Friday 28 October 2016

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Tuesday 1 September 2015

∰ The Three Sisters ∰

I started this post back in February. It's time to let it out now. I think I can finally share it.

Sometimes when I am in India I get a sense that death is nearby, underlined by the exaggerated rush of vital humanity that is life in the city of Mysore. I can smell the fine line that we all walk every day but in India, it feels narrower. I sail through the city in constant prayer, a call to prayer. A leaning into feeling, not feeling. Dreaming not dreaming. The place has altered my cell shapes. I have been redefined by my deep learning and rickshaw near misses.

Reach out and touch the brush of a passing squealing bus, 
put a foot in the gutter that reeks of unknown rot. 

A wave of unfortunate events could catch us in destiny's slipstream and that will be it. 

Cheerio and thanks for everything. That might seem mawkish to you but I've had my fair share of unexpected losses and tragedies as well as this bountiful festival of living delight. India rotates on Vishnu fire and whispers to me that it's not for long, this privileged existence, as I joked about my yoga practice being better in the next life. 
I'm in the next life and it's coming along. 

This is today, my day, I own the world and the moon if I want to and I am thankful for this dawn, this birdsong, this breakfast and this haberdashery shop. India gives you the gift of gratefulness, a thankfulness, a cradle to settle in and an edge that cannot be ignored.
How lucky I am, how fortunate, how favoured?

So, I heard about The Three Sisters. Again. I have let the name run through my ears for years but I never got the opportunity to explore where they lived in my adopted Indian home. It's not easy navigating the suburbs. This time I persevere and I turn up at The Lilac Door, nervous to meet the sisters. I was expecting three Shakespearian characters and in some ways they are straight from a fairy tale, brimming over with enthusiasm, leading by example, beauties. 

Shashikala is the youngest and was authorised to teach Ashtanga Yoga by her teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Here, in their home I am welcomed and nurtured and I find what I need, a quiet shala with a teacher with whom I can build a practice so I join up and begin practising in the Three Sister's shala. It's perfect for me, a spacious practice with room for adjustment and absorption. I improve my focus after 8 months of various injuries and physical limitations and I actually feel myself thrive. I watch the sunrise from 
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana even though I know I ought to be gazing at my big toe.

The world wakes up and it feels as though I am in exactly the place I am meant to be. The doom filters down my body and evaporates in the morning sun.

It is advised and a very splendid idea that yoga practitioners take a castor oil bath once a week. Castor oil is thick and sticky and impossible to deal with yourself unless you have lots of hot water and a wet room and an assistant. Or two. It's a greasy oil ball of gunk. Luckily for me, I have the three sisters. Or two of them. Harini and my teacher Shashikala give caster oil baths to lady yoga practitioners (and some lucky chaps if they know them well). After yoga practice on a Friday I walk downstairs and enter the labyrinth of dark rooms where I will have my bath. It's not a bath, not at first, it's a body massage with caster oil. But it is so much more and nothing more than that. It is practice again, they make me work. I panic when I can't find my hips and they escort me around my own body and I have never felt so lost and at home, so relaxed and so pushed around, so happy and so NOW. Impossible to describe the looseness of my body and the spaces that I knew were there but I hadn't dared to open. My mind was a slowly spinning universe, all seeing and unknowing, unborn and delivered. All of this whilst lying on an oily tarpaulin while two pairs of feet rolled me through medieval banquets and space travel for beginners.

This is a continuation of practice. Calling it a 'treatment' is quantitive easing the city spa. This is an unspoken promise of trust and knowledge. I will never let anyone else realign my body again. For me this is the one and only way for me and my body.  A practice to compliment the practice. It's vivid. The way the sisters flattened me out like an uncooked chapati. I was Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I was Charlie's Angels and Cinderella. I can't even conceive that I went to Mysore so many times and didn't run to the lilac door of the three sisters on arrival every. single. time. 

And when they have finished rearranging your bones and nerves and early childhood and say Get Up Now;  your brain cries nooooooooooooo. And they peel you from the floor head first and very carefully lead your oily sticky being down a dusty book lined fly swatted passageway. You get gently sat on a stool and here begins the second bath. Soap nut paste and warm water. The water is heated by a wood fired stove on the other side of the wall. You can smell the warm woodsmoke. You close your eyes by order and then the water is sluiced over you, over and over. Warm. Everlasting. Soapnut and lentil paste rubbing the oil away. Having your face washed tenderly by these two living saints is to be transported to a third bonus childhood. Then they leave you with 'as much water as you want to take' and you can continue where they left off. Economically washing away the everything, the dust, the misunderstandings, the whispers. Wrap up in a thin towel and pick your way through the gloom to outside, dazzling sunshine. New day. There's a mango tree.

