Tag Archives: London

What Gets You up in the Morning?

5 Oct

Waking up in London is easy. From 5am I hear the delivery and rubbish trucks moaning in the streets. From 6.30am buses open and close their screeching doors every fifteen minutes outside my window. From 7.30am the hum of cars at the cross-roads signals that the city is awake. Millions of people are already preparing for a day of action and decision, of learning and discovery, of fulfilment and happiness. By 8am I bury my half-open eyes into the warm pillow, relishing the smell of sleep and sweet dreams. I know that in the neighbourhood someone has already done a morning work-out, had a fresh fruit juice, read the paper, got their kids ready for school, prepared lunch for the family, and is on the way to work, looking fresh and full of energy.

“I gotta get moving,” I mumble to myself, stretching in bed and reaching for my diary. “How many things are programmed for today?”

Waking up in the South of France is a challenge for the unprepared. Heck, even the locals seem to have a hard time making out of bed on time for work. Shutters keep out the sunlight, making the body insensitive to the time of day. Living in suburbia, my morning alarm is a rooster calling out from a neighbouring house. Birds tell each other their dreams and I listen, lulled back to sleep by their songs. The elderly gentleman in the house opposite is no doubt walking around his garden, checking what changes the night brought on his crops. The cats are stretching on their fences, wary of getting their paws wet on the shimmering morning dew. The sun, like a ripe grapefruit, is peeking out to check that the world is ready for him. My plants are shivering in the shade; the warmth won’t get to them until the afternoon.

The alarm rings for the third time. “I should get up,” I think to myself, seeing the sunlight creep in under the door “Or else I’ll miss the cool smell of morning air, the shadows cast on the kitchen walls by the rising sun, the rare stillness of the trees, and the silence that falls upon the whole of nature in the early hours of day”. I open the shutters eagerly and a smile spreads across my face. “Good morning to you too, Mother Nature!”

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On my (Failed) Plans to Rule and/or Own the World

29 Sep

“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else” ~ Judy Garland

We all know what it means to not be ourselves, or in other words, to pretend to be someone else.  We usually discover this in school, when, in an attempt to make friends or to become popular, we pretend to like certain bands, or we start dressing in a certain way, or we voice ideas that we know will get us kudos points.

This phenomenon starts in school, but for many it can last way into adulthood. Some of us remodel our personality for a job, a circle of friends or for a partner. In most cases, this is to feel secure and accepted, to be approved of and loved. We pick up many signs on what is a ‘good’ person, an ‘intelligent’ person, a ‘worthy’ person, a ‘successful’ person and so on, from society and from our immediate circle of communication, such as friends and family. Many of us feel obliged to live up to these expectations, to show the world that we are the perfect example of that perfect person.

During my university years, I saw myself in a way that many London students are taught to see themselves: confident, well-groomed, intelligent, popular and successful. My decisions, starting from where I would drink coffee to where I would go clubbing, would be based on this self-image that I’d constructed. If my conscious could have picked out an image to explain who I was aiming to be, it would have looked something like this:

models

I wanted to be a supermodel with a successful business career, with cool and rich friends, a million talents, an address book full of useful contacts, and regular holidays where I would either tan on a yacht or build orphanages on a lost island. I wanted incarnate everything that magazines made look so easy. I wanted to live up to this image of the ‘perfect’ woman, according to the metropolitan capital’s society.

This ‘perfect’ woman, however, was far from the perfect version of my true self. I started realising this three years ago, when, spending a year away from London in a small Southern city, I began to see life differently. I met people who were natural and who lived honestly and simply. I met people who found it surprising to see me in make-up, rather than shocking to see me without it. I met people whose dreams were to have a family and live in a house in the countryside, rather than to rule and/or own the world, as was not uncommon to hear from people my age in London.

This eye-opening experience led me to take several spiritual psychotherapy courses upon my return to London. In these courses, I discovered my inner child, I learnt that what I think I want out of life or relationships is only what my conscious wants, and most importantly, I learnt to connect to my subconscious. From this, I discovered that my true self actually looks something like this:

Quite a difference, eh?

