London can frustrate and anger you. It can turn you into a walking zombie with no regards for your fellow citizens but it can also bring out the most creative person in you, it challenges you and makes you feel alive. You can find the unexpected and the beautiful around a very unassuming corner.
And here are ten more reasons not to leave London!
This year we will be staying in London over Christmas - it has been a while since we last did this. Normally we head to Germany to see friends and family - and taste all the lovely Christmas cookies friends, aunts and grandfathers are baking. The mother of a friend of mine used to make at least 10 different ones (and she was a working mum, unstoppable in every respect!) I will be missing the variety since only my daughter really likes mince pies.
My mother had two recipes, one to make with us kids, involving cookie cutters and lots of hundreds and thousands, the other a lovely tasting but rather weird looking (somewhat like the sole of a shoe) biscuit, made after an old family recipe.
Amazingly we have already managed to make my son's favourite cookies and once my daugthter's social diary offers a slot there will be more baking!!
Here are some lovely pictures from Fraeulein Klein's blog with some of our favourites, some of them with a new twist. Let me know if you like a translation ;-)
Here is a link to a very useful Twitter account, which highlights the British obsession with unlimited cups of tea, profuse apologies and the right biscuit for the all important and problem solving tea break. Enjoy!! Very British Problems (@SoVeryBritish)
On the subject of bilingualism - here is an interesting article, found in the Economist: "Moving between languages, not just the knowledge of two of them, may be a key part of the bilingual advantage."
The author compares this to cross fit, an approach to fitness where routine is the enemy! So, on top of all the other advantages of speaking more than one language - it can keep you fitter, for longer! I like that thought!
When you think about it, only a few countries have only one language, so being at least bilingual is the norm for most.
The exhibition: "Languages that changed my life" is being held at the Guardian offices in London until the 31. October 2014 (90 York Way, King's Cross) and here is a little snapshot about languages by Paddy Ashdown. The Guardian, it seems, is planning a series about Language Learning in the coming months and I am looking forward to it.
Growing up on the continent with the next border (and language) just around the corner, it always feels so much better to be able to understand and speak at least a bit of French, Danish, Italian etc. A world capital like London should make you equally aware of other languages and cultures. However here English seems to stop a lot of people venturing into unknown territory because it is after all a global language. Somehow that seems to be reflected in how foreign languages are being taught in British schools. Its rigid examination procedure stops an imaginative teacher dead in his or her tracks because certain subjects have to be covered in a certain way at a certain time. On top of that one can hardly blame the kids of loosing interest when they find out that exactly the same subjects are being covered in all the other modern languages (your pets, your home, five a day, keep fit and healthy and look after your body, environmental issues, juvenile delinquency!) etc. - here I started to believe in brainwashing since the last few subjects are also discussed in classes like social science etc. ...) The school books hardly touch on the culture of the country nor do they leave enough time to check out samples of foreign literature apart from the required texts. If you are hunting for good grades, you cannot divert. It is a very detached way of teaching, immersive it is not. Glad I got this off my chest. Therefor, on a more humorous note, have a look at James Chapman's approach to languages - the Soundimals.
We loved doing this game on a piece of paper. Someone would draw the head, fold the paper over and pass it on. The next one draws the belly and so on. Wild and wonderful creatures would finally jump of the page!
I also remember wonderful books where you could flip different parts back and forth to make the most scary creatures. And now, of course, there is an app for it: Miximal (for Iphone and Ipad). And it looks fab! You can mix and match over 1000 animals and it comes with 5 languages incl. German!! Will pass it on to my nieces pronto. I am sure it will shorten any drive (half term is coming up).
We went to see the Anselm Kiefer Exhibition at the Royal Academy with the kids last weekend. His work is monumental. Kiefer is an artist who inspires on so many different levels. I love the size, the colours, materials and the thoughts and connections Kiefer makes in his works. There are difficult questions being asked regarding our recent German history and our dealings with it. We are let way back through layers upon layers of the history of the world, Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, Wagner and the Grimms at our side.
This is one of my favourites of this exhibition, made especially for the Royal Academy (till 14.12.2014)
Here is a link to Ed Miliband's speech at the conference.
