Photo by Stuart Spicer
On a snowy grey day with grim news headlines, it can feel like the world is an unfriendly place. But then you see a picture like this.
This picture was taken in Zalipie, Poland, a village about 40 miles east of Krakow.
Around 20 houses are adorned with floral paintings and the results are stunning. It seems unclear how it started apparently it was over a century ago but Felicia Curylowa a ceramics artist is mentioned a lot as being particularly influential. Today local women (and men) continue the tradition, painting chicken coups, bridges, barns as well as houses. The village hosts an annual competition around the feast of Corpus Christi where people paint new designs and touch up artworks from previous years.
Have a look here for some more of the gorgeous pictures, it has made me really want to go to see them for myself.
How cheery it must be to be surrounded by such gorgeous colours and flowers!
Definition of Nourish:
- Provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition
- Keep (a feeling or belief) in one’s mind, typically for a long time.
Synonyms: cherish, nurture, foster, sustain
A new word for a new year. A word to guide, a pilot light to remind me of my way this year.
A word that represents my hopes and dreams for the year ahead.
A mantra to whisper to myself to help me make choices and set appropriate goals.
Over the last couple of years, slow has been my word to live by. One of my friends described it as my own philosophy last year and it’s certainly helped me feel more grounded and settled. While I’m still channelling my inner tortoise and living my life in the slow lane, I thought a new word was also needed for this year. A word that I can incorporate into my day to day and permeate my life as much as possible. And I have kept coming back to nourish. Time and time again.
I love to plan. I love to brainstorm, write lists, plan for the future yet this year I want to get stuff done and put off less. Nourish for me is about committing to life now and making sure I have the best possible days along the way.
Having slow as my word for the last few years has reminded me that I find it hard to do less and that I’ve had to practice slowing life down. I’m a person of extremes I find it easier to be a hermit or a social butterfly. I like action and instant gratification. There is always so much to find out about and do and see. It turns out I am not very patient. I find it hard to embrace the slowness. While I’m quite tolerant and patient with others, I am not with myself and with life in general.
Going to Bali was a good tonic for me last year, the Balinese with their infamous time keeping and their philosophy of everything being in sync or balanced was very inspiring. I want to soak up life instead of rushing through to the next thing.
It is also time for me to focus on aligning my actions with my values. To be very honest, I’m tired of saying “one day” and “I wish” and “next week when work becomes easier…”. I need to take the actions necessary to make those wishes come true. I’m tired of reading, pinning, daydream and not doing. I’m tired of saying I value x, y and z but living in a way that doesn’t reflect that.
I’m exhausted by talking about creativity but constantly feeling I’m not practising my own often enough. I’m tired of knowing the value of eating seasonal whole foods but still buying my lunch at Pret far too often. I’m fed up of constantly thinking about ways to let friends know I’m thinking of them and not writing the email or letter to tell them. I’m bored of saying I’d like a dog one day, without going for regular walks with the dogs I know or joining a site like Borrow My Dog to find a dog to walk once in a while.
So Nourish is also a kick to remind me that I need to breathe, refocus my attention, to stretch a bit and make small long-term changes. I’m good at bootcamp but my work would always remind me that the greatest behaviourial change comes from small, regular, incremental changes.
Nourish is a beautiful word, full of care, love and compassion. I like the idea of a word that could be relevant to my mind and body. I keep remembering Dan Pearson’s inspiring talk about what gardening can teach you about commitment. Like a plant, I will make sure I have enough water, light, nutrients to grow, flourish and bloom. I wanted a word that I can incorporate into my day to day – permeate my life as much as possible.
So what does Nourish mean for me?
The themes underpinning nourish are self-care, creativity, taking time out. Nourish also reminds me to do things that inspire me whether that is reading, art exhibitions, listening to music which lifts my spirits, spending time outside, scribbling. While there will be studying I will also look for ways to nuture my creativity – to spend time making and playing. There will be also be my continued drive to spend more wisely, consume mindfully, feather my nest, eat well, move more, sleep better, be kind to the earth, give to my community. And those things are a full time job in itself.
So I’m trying to work out a way of every month doing things that help me get closer to all those things. Regular evenings to cook something delicious, jobs done at home, essays written, notes to friends actually posted.
