Travels en Mexico – Mi Corazon

Anzuelo y el Sedal. (Hook. Line. Sinker.) Mexico…. 3 days (tres dias) and I’m already captured by its charm!

You know how you can like a person on sight; decide to buy a house before you’ve even nosed around all the rooms; make a decision sans intellectualisation?  You get a feeling, in your gut or your heart?  Well, within a few footfalls placed on Mexican soil , my mind was set.  I’m visiting Mexico City F.D.  It felt soft, kindly, almost feminine.  A stark contrast to my first Latin American encounter in Argentina.

According to The Economist, Mexico City is the 3rd most polluted city in the world.  My lungs would beg to differ.  The belching exhaust fumes and head-height layer of cigarette smoke of Buenos Aires had me pining, gasping for the pure, crisp, air cleaned by the woods near my home in the UK.  Perhaps it is the unbearable humidity in BA that holds the dirt, static and oppressive.  In Colonia Condessa (and perhaps other areas too..I’ve yet to discover) two-way streets are dissected by long stretches of garden parks.  Either walk on the side walk, or amidst leafy trees.  This offers the feeling of a small city, despite being 2nd to Tokyo with the highest populous in an urban area.

Day 1 – Easing myself into my new surroundings, my first expedition is to navigate a path to the nearest organic, health food store.  Google renders my task a simple one.  Once fed, watered and an array of strange fruits and common staples are stashed in my apartment, I head out for foray number 2.  Chapultepec Park.  Now, I am ashamed to say my pre-visit knowledge of Mexico was slim.  And I have woefully inadequate of a grasp on world history.  I could blame that on a series of teachers who failed to ignite my passions and seemed to focus mostly on our knowledge of the shape of British military headdress or, latterly, the school Head who seemed to me to be a latent comedian and encouraged but one page of written work in my final year of History study.  Or I could just put it down to the fact I am a kinaesthetic learner.  It is a far more costly way of gaining knowledge than purchasing books or staying at home and surfing the web say,  but way more fun.  Chapultepec (meaning ‘at the grasshopper hill” in Nahuatl) park is huge, and is dominated by an 18th century castle.  The history of which is fascinating and seems to be the lynch pin of a lot of Mexican history.  The grasp of which I am steadily imbibing.  If interested…Wikipedia’s got it covered.

Day 2 – Museo de Anthropologia.  Ranked by as one of the must see/do things in Mexico City.  Also located in Chapultepec Park, it is a gorgeous, drool worthy, Modernist building with a central courtyard dominated by column of Mayan heiroglyphed stone, said to resemble and umbrella and ringed with falling water.  My head was spinning as I went in and out of the many exhibition rooms dedicated to the various ancient Mexican cultures.  Sucking up information and marvelling at the Pre-Hispanic, artefacts.   They have a style and form like no other that captures my heart.

The poco (little) Spanish language I grasped whilst in Buenos Aires is trickling slowly back into my consciousness.  I’ve had no time to brush up, and my moments of standing, struck dumb as the florid tones of another sing out before me, are many.  No entiendo (I do not understand) is currently ranked as my most oft used word.  So my human interaction has been minimal. The most conversation I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy is with a fascinating, English speaking owner of a mobile phone shop in La Condessa.  I need to upgrade the amount of my human contact.

Day 3 – I’m sleeping very little.  The first night I wondered at my breathless, restless bed-time experience, before remembering I was 2420m above sea level and my body was busy acclimatising.  However, my 4am rising has helped with planning the coming days activities, the worry of which was probably a contributory factor to my sleep deprivation.  Scribbled notes and the downsizing of my rather considerable ‘to do’ list led me to decide this day on visiting Coyoacan, a small town not far south from the City, and home to the Casa Azul (Blue House).  I took a $3 pesos (15p or 9c!) Metro to Coyoacan, to the house where Frida Kahlo was born and returned to many times throughout her life. And was to be her final resting place.  My love of modern art had afforded me knowledge of Frida’s work, but little of her story.  Little vignettes of her words were etched on walls inside the home she and Diego Rivera shared.  They gave me insights to a woman of great strength and resilience.  Health was not predominant in her life but it spirited her to express herself fully, through art and love.  Her passion for famous muralist husband Diego Rivera gave rise to her declaring him taking her broken and making her whole.  The house has many of her quotes which display the pain of her physical (polio from birth and at eighteen she was seriously injured when a trolley car hit a bus she was travelling on.  She was in bed for over a year recovering from fractures to her spine, collarbone, ribs, a shattered pelvis, shoulder, fractures in her right leg. An iron handrail pierced her uterus and took away her opportunity to be a mother) and mental health, as she fought with the sadness at her loss of fertility and the confines of her bed.  Both of which gave uprising to her incredible artist expression via art.  The quotes on the walls at the house led me to romantise the relationship between her and Diego.  Her passion for him was fierce but upon further study and finding resources on the internet, I see their love took many guises, not all of them flowery. Their humour and razor wit, evident.

I loved Coyoacan.  It has beautiful colourful architecture, cobbled streets and a relaxed vibe.  A central plaza was full of Mexicans enjoying their Saturday.

Ah, so many things to see/do/learn/consider. I have much to absorb.  I stand before you as a woman in perpetual learning.  I do not apologise.  It is a journey I am very happy to be travelling.

I am loosing shoe rubber as I pound (very clean) pavements.  As ever, when I visit someplace new, my radar is set to discover a hip little cafe, with free WiFi and good low music.  Last night I was grinning (not completely inwardly) as I stubbled across a half mile strip of low key (non-crazy-party) bars, restaurants and tea/coffee houses, open late and enjoying al-fresco living in the mild evening air.  Hipodromo Condessa is just ten minutes  from my studio.  I’ve found a little space for me in the city and all is well.

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I offer a standing ovation to a man who created way outside of the box. He designed buildings that awaken childlike awe and adult appreciation. I LOVE his work. Thank you to a genius!


Oscar Niemeyer - Brazilian architect - Chicquero Design - Brasilia Palace of the Dawn 10
Oscar Niemeyer, the greatest Brazilian architect who helped to shape the 20th century and mankind’s vision of the future, died on Wednesday aged 104, ten days before his 105th birthday. The celebrated Brazilian architect whose flowing designs infused Modernism with a new sensuality and captured the imaginations of generations of architects around the world.
His curvaceous, lyrical, hedonistic forms helped shape a distinct national architecture and a modern identity for Brazil that broke with its colonial and baroque past. Yet his influence extended far beyond his country. Even his lesser works were a counterpoint to reductive notions of Modernist architecture as blandly functional.

Niemeyer, who began his career in the 1930s, was known for a distinctive style marked by sweeping curves, which he once famously said were inspired by Brazilian women.

“When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution,” he said. “I once wrote a…

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Argentine Travels – La Boca & somedays life just doesn’t play ball…with photos…


It continued…

After the saga with the bike lock and having picked up another bike, I took to the bone shaking cobbled streets with my two wheels and peddled about the gridded streets.  I happened across some great cafes that felt both inspiring and comfortable.  Places where I could enjoy some background music and musive atmosphere.  I need a good soil to dig in my toes to enable me to write. !Genial! (Spanish for ‘great’).  Goldilocks had found her place. However, despite my intentions and efforts, no new words formed. Except for those of the Spanish kind.  Try as I might I seem to be obsessed with my espanol estudias.  My love for Spanish is growing.  The words and phrases are shuffling around in my headspace like jumbled jigsaw pieces.  A strong survival instinct appears to be prioritising my needs or me!  Prose has taken a back-step to learning just how to say ‘i would like some carrots please’ and ‘where the heck am I?’

So, back on track after a string of ‘annoyances’.  Two cool cafes discovered. One great day was had.

Then I got sick.

Overtime, I have managed to find a diet that works for me (and the planet) and my food intolerances are managed mindfully.  I’ve learnt recovery from stray ingredients takes its time and mishaps from trigger foods are most definitely best avoided.  I guess something, gluten perhaps, was in a dish I ate somewhere.  Or, it could have been the BA water?  It could have been the stress! So I wasn’t bed ridden…but I was laying low.

My bout of sickness just so happened to fall on Wednesday (Miercoles…love the way that word sounds!).  This is the day when Erica, my raven haired, elfin sized cleaner comes to flick her duster around and make my home spotless again.  I’d been out exploring Palermo Hollywood when my stomach first started to snarl, and I was all too keen to get home.  The makeup on my face had sunk into my pores in the humidity, and felt like a leaden mask, and I longed to scrub my face and splash it with clean, clear water.  Rid the city’s sooty pollution from my skin.  Relief was washing over me as I neared home. When I tried the key in the lock.  It didn’t budge.  I wriggled it about in vain, vain hope.  Then it dawned, my landlord had not passed the new key to Erica, and she’d taken the folded card that was stuffed into the chamber, the locksmith had placed to stop it unlatching, and taken me back to square one.  I sat on the step and stared at the door.  I so badly wanted to be home.  I was home.  There was just a door in between me and the bathroom!  Thank the Lord, this time I had my computer with me.  The wifi was making waves through the wooden door and I had network access.   I emailed my landlord,  capitalizing ‘urgent’ three times in the subject line.  I needed rescue, and fast.

Is three hours fast in Argentina?  It felt like seven!

Entry gained, I was not in the mood for small talk and practically shoved my dear landlord out of the door.  I quickly put the experience behind me.  I had access.  Erica now had the new key.  The skin on my face was taught from soap and water, it was breathing again and I was home.

Next day, I decided to go to visit the much advertised La Boca.  A gritty area North of the City.  No chic Palermoesque boutiques and cafes here.  Just one long street of acid bright colours.  Two block of murals running along the grassy train track.

I journey across the city,  bike-powered, to the seedy side of town.  Yes, I had to stop twice along the way to get the guys from the city’s free bike loan stands to pump up a slow flat but, hey, no matter.

(Apparently) La Boca is home of one of the worlds best known football clubs.  I walked by the stadium, aware of how ungrateful I was probably being in some peoples eyes to just be close to the gaudy, yellow and blue monstrosity.  The area is also known for the Caminito. [History….thanks to Wikipedia!

During the 1800s, a small stream flowing into the Riachuelo River ran along the same route where the Caminito is now. Later that century, this area of the stream became known as the Puntin, the Genoese diminutive term for bridge (a small bridge allowed people to cross the stream there). When the stream dried up, tracks for the Ferrocarril Buenos Aires y Puerto de la Ensenada were installed at the site. Disused tracks remain at the end of Caminito, along Garibaldi Street.
In 1954 the rail line was closed and the area where Caminito is now became a landfill and a neighbourhood’s eyesore. Over the following three years, Argentine artist Benito Quinquela Martín who lived nearby, painstakingly prepared the walls facing the abandoned street, applying pastel colors and, by 1960 having a stage put up at the southern end; the wooden-plank stage was replaced with a nearby theatre house in 1972. The artist was a personal friend of Argentine tango composer Juan de Dios Filiberto, who created a well-known 1926 tune by the same name.

Caminito is basically one long street of souvenir shops, good looking dancers inviting you to hand over your money in return for ‘el foto’, and waiters trying to lure you to their tables for a bite to eat and a glass or two of vino.  It’s a tourist trap.  I didn’t care.  I was transported into another age as I sat under the welcome shade of a restaurant awning.  I sipped tea and fawned over the passionate embraces and theatrical movements of the dancers.  The expressions on their faces tore into my heart.  Their postures a ballet teacher’s dream!  An elderly man with jowls of a bloodhound and expressions that told a thousand stories, sang a songs that obviously told tales of  turbid love lost and found…or found and lost.  I couldn’t tell.  Not a word could I understand, except for perhaps the odd ‘siempre’ (always).  A blissful hour passed.  100 photos taken.

I stopped for one tyre pump-up one the way home.  A day to remember.

As was the next.  A crazy storm and a stomach still irked by something foreign and unwelcome, rudely forced me into the day.  Undeterred, I made ready to bike to Palermo and my Spanish lesson.  I was grateful for two wheels that would speed me through the city and the wall of precipitation.  Except my bike tyre was poufed.  Ok….No matter!  I breathed deep (very deep)  and set off to push it to a bike-hire box by the park.  One thing I’ve noted about Argentinians is that they are always ready to help.  The young guy at the booth chatted away to me, oblivious to the fact I didn’t catch a word, as he pumped the flaccid tyre.  The rain was making for great acoustics inside the metal container used for  the rental office.  Tire sated, I peddled out and into the downpour.  For a total of five minutes! My orange bike was abandoned.  Tyre completely flat.  I tied it up and walked the twenty minutes through flooded streets, to cafe where I was to have my lesson.  Once inside I removed my shoes, as discreetly as I could, and stepped out to the patio to wring my socks, dripping all over the polished floor as I went.

My teacher was a no show.  A few too many emails of my ‘i’m sick not coming, no, don’t worry I am coming’ obviously thickened confusion and she believed I was staying at home.  Again, no matter I decided.  My fault. I’d just sit and enjoy a cup of tea, in my very damp state, and I needed to get the bike changed over anyway.

That done I finally got home to get dry and put the day to bed.

The next morning the sky was azul.  A (slightly) cooling breeze swirled about and I was feeling light as air.

This day my Spanish class was less turmoil…. more triumph.  I had lunch in a great raw-food place I had been to before (and would go to everyday if budget and the call for variety allowed).  My new camera was playing ball and I was snapping away happily.  So comforted was I, that I decided to just ride around the bike lanes on an exploration and get lost in the warren of residential streets that threw down welcome shade from the burning sun.  In fact, such a good day was it that I hummed the happy thought to myself that it was ‘the best day yet’.

A few streets from my home I realised I needed some groceries for my morning juice.  I locked my bike beside a busy bus stop and popped into a shop for a few minutes.

Now, you know when something happens that you cannot quite believe and you stand there, waiting for a few moments for the scene before your eyes to correct itself to the reality you WANT to perceive, but it doesn’t change as you bid?! I stood, not breathing, as I took in the fact that some (lets just call them ‘thief’ for want of a more ‘substantial’ word) had taken sharp croppers to my lock and STOLEN my little orange bike.  I was winded! What the FLUFF was going on!  I quickly hushed the voice in my head that said serves you right for being so happy.  Oh but I was forlorn!  My body language told no lies.  But hey, I got to see the inside of a police station and brush up on my ‘emergency Spanish’ so all was not lost.  Well, apart from the $600 pesos to cover for the bike to the hire shop and an expensive call to my travel insurance to have them tell me ‘bicycles are not covered’ on my ‘Platinum’ policy.

Not beaten.  I refused to be squatted!  It was just an incident.  One lone misfortune in an ocean of brilliance.  I pushed it aside quicker than a pile of lost chips in a casino and went to bed with high hopes for a better day come daybreak.

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Travelling. Learning to dance with Buenos Aires [with photos]

Lunes Noviembre 19th, 2012

Argentina has been frustrating for me.  My progress, like a Tango, forward back, forward back.  A side step here and there.  Argentina is the man.  My body alert to his warmth.  My feet react to his.  I was as autonomous as the Capital.  Now I’m gripped in its veins.

It feel uncomfortable.  My limit is finding its edge.  Will it extend further than I thought?

I realize now, I’ve been seeking something that has no place here. My eyes were blind to the spirit of the city, as I fought to feel the heartbeat of its people.  Buenos Aires is holding time, clear in its intentions.  ‘Follow’ it says, don’t lead.

I give in..up!   It is not San Francisco.  I cannot dance with Argentina whilst my heart is settled at the feet of another.  It is breaking me down.  Words, accents fall about my ears like the springtime violet Jacaranda blossoms.  I understand little.

In the last week I have been forced into intense situations.  Forced to make myself understood.  I’ve used flailing hand gestures, drawing pictures in the warm air around me, eye brows frowning and raising as my eyes grapple to reach connection, plead for understanding.  My  apartment keys broke in my lock.  Bundy, the petit, azur-eyed lady who brings me from my sleep each morning, as her broom sweeps the single path through the patch of green beside our building.  Her face inscribed over the years with her goodly actions.  As I implored her to understand.  ‘no, key, ho llegar!‘   She let me take her hand and guide her up the stone steps to my door.  I pushed the metal back and forth, rapidly in the bronze lock. ‘no entrar!‘   ‘it no work!’.    A few moments of us, eager with our gestures.  She took my hand.  We walked from the building, down into the street.  We waited as the traffic sped from right and left.  The green walking man lit.  I felt her move.  We smiled, we shook our heads.  I rose up my shoulders and showed the open sky my palms.  We smiled, again.  Safely across, we entered a male domain.  Shelves of small boxes. Layers of dust.  Bronze and silver keys and hefty locks strung all about.  Five minutes of babbled conversation between a stocky guy with hair like an Irish setter, he looked back and forth.  From me to her.  A black briefcase was lifted to the counter.  Opened.  His wiry hair disappeared behind the lid.  A clinking of metal.  A nod of satisfaction.  The lid folded.  The locks thumbed in stereo.  We were off again.  Now three.  We traversed the black and white stripes on the tarmac, as our walking time was counted down on the crossing.  I smiled to my left.  To my right.  I lifted my shoulders laughing then drawing my hands to fists to gesture rubbing my eyes.  Two arms from different bodies reached to gently pat my bare shoulders.  There, there.  A wordless language.

After much banging and oiling the door opens to my apartment.  Sigh!  Kisses and hugs all around.  This doesn’t seem much of a stretch into intimacy in a country where strangers naturally greet with a planted kiss.

I fire up my computer and Google Translate lights my screen.  I type ‘hero’ in English and it spits out the Spanish equivalent.  He smiles.  His oil stained fingers clumsily search the keys.  D.U.L.C.E forms in type on the interface.  I need not seek the translation to my native tongue.  SWEET.  We both smile. He leaves, furnished with a few $ pesos.  Bundy opens her arms full width.  I’m drawn in for another hug.

Two days later.  After a failed and attempt to buy a bike from Craigslist Buenos Aires (bunch of chancers!  selling a bike with a flat and buckled tyre), I walk thirty blocks, sticking as close to marble and stone buildings as I could, seeking shade.  The Bicicleta Naranja (The Orange Bicycle) rental and city-tour tienda (store).  After ten minutes of scant Spanish and a flourish of pink pesos, I’m proudly riding my clanking, rickety cruiser down the cycle lane.  Happy as a clam in the ocean.  The next day, I arrange to meet a friend I’ve made from the gimnasio and we take off along the park to bike the few short miles San Telmo.

San Telmo is the barrio where the tourist flock to see the legendary tango, pounded onto cobbled streets.  It is heaving!

It was Sunday.  All the fun happens along one long and narrow street.  It is basically a HUGE street market.  Mostly curios and object d’art, displayed neatly upon sheets on the floor.  The buildings flanking the street are old, crumbling mixture of art deco and neo-classical splendor.  Narrow entrances that stretch back for many metres.  My Argentinian friend and I were particularly taken with an building such as this. The small entrance opened onto a checker board stone floor, worn from years of footsteps and probably many nights of impassioned dancing.  Off it were about 20 little rooms, each one owned by

1000’s of keys that had no mate.  Creepy faced antique dolls with matted hair, bottles, jars, thimbles, wooden shoe-makers blocks, and delicate hanging lace.  My friend was kindly teaching  me how to use my new camera.  I’d been overwhelmed upon arriving in Buenos Aires.  The heat, the new language, new place to bed down, shops full of everything and nothing that I recognized.  Except wooden crates brimming with bright, fresh vegetables (veduras).  Thankfully, these are universal, mostly.   Therefore, the thought of then in addition to this, crashing on into learning how to work a camera with dials and buttons and a menu that was foreign to me, would have certainly crushed me.  I snapped like fury.  At anything and everything.  Ten minutes alone were spent getting shot after shot of years old siphon bottles.  The Argentines drink more soda than anything else according to the little flyer the market holder gave me.

I grew more and more frustrated, my trusty point and click was sadly missed.  We knew each other, it did what I wanted.  This new hefty beast appeared limiting.

We found a ‘natural’ restaurant along one of the side streets.  It was like a human avery inside.  A light filled space for people to perch.  At last I had a decent meal.  I was thankful for my friend who painstakingly read out every item on the menu.  Satiated I practiced a little Spanish… ‘Muy rico’ I offered, with a confirmatory, universal thumbs up.

Then Argentina struck me again.  I had beamed happily as we completed our walking circle, my heart skipping a little as I saw my new precious orange friend.  My friend waited patiently by with her bike as I set my bag down to hunt in its cavernous space for my lock key.  I hunted again.  Hands feeling into every corner.  I spilled the contents of my bag on to the dusty pavement.  Bits of paper with fading scribbles, receipts, train tickets, purse, the comb I never use, apartment keys…but no lock key!!!

I was frantic. Aghast at the air head I’d been.  What was it with me and locks in this country?  Was it a sign?  Oh, no!  Mierda!

My curious happy glow slowly dulled as we went back to every place we’d visited.  All I cared about was finding the single key, strung on the dirty orange rope.  Nothing.  NADA!

I carried my heavy heart back to the underground.  I apologized to my friend for ‘ruining’ the day.  She shook her head and replied in the softest of accents, that would have charmed a hardest of hearts…‘shit happens!’

I’m like a child, totally spent at the end of each day.  I fall heavily, into bed when most Argentinian’s are going out to play.  I don’t know how they do it.  Clubs get ‘started’ at 3am.  Their afternoon turns to evening at nine.  3 hours after we say the day is drawing to an end.  At 2am, families walk the streets slurping on creamy, cold helados (ice-creams) when most Brits are tucked up in bed.  Most days I have forgotten something.  One day I walked out of the house to the other side of town to a cute, hipster cafe, to get some writing done and my bag contained the power lead, my camera was in there and my purse.  Whoop!  But the computer?!  at home on the sofa in its case.

Hopefully, my head will regroup sometime soon and natural flow and competence will be resumed (with a few hundred Spanish words..the ability to read as well as a Spanish kindergarten kid, and many happy moments to look back on).

Traveling, like learning something new is not always all skittles and roses.  It can be hard to adjust.  The newness daunting.  The pull to seek ‘sameness’  can be all too great.  It takes experience to know it really is ‘all good’.  When the whole picture can be viewed (enter Ms. Hindsight!).

My purse is $60 pesos for a new lock.  I’m still intent on enjoying my time.


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The Scent of Buenos Aires

there is a balance to be found even when slow traveling.  To be considered and faithful to the experience you want to have, and the one that fornicates around you unseen.  Unaided. If you set out to play with the structure of life that is particular to you right now, chances are it will prod and poke you to see if you mean it.

por ejemplo,   my slow travel, here in the indefatigable, Autonomous capital of Argentina, has been leaning towards more seemingly static.  Not static as in the crackling electricity that shoots around your body when you pull manmade fibre from over your head when undressing for bed, but …stopped.  halted. immobile.

My frustration has risen more than once as my desired pace of life mismatched with reality.    When I am at home I have certain things set up to aid my rhythmic existence.  Things I do not take for granted.  Items that give me freedom.  Items that give me speed. They aid my movement.

One of these implements is the bike.  Bicicleta.  Peddle power is a blessing to me.  The embrace of which enables me to do many tasks simultaneously.  I can exercise whilst getting to where I want to go quicker than I can on foot. In hot weather, it cools me down.  With a backpack it makes food shopping a lighter task.  But this all sounds very busy, perhaps.  But not when you consider that arriving at a place I want to go quicker than walking, it allow more time to relax at my destination.  It gives me access to areas that perhaps I would have little time to wander because their distance from my base sucks up time just getting to.  It also allows me more time with friends.  It is a pass-time.  A liberating pleasure that I can enjoy fully.  My head is free from the worries and pressing needs of promptly arrivals, so my eyes sweep around me and savor the scenes that pass before them.

this is a long way around of me saying…I need a bike.

Reminded of the freedom of my skin woken by a moving breeze, whilst joining small group of tourists who took to the streets around Palermo and Villa Crespo (deliciously pronounced as Veesha Cri…spoh) on a street art tour, I was moved to grab my laptop upon my return and trawl Craigslist (they also have supermacado but it is in Spanish) and buy a 2nd hand bicicletta (bicycle).

We had glided around the streets and covered miles, some juddering over cobblestones, others with keen eyes alert to the steamroll of traffic, whilst gaining background to a little history of Buenos Aires, and its graffiti artists.  Usually, I back away from tours like one would an agitated wasp nest, and let my nose be my guide, and I proved glad of my choice to move against my grain.  I can be rather like (yeah, lets do some narrow minded stereotyping!) a man who is given a box of sawn wood and a leaflet of instructions and then attempting to assemble its contents freestyle.  You may get there in the end but it will take seven times as long and have the inevitable piece left over that you don’t know what it is for.

Our Australian guide, a mere slip of a woman with gusty enthusiasm and a jolly gracefulness that came from the elongated handlebars of her bike which gave her the posture of a victorian lady on a penny farthing, managed to pack in so much information on our three and a half hour ride but it was received with the delivery of an easy-like-sunday-morning chat of a longtime friend.  I’ve long loved street art.  Me and my camera have courted walls daubed with colour and expression from San Francisco, London, LA and a few artsy beach towns of Blighty.  But to know about the history.  To know why Buenos Aires rose up in the political of the early 1990’s as a way to rouse a depressed nation to life again, as it was intended in the beginning, with fun characters sprayed onto sides of buildings or messages of hope and community is life affirming enough as it stands but to hear stories of street artists and the whys and wherefores of their particular style.  Community exists among them, and the freedom they have gives added depth.  It is seen as an honor by the portenos (locals) to have these artists paint murals on the side of their walls.  City councils take credit for giving life to previously uninspiring piazzas’ that had once gathered street sleepers and drunks and left little space for buggies and prams.  The rental laws in the city fall down so heavily on the side of the renter or squatter, that it has been known to take as long as twenty five years to regain access to your own property here that brings some to knock down their buildings and sell the plot their houses where on rather than spend half their life in court trying to evict tenants and reclaim what is theirs.  So now, street artists are climbing the walls and dropping over high fences to paint on a wall that may remain.  It’s gaining respect from the locals with murals of whimsical scenes or graceful, prairie animals.

As with any art, some people try and see the deeper meaning of wall art but, sometimes a face can be that of someone’s brother for no other reason than they felt like doing it.  One graffiti artist paints unflattering portraits of ex-girlfriends.  Can this be doing anything or his love life? I’m sure this would dissuade any future potential suitor!

Because of what street art is doing in terms of community and expression in BA and prosecution is rare, if ever brought, graffiti artists traverse seas and swathes of land to be able to create in at their leisure in daylight hours without fear of being shot at, thrown in prison and denied their human rights.

For me, street art, murals, not heavily outlined and illegible names written in metallic, but real art is about me attempting to understand and connect with the artist.  As with any art it is about seeing a perspective of life or colour previously masked.  It can be about beauty or comedy but also, it can be a way of me seeing a political message I’d not normally read about, or perhaps shy away from acknowledging.  Mostly, the ones that linger in my mind are are about larger-than-life expression and a spray canned equivalent of me stopping to smell the roses.  It is the latent desire within me, to display larger than life my truth or expression , that doths my cap, or lands a virtual high five to those that think less and do/be more, that marvels at their courage and appreciates their efforts to make me peddle or pound the streets with increased expectancy, curiosity and presence.

So, what has street art got to do with me buying a 2nd hand bike when I’m so short a time here in this country and how is speeding around the streets considered slow travel.  As I say, atop a saddle I can see more, do more, stress less and sniff the atmosphere of a place that no open top tour bus or air conditioned coach could muster and I get to spend less time in the gym and remain fit and a fiddle to boot.  What of the frustrations that I mentioned?  The bike purchase in itself has been exhausting.  A one hour walk to its current home and emails shooting hither and thither around the cyber zip wire all add up to time dripping away.  But, as I learn the art of traveling slow, I choose to see it as an hour spent walking in places I’d not had thought to traverse, seeing neighbourhoods I’d never have seen and the emails are mini communications with which I practice a little espanol with people I’d not have ever met, and can entertain or teach just as any other.  Nothing wasted.

Click below and see the slideshow and enjoy the streets with me.  x

The Scent of Buenos Aires

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5 Top tips for better travel – Learning the art of Slow Travel. Buenos Aires.

Day 4 – The city heat continues mimic  a roasting oven.  Unusual for this time of year I am told.  A phrase not uncommon these days.  A lack of breeze holds the constant plumes of vile cigarette smoke static at nose height. Urgh!

I’m beginning to be fully present in my temporary space.  Day 2 I wanted to go home.  I recognise this, after years of travelling, that my body likes to spit it’s dummy out of the pram, so to speak.  It kicked out at having to deal with smells, sounds and sights so utterly foreign.  I am sure my face wore a frown and I felt agitated and stressed from not being able to communicate.  But one adapts.  And fast.  I have come to know that if I don’t feel comfortable in a place that all I need to do is use up some shoe rubber and go find somewhere that I do.

Day 3.  I awoke and felt strangely irritated again. I not to analyse why and got on with the task of getting ready to head out.  It took me ages to sort myself out.  A swathe of things to remember to put in my bag, making the bed, and gathering essentials; camera, map, money, etc. Walking 30 yards up the street, cooled slightly by the spit of water from overhead air con units, a feeling just literally sank into me.  I was happy.  The high-rise, the dusty pot-holed streets, the constant noise, people everywhere, suddenly was not grating on my nerves.  My skin adapted to the heat and opened my eyes and began to look around. And I liked it.

I headed downtown, to the worlds widest street with it’s 14 lanes of traffic.  Pleased with myself at remembering my camera, my mood wasn’t dulled by omitting to put the memory card in it.  I failed to be a tourist and take the obligatory snaps.  So I ‘borrowed’ a shot from the inter web.  

I passed along narrow streets that flank de Julio.  It was dusty.  Lined with small electrical shops and the ubiquitous kiosco, selling candy, sandwiches and water.  It felt seedy.  It WAS seedy.  What appeared at a distance, to be large shards of peeling paint on street lights, upon inspection were faded square of paper with images of ‘women of the night’ offering their wares.  The area wasn’t far from my appointment with Expanish.  A Spanish language school that promised to deliver the basics and get me ‘shopping until dropping’ or making new friends.  My excitement at mastering a smattering of greetings and being able to buy a bottle of water, reached no pitch of fever.  My tutor, a long skirted   girl with sun kissed skin and a rojo (red) birthmark that travelled like an estuary down her right arm, seemed preoccupied with something in her head and failed to rally the elderly American couple and my French Canadian neighbour into any attempt at dialogue or interaction.  Instead we read the hand out and watched her write words on the white board.  I came away exhausted, from the heat, the frantic 20mins spent walking up and down the street to find the schools entrance and 2 hours spent sweating in a class that taught me little.  Apart from the fact I didn’t want to return to either the class or the area.

I took a chance at offering a local the question ‘donde esta?’ and after smiling and waving my hands a lot to show I couldn’t understand what one man was saying, followed the line where his finger was pointed and took my first ride on the SUBTE.  The oldest underground in Latin America.  There are only 6 lines. Not very extensive but it gets you to the places you need. After a fashion, I figured out that the entrance on one side of the street takes you East, the other side..West, North or South.  $2.50 ARS (Argentine Peso) 32p!  gets you where you want to go.  And back to my studio with the vestige comforts of home.

My next SUBTE trip took me to Belgrano, an conclave of Chinese immigrants selling lucky charms of waving cats and cheap fashion.  The internet had offered a suggestion of a visit to Casa China.  An inexpensive Asian market where the meat free among us get supplies.  My studio is a few blocks from the line and I take a new route each time I alight from home, so as to mind map the streets and start to build a sense of space.  A camera (when you remember the SDC card!) is a handy upgrade from the crumbs dropped by Hansel and Grettle as they picked their way through the forest.  I take shots of landmarks, street signs and things that catch my attention that I may want to return to later,  in order to capture the route.  I never refer to it but it seems to fasten my memory for when my steps are retraced.  The SUBTE is a great place to sit in close proximity to static commuters and regard the cities inhabitants.  My expectations of native portenos (locals) being olive skinned and with dark, thick hair are completely at odds with reality.  Blonde headed, red headed.  Blue eyed, brown eyed.  Aquilined or soft.  Tall, stocky.  A country that began a long history of immigration, beginning with the Spanish in the 16th century, followed then by a succession of Italians in the 19th and a steady flow of Koreans,  Chinese, Central and Eastern European cultures along with other Latin American nationals would make for quite a mix.  In 1992 and 2003 alone nearly 3/4 of a million people emigrated to a country rendered a cheap place to live after the economic recession  saw the value of  the Argentine Peso plummet.

What else has struck me about the people of Buenos Aires, which of course is now reflection of the country at large (a city is a city, right?!) so far is their willingness to help without being asked (a man came to assist me, unprompted as I getting tangled in my map and my feet were pirouetting on the spot, in effort to decipher my location).  Also, everyone appears to kiss as a way of greeting.  Once, alighted on either left or right cheek.  Men too.  I don’t think it is just me witnessing the interplay between the largest gay population in South America.  No, after a Google search I see it is customary.

I got to try this out when I headed over to the uber trendy (and not unlike San Francisco’s Mission District), barrio (neighbourhood) of Palermo.  Hollywood & Soho.  I was meeting  with a private tutor I’d hired after ditching the ineffectual language school.  My desperation to be able to shop and be understood prompted me to try again.   I met with Vero, my tutor, in a hip cafe on El Salvador Avenue., run by blueberry farmers, and did as custom saw fit.  The lesson was fruitful as was our little offering of gratis tapas – a tiny white plate of organico blueberries.  I came away with my neural pathways tonged, stretched and grown a new with seemingly non-sensical rules about verbs and conjunctives.  I wonder whether I’ll ever remember to change my ‘to be’ when speaking about something permanent or temporary?!!   I’ve planned daily meets with Vero from to see what magic she can perform with my memory for Spanish.

I think my self pep talk a couple of days ago has payed off.  Instead of wanting to know, do , see, have everything immediately I’m travelling slow.  If you have time to let life unfold somewhere new this is how I suggest you go about it.  Once I calm down and remember to do so, it always works.

Buy a notepad or two.  I have one for my food notes (I write a food blog at  Brain dump the list of things you want to do or achieve in your time.  Be general and then get specific.  Trust me, with only a small effort these activities/desires will come into being in their own sweet time.

Be realistic.   Instead of wanting everything NOW.  Choose a handful of main sightseeing trips or goals that you want to achieve over your time.  If you do one a day, then you are doing well.  Remember, experiences take time to absorb and a vice like grip can hold back serendipity when it visits.

take time out every day.  Go to a park or a quiet church or cafe and just be.  Meditate.  Run or do yoga.  Zoning out is paramount in your slow travel.

My point and click has some pics to show you.  I’m off to the gym (gimnasio) up the street  to take full advantage of a 3 day trial.  The staff are super friendly, the equipment a little old and the ac is ineffectual (who knew I could sweat so much!), but I like it.

Use your camera as an aide memoir to help you remember landmarks for finding your way, useful places you may want to visit another time.  If learning  a new language photograph words or signs you may want to look up later.  Particularly useful for food labels if you have a special diet.  You can insert the list of ingredients in Google Translate and work out if they are suitable.

Get a map.  Plot the museums, places of interest, restaurants and cafes you hope to visit.  This way you can easily see where to eat in the area you are visiting and if there are activities close by.

At some point – in the fullness of time- I shall learn how to use the new dslr I brought with me.  At present it sits unobserved like Shrodingers cat, until the moment I deem it time to take it out and learn to use it.  I cannot do this a moment before time else all this new information I am gathering every day may tip me over the edge.  Slow Travel!

Ah, I have forgotten the joys of uploading photographs in WordPress.  Frustration and little control.  I hope to find a way to offer better shots.  It is random and unnavigable!  Stick with me.

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Waking up somewhere new – A foreigner in Buenos Aires

Single Girl touched down in a new city yesterday.  The plane had swooped into the fringe of a city, alongside the 26 mile wide, muddy waters of the Rio del la Plata. A city so vast, the likes of which I’d not witnessed on a decent before.  High-rise building prickled like blonde stubble from a flat horizon.  In London or LA, as you approach via commuter train or winged transport, the city is evident by a cluster of sky risen gleaming glass and steel.  In Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, everything appears to reaching skywards.  

The city of Buenos Aires is named the Cuidad Autonoma de Buenos Aires (Autonomous City of BA).  In the 1800’s it was put under direct control of the national Federal government, in order to make it the national capital. in 1994 a constitutional amendment granted the city autonomy.  Hence its rather long formal title. 

It’s early morning.  The studio, my home for a month, I carefully selected for its proximity to the reported best barrios (districts or neighbourhoods). It’s close enough to be convenient, far enough away to be able to sleep quietly at night and to have enjoy a postage stamp patch of green that skirts the apartment building.  When I arrived yesterday I felt beat from the nearing 16 hours spent fidgeting in a cramped economy seat, punctured only be a brief stop in Sao Paolo Brazil.  I still fear travelling.  I experience last minute nerves that cloud my buzzing excitement, as departure looms it’s like ‘oh crap, what am I doing!’  My heart was in my mouth the two days before my flight.  I’m a self confessed list person.  I have two lists that run preceding any adventure.  A to do list that I check off tasks daily. Task such as my rather anal propulsion to spring clean my home, file or shred any last pile of teetering paperwork gathered over several months and print, scan, copy email all details of my itinerary and travel documentation and distribute them all over the south east to friends who I’ve enlisted to be my angels should anything go amiss.  The second list is the ‘to worry about’ list.  As much as I try to act as I find it all a breeze, I have comfort zones that I like to grip onto.  I used to berate myself for this.  No longer.  I need a quiet place to rest my head and retreat to.  It isn’t just men who have their caves!  I need foods that I recognise.  A stash of supplements and superfood powders to keep my body tip top.  A place for daily yoga to crawl from my headspace of a morning and reach into my limbs to take ownership of my body after a night of sleep. A place for squat jumps and calorie burning.  Skype and email to connect with friends who make me feel like I’m still at home, whilst I’m nestled in between buildings foreign to me which occupy human existence and block all but a shallow froth of blue sky.  

I rose early, virgin birdsong sung me into life.  It was light so I guessed I’d managed to adjust my inner clock to Argentine time and was on point for my morning yoga.  The lime green LED on the microwave told me it was 8:15am.  Bugger, I thought, I’m late getting up.  I felt waves of nausea and wondered whether washing my cauliflower and tomatoes in tap water last night was such a good idea.  None the less I down-dogged and asana’d, and eased my body into life.  Breakfast was a mix of sweet, fragrant strawberries and a bowl of water-mixed super foods I’m told will adapt my body to handle stressful situations, hit my daily protein targets and negate the harmful effects of airport radiation and a body travelling at 576 miles per hour more than it is used to.  Only upon finish my stretches and the melodic ‘tadum’ sound of my Mac greeting, did I spot that it was before and not way past eight o’clock and actually still only just touching 7am.  It then became clear the reason for me feeling sick and my eyes feeling gritty like they’d encountered a sand storm, was I was dog-tired and my body needed more sleep, despite the fact my winged friends were going about their day and the traffic had begun it’s daybreak hum.

I’m not sure what the month will hold.  Sure, I’ve written a list in my mind of achievements to be ticked off as my time in the eighth largest country in the world unfolds.  a – Learn enough Spanish to dissuade my eyes from looking like they are trapped in the headlights as prone fear of interaction abates and a little sprout of knowledge takes hold. b – Learn to work my new camera which right now is scaring the bejesus out of me and  has not even been out of the bag in Argentina yet as I couldn’t make head nor tale of the new camera language – ISO, AV, aperture, speeds of this and that,  and too many ways to take a picture I do not yet understand.  Grasping the ways of photography elevated from the point-and-click was a step too far before I departed.  Another thing pressing on my mind to do that threatened to push me over the edge!  c –  Discover a new city, find a handful of cafes to seat myself in that resonate with the image I have of myself (or a idea of the me I desire to morph gracefully in to).  d -Unearth the local organico to buy my fresh produce, and a dietetica (health food store) to find staples I’ve come to rely on.  I’ve already found a gym (that was ‘e’).  A block or two from my street.  Whether I can run in this oven-like heat (and it’s only their spring!  In all due respect though I’m only hours past from hoods, gloves and thick, padded coats).   f- to Tango with masterly, tall handsome strangers.  Once they are in place, more areas of my mind are freed up to take on more (the ‘g, h, i, etc)  Until then, ‘a few days grace’ are words scrawled above the ‘to do and the to worry about’ lists in my head.  I trust by then I’ll have pounded the pavements enough to track a little groove in the sidewalks to let go touch and really start being here.  So I can experience the delicious serendipity of travel, the life affirming encounters, to revel in the difference I see, to enjoy (an understand a little) the allegro espanol, and embrace my month of living in this city which reports to have the highest concentration of theatres i the world.  Is known as ‘the Paris of South America’ and is inhabited by 13 million Portenos (people from the port).

I’ve not written here since the summer.  My time has been taken up with ‘social media’ and watching my other baby- – growing up.  I plan to find quiet time.  Time to reflect upon what is it I am enjoying as it unfurls.  This is what writing does for me.  For you, I hope you’ll join me and I hope to share with you my experiences.  And for those that come after me, I hope that I’ll do for you what the myriad of expat and travellers websites have done for me, to enable me to have the courage to travel and experience Argentina as a single girl and a vegan to boot!  Fingers crossed, accompanied by reels of images of moments captured in the butterfly net of my camera (otherwise known as the SD card) and film and video images to bring it alive with sound and movement.  I hope to show you that travelling alone may be scary but it is doable and worth every flutter of anxiety and effort to plan.


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Brighton on the Box


You know what it’s like.  Sometimes you go to a party, mingle and swap a few stanzas with strangers.  Sometimes the people you meet like to embellish their achievements, and their enthusiasm can be grander than actuality.  I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing.  Heck, I’m the queen of playing down what I do.  To meet who can big themselves up like a party balloon with a few pumps of hot air, always leaves me wanting to inact a one woman Mexican wave on their behalf. Bravo for bravado.   This wasn’t the case recently when I embarked upon a conversation with a man of middle age, sporting a baseball cap with the word CREW stitched on in white lettering, and an easy manner.

Bill Smith, introduced himself to me not via a handshake and the decanting of a business card but a friendly drawing in of conversation and a seemingly genuine interest of those milling around the room.  In fact, he let me prattle on for ages and it took him a while to share with me his passion for Brighton.  This man is a visionary, led by a huge pride in the City in which resides, and a community spirit I guess is of a bygone era.  ‘I run a TV station in Brighton’. he told me quietly (or words to that effect).  ‘We’ve just been accepted as one of 20 local terrestrial TV stations to launch in 2012’.  He told me of his burning desire to have the world see Brighton as a jewel of a City that hosts legendary arts & music festivals, superb theatre, sporting events, brilliant Universities and diverse and thriving businesses.  Oh yeah, and a brand new football stadium that I hear hosts quite a good team (yawn). 

I will be honest.  My past experiences of local TV have been those with huge gratings of CHEESE.  I’d seen public TV in Australia and California and my expectations were ground level.  But a surf on internet got me genuinely excited.  This is TV sans cheddar.  Fun presenters.  Local news.  Mini factuals about local business owners.  Coverage of events and laid back chats with celebrities, come down to massage their soles on the pebbly beach, and bang out some tunes or stomp the boards. Think The Culture Show with a sprinkling of T4.  The station has a political channel too.  Local stuff.  Stuff that I’m sure would make citizens of the town feel like they could have a say in.  Not coverage of something going on in another country, which to watch just feels the opposite of empowering.  I’m excited.  This is the future of TV. 

Bill ever so kindly put me down on the guest list to’s launch gathering yesterday at The Latest Bar, another feather in his baseball cap (this man is an Action Man). The wine flowed, dainty canapes where doing zig zag circuits of the room.  Lynn Ruth Miller, an American OAP, with a bag full of gags opened the show and loosened the crowd of Press people, local business and the wizards that craft the TV show.  In October 2012,,   Bill’s brainchild, funded currently by advertisements by estate agents, who sell and buy the homes for the multicultural, transient population of Brighton and Hove, will be live on Channel 6. There was mention of apps too but I’ll gloss over that as not being an owner of an i anything I don’t really know what one is!  The show will still be available on the web, but soon also at the end of 250,000 (give or take) residents remote controls.  Ah, beautiful, bawdy, brilliant Brighton.

Bill Smith is one of those people who has a vision.  He’s a new generation of humans who are moving things forward with quiet determination, I suspect a LOT of hard work, and a kind heart.  In a current environment where change is being forced, and readily available information is making many institutions naked to our scrutiny, and banks and media’s walls are being stripped bare, it is refreshing to find someone who is walking their talk with integrity and a burning desire to make his town thrive inclusively and through collaboration via use of it’s populations talents.  A centre for business and media.  Not a wannabe London but an individual, forward thinking city, that emulates no one.  Though, Mr Smith did have a twinkle in his eye when he offered leanings for us to think not of Hollywood but of Hollingbury as the centre of the West!

I for one will be watching.


Lynn Ruth Miller – presenter and comediene


Val Aviv – presenter


Bill Smith – the man behind the bid for

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Never too late to kick it!

Three weeks ago the UK water authorities declared us in a drought situation.  Since then it has rained every day since.  But we British are enduring fellows.  The British ‘stiff upper lip’ is well-known to be lying over a row of gritted teeth!

The rain may have settled in with seeming permanence, but it was doing nothing to stop the frolics at the Brighton Festival 2012, which began last weekend.  Saddled with the choice to sit on my backside and moan about the incessant rain, or to get off my backside and go and do something, I took the decision to strap my bike onto the back of my trusty little Seat, and drive down to the coast to join them.  I’d perused the Festival brochure of ‘comedy, theatre, cabaret, music & events’ (sewer walk anyone?) and put asterix alongside acts that piqued varying degrees of interest.

Fringe Actors gathering a crowd

Sky…the cable people, have constructed a room on the lawns of the Royal Pavillion.  For one month they are hosting live gigs and workshops, free gratis and for nothing.  One of my ticks was placed against the listing of a guy called Seye.  When I entered the room, not one purple bean bag or sofa was free so I sat on the floor by the small stage.  A young guy stepped up in skinny jeans and faded red pixie boots. Seye was a thin, sprig of a boy.  Intent from the outset for us pronouncing his name correctly.  ‘Remember it’s eyes backward, but you say it like ‘share’. he said.  I guess his prompting worked.  A singer songwriter with a unique sound, African inspired with a bit of RnB and a little something else.  He sang about his observations of life, and the women in it.  More than one of his songs bear the title of a girl’s name. I guess he’s popular off the stage too.


He was talented and so sweet.  Listen to him here

I decided to come down again next day.  It was a Sunday.  I craved something mellow. Comforting.  The Fringe brochure listed ‘Storytelling with tea’.  It caught my eye.  ‘That sounds mellow’, I thought.  I booked it online and made my way along the A27 to Brighton again.  The storytelling was at the  I’d never been there before, so I pushed open the door with a slight drag of hesitation.  Inside I was greeted warmly, and poured a cup of fresh green tea.  There were seven of us in total.  The storyteller, Lynne Ruth Miller, wore life experience on her elfin face and spoke with an American accent, with the confidence of one who was obviously, lovingly encouraged to use her voice.  Her small frame in leggings and cornflower blue silk tabard, exuded more presence than geographical area.

We seven sat around a bruised pub table.  The centrepiece a decorative bowl piled with homemade muffins, and frosted ring donuts.   My brain muttered something about ‘oh God, what have I booked here’, before it was rendered voiceless by the woman at the head of the table.  She stood.  Came eye line height to us sat around the table, and began to tell stories of a little girl dressed in theatrical bows and starched Shirley Temple dresses.  She spoke of her mother, a migrant from Romania, who feverently wished her daughter to be American through to the core like a sweet stick of Brighton rock, and her characterful grandmother who charmed that little girls imagination with stories and warmth.  Sitting there, listening to Lynne Ruth, our emotions both rollercoastered and tea danced along her timeline of life.  She was hilarious and  animated. Her hands drew the stories in the air in front of us.  We cried and laughed, and did that thing where your head falls to your shoulder and you let a little sigh escape your lips.  My favourite story was entitled ‘farewell to the tooth fairy’ and I was wide eyed at her ability to morph into her six-year-old self, loosing her milk teeth.  She delivered the punchline with aplomb.  I was a little sad when the 60 minutes had counted down to nought.  I had enjoyed my brief time with my temporary family and didn’t want it to end.

I fell in love with Lynne Ruth Miller and her effervescence.  I also longed to tell stories with her captivating manner.  I enquired if she held story-writing workshops.  She said she was busy with other projects, doing cabaret and her stand up show: Approaching 80.  Yes, incredibly this woman is 78, nearly 79, and is running around all over Brighton and has played to audiences at the Edinburgh Festival too.  ‘But, she said, ‘what a lovely idea’.  I clapped my hands with glee.

I talked her into it and I am thrilled that she is going to be holding a micro workshop on 21st May 6:30 – 8:30 at the   It is going to be such fun and I cannot believe how fortunate we are to have her teach some of her skills to us.

I totally recommend you coming to see her performances.  Click here for her schedule

Whilst putting this post together I googled Lynne Ruth and was gobsmacked to find her on YouTube.  She was delivering one liners in front of the judges of Britain’s Got Talent, and even had Simon Cowell laughing! She got THREE Yes’! What an AMAZING woman, and it just goes to show it really is never too late.  See her on YouTube here   I totally LOVE this woman!

Come on her course and you will fall for her too!    Details here  or here

Lynne Ruth Miller

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Has anyone seen Higgs Boson?!

The Big Bang in graphical form

Though I may only grasp a nano particle of the scientific notions surrounding the Big Bang, or the thoughts on string theory and black holes, and just what has been sucked into their light lorn centres, I have found like I like to be in the orbit of people who do.  I attend lectures like people light cigarettes or down bottles of Jack, to get my intoxicating fix of intelligence in a closed atmosphere.  Really, is there, anything better on the planet than thinking about the Universe and the mysteries beyond our planet, or being fascinated by the wonder or the neon lit world under the sea?  Light emitting plankton do it for me as much as pondering the existence of life forms from other planets.  To be honest, I marvel at the utter unfathomableness of my fellow humans, let alone a stereotypical alien, bang on trend in a silver catsuit and powdery green skin.

Among my wish list for ‘ultimate dinner party guests’ you would see, seated to my right the chipmunk cheeked, professor Brian Cox, he’d probably be deep in conversation with Einstein, Darwin or Jagger.  It was he who magnetised my interest in the Large Hadron Collider, after being told about it by a physicist friend one rainy afternoon long ago.  I’ve been fascinated by the project racing around a 17 mile circuit just outside of Geneva, ever since.

When I heard the college had invited Tejinder S. Virdee – one of the founding members of the Compact Muon Solenoid Collaboration at CERN – LHC, I was booking my ticket faster than a speeding light particle.  Years ago, I would have thought this out of my depth, before I realised that you cannot know what you don’t know and the only way to know is to go find out, so I went.  Happy in the knowledge I’d be in a room filled with minds that I wish I could inhabit for just-one-day.  Their brains must be wired differently to most!

Did you know that CERN (Conseil European por la Recherche Nucleaire – European Organisation for Nuclear Research) actually signed over the WWW for public use way back in the day when a calculator was high-tech and video games were so advanced that they made a bleeping sound and has a white moving line on a screen, operated by a joystick?!

The WWW is unleashed


The lecture was made possible by the Peter Lindsay memorial foundation and was FREE.  This is already a bonus.  The person that I am, sitting in that hall, shoulder to shoulder with people who seem to understand quantum theories (like, our consciousness affects the behaviour of subatomic particles and  that particles move backwards as well as forwards in time and appear in all possible places at once, even that there are probably more dimensions than the 3 that we see with our human eyes but they don’t quite know what it may look like.  Oh, and that one that Stephen Hawking tried to explain in his ‘easily understandable’ book about quantum physics, about an object on a moving train staying in one place in time and something or rather)… a projected image I create of me.  You see, the me that I am sitting there on the hard, bottom-numbing bench, is the me that wished she had been a nerd at school, got absorbed in clever things grown up to become a scientist.  Lectures are my consolation prize.

Inside the LHC

I am not going to tell porkies and say I totally grasped what Prof Virdee was talking about, but I think I progressed a little.  I know a little more about quarks and your gluons and gravitons, and I get that the LHC is this year (2012) going to unveil whether the Higgs Boson exists….or not.  The revelation, after smacking trillions of atoms together for a couple of years and analysis the effects, will help us to understand the Big Bang and what gives mass to matter.  I am not quite sure how that will help us, but I guess it will.  Certainly, bi-products of the experiment have already proved useful – WWW and Magnetic scanning machines to name two.  But why is no one asking the question of our ever-expanding Universe…what is it expanding into?  What about that?  What or who made the Space?  How big is the space it is expanding into and, what is outside of that?  Ooh, that hurts my brain.

I have to marvel at the workings of the mind of a physicist.  They categorise things into – knowns – known unknowns – and unknown unknowns.  These brilliant people get paid to sit around and come up with ‘magical’ theories as to what is going on in our Universe, they scheme up fantastical scenarios and get paid to know nothing about their field with any certainty.  And they are given titles for it and awards to stand among the party invitations on their mantels.  Yes, these are exceptionally clever people!

I, myself, am on tenterhooks to see what the boffins at CERN conclude this year.  Real life is so darned funky, shape shifting, complicated and crazy, it’s a wonder we need fictional escapism on the TV at all!

FYI – The Imperial College in London is opening its doors to Joe Public on 11th – 12th May.  Go play with robots, dance at the silent disco or even meet an astronaut.  It’s a free event. Perhaps the next Einstein will throw a few shapes with you?!

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