Take rest, Nagaratna - the third sister will make you a fruit salad and you'll be as high as a papaya mountain and the sisters and their babies will sit with you and press you for chatting chit chat.....your life, their lives, the price of food, the traffic, the practice. The phone rings, the babies chuggle, searching your face for clues. Vocal kannada gunfire stutters over your head. Your mind is uncoiled, unbothered, unearthed. You sing the babies your best version of The Wheels on The Bus. 
With actions. 

Your mind is recomputing, recalibrating, the torque has been set. You think you can hold on. 

The three sisters say NO SCREENS, NO COMPUTERS. You laugh, as if. 
Then you find that you rest all day, night dreaming,  day sleeping, water drinking, fruit nibbling. 

You have gone in and out and in again.

Monkey's paws thrum on the roof and the water tank sizzles. 

❊ Blogging, I love you but I'm not in love with you ❊

Hello all.

Something something, long time, busy, boring something something.

I spurned Instagram for a long time.
Really, I was not interested at all.
All I ever saw were dodgy looking digital polaroids with stock special effects that made everything look exactly the same.
My phone was the last place I wanted to take an image as I love(d) my camera.
Downloading images and then uploading them again is a pain when you've got thousands of snaps.
So Instagram and I never really hit it off. We weren't clicking. (forgive me)

I had embraced Twitter from the very start and it's still my go to place for news, political comment and the deepest LOLs I've probably ever had. I loved it because I felt anonymous and I didn't have to say much and I didn't have to say anything to join in. And I could peek at it whenever I felt like it, a non committal stream of consciousness.

Facebook? Meh. I haven't quite got to the smugness of deleting it as I love the community groups I belong to at my various world wide adopted homes. But it's pretty bad, all that Fakebooking. Telling people how much you love them in an online status gives me the creeps. WE ALL LOVE OUR CHILDREN. lol. And I rarely share my creative or travelling life on there. Not for me, the same post on Twitter, FB and Instagram. I am 3 different web personas, I don't even know who I am generally.

Meanwhile Blogging, hanging around, collating images, uploading them, being clever and interesting and relevant? I lost the art of it. I was/am spending all day on a screen for work (creating online content, visual and educational) the last thing I ever felt like doing to unwind was writing a blog entry, on a screen and evaluating my images as though they were important.

Then I got a new phone. With a brilliantly scary clever camera. Suddenly I was up and running on Instagram like millions and millions of others.
Now I love it. No politics, no misconstrued 'likes' or 'shares' or weird comments, no one I really know in real life. I'm so Instagram these days, it's up there with my top 3 most visited internet lands for inspiration and mind candy.


I'm posting too, some of the little things I create. A glimpse at my non work life which consists of all the places I am lucky enough to live in and some of the work I make in my sketch books along the way. The Indian cows you see up there are my new obsession. Painting them in the evenings, I detest TV so I draw and paint. And now I am posting the results.

It's so much easier to post. Click and post.
The world is galloping along at 10,00000000 knots a minute and we are too.
Eventually our brains will turn to mush but until then....


That's me....on Instagram

I still follow your blogs, I read them on the bus or train or plane.
They still make me feel warm and friendly and happy and inspired.
So if any of you have Instagram accounts please let me know your user names in the comments or by following me?
Then I can visit you too. And 💜 💙 all the way to brain mush.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Friday 5 December 2014

☜ Sign Writing for Beginners ☞

I've always loved lettering, when I was a teenager I used to fill pages with 'bubble' lettering and draw letters with shadows and reflections. It was my way of doodling. A friend's father who was an artist said I had a real talent for it and I was secretly thrilled. I used to covet other people's handwriting  and I was a seasoned signature practiser. All of which, I thought, would make me a perfect candidate for a sign writing course. I had no idea how beautiful and difficult it would be and I am now completely hooked.

I dream of signs; I spot hand painted signs everywhere and now I am aware of how much skill and thought goes into them I spend quality time looking at them. That person peering upwards, giving herself neck ache? Probably me. Reverence where reverence is due, I say.

Day 1 of my sign writing course and I'm full of thrill and nervousness. The excitement compounded by the signs I see everywhere, all beautifully executed.
I love fairground horses~gallopers. These were all being repainted.

Tools of the trade ~ 
Half the reason I love crafts of any kind is for the tools and the materials.
The stick like a giant ear bud is for steadying your hand, a Maul stick 
and the paint shelves are a feast of drips and splash..

It occurs to me that I may be in over my head. The other participants are professional tattooists, sign makers, illustrators, designers and a genuine Punch and Judy puppet maker and performer. Our tutor Joby Carter is a wonderfully natural and talented 'letterist' demonstrating in a few sweeps of a brush how he has his 'eye in'. 
We are set to copy Roman alphabets onto exercise paper like children. 

The place is quiet apart from a few sighs.
The sighs turn into grunts and then the real swearing starts.
It's not as easy as you think.
I finish mine and feel as though I nailed it when Joby points out that my serifs are too short, my O's too narrow, my thins are not thick enough and then I see, really see, just how easily things can drift.
Then we have to draft out words and letters with pencil and ruler.
Hours of it. Hours of breath holding, sighing, tea making, biscuit eating, grimacing and swearing.
I thought this looked totally brilliant. Once upon a time. 
But now I can see just how bad it is. 
I'm posting it here as a reminder to myself that I'm capable of vast areas of improvement if I apply myself to something diligently and faithfully for a week.
I spent a couple of days on thrashing around with a pencil.
I like Es Rs and Ws. I am not keen on Os and Cs.

Being shown how to really sign paint is enlightening. It's a real skill...watching a master at work is fascinating and educational. We go for tours of the yard, the course is set in a winter yard for a fairground and all of the rides and vehicles get repainted here... all very thrilling.

Then we get to start with real paint and brushes, but it's baby steps for everyone. Painting lines and circles, rubbing it all off with white spirit and beginning again. Hours and hours of silence and concentration. And swearing.  

I got admonished for my brush handling skills. 
"Sign writing isn't colouring in." 
"It's not a fucking watercolour"
"You aren't holding anything correctly"
"Sit up straight"

I progressed slightly.
I swore a lot.
So did everyone else.
The smell of paint and white spirit all washed down with tea and chats. The chats were small though, everyone was studying hard.


I was fairly pleased with my first whole painted word KINGDOM but it was full of mistakes.
I loved doing it. I felt entirely at home and in my element.
Always a good thing.

I was a bit disappointed every time I spent hours on a word and then had to scrub it all off and start again. But it was good for me.
Practice Practice Practice
Where have I heard that before?

Then it was the last day and we had to make a completed sign, well, we didn't have to, I was desperate to take one home though, so I stayed up half the night planning and plotting my words. I had spent so long wondering which word was going to be The Word I Would Paint. It took a week to come up with something and then I got the lightbulb idea. 
The phrase just fell into my head. 
As though it was whispered into my ear.
A typical sign phrase.
But with a lovely double meaning.
Encompassing freedom and bookbinding and with it's original practical purpose.

 Ta daaah!
Out of Bounds.

It still needs varnishing and tweaking and it's full of mistakes but I love it as it is my first born and I will not part with it, not even to Rumpelstiltskin.

Lady Sign Writer For Hire

I thought Out of Bounds would make a splendid Book Bindery name. 
So I announce that I shall call my new studio / business venture 
Out of Bounds 
and you heard it here first. 
More on that soon.
But someone has the flipping domain name and isn't using it but wants £800 for it.
Errrrrrr. I will pass.


Wednesday 21 May 2014

⚽︎ Summerhill ⚽︎

We took off up the A12 at 5am on a busman's day off to visit Summerhill.
Picnic and raincoats at the ready.
Summerhill is a co-educational boarding school in rural Suffolk.   I saw a documentary about this school when I was a kid. A school where students could choose which lessons they go to or none at all. I thought it looked and sounded very cool. It was ahead of it's time then and I think it still is today.