Last year, by being involved with the New Year Resolutions Club, I learnt the importance of setting clear intentions each month about what I would do and then holding myself accountable. Showing up each month to the group was a good discipline but I struggled without a clear vision for where I was headed. This year I feel a lot clearer. I also for the first time for a couple of years completed Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead which I found really helpful to do this. I’ve also made a resolution board on Pinterest as well.
So how has January gone?
::Self-care: I’ve cooked tasty healthy dinners, stayed in my house more, walked around London more, slept better and more. I haven’t been drinking (yes, I am currently a dry vegetarian!) I’ve completed two levels on Headspace my mindfulness app and I’ve given my permission to curl up under blanket when I’m knackered. I’ve started writing in a gratitude journal. I’ve also reclaimed Friday nights to do something social to help the weekend seem longer.
::Inspiration/ Creativity: I’ve read two great books (Andy Millar’s 50 Books Which Saved My Life and Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie). I’ve fallen back in love with the cinema (Theory of Everything, Into the Woods, Wild). Gazed at the gorgeous colours in Kurt Jackson paintings at the Horniman.
:: Making/Playing: I played by ukulele and made a cake for Choir with No Name.
:: Brain enriching: I went to Germany Exhibition at British Museum, discovered podcasts so have been listening to The Reith Lectures and Radio 4 podcasts. I’ve attended an academic writing workshop and started work on my essays.
::Feathering my nest: My spare room has a desk in it and finally unpacked all the boxes. This is VERY exciting… I’ve taken a lot of stuff to charity.
Things I found hard:
My dishwasher and washing machine are broken. This needs action.
There was still an awful lot of work this month and a lot of stress. By the end of the first week back in the office, I was in quite a state and had a range of people being quite worried about how I seemed in myself. This has led me to taking it easy at weekends and I’m quite behind with my study. I have negotiated a 9-day fortnight to give me more study so that will give me some dedicated time away from the office.
I also need to get back to some regular exercise.
Things for February:
1) Studying: I need one essay finished by end of this month
2) Budget plan: I need a budget plan back in place
3) Get myself back on to my yoga mat!
Welcome 2015, the year of Nourish. I think you will be a good year.
With your dark mornings and long nights.
Your grey drizzly days and your crisp bright frosty mornings.
How I love and loath winter in almost equal measure.
Today is last day of January and have to say it hasn’t been bad. Usually I hate how January drags but this year I’ve embraced winter. I’ve curled up more indoors – reading, tidying, lying low and studying. I’ve been to a few exhibitions and watched films spending afternoons at the cinema with a cup of tea. There has been some silly jumping/dancing around my flat, I have played my ukulele, reclaimed Friday nights for fun & haven’t drunk alcohol since New Year’s Eve. Instead I’ve used stories, words, ideas & bright pictures to banish the January blues away. I even went to Ikea and had fun. These are strange times…
The starting of a New Year always makes me reflective – I start planning, dreaming and scheming for the next year. Last year was full of good things – trips to Bali, Cornwall and Berlin and especially lovely because I saw lots of dear friends achieve dreams. There were weddings, babies, books, music EPs, businesses and lovely coloured yarns. So many good things that made me feel so proud of my gorgeous and talented friends. There was 100 happy days to snap, I stepped down from WI Presidency, gave up plastic for lent and drinking in October. Then there were as usual books to read, yoga to do, talks, music, art exhibitions, The Story Conference, Towersey Festival and Berliner Philharmoniker at the Proms. There was a random trip to Broadstairs for a lovely lunch and playtime on the beach. There were flat improvements and lots of fun times with family and friends. Surprising things happened as well – I started an MSc at Imperial in Healthcare Policy and I went back to being a vegetarian. Since August, I haven’t felt like eating meat at all. This has never happened to me, even when I was a strict vegetarian I still secretly wanted to eat meat. Most of all I’m surprised we are in 2015 and I’m turning 35 this year.