It took a while for me to understand and accept the true self that my subconscious was showing me. I took small steps to embrace my true self (I will talk about this in detail in a future post), often coming up against fear of the unknown, fear of ‘letting down my defenses’ and fear of being different. A year and half later, I am living away from London in a quiet town in France. In the eight months that I have spent here, I have never reminisced about this other young woman that I once was or aimed to be. On the contrary, I have felt a sense of peace and freedom to not try and live up to an image, to not try and meet someone’s expectations, and to not be constantly thinking about whether I am good enough, intelligent enough or beautiful enough.

I recently read a passage in D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love that struck a chord with me. I believe it conveys perfectly what I used to feel, and, had I remained aiming to be this other self, I would have achieved the ‘perfection’ that I was seeking, but in my heart, just like in Hermione’s, there would have been a void for where my real self should have been.

“Hermione knew herself to be well-dressed; she knew herself to be the social equal, if not far the superior, of anyone she was likely to meet in Willey Green. She knew she was accepted in the world of culture and of intellect. She was a KULTURTRAGER, a medium for the culture of ideas. With all that was highest, whether in society or in thought or in public action, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among the foremost, at home with them. No one could put her down, no one could make mock of her, because she stood among the first, and those that were against her were below her, either in rank, or in wealth, or in high association of thought and progress and understanding. So, she was invulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herself invulnerable, unassailable, beyond reach of the world’s judgment.

And yet her soul was tortured, exposed. Even walking up the path to the church, confident as she was that in every respect she stood beyond all vulgar judgment, knowing perfectly that her appearance was complete and perfect, according to the first standards, yet she suffered a torture, under her confidence and her pride, feeling herself exposed to wounds and to mockery and to despite. She always felt vulnerable, vulnerable, there was always a secret chink in her armour. She did not know herself what it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no natural sufficiency, there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of being within her.”

D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

~

Are you living up to an image that is not reflecting your true self?

If you could show your current self in an image, what would it look like?
If you could show your real, subconscious self in an image, what would it look like?

What small steps can you take to embrace your true self?

London vs. South of France

23 May

In my birth city, it is 15 °C; in the city I grew up in it is 20 °C; in my new city it is 28 °C. The weather is not the only difference between London, where I spent 15 years, and the Southern French city where I live now. The geographical distance between these two places isn’t spectacular, but the lifestyle is noticeably different.

The most obvious difference:

1) London: 8 million inhabitants. My new town: 200, 000 inhabitants.

London From Above

London - 8 million inhabitants

Amusing differences:

2) London: you’re lucky if you meet a British person in the city. My new town: I stand out for having a foreign accent.

3) London: everyone has an Oyster card. My new town: everyone (apart from me) has a car.

The differences that a Londoner, who is used to having anything/everything at any time, is finding hard to get used to:

4) London: the nearest grocery store was three minutes away from my house. My new town: the nearest grocery store is a twenty-minute walk away; add ten extra minutes if it’s a particularly hot day.

5) London: within a ten-minute walk from my house I had: a grocery store; 3 gyms (including swimming

Cat lying down in garden

My new neighbours

pools, dance/yoga/martial classes); 3 libraries; a dozen restaurants, bars and cafes; 3 bookshops; a park; several hotels; a museum; clothes shops, banks, etc. etc. My new town: within a ten-minute walk from my house I have: a football pitch, a small park, a post office, an organic food store…and hedgehogs, cats and owls.

6) London: shops are open from early morning until late at night every day of the week, including Bank Holidays. My new town: shops are closed at lunchtime, on Sundays and any other time they choose.

7) London: life never stops. My new town: everything stops between mid-June and September, when everyone goes on holiday. Students leave the city, all evening classes are cancelled and the sun drives the only remaining people into the coolness of their homes.

8 ) London: it would take weeks to count the number of galleries and theatres in the city. My new town: I can count them on one hand.

And the differences that a Londoner is greatly appreciating:

My new city centre

9) London: the buildings reach up to 253 m, soon to be 310 m with the completion of the Shard London Bridge tower, the tallest in the European Union. My new town: buildings are mostly around five-storeys, with a lot of houses in my area being bungalows or two-floor homes. Apartment blocks vary from two to six storeys, with only a handful of tower blocks on the edge of the city.

10) Following the point above – London: we appreciate nature through a square meter of sky directly above us. My new town: a 360° view of the sky!

