Monday, 29 September 2014

The Little Prince(ss)

Yesterday I had my first extended dialogue with my three year old neighbour; we have had many mini chats and a few lovely hugs but yesterday we had a *real* conversation. It was utterly charming and went something like this:

June: I went three times across the monkey bars...alone...I learnt that at school (or, skoo-ooool, as she calls it).
Me: Well done, that's great! Do you like school?
June: Heuu (her delightful version of 'yes' - sounds a bit like a combination of the Indian manner of saying yes* and clearing your throat)
Me: Good, have you been reading books at school?
June: Heuu, I read... (I could not for the life of me make out the title of the books, and after asking her to repeat them a couple of times I decided to nod and make 'encouraging' sounds instead.)
Me: :-)
June: Have YOU ever been to skoo-ooool?
Me: Ohhh yeah. (I would have liked to answer 'for more years than I care to think about', but far be it from me to dampen her enthusiasm with my adult weariness).
June: These flowers smell like chocolate?
June: Heuu
[walking over to the flowers]
Me: You're right! [and she was - those flowers** actually smell of chocolate, who would have known it!]
There then ensued an 'educational' discussion of bumble bees, flowers and nectar etc until June wisely interjected.
June: Sometimes I am a princess and sometimes I am a bumbly bee! 
Me: That's great, I've seen you dressed as a princess but I didn't know you were also a bee.
June: Heuu. I have lots of puppets.


At the point June came over to talk I was sitting in the garden reading this...synchronicity at its best.

(A quick sketch of the situation - with a nod to Mr God This is Anna)

*June's chocolate-smelling flowers

**See 0.46 for an idea of June's 'yes', but imagine making that sound with a bit more of a martial arts sounding kick

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The occasional joys of classical force-feeding

For two consecutive days every week I am force-fed an unrelenting diet of Radio 3; it is frequently a painful and perplexing experience. Although I play a number of musical instruments, some competently, some not so competently, I have limited knowledge of classical music theory and interpretation. That despite flying through grade 5 theory with an exceptionally high grade, much to the teacher's shock  - my brother taught me everything I needed to know the night before the exam, and despite being terrified into passing music o' level ("nobody has EVER failed music o'level with me", bellowed my disgruntled music teacher after I made a particularly unspectacular -and unsuccessful -attempt at the I hearkened, and passed). Still, I am not entirely sure what the Radio 3 presenters are implying when they state a piece has been played looking back rather than forward, or what they mean when they comment on a piece providing a backdrop for other more askance composers. And, I certainly have no appreciation of raucous bang, crash symphonies first thing in the morning, or women opera singers (apart from the odd piece here and there), and horror of horrors: song cycles - pleeeeease, for the love of mercy, no. 

However, every now and again Radio 3 gets it right, in my eyes, and plays some extraordinarily sublimely beautiful pieces  befitting the time of day when I am awaiting my third cup of tea to jolt my neural pathways into action. At these points, I rush for my phone and photograph the tv to capture a screen shot of the title of the piece so I can listen to it again later.

Here is one of said pieces from this week's diet: 

Oh, and Radio 3, what is it with your overriding preoccupation with Pergolesi's Stabat Mater? It's a great piece, but...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Luther's free will

Despite what you may have read, Luther *is* all in favour of the existence of free will, in fact he takes every opportunity to demonstrate this fact. Yesterday, when I re-encountered him after many months absence I saw that for Luther the will is not bound at all but roaming free and ready to clash with mine, particularly on the subject of precisely which direction we should walk in. I, quite naturally I believe, was set on going to the park, Luther wanted to go on a short circuit around the housing estate, many times over, much to the amusement of some neighbours who soon realised it was in fact I that was being taken for a walk, and not the dog. 

Meet Luther:

We also had very different ideas about what to do with a stick. Luther looked at me as if I were certifiably insane when I threw a stick for him; he certainly had *no* intention of going after it. A little while later, though, he came across a stick that he wanted to carry. His will, his way...

I'm not generally an early riser on a Sunday - or any day if I can help it - but Luther was quite certain that 7.30am* was a fine time to get up and head out for the first of our three walks today. I concurred. It is quite possible that Luther has charmingly wrapped me around his paw. On that note, time to go, I'm being summonsed to a game of tug of war....

Happy days dog-sitting. 

F.Y.I. I feel like a proper person this weekend - I am in a proper house with comfy sofas and everything...roll on the end of studentdom.

*Update: This morning's wake up call was at 5.30am, I'm not usually greeted with such enthusiasm and warmth at that time in the morning, but...
After letting him out in the garden for a bit I went back to bed until I could resist his 'let's go for a walk right now' hints no longer, so, by 6.50am we were out in the cool morning air.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Berries and Storks

Cycling home bathed in warmth and light, rather than trying to navigate along unlit roads barely able to see a foot ahead or feel the end of my fingers, is one of the joys of summer and a reason to resent the encroaching cooler days. However, with these encroaching cooler days come abundance. So, rather than freewheel down the lane below in a couple of minutes, today I spent 30-40 mins progressing slowly, picking as many berries as my sticky mitts could reach. I garnered a couple of nettle stings and thorn pricks along the way too, ouch, but it was well worth the bounty.

