst the wife (Judy and female puppeteer) goes out for the day, he gets drunk, nearly forgets a crawling baby to the fireplace, chases a dog for stealing his breakfast sausages and trips over throwing the baby out of the window into the dense thick forest down the mountain.

The wife returns (Judy) and the fight kicks off where he leaves her for dead in the forest. Nearby travellers/White witches find her, bring her back to health and before they move on their next journey, go back to the village to tell some truths about Mr Punch, who is about to hang the elderly housekeepers to clear his name of his wife’s and baby’s disappearance.

I won’t spoil the finale. From second to second I couldn’t predict what would happen. All I can reveal is that’s the first movie that I watched mesmerised without noticing how the time went past.

Go check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

Seaside shenanigans at the Judy and Punch preview at Picturehouse Central, London

Ode to Michael, Andreas and Kostas

I don’t believe in God, not in the traditional way anyway. But I do believe in the power of gratitude and appreciation towards people who have come to your life to reflect a mirror of your self, to ascent and revalue what you hold dearly inside of you.

I will begin with the story of how I met Michael. Some four and some years ago. Through a common acquaintance who knew I was visiting Portland, Oregon.

Michael is a philosopher. One who has jumped the academic ship to share his true passion over the community waves in that beautiful Pacific northwestern part of the world.

Throw Michael a dice and you’ll get the idea back kindly explored twice. His accessible, empathetic yet unafraid to challenge skill says as much about his heart as much as about his mind which is open, loving, honest and growing coffee fuelled day by the day.

I need not to say I feel fortunate to have spent some hours with him and his wife talking through everything and anything, tipping things on their head for the purpose of our own individual truth as much as for those around us.

Next up is Kostas. I met one of his closest mates some 25+ years ago, his wife around 3 years ago, so the journey to him is a little deflected by circumstance.

Kostas is a scientist, with a research project in Svalbard in Arctic Norway, an explorer and a dj by the day.

I will begin my journey with the most recent interaction, coming back from my rowing training to a text from Andreas saying tune in to this radio station, our pal is playing some music.

Kostas is the guy who managed somehow to dig the most beautiful sounding punk rock tunes right uplifting and melodic enough, for a two hour set on a Sunday morning. Towering at 6 feet, this guy curated a set through geography, turned political reflection, turned dedication to his friends. And all with the same passion as he talks about the intricate details of his research lab and in kindness and humour to his team and fellows.

And last but never least, is Andreas. My pal of a lifetime. The person that knows himself so well, that he understands me and is honest as much.

We met in Rebound, the then only dark wave club in Athens, still going with freakishly beautiful human beings rocking to some of the most etheric yet often screetching 80s sounds.

Andreas is kind and generous and has the ability to conversate with anyone whilst maintaining a uniquely unpretentious level. He knows his nuclear physics, no pun intended, and I’ve seen people feeling intimidated by him including my own father who has known him since I was a late teen kid.

For me in many ways I noticed how respectful he is of my partner avoiding to offend by calling or texting, and how subtly he presents he’s there when I’m on my own, not for his benefit, but for an upgrade to a reference point we may have discussed before.

Most importantly, I feel like I can be anyone and everyone around him. After all, I have grown up parallel to his own journey and we have seen each other grow up, change, contract and deconstruct over a fairly long time too.

I am so incredibly lucky to have him in my life.

My dedication post to the three men is made in honour of how I grew up by knowing them, and still grow today. Neither of them became who they are today because of their wives, mothers, other women in their lives. Surely their partners have supported their development, but it’s all down to those boys doing it alone and remaining truthful to themselves.

I know there is a lot of material about loving and protecting men out there, but unless they had looked inwardly, there is no way anyone could have done that for themselves.

Thank you for being you.

Travel updates

It’s been three months since my last overseas trip and in the past weeks, I’ve been considering where my next escape will take me to.

The options on the list are between a couple of towns in Europe, east and westcoast US, Africa and South-East Asia.

Sorting through the checklist of where to prioritise includes the outdoorsy options for the time of the year, ie hikes, coastal walks, swimming/surfing etc, the people I know there including how important they have been in my life recently (it’s always sweet connecting with loved ones), the local culture, will it enlighten me and challenge me in positive ways?