11) London: you’re lucky if you get eye contact from…anyone, really. My new town: passers by not only look you in the eye, they actually smile at you.

12) London: you haven’t even put your change into your purse, but the check-out assistant at the supermarket is already screaming “Next!”. My new town: the check-out assistant makes a comment on the delicious food you bought, says thank you and wishes you a nice day.

13) London: with double-glazing and closed windows I could hear the incessant noise of traffic, fire brigades/ambulances/police cars, drunk people singing in the night, bus doors opening and closing, cars beeping, delivery

A cycling route in the area

trucks unloading, garbage men cleaning the streets. My new town: I can hear birds and the wind, and sometimes a rodent rustling in the bushes.

14) London: ride a bike at your own risk. My new town: ride a bike at your own pleasure.

15) London: after two years of living in the same place, I had no idea who lived in the flat opposite me. My new town: I know four of our neighbours; two of them helped us out during our move, the third gave us DIY advice, and the fourth invited us for drinks at their place on several occasions.

16) London: if you blow your nose after a tube journey, don’t be surprised if your handkerchief turns black. My new town: during the first few weeks here, I got lightheaded after every walk, because of the high quantity of oxygen in the area.

17) London: silence is golden in public transport. My new town: communication is appreciated and even encouraged.

18) London: complaining about the weather, the public transport, the tourists, the parking wardens, the queues and the prices is a daily practice. My new town: the weather is nice, everyone owns their own car, tourists are far and few, parking is permitted pretty much anywhere, there are no queues and prices are reasonable. No wonder everyone always has a smile on their face.

~

Every place has its advantages and inconveniences, and it is always an enriching experience to explore the rhythm, the rules and the visions of a life that is different to our own.

More about this change is lifestyle to come soon…

Life’s Beautiful Surprises

4 Apr

Crane Lifting Moon

We often hear that the greatest opportunities and our life’s most important moments come from being “in the right place at the right time”. This can also be called ‘sheer accident’ or, as I like to call it, ‘destined coincidence’. With no prior planning or intention, we meet someone, see something or participate in an event that overthrows our life. This comes as an unexpected coincidence, yet it is so perfect for us at that precise moment, that it puts us into a sort of ecstasy. We are overwhelmed with happiness at the beautiful surprise that life threw our way. We cannot believe that none of this was planned; as if we were getting the present we most wanted from an absolute stranger.

Yesterday, I happened to be “in the right place at the right time”. Through a series of coincidences and intuition hints, I found myself meeting one of the bestselling British writers of current times. Not something I was expecting on a quiet afternoon in a foreign country! I was part of a small group to attend the writer’s talk at a literary festival in town. The writer, down-to-earth and honest, talked about his new novel, and, at the end of the event, was more than happy to chat in his mother tongue to the only Brit out of the group (me!). Our brief exchange created the possibility of this author hosting an event at the London bookshop in which I used to work (and to which I am still greatly attached). And all I had planned that day was a walk in town!

This meeting with the talented modern writer completely disoriented me. I was ecstatic not only from having had the opportunity to meet this author, but to have met him so unexpectedly, in such a perfect coincidence. And this got me thinking: are perfect moments like this only possible as coincidences? Or are they perfect precisely because they are coincidences? I doubt that I would have been ecstatic had I planned my meeting with the author months in advance; in the same way as knowing what you will be given for your birthday takes away the joy and surprise of receiving the present. It is precisely the surprise of such a perfectly destined coincidence that made the moment so special.

I wanted to say thank you for this wonderful gift. But who was I to thank? Who do we thank for a destined coincidence? Who do we thank for a perfect moment? Who do we thank for life’s beautiful surprises? And how is it that we should show our gratitude?

Spring is Coming!

11 Feb

For those living in a concrete jungle like London, it is all too easy not to notice the changes that each season brings. Running in between buildings we only have time to notice the state of the sky…and in London it is pretty much the same no matter the season.

However, on my recent walks in the park, I have noticed that nature is waking up from its winter sleep. Flowers are starting to grow and buds are appearing. It is wonderful seeing the arrival of spring; it is like witnessing the birth of something beautiful and tender. Amongst all the grey around, bright young flowers stick out their little heads and try to win our attention.

Here are some photos I took of the arrival of spring in a London park.

 

What does spring where you live look like?