Handstanding on My own Two Feet

A juxtaposition in terms, but handstanding on my own two feet is about where I feel right now.  You think you are heading in one direction, and comfortably so at that, and then something happens that seems to turn everything in your life and plans upside down.  But you go with it, not just because you have to, but because it is a fact of life and an adventure, and if we knew at the start what was going to happen, then where would the fun be in that?  Albert Einstein’s theory of the existence of time is “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”  So sometimes we have to wait a lot longer than we thought for things to start happening the way we thought they would or the way we predicted, age 5, whilst playing in the garden on a cold Summer’s day, when we started planning the timeline of our life (that wasn’t just me, was it?).

I thought a lot of things about my life and what it would be, I’m sure mostly uninteresting to anyone but me, and I don’t believe one of those child ideas has crept into my life.  I don’t see these things as a negative at all, merely a fact of life.  I thought I’d be living a calm, status quo like existence that I wouldn’t want to change.  I didn’t see an abundance of wealth or materialistic endeavours, just an overall sense of happiness and wellbeing, in a little cocoon of love, family and otherwise.  There were things I couldn’t see in my future and didn’t think would happen:  I didn’t think my heart was capable of breaking so hard, but I also didn’t think that sort of pain could end up eventually making me stronger and increasing my ambition and resolve in life.  I saw myself settled in my early twenties with babies and acting jobs, not struggling essentially alone through my early thirties cycling round London, bending people this way and that through yoga.

I knew I’d never be religious (apologies to my Christian buddies for being quite so blatant about it) but I also didn’t anticipate finding solace and my own form of religion in something like yoga;  I just thought it was fun doing the “crab” and trying to stay up longer in handstands (ironically, something I thought I’d never achieve).  I didn’t think I’d travel so much…. I knew I loved America from a very young age, but I didn’t think I’d love it this much, and for it to be the catalyst for such a change in me.  I thought I’d be able to speak another language (not German the one I actually chose to study as far as possible at school, another interesting choice) and live somewhere in France or Spain, depending on my chosen language, with my toddlers running around the Monet like garden I would have.

These pressures, expectations and ultimately disappointments are all self created.  I am lucky enough to have encouraging, loving and supportive parents, so why do I feel guilty for not having achieved the things I set out for myself aged 5, when I had no idea what my life was going to be like.  I simply saw other lives and took parts from each one I liked and set those aspirations as life time goals. I  don’t think there’s anything wrong with hopes and dreams; they are important, but pressure and unhappiness from the delay in these already intangible things being met is not a way I want to live my life.  So 2016, for me, is not about setting desperate New Year’s resolutions and then self flagellating when I don’t meet them.  It’s about the here and now, and living in the moment, and doing what makes me happy, strong and free.  So, essentially, it’s all about handstands.

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A Beautiful Horizon

My arrival into adulthood seems to have presented itself by the notion of “pre-booking”. This much advertised system that those of us who would normally favour the spontaneous freedom of opportunity and possibility in a bright new city would normally shun, suddenly increases in appeal with the simple words “2 hour wait for tickets”. Even as an eternally queuing Brit, this does not spark anything other than dread, and so, my journey into the realm of planning starts spiralling out of control when, precisely 7 hours before my flight takes off at 9am, some hasty online bookings are made. Needless to say, some sleep should be happening between booking and flight, so the adult tag may not sit quite so well just yet.

Others may choose marriage and babies as their badge of responsibility and place in this world, but this comes as a defining moment for me (possibility of having booked a day when I am not in the city: high). If all goes to plan,
a fuss free, whimsical flurry round Segrada Familia followed by the Gaudi house (with of course enough time in between) awaits me. What can I say? Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. I think I know where I stand. Barcelona, I salute you.

Cheap and beautiful

The simplistic way to view the city (see title). It really is, in every way. A particular find was the 50p ice cream, and this is not just one cheap vendor, they are all like that. Goulash for a mere £3 (and that’s the swanky end), and dining out for 2 for under £10 including drinks. I could get used to this way of living.

Morning was broken by a run through and round city park, where I romantically imagined myself living here and waking up to this sort of fun every morning; I even found a yoga studio! Suitably smug, I ran back home to find one of the hosts around (no mention of singing past night). We ended up heading round the streets together, which at first I was reluctant to do as I wanted to be free to stop and go whenever I chose, but we ended up going to places I would never have found, like an off the beaten track indoor market. It was nice to have company, and a good recommendation for a cheap lunch as well. We parted ways late afternoon, when I bounded over to Buda, crossing the vast Danube. A short climb up the hill to see the Gellért statue, affording a fantastic panorama across the city, I headed back down and set off along the river. Slight accidental detour on the way back down, weaving a labyrinth of paths across the hill. (Note to self: go back the way you came next time.)