I no longer use Airbnb, for political reasons as much as having encountered some very troubled individuals whilst hosting and being hosted by. For example in the US, from around 8, but two hosts were recovering from drug addiction, violent breakups and required attention from me that the experience and after taste did not justify the price I paid for (energetically and materially). With all due respect, everyone deserves happiness and to make some extra cash but air BnB is a problematic option for those seeking short term solutions as it distracts from the bigger picture. It only works when everything else is running well ie having a high income anyway, and meaningful interactions with neighbours and society as a whole. And it worked well for me when I was on that vibe, hosting. However, when it is not, either hosts or hostees can end up being dragged into someone else’s story whilst travelling and paying to stay at their home, which is not a price worth it. Symbolically, the best two Airbnb stays were in Portland up on the hill surrounded by greenness, before being dragged into another drama situ afterwards linked to hosts’ troubled present, and on my last stay in Seattle, in a beautiful attic to the sound of, funnily, death metal from my host’s son. Both stays were hosted by people who presented clarity in their intention to stay out of my way, had everything set up and in order for my arrival and appeared to not exhibit controlling or overly self-absorbed behaviours during my staying there. After all, as they say, first impressions matter.

So moving on, since I returned to London in August, I have hiked a couple of times in the South East of England, went to the forest, for walks through the parks, by the river, long cycles and with a fare treat burning in my pocket, I am laying out my options for the new upcoming routes.

I believe the best way to do travel is combining the freedom to roam new places for some of the trips and seeing friends and loved ones in combination for other, and of course as a route to self-evaluating where you are at in relation to your home and your views on the workings of society. This should provide you with a baseline of choices on your next steps and aspirations.

So maybe this winter will see me in warmer places, and the early spring somewhere with lots of snow. I have been going to the Arctic for two years now early in the year and craving the purity of the landscape, the escapism of the feeling of being at the end of the earth. I will be returning to the US too to visit friends that now live there for hikes, cafes and coastal walks. My other plans include culture-rich towns and cities, with art being central to the scene.

I think the fundamental aspect of travelling, is living every day’s moment, today. To find the time to make space for solitude, a place where you meet yourself, re-evaluate, focus so you can recharge before you rejoin the updated version of your world again.

More reviews and experiences coming up in the next few months.

Love,

Athina

 

Masters degree as a mature student, a review

I’m writing this blog to help you understand what to expect from studying a masters degree later in life. Did I find it useful? I met some really interesting people that I hope to keep in my life in the future. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re super bored with your life and work but expect no easy ride. If you want a break from life, you’ll be better off spending that money travelling and taking up surfing lessons.

I have to admit I was super excited to have secured a place in one of the top universities in the world. As a senior management professional, I knew others that had tried but didn’t get in. The only thing I hadn’t realised was the amount of work it required.

On a weekly basis, I’d have four to five classes to attend in lectures, read 100 plus pages for each to discuss in small group tutorials as well as hold in-class presentations twice per term and write 2,000 – 3,000 word assignments per module/class twice a term.

Another thing I was not prepared for was academic writing. The way arguments are framed, in perspective of other arguments and how limited your own poetic license is. This is predominantly a British education system approach to teaching which hints to post colonial education, drawing out what has been laid out before.

At the university I went to, I also realised each module had its own parameters for good framing and presentation, largely set out by the lead tutor. Irrespective of how many additional classes I took for example on how to write a book review, how to write a critique etc the central student learning and development was misaligned to the individual module requirements. That left me frustrated and as a paying student, annoyed at the power game academia has over the students, and leaving its huge weaknesses unacknowledged.

This last point was a point of discussion throughout my studies. Academics thinking they got it all worked out whilst they lack real-life experience in the field of their expertise. More dangerously, they advise and often participate in political life based on what they read by someone who written something fifty years ago. Academia is a dangerous ground to walk on when seeing right through its weaknesses yet having to abide by its rules.

That transcribed to loving some classes, those mainly taught by open-minded people who not only loved their craft but they loved teaching and interacting with their student debates too. In too many cases, the majority of the academics failed to do that. They focused too much on point scoring, coming across like some sort of activists despite being solely research based, and pushing arrogance in their game.

Lastly but not least, consider and ask what practical skills a masters will provide you with. I got stuck into a situation where the theory was central to most discussions but excluded current affairs unless it was Trump or neoliberalism bashing or glorifying Marxism.

This is how anachronistic academia can be, and yet it is expected we build a future through it.

In all truth, it’s not more than another subscription service, that will get you more views and remove the ads.

It’s good for visibility, but it can also make you feel invisible at the same time.