I giggled when I read about Colleen’s House of Good Intentions – my flat is always full to the brim of intentions and like Colleen I have been shifting things about, auditing my 2014 ideas and thinking about what 2015 might have in store. One of the reasons why I love this blog is that it allows me to retrace my steps, think about how things have changed over the years. 2011 was full of adventure and change, 2012 was the year of the Fs. Full of fun, fitness, food but less good on frugality! 2013 was the year of the tortoise when I started to slow life down just a bit and bought my own home. So what was 2014. 2014 wasn’t a year of massive change it was a year of slowing things down and relaxing into my life. I set small goals and flexed my willpower muscle across the year. I fell a bit in love with my lovely life in London and got better at taking on less. I also decided to stop. Stop worrying about whether I was on the right path, and over analysing.
So what does 2015 hold in store? I’m not entirely sure but plots are thickening. I know it will be an excellent year. I can feel it in my bones.
“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.” Stephen Hawking
Stars, work, meaning, purpose and love seem good things for 2015. I wish you peace and joy for the year ahead.
Remembrance in November is a tricky business and I always approach Armistice day with mixed feelings. This year has been no exception with the World War One Centenary. It is such an important anniversary, WW1 & 2 created such social change – women’s suffrage, advances in education, medicine, workers rights. War casts a long shadow over nations and landscapes. I was surprised listening to From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4 this week which contained a shocking statistic. A hundred and fifty tonnes of WW1 shells are still being dug up in Ypres every year – local farmers call it the “iron harvest”.
As I have written before, remembrance for me is an important time of reflection and I have still been deeply uncomfortable with the majority of the coverage. When I hear the jingoistic phrases being repeated again and again by the newspapers and politicians and through images posted on social media it makes me shudder and makes me feel sad that we don’t have a wider vocabulary for discussing how horrific war actually is. It reminds me of Wilfred Owen’s last line, “The old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”. (How sweet and honourable it is to die for your country). It feels like even now, 100 years on, we still put too much emphasis on propping up the lie – the glory in sacrifice rather than the gore in the trenches.
Reading Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Vera Brittain, Virginia Woolf and Pat Barker fundamentally changed my outlook on the world when I was growing up. They are writers I often think about and especially turn to at this time of year. I can’t help think about the First World War without thinking about shellshock, those shot for cowardice and conscientious objectors. With all my heart, I wish we could find a way to include a greater range of perspectives in how we remember. Harry Leslie Smith wrote a thoughtful article in The Guardian is worth reading about conscientious objectors in both wars.
This year I thought about how I want to mark the war and have remembered in a range of ways. I took part in Lights Out reading Edward Thomas poetry by candlelight on the anniversary of the first day of the war. I went to the Britten’s War Requiem at the Proms which made me cry. The line that stayed with me was from The Parable of the Old Man and his Son:
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
There was a lady sitting behind me, on her own, who didn’t know the work. She said to me at the end “it makes you glad to be alive”. I didn’t really know what to say, I think she meant because the music though difficult was so glorious to hear live and we were so lucky to hear such an amazing performance. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it made me think about man’s inhumanity to man and I was feeling pretty bleak.
Marion Alsop wrote a great about what it is like to conduct Britten’s War Requiem which contains a fantastic quote: ‘No piece of art can bring back a single one of the millions of people killed in armed conflict since Wilfred Owen’s death in 1918, but the War Requiem can challenge us to think about what it is we people to do when we send them to war. This is what art is for, and it’s important.’
Yesterday, I went to see the Poppies at the Tower before work – I’m still not sure what I think about it but seeing 888, 246 poppies is an awe inspiring sight. It reinforces the scale and the waste.
Remembering is important to try and stop ourselves repeating the same mistakes again and again. Cultural remembrance is difficult to get right and often controversial. But we need to keep telling the stories of the war and what they can tell us about bravery, resilience but also healing, reconciliation and peace.
If you would like to read more reflections about remembrance here are my previous posts. My Subject is War and the Pity of War (Britten War Requiem), Why This Year I Won’t Be Wearing A Poppy, Beyond Living Memory (Harry Patch and Passchendaele) .
Today my niece turns three. She got a bike for her birthday and is enjoying going “really fast” on it. I love how she likes being strong, loves climbing and being outside. She has a huge conker collection and can name a variety of animals and birds. Hippos are particular favourites at the moment.