"Founded in 1921, it continues to be an influential model for progressive, democratic education around the world"

And what a wonderful place it is. Idyllic, rural, relaxed, happy and charmingly eccentric. The students we met were all articulate, confident, mature and proud. We had the pleasure of a school tour where I was able to take these images. What beautiful and lush grounds for a child to wander and explore. alone or with friends or teachers. No school gates, everything open and gloriously free. I would have FLOURISHED here. Most people I know would have too.

The first stop was the art room. I didn't like art lessons much at school, I had no confidence in my creativity having had a few berations when younger for doing my own thing (when I look back I am appalled at those 'teachers') I loathed sewing because I was scared of the teacher as she used to be ferocious in her critisism. Yes, I am looking at you Mrs Bailey.

This art room was very ready to get stuck in, all kinds of equipment and an enthusiastic teacher ready to teach. Check out the cool sewing thread reel storage board. I need one of these. A lovely student explained to me how to make it. Bang nails in a board basically. 

The windows opened on to the school grounds. Children poke their heads in to see what's happening. Zooming around on skateboards and bikes. The rule that has evolved (the students make the rules democratically) is that if you are out of the school building you move your tag to the out board for health and safety reasons. Simple and Perfect.

If you leave your wheels out in the rain, I guess it is your loss if they go rusty.
But you can always nip over to the woodwork studio to fix things up.

Or you could sit and dream and design your next project.

I fell in love with the place, the charm and sophistication of the system appealed to every part of my childhood self. To every part of my teenage self longing for kindred spirits. This is the school you imagine when you dream of the perfect school. The quirky cross pollination of Enid Blyton adventures and a free festival.

I felt quite emotional remembering how much my education lacked at my school and that the antiquated Victorian system is still in place now but with even more attainment, rules and boxes to tick. THIS is the place that is the answer. A school that is like a family, a home and a beloved friend all rolled into one. A school that lets you become your very best self and if the best self is a bus driver or a politician or a nurse that self will be happy and fulfilled. I think Summerhill is doing an amazing job in the face of adversity and constant criticism. I long for it to continue, for it to grow more beautiful people in it's quiet understated way. I hope that one day the model of Summerhill will be replicated and chosen as the ideal after they have finished experimenting with attainment and success driven models that aren't a measure of a human's happiness but a measure of what mainstream society is being brainwashed into thinking is successful. 
Phew. I'll shush now.
I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I would have reached the same ideas about being alive but a lot more quickly. Oh well, I am here now.

Looks like they made a chair for my arrival.

I love these assorted notes on the back of the classroom door for the teacher to utilise.

Looking out of the science classroom.

Another delicious aspect of the school.
Skateboard ramp built by previous students
Every child should have access to a tree house

Heaps of outdoor fun.
Everywhere we went, students zoomed past us running, skipping, cycling, skateboarding, stopping to bounce on the trampoline or to collect their break biscuits. The whole place was full of vitality and collective energy. I didn't see any feral grubby anarchists at all.

I love the wheels strewn and abandoned, ready to be taken up again.
One of the few rules the students have made for visitors: not to touch abandoned wheels as the owner might be coming back for them. A Very Good Well Thought Out Rule.

Dog guarding the school

Plants and flowers in abundance

I loved all the little notices and signs I came across

Upon graduation, all students sign the brick wall.
I wonder what Mark does now and whether he thinks his school days were beautiful?

After our school tour, we were lucky enough to attend one of the famous school meetings.
The students and teachers all have an equal voice, issues are raised, suggestions are gathered and then a democratic vote is led. The maturity and wisdom of the students was inspiring and delightful.
A huge thunderstorm broke out when we were listening and the rain teemed down outside the old wood panelled room. I felt transported and aligned to a historic democratic practice which sent a shiver down my spine.
This is the way everything should be decided.
There was always the FOR vote and show of hands count and there was also a chance to vote for NONE of the suggestions. I wish we had that as a vote in the upcoming elections. A NONE OF THE ABOVE vote to show we don't want any of them. I guess more people would vote knowing their collective distrust of a dreadful system would be counted.

I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I wish I had been able to send my children and I wish for a similar concept in every town as an alternative to what we have now. Summerhill is so ahead of it's time, the world just hasn't caught up yet. Remember when only a handful of people had Apple computers? It was considered slightly dippy, slightly hippy. I think Summerhill will come of age and become what it should have become 50 years ago. 
A universal model to grow beautiful thoughtful people. 

If they had jobs for me and Mr LouLOuLoves here we would gladly take them.