The lane

The berries

The bounty

Another happy sight on the way home was this graffiti-ed stork! These are dotted all over the city. Who/why/what for? Whatever, it cheered my day to see it once more.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Odd, but tasty

I'm not one to take or post pictures of my food usually, but, this... gluten, dairy, and sugar free (bar a weeny bit in the 70% cocoa choc) and actually looks, tastes, and has the texture of a brownie, despite containing no recognisable brownie-like ingredients. It's chief ingredient is sweet potato, yes, REALLY.

You can find the recipe here,

I came across it as I need to bolster my immune system, and *of course* looked immediately for recipes for the most important food group: chocolate. Perhaps this monstrous new regime is not going to be so bad after all.

To steal a line:

Brownie already consumed by myself and housemates

and, brownie soon to be consumed...

There are times, when...

There are times, when the best laid plans seem to end up somewhat, well, like this:

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Radical manners - sage advice from a Stoic

There have been some challenging posts recently on radical hospitality, a practice I have long observed in operation at my parents' home and a habit for which the Greeks and Cypriots, amongst whom I was fortunate enough to live for many years, are rightly known.

      Alongside radical hospitality perhaps we also need radical manners. I don't say that out of entrapment in English sensibilities, the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus commented on the matter long ago. It seems unlikely that it is possible to suddenly become 'radically hospitable' if you first haven't cultivated a disposition that looks away from the self. I suspect that it is easier to give if you have learned not to take, and to offer with a generous hand if you know not to grasp or demand.

        So, here's the 'radical' Epictetus' as seen in  The Enchiridion

Remember that you must behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don't stop it. Is it not yet come? Don't stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. And if you don't even take the things which are set before you, but are able even to reject them, then you will not only be a partner at the feasts of the gods, but also of their empire. For, by doing this, Diogenes, Heraclitus and others like them, deservedly became, and were called, divine. 


A couple of other nuggets from Epictetus while we're at it:

If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you? 

 Is anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in a compliment, or in being admitted to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to be glad that he has gotten them; and if they are evil, don't be grieved that you have not gotten them. And remember that you cannot, without using the same means [which others do] to acquire things not in our own control, expect to be thought worthy of an equal share of them. For how can he who does not frequent the door of any [great] man, does not attend him, does not praise him, have an equal share with him who does? You are unjust, then, and insatiable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much is lettuce sold? Fifty cents, for instance. If another, then, paying fifty cents, takes the lettuce, and you, not paying it, go without them, don't imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuce, so you have the fifty cents which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to such a person's entertainment, because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for attendance. Give him then the value, if it is for your advantage. But if you would, at the same time, not pay the one and yet receive the other, you are insatiable, and a blockhead. Have you nothing, then, instead of the supper? Yes, indeed, you have: the not praising him, whom you don't like to praise; the not bearing with his behavior at coming in. 

* Picture from here:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

On Greek Tragedy and the (social media) Kierkegaardian Knight of Infinite drama

Come onto the internet all ye who are heavy laden and you will find the chorus you are looking for - to misquote by a long stretch...


Much has been written about the connection between narcissism and social media; on my cycle home this afternoon I got to thinking about another throwback to ancient Greece, that of Greek tragedy and the tendency of some to present their lives in this genre both in reality and on social media. 

For Greek tragedy to work the basic elements you need are the unfortunate (or, *hilarious*) protagonist, a chorus, and an audience, social media provides just that. In the attempt to keep drama ever present, there are some, thankfully relatively few in my social media world (either that, or I have blocked their posts), who are driven to present their daily lives with the aura of tragedy in order to elicit an outpouring from their waiting chorus. 

As the heroic protagonist, every event related, whether truly concerning them or not, is presented as encircling them so that the intended outcome - the chorus recitation of 'woe' or 'wow' - is procured. The tragedy is worn like a badge of honour to be paraded before all, and its recitation becomes the only way the tragedian relates to others: here I am, pity me, marvel at me, notice me, mE, ME; a cry that rings out through the internet void springing out from the treacly mire of a self-pity/self-adulation pendulum. It is akin to chain-smoking, there must always be a tragedy, or two, or three, on the go. Kierkegaard's tragic hero, the knight of infinite resignation (or, infinite drama...) lives and breathes and posts on facebook or twitter with alarming regularity to present his or her latest plight with great sighs and protestations of resigned sacrifice, and does so with the self-confidence of one convinced by their own plight, exceeding generosity, unfeigned humility, and/or stature as a comedian/enne.


Woe and betide those who encounter such in 'real' life and refuse to join the chorus, then they unwittingly become a figure in the protagonist's dramatic monologue, another reason for their fate to be bemoaned.

These dramas bring this brief conversation to mind:

Baldrick: Permission to speak, Sir.
Blackadder: Granted, with a due sense of exhaustion and dread.

Oh, cor incurvatum in se. (04.44 - 04.49)

Pictures taken from: