Dear Ms Nilanjana Roy

I’m a big fan of reading. I’ve always adored literature but just as much I enjoy a well-written newspaper piece. It so happens that when I read about something very interesting in the newspaper I add it to a pile that sits next to my bed. (My weekend newspaper reading starts in bed with the mandatory cup of coffee on the bedside table.) By saving a copy I appear to be expecting of myself to turn to it again and again. As life continues its course and time flies by as noiselessly as ever, the pile in question slowly but steadily grows as (yet) another paper is added atop until it reaches the size of precarious heap, making it hard to ignore it, or, even harder, to pretend it’s not in the way. So, once in a while I decide it’s high time it went.

Cheers to friendships!

This is no simple task, mind you. Continue reading “Dear Ms Nilanjana Roy”

Under the Weather

Randomly and aimlessly clicking my way through the web becomes boring after a while. It’s no picnic giving in to illness and staying in bed all day. What with the headache, the running nose (as fast as Bolt, my son said), the cough. Even my skin hurts.

Then I find out about the rose that escaped the garden. She went for the sand dunes. Brava! And eventually she ended up in a museum. What a life! Continue reading “Under the Weather”

Can’t Buy Me Love

“It’s (nearly) Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. Except, of course, there is. Forced festive fun is staggering towards us in its paper hat and comedy jumper, complete with flashing lights, reindeer noses and knowing irony.”

This passus by Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham from their article in theguardian.com is probably the best description of the current warming-up-to-the-hype, pre-festive hysteria. It nails it perfectly.

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There’s another very interesting and thought-provoking piece related to the upcoming season (which is already here actually!) that I’ve been saving since last year. A dinosaur, I know. It’s as timeless though as the greatest Christmas tale itself: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

I’m referring to an article by Tim Harford, FT columnist and Undercover Economist. Here’s a headline and an excerpt that I particularly liked:

In praise of Scrooge

‘Scrooge didn’t waste his money on extravagances for people whose desires he didn’t really understand’

“It is hard for us to grasp the discrepancy between how we see the world when giving gifts and when receiving them. Recipients may appreciate cash or presents from a list and not fuss too much about expensive gifts; gift givers, in contrast, imagine that the ideal present is an expensive surprise. It isn’t. All this suggests we should probably be spending less on presents, and thinking a lot more about the presents we do buy.”

I’m a firm believer that we should be paying attention to people, to their needs and/or desires. There’s so much more to Christmas than presents and binge drinking and eating. (This from a person who cannot stop reaching for another slice of panettone as if her life depended on it.) The present, if and when we intend to give one, should by all means reflect the purposefulness and meaningfulness we infused into the process of buying it. There’s nothing worse in a gift than the obvious fact it was carelessly or sloppily selected, bulk chosen or having no personal value to the recipient. Something you put away in a drawer never to recall the moment of receiving it reflects money spent badly plus the disappointment (although not expressed or shown) is immeasurable. I’d feel uncomfortable giving away things just for the sake of doing what everybody else is doing and considering a proper thing. If we’re no good at memorizing (and are parallelly employing the idea of chronic lack of time) then, in the age of smart phones that are always at the tips of our fingers, the task should not be too difficult at all: taking notes on the go has never been easier. It doesn’t take the burden of paying attention off though. Nevertheless, don’t fall for the obvious seemingly easy and generic solutions: receiving a wrong cosmetic is awful and giving cosmetic per se is bloody weak, especially for women. Same goes for wine (white wine person getting a bottle of red anyone?). Or anything else really. Give it some thought, it’s a valuable suggestion. Do try making them happy not your own self. Spending a fortune on presents is more or less passé. There’s even a scientific proof.

Pay attention then. Reach for quality in your choices. Set examples. Feel good about it. Don’t believe me? See what experts say about attention.

 

Recommended:

More science on the subject of gift giving

And two fiery 80’s and 60’s music mementos:

 

Plastic Fantastic

Even when I was growing up, in the 80s, there circulated an anecdote about some strange kid asking his or her parents upon spending a day in the countryside and seeing a cherry tree laden with fruit: “Who was the barmy person that hanged the cherries in the tree?”

This at the time when we as children spent a significant amount of time out in the country or at least out in the open and our mothers tended the kitchen gardens after work or at least our grandmothers did. Poor old cherries. Poor old child.

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At the approximately same time at my friend’s brother’s school, who is 10 years our junior, one child’s response to teacher’s inquiry “Where does milk come from?” was a determined and self-confident: “Off the shelf in the supermarket.”

All the same, I usually like to think of our generation as one of the last to have grown up within the actual natural environment and not watching it from indoors (possibly on the TV). Getting dirty and sweaty and ending up with bruised knees was no news to any of us or our parents. Or to the teachers at school. It was certainly a part of a healthy and sturdy growing up.

Consuming the natural environment in the sense of being comfortable within it and being aware of it helps the consumption remains within the limits of healthy and respectable. It never occurs to me to break the branches of the trees or damage the fungi just for the fun of it. I couldn’t leave rubbish behind. I can’t imagine disposing of something in the sea or in the street for that matter. I would never chase the animals or scare them on purpose. Not even the nasty pigeons. That doesn’t apply to mosquitoes though. Guilty as charged.

There’s more to it than this, I know. It’s a deeper issue not to be superficialized. Everyone should already in the early age be introduced to the joys and responsibilities of enjoying the natural environment for the pure beauty of it. The biological diversity alone can be a well of inspiration to the children and their parents. It’s a mysterious place, Mother Nature’s home. I remember all the fun we had as children running around the forests, meadows, jumping over the streams, watching the birds (there was an owl nesting in the chimney of the little cottage in our town’s forests) and foraging the blueberries or mushrooms. Oh, the rewards of the physical freedom.

Anyway, this last summer I read a few articles on ever so popular theme of environment protection. Obviously, they’ve employed my mind. Guess what, it’s a jungle out there.

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Recommended:

If you see not the wilderness but only the trophy animals in it; if the closest you’ll ever get to the forest is riding in a jeep with seven friends who have been brought up to think of the stillness and quietness of the wild as uncomfortable, even threatening; if your culture teaches you to recognise Pokémon but not different kinds of leaves or trees, how will you value any of this?

Excerpt from Nilanjana Roy in FT Weekend 27/28 August 2016 on the problem of preserving the forests

FT Weekend 4 August 2016: The 22-year-old trying to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and same topic in The Guardian 22 June 2016

You thought so-called paper coffee cups get recycled? Think again. The Guardian on Britons’ consumption of paper coffee cups that are not recycled after all Excerpt from this article by Paula Cocozza:

[…]you need to be busy to be important, while telling everyone you had time to wait in line while the beans were ground and the milk was steamed. And now there is one more contradiction to add to the list, because the paper coffee cup, it turns out, is recyclable – yet woefully, overwhelmingly, unrecycled.

The Reading List

We are nearing the summer solstice, which means we’re getting close to the end of the first half of the year. I don’t know about you but for me the first six months of 2016 flew by in a flash. It might be the right time to write down a selection of the books I particularly liked that I read within the past few months.

One of my safe choices when it comes to cookbooks
One of my safe choices when it comes to cookbooks: Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray

1.) The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee

I believe it’s more than obvious that I’m enchanted with that book. Because of it I urged the purchase of a pot grown lemon tree, a small one, a special variety, the kind that can be kept indoors through the colder months. When we brought it home it started to blossom and the whole flat was filled with a wonderfully seductive zagara. It went on for weeks. Now, it’s happily found its place on the balcony and I can see it’s started to form flower buds anew so I think it’s really happy with us. I hope it remains so. As for the book, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

2.) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Looking back on this book I can’t classify it by any subject it covers. Mostly, I found it to be a deterministic writing about race, about being black in the USA, about life in Nigeria, about (legal and) illegal migration to the UK, about being smart and young. I recommend it to everybody who is scared by current influx of migrants to Europe. But most of all, it is a valuable insight into the way of life of the modern young and educated. Very pleasurable read. To gain a wider appreciation of Nigeria (the land itself is unknown to me as is its history) I can propose the acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun by the same author. Beware, it might open new horizons for you.

3.) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

A tender and contemplative narrative about the meaning of believing and the strength of prejudice. I read the original (English) and I must admit I struggled because the language is quite complex and the ideas about religion are not my strongest subjects (although I know a thing or two about Catholic guilt). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book very much as it oozes deep wisdom and hope. During the progress I felt more and more liberated by the warming sense that the problems I think are problems are in fact only minor obstacles. I hope I’m not sounding condescending but if I were to recommend a book to someone who is considering finding a bigger meaning of life, this one would be it. The storytelling is exceptional.

The book I’m saving for summer holidays? I’m almost decided it to be Venice by Jan Morris. I’ll report.