I don't want to get all political on you but I just can't understand why these conference speeches have to work with the lowest denominator possible. It just does not flex the brain one bit, it does not inspire nor does it fill me with confidence that he / his party will tackle the problems ahead. I am not taking sides, I think this is a problem all these speeches have, no matter which party! I at least want to get the feeling that he has something to bring to the table I might not have been able to describe, envisage or thought of in that way .... Not everybody has to grasp absolutely everything immediately. And please leave out the "personal encounters" with the general public. It is so condescending and really gets to me every time!!
Don't forget the Great River Race this Saturday! It should be a sight - much more colourful than the Oxford - Cambridge race ;-), and it last longer !
My son's school will take part and it is just astonishing, that these boys (helped by some teachers) make it all the way to Ham House!! And all in the name of their chosen charity Macmillan Cancer Support!!
This should help my vocabulary beyond 'grey or green' - just what I need to get inspired, at my desk and out there !!! I know there are many more names out there (some quite outlandish - just picture a builder ordering 2l of cat's paw ...). but these names mostly have a good link to the actual colour. However, it also shows how very personal colour description can be.
"Ingrid Sundberg, a writer and children's book illustrator, created a useful info graphic chart for anyone struggling with colour names. The writer says that she loves to collect words that can help give her stories variety and depth."
David Sedaris is an American comedian, author and radio contributor. His work is seriously funny and so well observed and when he reads his short stories himself, they are even better! Most of his material is autobiographical, about family life and his séjours in London, the South Downs and France. "Let's explore diabetes with owls" is his latest, but do check out "Me talk pretty one day", and don't spill your ice cream laughing.
We are learning about the beautiful game of netball since my daughter took it up 2 years ago. Not played on the continent it was a new ballgame to me, but it is fun to watch and the girls like the tactical and strategical side of it.
Why however netball is considered a winter (outside!) sport, is admittedly beyond me, but maybe I am missing the stiff upper English lip.
Be that as it may, even the Brits have to give in to wintry conditions sometime: the National Tournament on Saturday with 62 teams was cancelled today, due to a forecast of severe winds and rain - the tournament is normally held right next to the sea near Brighton! The girls will be disappointed, though!!
this is how it would look like on a good day - spectacular!
Just in time for Easter: Marbling with Nailpolish - a new take on these crazy nailpolish colours out there. (And great for using all these colours that looked great in the shops but just don't go with anything you have in your wardrobe ;-))
The technique is explained over at Design Mom (thank you so much). There you can find some lovely examples - we are still practising …. but loving it already.
Painshill Park is a lovely park 30 min down the A3 from West London. Restored to its former glory as a18th century landscape garden, created by Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773 it is a 'tranquil landscape, and although you will hear the cars from time to time this 'living work of art' will definitely be able to distract you from your modern city life.
Apart from plants and wildlife there are quite a few 18th century follies to discover like a ruined abbey, a Gothic temple and tower or a grotto. The people of Painshill Park even restored the vineyard!
the Tower at Painshill Park
the Lake at Painshill Park
taken in February in the evening
The kids will love it - our two went there over half term for two days of woodland den building and tracking down bugs and beasts with the two lovely people, Adam and Lindsay, who run it (I cannot recommend them highly enough!). I dropped mine at 9.00 and picked up two absolutely excited and very dirty ones at 16.30. Painshill Park offer a wild Easter Camp again this year. Check it out here.
Get a flashlight out and join writer Peter Achroyd on his under worldly journey below London. From hidden streams, cat-sized rats to eccentric mole men, he manages to pull his reader into this secret world.
The book "London Under" is entertaining, full of facts you never knew you wanted to know about and short enough to read it on a few tube journeys to work!
And whilst you are digging deep, look out for a new series of work by artist Mark Wallinger on the London Underground called Labyrinth. 10 of the 270 works - for each of the 270 stations - have so far been unveiled
(I will post some pictures as soon as I stumble across them. In the meantime you can have a look here.)
An amazing addition to the works above is Stephen Walter's London Subterranea, commissioned by the London Transport Museum for the Mind the Map Exhibition in 2012. Watch the artist at work and explaining his approach and thoughts here: