Sunday, 31 October 2010

How do we inspire ourselves&others to greatness

I saw the film Invictus ( meaning undefeated or unconquered), this weekend and was left truly inspired by the events portrayed and by the film's soul. It tells the story of how Nelson Mandela harnesses the power of rugby to unite South Africa. With the country due to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in a year's time, the once imprisoned, now newly elected President, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), hits on the idea of using the national rugby team as a way to ease racial tension and unite the country. The captain of the struggling South African national team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), is called to meet the President and soon realises that victory at the World Cup would transcend rugby, and could lead to something monumental for his country.

Quoting directly from the Wikepedia site:

 "After 27 years in Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released in 1990 and works immediately to bring about the end of apartheid and the initiation of full democratic elections. While Mandela attempts to tackle the country's largest problems—crime and unemployment, among many others—he attends a game of the Springboks, the country's rugby union team. Mandela recognizes that the blacks in the stadium cheer against their home squad, as the Springboks (their history, players, and even their colours) represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds, and remarks that he used to do the same thing on Robben Island. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year's time, Mandela convinces a meeting of the newly-black-dominated South African Sports Committee not to change the Springboks' name and colours. He then arranges a meeting with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar (Matt Damon). Though Mandela does not verbalize his true meaning during their meeting, Pienaar understands the message below the surface: if the Springboks can gain the support of non-white South Africans and succeed in the upcoming Rugby World Cup, the country will be unified and inspired to exceed its expectations. Mandela also shares with Pienaar that a poem, "Invictus", had been inspiring to him during his time in prison, helping him to "stand when all he wanted to do was lie down".

"Pienaar and his teammates train, but the players (all but one are white) voice disapproval that they are to be envoys to the poor and public, fearing exhaustion from overwork. Mandela, too, hears disapproval from friends and family. Many more, both white and black citizens and politicians, began to express doubts on using sport to unite a nation torn apart by some 50 years of racial tensions. For many non-whites, especially the radicals, the Springboks symbolised white supremacy and they did not want to support their national team."

"Things begin to change, however, as the players interact with the locals. During the opening games, support for the Springboks begins to grow among the non-white population. By the second game (which is in fact the quarter-final against Western Samoa) Williams is fit once again. Citizens of all races turn out in numbers to show their support for the Springboks. At the suggestion of several security guards, Mandela sports a Springbok jersey with Pienaar's number 6 on it to show his support, and his name is chanted repeatedly by the home crowd during his entrance, a contrast to a previous rugby match scene, in which Mandela is booed by some in the crowd. As momentum builds, even the security team members become at ease with each other and the black members who were not interested in the sport, eventually began to enthusiastically support their national team alongside their white colleagues.

 Prior to the game, the Springbok team is taken on a trip to Robben Island, where Mandela spent nearly 30 years in prison. There, Pienaar is shown Mandela's cell and has a vision of Mandela among the inmates. Later that night Pienaar mentions his amazement that Mandela "could spend thirty years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put [him] there."

William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

This film is truly inspiring and just reminds me that the seemingly impossible is possible when you have true faith and unwavering conviction.

"I am the master of my fate, i am the captain of my soul"

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Chai Lattes

I just love a good chai latte with its comforting spices and soft frothy steamed milk. Infact since moving to Norway, wow it's two years ago now this month, i have become a little bit obsessed by Chai Lattes with yummy frothy soya milk. It wasn't until i moved here that i suddenly found myself going so much more to cafes to meet people or just to get out of the cold and have some company when Theodore was a baby. It was such a pleasure then to find that since i last visited Norway soya milk had become so much more common and chai tea seemed to be everywhere.

 The last time i'd had chai tea was when i was 19 years old and living in India. There we would watch people in the village brewing up the milk with cinnamon sticks, spices, loose black tea and a whole mound of sugar. Back then i wasn't so aware that ordinary milk didn't do me much good i just knew that i loved the initial comforting feeling of drinking hot milky tea with delicious spices on a cold day or shared with friends. Infact chai tea seemed to be a part of every gathering whether it was with people you knew or shared with a shop keeper trying to entice you to buy their products. What a fabulous sales tactic, lulled into comfort and familiarity by sharing a cup of steaming tea,  it worked almost every time.
I went through a phase after that of just wanting herbal teas and especially when i discovered that milk wasn't so good for me i avoided black teas, that is until i discovered hot frothy soya milk at Starbucks
(aah i know but there they enticed me with delicious soya hot chocolate and i am ashamed to say that i sucumbed..many a time!)

Anyway i am well and truly hooked by these frothy chai lattes with a sprinkling of cinnamon on top, especially at this time of year when you just need a delicious comforting option! 

Friday, 29 October 2010

Time out with good friends

Photo by Olivia Mann

Whether it's a cup of tea shared with a good friend or some serious time away it definately lifts ones spirits like nothing else and makes every day life good again. It sounds so obvious and it's really a relatively simple thing to do, but sometimes one forgets how needed it is. I'd been getting rather low recently because for some time now my husband has been working late almost every night and weekends too with this current project which has demanded so much from him and i have been home alone with my son who quite rightly just longs for his papa and mama sometimes just isn't good enough. So to remedy things i managed to get away at the weekend with my sister and some friends to Berlin. It is something i have almost never done, although not through lack of desire, but a girly weekend away now just seems an essential thing in life and it was so easy to do, when all the babysitting etc was put in place.

We flew to Berlin on friday night and were back home by sunday night, but despite it being quite a short time away it felt like a wonderful week packed into two days. We didn't do a massive amount or fret about seeing too many sights, instead we just revelled in spending time together, sleeping in late without a little person to wake one in the early hours and just doing what we felt like until it was just too late to keep our eyes open anymore, even though we would have liked to stay up longer.

Photo by Olivia Mann

We began well on saturday morning, in terms of sightseeing at least, by going to the atmospheric and visually striking blue church, nicknamed so because of the blue light created by the floor to ceiling blue stained glass mosaic cubes that make up each wall. The official name is the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church on the Kurfürstendammand and it must easily be the most photogenic church in Berlin. It is a wonderful place to retreat to, to take a pause and contemplate things and to light a candle for someone or something. What is not obvious from the photos, but can be appreciated when seated in the church is that each of the blue glass squares is a little stained glass picture in itself. Different shades of blue, green and gold are incorporated in the design making subtle patches of glowing colour in the midnight blue which you start to appreciate as your eyes get used to the dark interior.

We were soon led by our tummies to a wonderful cafe called the Cafe Bilder Buch on Akazienstrasse in the Schoneberg area of Berlin, which we'd been told was one of the places to go for a famous Berlin brunch ....and it did not disappoint. Huge sofas welcomed us in this cosy retro style cafe and many pages of different style brunches were offered from which we had a lovely time choosing. We enjoyed it so much that we spent many hours there chatting, eating and drinking. Well when you are offered a glass of proseco with your brunch it's hard to refuse!

It was a glorious autumnal day- we shopped, we walked, we chatted and then we met the darling friend we were staying with at the Reichstag so that we could climb to the top of the cuppola and get great views over Berlin and see some of the light show/festival of lights that was happening in the Mittre/centre of Berlin that night.

The Reichstag

The Cuppola at the Reichstag

We walked back to the Kreuzberg area of Berlin where we were staying so that we could eat at a wonderful local known place which is typical of Berlin that served delicious German food, and along the way saw more sights with these wonderful light affects.

The Brandeburg Gate

Much later after some truly delicious food and fabulous company we finished the night in a local bar for Mohitos and chai lattes for me ( at seven months pregnant it was just what i felt like)


The weather was pretty foul today but we headed to the Prenzlaurberg area of Berlin for the famous flea markets at the Mauer Park.

I love places like this because even if you have to sift through lots of rubbish there are usually some gems, even if it is just visually speaking.

We lunched in a cafe on the Kastanienallee that we were lucky to get into as every cafe we passed was packed with brunching Berliners on this wet, cold day and then spent our remaining hours wandering around the centre.

Photo by Olivia Mann

I didn't want it to end, but i know that another weekend like it can be planned, hopefully soon or as soon as possible bearing in mind that i can no longer fly and in january will have a new baby. Perhaps he will be an honourary guest! It was heavenly but i have to admit that it was also really good to get home and snuggle up with my boys again.  

Monday, 18 October 2010


I absolutely love the trailer for the visually stunning documentary film  BABIES ,written and directed by Thomas Balmes. A father of three young children himself he wondered, "How do babies in vastly disparate cultures do this differently in their first year of life?".  The film simultaneously follows four babies around the world - from first breath to first steps.  The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco. BABIES joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.

Thomas Balmes says that "The idea was not to pick families in poor countries, but families in countries that are different in their level of technology," says the director, 40, who lives in Paris. "I chose families that were happy, and who were positive about the arrival of a baby."

"Everything we do [in the Western world] is not the only way," says Balmes. In fact, there are downsides to our ways, as the film shows: we might overstimulate babies with too many toys; we might ignore them during play by talking on our cell phones and not being present to them. If there is one main theme, he says, "It's that we can see how kids do well with very little," when it comes to material goods, like toys -- or even a parent's constant hovering presence. These babies are endlessly interested by what is around them -- an insect, a breeze, a puppy's tongue. As Balmes says, "Sometimes very little can be enough."

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Bra Damer (Good women) Exhibition

I went to this wonderul photography exhibtion today in Oslo and was inspired by the strength of the pictures and the women who were portrayed. The exhibition shows unique photographs of 25 well-known Norwegian women by press photographer Lisbeth Michelsen. The pictures have been created in close collaboration with the portayed women, and illustrate different kinds of femininity, some in ways that may seem challenging to our understanding of both beauty and femininity.

If you're in Oslo and have the time, do pop in and have a look, it's well worth the visit.

Photo exhibition:  "Bra Damer" from 18th September- 17th october 2010
Mon - Sun from 10:00am. Thorvald Meyers gate 72, Grünerløkka, Oslo 
Admission: 50 Kroner

Monday, 11 October 2010

Shirin Neshat

The power of a visual image.

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian visual artist who lives in New York and is known mainly for her work in film, video and photography. She was born and raised in Iran but moved to the U.S. after high school to study art. When the Islamic Revolution overtook her homeland in 1979, Neshat was exiled and couldn't return until 11 years later--and the country she went home to bore little resemblance to the one she left. Neshat dealt with her sense of displacement by trying to untangle the ideology of Islam through art. The result was Women of Allah (1993-97), a photographic series of militant Muslim women that subverts the stereotype and examines the Islamic idea of martyrdom. 

In her own words: ‘Women assist men by taking charge - not dominating - the private space so as to nurture a family and raise decent Muslims. Furthermore, when a woman crosses into the public domain she enters a male space (….) Therefore she must respect male codes of behaviour. These codes are based on men’s need to concentrate on social and religious responsibilities without the interference of personal or domestic affairs…while in public space, a woman must be contained, silent and invisible. In other words, she must be “veiled”… During the Iranian Revolution, in which Iranian women revolted against “oriental” stereotypes, the veil became a form of political protest, as a way to identify with Islamic values and a rejection of the Westernising process instated by the Shah. In 1978… we began to see images of proud militant Muslim women carrying heavy machine guns. These representations were powerful 
and shocking, and definitely shattered the classical western image of Muslim women as weak 
and subordinate’. Exerpt from Octavio Zaya, “Bounds of Desire, Zones of Contention, A Conversation Between Shirin Neshat and Octavio Zaya” Voiceovers, 5th Guinness Contemporary Art Project, Curator 
Victoria Lyn, Art Gallery of New South Wales 1999, p. 39 

In 1996, Neshat began working with film, eager to create more poetic, open-ended works. She produced a trilogy of split-screen video installations--Turbulent (1998), Rapture (1999) and Fervor (2000)--all sumptuously filmed meditations on the male/female dynamic in Islamic societies. Her work refers to the social, cultural and religious codes of Muslim societies and the complexity of certain oppositions. She often emphasises this theme by showing two or more coordinated films concurrently, creating stark visual contrasts through the use of light and dark, black and white, male and female. Shirin Neshat has also made more traditional narrative short films, such as her recent work, Zarin. I find her films and photography to be incredibly powerful, intense and moving.

In her work Shirin Neshat addresses the social, political and psychological dimensions of women's experience in contemporary Islamic societies. Although she seems to actively resist stereotypical representations of Islam, her artistic objectives are not explicitly controversial. Rather, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world.

 Rapture, production still, women scattered 1999. Photo: Larry Barns.

As a photographer and video-artist, Shirin Neshat received recognition for her brilliant portraits of women entirely overlaid by Persian calligraphy, notably through the Women of Allah series 1994

But Neshat's recognition became more international in 1999, when she won the International Award of the XLVIII Biennial of Venice with films Turbulent and RaptureTurbulent,1998, is a two screen video installation in which two singers (Shoja Azari playing the role of the male Iranian vocalist and composer Sussab Deyhim as the female) create a powerful musical metaphor for the complexity of gender roles and cultural power within the framework of ancient Persian music and poetryWith Rapture 1999, Neshat tried for the first time to make pure photography with the intent of creating aesthetic, poetic, and emotional shock.

Her first feature film  "Women Without Men" is Shirin Neshat's independent film adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur's magic realist novel. The story chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953; a cataclysmic moment in Iranian history when an American led, British backed coup d'état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and reinstalled the Shah to power. It contrasts the political drama of the time with the complexities of the women’s intimate lives making for an imaginative and emotional film that engages us on myriad of levels. Watch the trailer and find out more about the film here or perhaps read this interview.