The city was beginning to settle in for the night, with lights flickering on and the sun quietly fading. Buda is far less bustling than Pest, more like it’s quieter, more thoughtful cousin. Quaint streets leading to empty little courtyards, populated by one of the endless statues that frequent the city. After walking for hours, I allowed myself a 15 minute rest in one such quiet courtyard. A small Hungarian man and his small dog came for a little visit (I suspect the dog was up to foul play), and 2 slightly annoying teenagers. Enough to make me want to carry on and get my picture of parliament all lit up, which I had spied on my way.

Headed back out to the river, and lifted my camera up to take said photograph, of the beautifully lit Parliament building. As I have my finger poised on the button, Parliament is plunged into darkness. Apparently it doesn’t keep light past 8pm, the buggers. It’ll be another trip down here for me tomorrow night. And the castle for that matter, obscured by fences and fancies I can’t seem to break down!

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Not a Pest to be seen

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The unnerving, obnoxious cry of my alarm disturbs what must have been a maximum of 30 minutes sleep, signalling the beginning of my hopefully stress free journey to Hungary. A walk through London at 4.30am through somewhat suspicious back streets (thanks google maps) to get the bus, and I am Luton bound. Delirious with lack of sleep, I keep one eye firmly on the road; the only time you will enjoy a peaceful London, with night worker’s from the tube slipping off home to bed, and I become all too aware of a night shift life I would not like to lead. I’m lucky to be escaping for a few days.

Or so i thought. Cut to the plane, and every attempt at escaping the 18 man strong stag team has been thwarted. They are relentless throughout the flight; louder and more obnoxious than my alarm, not only in voice, but falling all over the cabin, drinking too much, and thinking it original to claim quite so loudly that they were nearly sick when the plane went through turbulence. A screaming child at this point would have been a breath of fresh air.

But then I’m here: Eastern Europe; we’ve never met and I’m glad I’ve rectified that. You are nothing if not highly dramatic in your aspect. A few surly airport people later, picking and choosing how much English they know, and I am on the bus and then the metro heading to my destination, right in the centre of town. A quick read of my friend’s top tips, and it appears I’m staying off one of the main, more attractive roads, Andráddy út, leading up to the main park.

So far so good; it is hot, it is already impressive, it is vastly different from anywhere I’ve ever been, and feels almost like a throw back to post war times. Many of the buildings are very dark, looming over you and crowding in, though at the end of the long, straight streets, the mountains of Buda dominate the landscape, almost as a comfort blanket reminding you nature is still at hand.

Home is easily found and happily welcomed in, and then there is exploring to be done. I currently find myself most excited by the thought of huge natural thermal baths (particularly the hottest and most beautiful, very near me, Széchenyi baths) and am very glad it was trousers I forgot to bring, and not my bikini, which was the first thing in my (impressively) tiny bag. Even my host remarked that she’d never seen such light packing (I must be growing up).

Wandering the streets allows you to stumble on many beautiful sights, none of which are particularly famous but all worth a look. I feel a bike hire day may be a good idea, and am delighted to spy the Hungarian equivalent to Boris bikes; Franz bikes?

My tired ramblings take me to the park, where it is high time to rest up and enjoy the ambience of the city on top of the hill. It is very peaceful; unusual to be in the heart of a massive city and feel like this. I carry on to more familiar touristic landmarks, such as the stunning Vajdahunyad Castle, a plethora of different styles ranging from gothic to renaissance, and then the familiar Heroes Square (it feels like Trafalgar Square, hence the familiarity). Following a brief, broken conversation with the ticket office about the opening times of the Museum of Fine Art, it turns out I am not in the Museum of Fine Art, hence our differing opening times. I decide I am too tired and hungry (and therefore verging on hangry) and need to return back, hopefully to an empty flat to make my supper. My wish is granted, and all that calls for tonight, is a good book and some catching up on sleep.

20 minutes after I have finished my supper, I realise that despite my rather loud singing round the flat, my wish wasn’t quite as granted as I thought, and someone was there with all the lights off. Ah well, they are probably used to these crazy English travellers.

Vajdahunyad castle

Vajdahunyad castle

Girls and Boys

Speaking to a friend the other day about script writing, a notion I have always romantically imagined I would be able to do/will one day do, she seemed to address a universal conundrum with very great ease.  As a woman, how do you write a man?  Write a woman and change it to a man’s name.  And vice versa.

So simple.  Suddenly years of “understanding” women and men and how different they are as a species seemed to melt into a distant mirage.  We do live in a male dominated world, that is a fact.  There are more men than women…again, fact.  This is not being sexist, simply realistic.  It is therefore likely the work force will be male dominated, and the baby force will be female dominated, but that is where the “differences” end.

We are different, but we all innately want the same things: security, stability, companionship and love.  Someone to love, and to be loved by.  Simple necessities that if you don’t achieve at some point in your life, you can’t help but feel a little lost, a little empty.  But sometimes feeling it even briefly, if it is real, can leave you worse off.  How can you crave or miss something you’ve never experienced, but once you have it, it becomes like a drug and suddenly you are an addict with a dose of withdrawal, grief and loss attacking your every waking and “sleeping” moment all at once.  A bolt of emotions you didn’t know, and probably didn’t know you were capable of.

I don’t think we have to look further than ourselves however to understand the other sex, it is the wonder of people and human relationships that are confusing in themselves and lead us to places, but the world would be a lot worse off if none of us felt anything, and as the song says “That’s life.  That’s what all the people say.  You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.”  But things change, and people change, men and women, and you never know what’s unexpectedly waiting for you around the corner.  And that’s the beauty of it.

Best Laid Plans

I haven’t been writing anything for a little while, as I felt like I didn’t have anything new to write about, and for fear of sounding like a broken record saying “push for what you want”, “you’re the only one that can do it” and so on and so forth, I thought a little break would be best.  But then again, you don’t have to have a specific plan for things to unfold, and sometimes kick-starting yourself into something and throwing yourself in the way of surprise can lead to a number of avenues unfolding and opportunities arising you hadn’t thought about.  Even in a small way, a chance stumble into the cinema with a friend the other day, seeing a film purely because it was on at the right time and we had got the timings wrong for the one we were meant to see, provided us with a pure gem of an English film.  “The Selfish Giant”, loosely based on an Oscar Wilde short story, but updated and thrown into impoverished 2000’s Northern England, was completely mesmerising, and restored my faith in the film industry being out to make good films, and not just to make a buck.  I think it is important that independent films like this are lauded, as it is sadly unlikely they will see any real commendations in the form of awards and so on, despite a set of incredible reviews.  It may not have the star billing of a Hollywood film, but it more than packed a punch, and left everyone in the cinema gasping for breath as they came out.  It is amazing how different you can feel in an hour and a half, and how much emotion you can through when you didn’t know anything about a subject just minutes before.  But that is the magic that cinema can create, when it is used to it’s full capacity; a moving, unequalled artistic experience, that you can revisit again and again.  I believe it is only that aspect that it has over over theatre, the fact that the moment does not disappear forever, you can see it again and again.  

I’m rather glad my best laid plans were changed the other night.  A night like that again would be worth it’s inspirational weight in gold.

A spoonful of sugar

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London can be a lonely place.

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Yes, Samuel Johnson, you are right: “When you are tired of London, you are tired of life”.  But that seems to be the point, it is a tiredness with life and relentless London living that can drive you into a downward spiral.  It is not that there is nothing to do, and it is not even boredom that makes people lonely, it is almost there being too much of everything.  If you live on your own and work freelance, despite being in one of the busiest cities in the world, you could easily get through a day with very little human contact.  We don’t realise how important communication and socialising, even on a minor scale such as acknowledging someone when they smile at you or, dare I say it, responding with a smile, are.
 
Walking home tonight, a cyclists light fell off as she passed me.  Naturally I picked it up for her and helped her find the rogue battery that had managed to escape.  I don’t see this as super hero behaviour, but she seemed to find it astonishing that a.) I could be that kind b.) I could be English
 
I was disheartened by our reputation, and as I carried on my journey I saw it connecting to a very British way of life.  We have the ability to be very proud of our country, but only, it seems, when the going is good; the Olympics, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.   Where is the support when the going is tough, when we need it most.  Your country needs you through thick and thin, not just to jump on a website and write damning comments when someone makes a mistake.  We all make mistakes and it’s hard enough getting through life with them, without millions of people reminding you and judging you for it. Like the people in our country, we have lost the confidence to call ourselves Great without some kind of evidence.  the Americans do it all the time, and why not?  They are great.  So are we; the Americans are only united, the Britons are the Great ones.  And if we believed that a little more, and took the time to acknowledge people and just be a little more human, London would seem a far friendlier place.

Invincible or Invisible

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It’s a rare thing (for me anyway) to naturally wake up at 7am on a Sunday morning, unable to go back to sleep….but I’m grateful as I embarked on an impromptu run which afforded me a very empty Hyde Park and some beautiful early morning shots (see pics).Image

There’s nothing quite like a perfect Autumn morning to take you back to nature, and it is amazing how inspired you can feel after taking a few deeper, fresher breaths.  A London park may have nothing on the Costa Rican jungle, but you can still feel revitalised and recharged.  I feel ready for anything now, and it’s comforting to know that this is a feeling you create yourself, you don’t need someone else to make you feel it.  Along the lines of “The Alchemist”, we have all the tools and answers we need to make ourselves happy, it’s just accessing and recognising them, that can be difficult sometimes.

It is the equivalent to a yoga high after a particularly good class.  Just over a year on from my yoga teacher training, I can’t help but look back (happily) and see what I’ve done. It is easy to get bogged down and think “I haven’t got anywhere and look where everywhere else is” but actually, considering where you start, you have probably gone further than you think. Through my training, the thought of actually having to teach people terrified me, I just liked the whole idea of it.  Now, I adore the actual teaching part; seeing a student achieve a pose they’ve been working on and how happy they are!  It’s amazing how we change and adapt and do things we didn’t think we’d be able to, on however small a scale.

It doesn’t take much to re-inspire yourself.  For me: a good play, a good book, a long run, a new yoga pose will all lift my spirits and make me want to better myself.  It’s just finding the triggers along the way.  I think life may be about finding the triggers.

So, today I will remain feeling invincible, and next time I feel like slipping my invisibility cloak on, I might just pop it back into the cupboard.  Or better yet, sell it on ebay.

In a New York minute…

As the song so rightly says, “in a New York minute, everything can change”.  Attempting to bring a bit of New York positivity to London and brighten up the ever so slightly cold and dreary days, with heartfelt determination and certainty that everything will be alright in the end.  Having read Ricky Gervais’ brilliant love letter to New York, it reminded me of my own love of the city, and it seems apt to explore that, especially after acquiring quite so many new American friends, a few hailing from the Big Apple itself.  

I think it is the immediacy of New York that entices me; a city that has little in the way of evidence of an ancient history, you cannot help but be rooted very firmly in the present, and in turn makes you feel very much alive.  I can’t imagine things ever slowing down there, and the work ethic is something to be amazed at.  This is not necessarily a good thing, and I am very much against a life spent in the office, but a life spent doing what you love?  That’s a very different ball game.  If someone did provide me with a much lusted after acting job, I would be at it 24/7, make no mistake.  There is no shame in passion in New York, whereas in the UK you could be forgiven for hiding your ambition….no one seems to like achiever’s over here.  When someone becomes successful, they are very often torn to shreds, not only by the media but by their own social circle.  People want success for themselves and not for others, which seems a very bad thing.  This is a massive generalisation of course, but there does seem to be a propensity and expectation for failure over here that is unhealthy, and sad.  

I’m encouraging a little Christmas cheer, and a leaving behind of bitter envy this year…..time to embrace the New Year and everything it has in store!

A Test of Patience

During my yoga course I learned about ” stilling the fluctuations of the mind”…………..as I write, my burglar is going off at full pelt, and has been for the last 8 hours.  I’ve dismantled it; taken out every fuse, and still the battery fights a winning battle and continues screaming on into the night.  Thankfully I managed to quieten one part of it, but the other will be my faithful friend until the wee small hours of the morning, when the engineers get into work.  This is apparently not classified as an emergency……….I dread to think what could be worse other than my alarm simultaneously setting off every other alarm on the street.  

I am attempting to remain peaceful and not be driven mad by this irritating, relentless noise and “still my mind” so it doesn’t bother me.  I was doing fine with the power cut, happily lighting candles and even dismissed a massive wax spillage as “funny”.   Then I went out to take flyers round for my classes and fell down some steps to a ludicrously big house, which will teach me for thinking the house was just too big for someone to live in on my way down them.  Karma always comes back to get you!  On numerous attempts at putting flyers through doors, I’ve been met with over excited dogs the other side, leaping up and grabbing the flyers…I fought on, but each one I put through was met with the same fate.  Despite the amusement value for this, it was slightly annoying.  I suppose my point is, that no matter how little the tests are, and how in the big scheme of things they really don’t matter, we are tested every day in some minor way, but it all helps to shape you.

I reached the grand old age of 30 this month, and took stock and looked back over the last few years.  At first I was angry, thinking I had achieved absolutely nothing and got nowhere near where I wanted to be.  The facts weren’t helpful:  single, pretty much unemployed, very few prospects.  Then I started to look at the good things, and managed to see everything in a new light.  It’s taken 6 years, but I finally have an acting agent.  This is something that felt like it could never happen, but somehow something shifted and broke through.  This year I trained in something I’ve been passionate about for a long time, and am now able to work in this capacity (a little more work from it wouldn’t go amiss, but patience is a virtue it seems….).  So, in my eyes, I see these as small victories.  Whilst I have a long way to go, and every day is a frustrating acceptance that I am not “there”, I am on my way, and the arrival will hopefully be even more exciting once I am well and truly on the way.  For now, I’m happy with the daily tests, and the thought that it takes one day for everything to change, and that could well be tomorrow.