Well it more than met my expectations

John and I waited in line for a good half hour last week to see the Tutankhamun exhibition. It did not disappoint. Someone told me it was well curated and indeed it is. Its a magical experience for anyone who loves all things Egyptian. Just behind us a woman regaled her children and grand children about her experiences of seeing the exhibition in 1972. The children were really interested in how much gold she had seen and in hearing about the mask.

I don’t have a particular item I liked more than others I loved it all and the Saatchi gallery also excelled; the staff were exceptional. they were proud of the exhibition, proud to talk about the number of artefacts, proud to be able to see the exhibition when no visitors are  inside and proud that the exhibition is attracting so much attention.

I loved my visit and hope to one day make the trip to see the entire exhibition in the new Gallery in Cairo.

Tutankhamun

I’m so excited!

We have tickets to see the Saatchi exhibition tomorrow. I’ve had them since the exhibition was announced and now its nearly time to go. People tell me different things about their experiences and I listen, but in my own mind I am back in the Valley of the Kings experiencing the excitement of entering tombs for the first time. I cannot wait to see the artefacts again!

1972

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In 1972, both John and I queued in the lines of children to see the treasures of Egypt. No doubt he waited patiently and I less so. I do remember making friends with other children who were opposite me in the snake like lines. We don’t remember the exact dates and who knows we might both have been in the same queue. John still has a brochure, I only have memories. The exhibition was crowded and I saw a fraction of the main artefacts but it was enough to ignite a fascination of all things Egyptian.

Tomorrow we will see the exhibition together. This might not sound significant but this year John has been unwell and after three operations and several months of healing we now know he will have a fourth operation in two weeks. Being able to go to an exhibition together, and one that means so much to both of us, matters a great deal. I feel like a child on the eve of Christmas.

I will post about the exhibition again next week.

 

 

My Silver Bullet

What is a Silver Bullet?

A bullet made of silver, supposedly the only weapon that could kill a werewolf. Or it could be a seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem?
silver bullet
I think that many of us are looking for Silver Bullets. I want one that makes me lose lots of weight overnight. The country wants a bullet that gives us Brexit, but only if we can trade on the same terms as when we are  in the EU  and it must give us freedom to trade wherever we like. Everyone I know seems to want the silver bullet for staying young.
20 years ago, Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger wrote The Leadership Machine.

No one knows what specific challenges we will face in 2020, but we have a strong idea of what the leaders who can meet those challenges will look like and how they will get to be that way.

Lominger (A combination of both names) proposed a few things which at the time were innovative but now appear in many leadership books. I have slightly adapted their views in the three points below.
  1. It takes several years of practice to become an overnight success – about 10 years or 10,000 hours!
  2. Leaders can be made, the characteristic which will determine success is, the ability to learn.
  3. Learning is key, but learning agility is critical for individual growth and success. They suggested that learning new things, even if they are not related to work, will help to hone the leadership muscle.leaderhsip machine
This book really captured my imagination, they suggest that the Silver Bullet to top performance is challenging ourselves to learn in new and different ways. I took it to mean that we need to learn things that are hard to learn to keep the ‘little grey cells’ working.
After reading the book, I made a decision that I would learn something new every year and this is my list of the things I tried. In the first draft of this post, I included my work based learning, but as Lominger would point out I had to do that anyway. So I have limited the list to things that really challenged me.

Computer-based learning and social media

  1. Making a movie using iMovie – Youtube, trial and error, the motivation was my niece’s 21st birthday (she is now 32). Result? I can do it but need to learn more and I have only ever made four movies. Good investment of my time.
  2. Blogging – for my travels to the Falkland Islands and for work. I have a routine and a discipline about doing a blog now, and I know how to use WordPress and Blogger platforms. Great investment.
  3. Podcasting – to communicate messages and to create blended learning. Great course.  I tried a few times but I haven’t really used this. Investment was worth it though because I met a great teacher.

Indoor hobbies

  1. Knitting – refresher and a specialist course on how to finish off different types of knitting projects. Results are good and I have been finishing things I start.  I have also completed some projects I started 20 years ago.
  2. Sewing – three dresses – good fun and I know I can do it if needed. Investment was okay but I ended up with three dresses (very expensive ones given the course costs) that I will never wear.qult with Janice fabric
  3. Patchwork quilting – my sister-in-law gave me a sewing class as a birthday present. Result is that this is now my primary hobby. All these years later, I still love it and when I was in the Falkland Islands I was able to join a quilting group. It was a great way to meet some wonderful people.
  4. Painting – creating is important to me and I love watercolour so I thought I would give it a go. The result is awful – truly awful. Investment of time and money – not worth it.
  5. Cartooning – The motivation for this was to be able to illustrate my books myself. It was intended to help me create course material. The result was abject failure! I was thrown off the course for submitting poor work. The investment was still worth it because I was able to transfer the credits over to an online writing course. It did also help to stretch a boundary – quite a big stretch and I won’t be bothering trying to learn to draw or cartoon again.
  6. Embroidery – I like the look of modern embroidery and I wanted to do a class at the Royal School of Needlework, Hampton Court. It was fun but I haven’t kept it up. I need to finish my piece and to do a refresher.
  7. Book binding – why not? I loved it and made some great samples. It cost a lot of money to make two books that I will never use because they are so precious to me. I would like to try to put the skills to use again soon but I am not sure it will become a passion for me.
  8. Wet Felting – I was living in the Falklands so I had time to do it. Great fun. Unlikely to take it up anytime soon. Can make things if needed and will always treasure the things I made with a friend in Darwin, Falkland Islands.

Outdoor hobbies

  1. Flying light airplanes – I am not sure what motivated this. I think it has been on my mind since I first read Jonathon Livingston Seagull. The author describes flight so well that I could almost feel I was Jonathon. In my 30’s I started to glide and then I treated myself to a flying lesson for a special birthday. Once I flew with an engine I was I hooked. Result?  As I was approaching the date to do my Solo, I realised that I did not want to do solo flying. I loved the act of flying but not the responsibility of landing a plane near Heathrow. As an investment, it was a good one. People who know me know that I watched an array of disaster movies in the 70’s. In the 90’s I was travelling in remote places, so I felt that if I was ever in trouble I had the skill to fly us out, if needed, and if there just happened to be a fully fuelled small plane nearby. It’s a strange thought and as I am writing about flying, I realise that I love and miss it.
  2. Shooting – shotgun, rifle, handguns and machine gun. The motivation was purely research for writing.  My central character is a reluctant survivalist who has to use guns to defend herself to rescue children. Result? I am an excellent shot. Its a bit worrying that whatever weapon I used I was competent quickly. It gave me information I could never have imagined for my writing. I found the whole experience both exciting and terrifying. Great investment for two reasons: firsthand experience of handling guns to help with writing and I found something that I am really good at! Its not something I expect to use, hopefully, disaster movie scenario aside, but its a skill.
  3. Sailing – I was pretty okay at this but I wanted to learn how to manoeuvre a boat and I wanted to complete my Day Skipper exams. Result? I passed the exam and I am pretty good at handling a boat. Oh and I met my lovely husband sailing, so I think I can say this was the best investment of all!

Physical

  1. Swimming – in particular holding my breathe and swimming underwater for long periods – inspired by the 1970’s film ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and Shelley Winters swim to save passengers – yes really! A fantastic investment because it led to scuba and then to diving.
  2. Open-water diving – Jacques Cousteau – a tv programme that captured my imagination. I loved the programme most when they were underwater and you heard a gurgling sound of air.  It feels adventurous. Good investment but I haven’t done it for a while.
  3. Yoga – balance, strength and flexibility –  I am not disciplined enough to practice everyday. Great investment thought as I have good alignment and I feel great when I do it.
  4. Pilates – core and strength – bloody hate it! Great that I can do some of the exercises I don’t like but find helpful.
  5. Tai Chi – balance and inner calm. I thought it would be good to learn this before I visited and worked in an orphanage. I learnt a short form routine that I could do quickly every morning and evening. It was invaluable on my travels and I love it to this day. Great investment.
  6. Archery – a whim on holiday – loved it. I can’t say I am great at many things, but I am a great markswoman!

As I start my seventh decade I wonder where I want to focus my attention. This past twelve months has been a difficult for us and it has prompted us to start conversations about what we want to do with the few decades, we may have left. I know that sounds negative but its not, it is where we find ourselves today.  I enjoyed writing about my learning and as I went through the list I realised that some of things I really enjoyed have fallen by the wayside either because of cost or practicality.   In the next few weeks, I will post about what I intend to learn in this next decade. I have until 31st December to prepare the list!

Oh, and I can honestly say that Lomingers insights have had a lasting affect on my life. Learning is a Silver Bullet for fun, challenge, passion and for pushing boundaries.

39 People died

39 people from the Far East; we were told they lived in one of the largest countries in the world, but later we heard it was Vietnam; decided to make a treacherous journey to get to Europe. We don’t know their reasons for making the journey, we assume they were economic migrants.

39 people hoped for a new life in the UK. Some people would say they chose us because of our benefits system.

39 people so believed in their future they were prepared to pay over fifteen thousand euros to get here. It was money they did not have, and we understand families mortgaged their land to raise the funds.

39 people left mothers, fathers, maybe partners and children behind. We can’t imagine what they had to do to get ready to travel nearly 8000 miles on a terrible journey.

39 people sat in the back of lorries, maybe they talked and definitely they dreamed of a better life. Young women and men with burning ambitions. Each of them would need to earn money they could send home.

39 people experienced pain, discomfort, cruelty and I hope they also experienced some acts of kindness on the journey.

39 people sat quietly, phones turned off, in the back of a refrigerated lorry as the temperature plummeted to -20, so they would not be found. Their bodies started to shake, they may have cuddled each other to warm up, they struggled to breathe and slowly they watched as one by one of their fellow travellers slipped away.

39 people made an 8000 mile treacherous journey to get into the UK.

39 people died in a refrigerated container on a road in Essex in October.

They were 39 people who didn’t know that the UK is broken.

Who will remember them?

Music

61MFGXgx4XL._SX355_The first single I remember hearing is ‘These boots are made for walking’  by Nancy Sinatra, my mum played it most days.  Listening to it today, I wonder what the lyrics meant to my mum. It brings back memories of us singing and dancing round the front room.

The first single I  was given? ‘Liquidator’ by Harry J All Stars. I don’t know why this was such an important record for me.  I  guess it was because I loved the rhythm and the silly dance that seemed to go with it. My Aunt Mary bought it for me one Saturday. I think it was a form of bribery, she was supposed to be looking after me and instead had taken me out, late at night, for a drive around town in an open top MGB. I was small enough to slip into the back and it was the thrill of my life, so there was no way I would ever have squealed.  I promised never to tell my parents and have indeed kept that promise.

The first box set of albums I listened to was something by Trini Lopez, I don’t know the name, mum played them all the time. My favourites were  Lemon Tree  and If I had a Hammer. I would dance with my mum or any visiting auntie.  I loved to singalong and because the albums all seemed to have been recorded in concert, it was like having loads of happy people in the house.

I did my homework to Deep Purple’s Black Night – it probably explains my terrible performance at school!

Favourite Top of the Pops band and song? TRex Get it On in 1971.

The first pop star I stalked, was David Cassidy . He was staying at the Churchill hotel in gettyimages-873977236-1024x1024Central London, it’s the only time I’ve been hose-piped out of anywhere.  I tried to get into the hotel through the car park, to get his autograph! I can honestly say it wasn’t the music! It was 1973, but it feels like it was yesterday. My parents never knew I made my way into London where I met a friend and stood outside the hotel screaming and crying for David to look down. However, I am fickle, because the year before I remember now that I actually stalked the Jackson Five, same hotel, same MO except I didn’t try to get in through the car park, I just stood outside waiting for one of the Five to look out and wave.

On writing this and looking up dates I realise that David Cassidy died in 2017 – I guess it wasn’t big news in the Falkland Islands.

The first album I purchased is hard to remember but I am pretty sure it was something by Leonard Cohen. His music did something to me which I find difficult to explain, but even now when I hear So Long Marianne, I am transported back to my 15 year old self. I am mesmerised by this song. His music helped me through a very uncomfortable puberty when I sometimes wanted to detach parts of my body.

robertaMy first slow dance with a boy was to Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing me softly.’ Swaying with a lovely, polite chap whose name I don’t know and who I never saw again but remember every time the song is played.

‘Summer the First Time’ by Bobby Goldsboro was my melancholic heartbreak song and I played it over and over after being stood up.

In 1978 I went to live in Paris and, for the first time in my life I was without music. The family I was living with were not music lovers and it was way before portable devices. On a weekend when the family were away I noticed a record player to the side of the living room and there were two albums. For the better part of a year I played the same two albums every chance I could, which was mostly when the family visited relatives in the country. What were the albums? Well, beggars cannot be choosers: Best of the Bee Gees. I had hoped for Saturday night fever but it was their earlier works. The second album was the most amazing classical work which introduced me to Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor. I don’t know which recording.

My favourite dance song was Back to life by Soul II Soul which I played every evening for about a year after it came out.  It’s the only album I remember playing for about a decade. I was busy working and didn’t have time for music or entertainment.