There have been so many funny moment and phrases that have had us giggling over the past year. From her turning round on monkey bars to instruct us to help her (“Hold me Lara!), drinking fizzy water (“it’s spicy on my tongue”),turning around super excited in Frozen to say “it’s magic!” with big eyes to hilarious phone conversations which run along the lines of “where are you? Why are you in London? Are you sad?”. Always keen to know where I am and why I’m there.
There has been reading books in bed, dressing up as the Gruffalo, paddling in the sea on Cornwall and Broadstairs, dancing, first trip to theatre to see the Tiger Who Came for Tea, playing in the fountains on South Bank and eating rice. Fun car journeys where Lyra looked at me and got me to hold on to the car door or her hand as we drove down steep roads (“Aunty Lara – Hold on!”), singing Nellie the Elephant a ridiculous numbers of times (trunk, trunk, trunk).
Over the year I’ve been impressed by how quickly vocabulary has come and watched how her interests have changed and developed as she has changed from being a toddler to a little girl. While I know she has her moments, I love the slightly anarchic phase pre-school where the behaviour is a bit wild, fearless and untrained. The funny toddler logic conversations are hilarious and gives you a glimpse to how they are understanding the world which is fascinating. When reading Snail and the Whale she saw the stranded whale on the beach in the picture and roared “get back in the bath!”
Being an aunt is the greatest joy. Aunts have had quite a bad deal in fiction and history. We’re often depicted and spinsterish, frumps, sometimes mad and often drunken. I love being the slightly naughty aunt who might encourage her to blow raspberries or dance crazily in the morning or wear unsuitable clothing combinations. Apparently it is not helpful to parents if you say “does it matter if she wears a tutu skirt over her pyjama bottoms to the supermarket really?” I’m conscious that all too soon she will be self-conscious and wanting to fit in, probably a bit embarrassed by her aunt turning up and wanting to give her a big hug.
I find myself gushing more about her than I ever thought possible and taking great pride when telling stories and anecdotes. It still makes my day when her face lights up and she looks genuinely pleased to see me, I love it that she wants to sit next to me or on me. I love being someone she will pretend to whisper secrets to and make each other laugh by pulling silly faces.
Happy Birthday Monkey – thank you for making us laugh so much and play silly games!
Afternoon in the woods #sydenhamwoods #nofilter
Hello. I’m still here. Over the years I’ve developed strategies for helping me feel grounded and perking me up when I’m feeling down or need to relax. A favourite thing is to get out of the house and walk somewhere, getting into the outdoors is really important for me and I’ve always wondered around places I’ve lived. I put it down to dog walking and living by a canal growing up so I could also escape for quick walk or bike ride to think and clear my head.
Blue skies #nofilter View on Instagram
Last week I escaped to the glorious Sydenham Hill Woods with some friends. I first discovered the woods through the local Wildlife Trusts bat walk where I saw a range of bats and heard a Tawny owl. I feel very lucky to have it near me. Tramping through woods on a warm October day was good for the soul. The sort of day when you just feel like you want to do star-jumps all over the place.
White spotted jellyfish #horniman #aquarium
Today I popped into the aquarium at the Horniman museum. You know just to check on the fish and see what is new there. Today white spotted jellyfish. Woo! The aquarium is definitely a place where I feel a great sense of peace, you can be mesmerised by the movement of the fish and their beauty. I’m aching and stiff from a great yoga class yesterday and needed something restorative. A quick trip round the aquarium and wander in the gardens did the job.
As the days get shorter and I feel the call of winter hibernation, I can start to fill a little off kilter. Autumn is my favourite time of year – I love the colours, the slight chill in the air and the sense of change and renewal that comes at this time of year. But I sometimes find it hard too – my energy levels start to flag and its harder to spring out of bed in the morning. So this year I’m trying to make my foundations strong by soaking up any sunlight on offer and also frequenting some happy places to help boost my spirits and embrace the coziness of autumn.
Last month I gave a short talk about my blog at Borough Belles and it made me realise how much I have been missing this particular space. After all this time I love this space on the internet where I write and share what I like. I like that I have improved over the years and that it’s still here. I started blogging because I fell in love with the fact that people write about all kinds of things on the internet – textiles, gardening, nature, travel, science, books, music, places to visit but also personal things about their homes and lives. My blog reading osscilates between all these things depending on whim but I love the stories of people’s lives most of all.