Still from the film "Women Without Men" 2008

Shirin Neshat speaks here about Iran's Green Revolution, the protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting on June 13, 2009. The protests were given several titles by their proponents including the Green Revolution, Green Wave or Sea of Green, reflecting presidential candidate Mousavi's campaign color, and also the Persian Awakening.

It is clear that through Shirin Neshats work she is making a huge contribution to changing stereotypical attitudes and views about the muslim community.


Making one's bed is a boring task, well i find it so at least, until you add one toddler to the mix and then it becomes a game full of giggles and billowing sheets.
I should ask Theo to help me more often.

A New Skill

So it's about time i learnt a new skill and this looks like the perfect thing to aspire to. What fun!
Check out the Gibbon Slacklining contest on YouTube here.


I adore this robot lunchbox from Hocusadabra but wonder if i would be getting it for Theodore or for me!?
It acts like a mini cool box, so it keeps things better than the usual tin or plastic lunchboxes.
Here is the full range, aren't they cute!
Visit the Hocusadabra website if you would like to take a further look at these or any of their other products.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sunday's Entertainment

In these days when my husband has to work more weekends than not, i try to fill them with seeing friends and with fun things for Theodore and i to do. This weekend it turned out that all of my friends were away or were busy so we were left to our own devices. It was fun though and here are a few of the things that we got up to in Oslo today:

On sundays The International Museum of Children's Art at Frøen has drop in art and music workshops between 11&4pm (and for older children there was also a storytelling session).

The museum is pioneering namely because it's perhaps the first, full scale, public museum of child art, but also because it attempts to let children determine what they make and to include all of the material that's produced. They set a general theme such as "Father", "Familiy", "Disaster" - to stimulate children to begin making art and then they exhibit whatever the children make in response. The result is a remarkable variety and quantity of material from over 150 different cultures.

Theo and i really enjoyed playing upstairs in the puppet room with toys from all around the world and we also spent a while at the drumming workshop. We were packed together with lots of other children, each with their own drum or seated around one of the big drums like us and following the man leading the workshop. He showed the children how to use the drums by playing with different rhythms and how much strength was used. He was good, but after a while Theodore found the noise too overwhelming so we went out and watched from outside where the volume was distinctly reduced.  

We walked back home from the west side of the city to the east and on the way discovered this 'new' cafe (as of this summer) called the Laundromat Cafe in Bislett. It's a Danish concept combining a laundry with a cafe and the possibility of accessing the internet. It also suprisingly has a large library, with over 3,000 Norwegian and international magazines and books available. It looks informal, relaxed and seems to be where many beautiful people hang out! Through the window one can see rows of books and dark brown wooden walls, flowered wallpaper and retro armchairs, although where the washing machines are i'm not so sure. It reminded me of lazy sundays in London when my husband and i would sometimes hang out in Queens Park, first at the Farmers market where we went for fresh veggies, fruit, cakes and other delicious things and then would grab a coffee and read the sunday papers somewhere.

We actually ended up eating at the Vega Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant that offers a huge buffet lunch for very little on sundays. We had a delicious soup and a vegan and a gluten free lasagna which made our tummies very happy.

By the time we got to Grunerløkka Theo was asleep and i was able to happily browse through beautiful handmade thingsat the sunday market by the river outside the club Blå. It's open every sunday and before christmas both saturday and sunday. Here you can find Knit wear, jewellery, ceramics, glass, wool, clothes, toys, paintings, bags etc. There are always a few stalls selling waffles, jam and coffee too which makes the experience more pleasant in the winter. Sadly i had no cash with me, otherwise i would have come home with some adorable felt baby booties.

Finally we came home to make Boller with papa, which was a big hit with Theodore having not seen him all weekend.

 What did you get up to this sunday?

Jazz and pancakes

Perfect for a sunday morning accompanied by Jazz music


Gifts and wishes

I adore the website Cox and Cox and go to it for inspiration and gifts whenever i remember to. Here are a few things that i have been coveting recently, but i could purchase almost anything from their site!

We bought this wooden peg rack with the days of the week for a friends wedding present last summer and have wanted one of our own ever since.

I love these wooden signs and could have them all over the house, if it wasn't overdoing it a little. I particularly like this one.

I love to use butterflies to decorate things and have used them in my hair, to decorate presents and around the house. I found some gorgeous ones on long wires for a friends wedding to finish her beautiful table decorations.  But these magnetic butterflies, pictured above, would be so useful for any occasion as they can be fixed easily to any thin surface.

I would love to wrap Theodore up in this gorgeous throw.

This wire post box would be so useful to keep any letters that we have received recently and to tidy up our hallway.

Beautiful lights to add some extra sparkle at this time of year

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