Then I took a sabbatical in 1992. I travelled with a group of people around South America. Six countries, all very different and very exciting. I bought myself a portable cassette player and on my first night sleeping out in the rainforest in a hammock, I was terrified. I put a sheet over my head, to stop crawly things from dropping into my mouth, and my earphones in to drown out the rainforest noises. As I lay in my hammock I thought about my life as an adventurer and decided that I had probably pushed myself to my limits and that I would leave the forest the next day. As I listened to music I started to calm down, I am indebted to George Benson.

hammock

Day two was a breeze and I managed the dug out canoe, the machete-hole digging for a toilet and listening to the beautiful if sometimes scary sounds of the forest. Throughout the trip, I  searched for local music. The worst was Peru but the best was Brazil where I found Olodum in Salvador Bahia. On the same trip, I was camping in Argentina and it was my turn to do the cooking so with my cook partners we went to a huge supermarket. As we were walking around they were getting more excited by the quality of the music played on the loud speakers. I was a bit non-plussed, I’d never heard of the band, which stunned my cook mates. It turns out I quite like U2.

One of my first concerts was Jacques Loussier – a rather lovely young man thought I would like the music and indeed I still play it when I can.jacques

Lots of music have filled my life with joy, things like the Magic Flute particularly the Maria Callas recording and yes I used to try to singalong.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Simon and Garfunkel, and then later Paul Simon, The Mamas and Papas, The Moody Blues, and Hot Chocolate, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Yousso’n’Dour, Beautiful South, Texas, Nora Jones, Alicia Keyes, KD Lang, India Aria, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Lang Lang, YoYo Ma, Pavarotti, Bjork and of course The Beach Boys.

When I first started my business I often worked from home. It can be a lonely experience until you are joined by Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You. Now, it’s not the words that mattered but the fact that I could throw myself into singing-a-long with Whitney including trying to hit the high notes. I am playing that song as I write and even now I want to join in but my voice isn’t going to hit those high notes any more!

Sailing holidays are always accompanied by music and in 1998 I sailed around the Grenadines with friends who introduced me to The Eagles and in particular the Hell Freezes Over album which I still love and play when I want to have a singalong or do a bit of air guitar playing. Hotel California always seems to encourage this type of behaviour in most people.

When I met John, who I later married, we  both fell in love with Desert Rose,  by Sting. We loved it so much we played it at our marriage ceremony. 

The first CD we both agreed to buy was ‘Raising Sand’. We heard it at our friend’s house. This was a significant milestone in our relationship. Our tastes in music differ greatly; John loves the Boss and I can’t stand Bruce. So, when we found we both liked a whole CD we had to own it.

Music we love to listen to now includes Jason Isbell and we are grateful for a friend from the Falkland Islands, who introduced us to Little Desk concerts.

I now love Rag’n’Bone Man he make me want to sway and singalong.

So, I guess you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I love music that I can singalong to.

All of my favourite music is either singalongs, dance-a-longs or just plain beautiful. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I expect that readers may have given up before reaching this point. If you got this far, do message me and tell me about your favourite music is and what it means to you.

The Ring

The chauffeur opens the door and I step out of the car. I am wearing a hijab again today and I feel like I am invisible. I walk down the corridor, three men pass me but not one of them looks up or notices me. I may as well be wallpaper. My toenails are a vibrant orange and my sandals green snakeskin. I can almost see the ridges of the snakes back as I look down. The sandals are a good five inches high and I walk slowly, I think elegantly, towards the imposing double doors of Suite 210. 

My eyes are green and I am told it is a deep green much deeper than normal, whatever normal is. The large lash extensions shape my eyes which I know are the shape of giant almonds. I use a green liner, which I was told makes my eyes look brighter than the normal black or brown liners. I look my best for them having applied powder blusher and a gentle coral lipstick. The lip gloss adds a sparkle but no one can see this, only me and later possibly them. 

They are waiting for me. They will decide about me. They could make or break me. They are the ones I must learn to trust and love. They will judge me.

The walk seems interminable. My left shoe is starting to hurt and my right one is pinching my little toe. The sandals were a good idea, I look taller, slimmer, more elegant; at least I do when I can manage to move one foot in front of the other. 

As I walk down the corridor, I notice that between each door there are mirrors on the walls just above a small table which is home to a vase of vibrant pink lilies. There is a soft pungent smell which reminds me of my last holiday in Cyprus. That was the holiday before they entered my life. I wonder, if I had a chance now, would I go back to that time? A time before they controlled me.

I glance at my hands, they are pale like undercooked breadsticks but finished with orange fingernails. I know I am much better with a tan, but now that I never see the sun my skin is pale, almost grey. The orange nail varnish is garish, but my hands are well manicured which makes them look elegant particularly when I  wear the  large green garnet. Today I may lose this ring forever. I have grown accustomed to the colour, to the lustre and the power it brings me.