Talking about my blog reminded me that sometimes writing things can be scary and feel exposing but it can also be wonderful. Posts might take me a while to write but once they are out in the world I like them. My main rule with the blog is to not treat it like work – I try not to worry about rules, obsess about webstats and I cherish comments or signs that people have enjoyed my posts. I love the reaction from other people that I get, texts, emails or mentions in conversation. Blogging makes me feel connected to my friends and I love reading their blogs as well.
I also like to keep it real – it is easy to turn it into a one woman marketing campaign about all the great stuff you are doing and make it magazine perfect. This is less interesting to me, I can read about people like that in magazines. Talking about Messy Tuesdays at the WI reminded me how fun is was to write about things that people would never usually “publish”.
So here’s to making more time to come back to this happy place. There are always so many things to write about and I am still doing things. Reading. Having adventures. Spending time outdoors. Plotting new schemes. Striving to make the world better place. Enjoying music. Making lists. Thinking about writing. I have notes on my phone and scribbles in notebooks to turn into posts but sometimes you just need some time to percolate. Here’s to a full and happy Autumn.
I like the night before a trip – a busy blur of washing, cleaning things, list-making. I’m sitting here charging a million things, ticking things off my ferocious to-do list and working out if everything on my packing pile is really necessary. I’m trying to travel light with small suitcase and feeling of calm.
There is always a small voice in my head saying “is it really worth it?” Knowing that tomorrow will be a insanely busy day in the office and I’ll try and cram 4 days worth of work into 1. The minute I arrive in different country though I know it will be good. I’ll relax and start exploring. It is six months since my last trip and I’m eager to be on the move.
The last few weeks I have been thinking about what I want to see in Berlin. My list is a little overwhelming. There is the art. The culture. The amazing museums. The sad (and horrible) history. I am already realising that 5 days might simply not be enough. But that is exciting because it means it might become a place to go back to and that gives me a thrill.
I over-prepare for trips abroad – I tend to read a lot about where I’m going and always have (at least) one guidebook on me at all times. The planning is part of the fun – the conversations you have with people, day dreaming, wondering what it will be like when you arrive and don’t speak any German. And, I love guidebooks! For Berlin I have found a wealth of blogposts, maps, suggestions of things to do, books to read, see, eat and absorb while in Berlin. But more than the usual tourist trail, I also love pretending I live in foreign places and doing things that locals might do. We are staying in an apartment so I’m hoping that we will go to a local supermarket to see what we can find there.
A while ago I went to a School of Life talk about the Art of Travel and the idea of sensory travel was mentioned. The key phrase I scribbled down in my notebook was about allowing “your senses to be your compass”. Travel is so visual – snapping photos and it’s easy to forget to really take in a place. I’m going to try and occasionally put the map and guidebooks away and see what I can find – notice different smells, try different tastes, maybe even find different sounds to listen to.
However, first this suitcase needs some pruning….
:: Being lost in a good book.This week I powered through Jamaica Inn which I loved. Wild men, wild moors, wreckers and Cornwall. I was very sad when it ended. Mary Yellan is such a fantastic character – she has the wildness of Catherine Earnshaw but with compassion, less self-centred and makes much better choices.
:: Feeling energised at work – recently work has been hard (very hard), huge amounts to do and very long days. However I appear to have regained my mojo and have powered through my to-do list which is a great feeling.
:: Long light evenings meaning you can finish work with blue skies overhead.
:: My local neighbourhood has a street piano outside the station. I’ve been a bit scared to try playing it but I will soon because it was so lovely being serenaded walking home on Thursday night!
:: Listening to Bellowhead, Martha Tilston and Alt-J – makes me type faster and I’m sure think quicker! I’ve also really enjoyed the Women’s Hour takeover episodes this week as well.
:: Cocktails and catching up with a very good friend who haven’t seen for TOO long!
:: Next week I head to Berlin for 5 whole days – yippee! I’m currently list making of things to see and do, putting things in piles to pack and generally getting excited. Part of the fun of travel is anticipation as well as frantically running around doing things. I have never been to Germany before and am excited – have just discovered Berlin Zoo has a 5-story Aquarium, 5 floors of wonder! Amazing!
I started writing Reasons to be cheerful posts to remind myself of all the fun, good things I see, read and find out about every week.