Back when I was a child my mum used to make me a Christmas tree each year. It did not matter that we were not Christian. That had certainly not stopped us from stuffing our faces with cake or accompanying our friends to midnight mass or indeed demanding and receiving presents. We never had a real or even vaguely life like tree - instead they were fabulous creations dreamed up by my mum. Her tree-like wooden bangle stand wrapped up in green crepe paper chains was my favourite. There were others - made of balls stacked up was one - always with little decorations to make them feel christmasy. The excitement of my childhood is certainly borne out by photographs collecting dust somewhere in my parents home. If I bribe my brother enough he will no doubt pull them out and scan them for me.
Well, this year someone sent me a Facebook link of a picture of a Christmas tree made up of books and decorated in a string of fairy lights. I loved it! Then I was thinking about it all . the. time. I have a stack of books on my own sideboard ready to be donated to the local library/ charity shop so I thought why not?! I added some books from my shelves and lo and behold we have a tree.
Of course my tree has neither the height nor the glamourous setting but it's made good use of eyesore stack (so when are these going to the library again?). It has no lights or decorations except for a Christmas card on top and no presents nor space for any at the bottom. I still love it.
I have always always loved watching cartoons. The Road runner outwitting the Coyote, Tweety bird escaping from hungry Sylvester and Tom thwacking Jerry are some of my earliest memories of televised animation. My father used to record VCR tapes of the stuff for us when he lived abroad bringing us back a fresh quota each time he came to visit. I distinctly remember going to watch Yogi Bear at Chanakya cinema as a child and of crying great fat tears the afternoon I watched Dumbo on our TV/VCR.
After the awesome Lion King, on the cusp of adulthood, there came Finding Nemo, both path breaking mainstream films in their own times and right. Now here was a different league of animation from the jerkily hand drawn images of my childhood, animation as I had never imagined it before - fluid, sleek and ever so beautiful - mesmerising. I watched Finding Nemo again and again and again, at the cinema and then on DVD, never tiring of the storyline, the cresendo of music, the humour and accents of fish, always silently rooting for the father to find his child. The beauty lay in the subtle subtext; for while Marlin roams the Great Barrier reef looking for Nemo it was a journey of discovery - for him to take risks and overcome obstacles - and to allow Nemo to take care of himself. A beautiful film if ever I saw one.
Of course then there was a spate and you always had the choice of watching something animated at the cinema. From the sequels of Shrek to many parts of Toy Story, the roaring of Cars to the super powers of the Incredibles there was movie after movie to choose from. Along the way I stopped watching any TV animation.
Of course the arrival of the Child has meant a re-introduction to the animated world. And even though he is only little and his TV is rationed for eye saving and in favour of physical games, I do let him watch animated series such as Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine. These are both British creations with cult followings and merchandising that could seriously harm the pocket. Thomas the Tank engine is, as the name suggests, about an engine. He is blue, his number is 1 and he lives on a mythical island where he and his other engine friend have 'adventures'. Peppa is a very pink pig whose daily life provides much entertainment with her family and many animal friends. Thomas the animated series has had many iteration and technological advancements over the years, going from stills of actual and very basic animated train models and a single person doing all the voices to a slick animated version very much computer generated.
The wierd thing is that my child always seemed to prefer this older version of Thomas and the line drawings of Peppa (though animated, very simple drawings) to teh slicker more modern versions. I would always be met with resistance at other TV animation such as Jungle Junction or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (except for the opening songs because bopping around to a tune is his thing!) and it recently made me think about it. I too prefer the more basic animation than the 3D experience and the very 'plastic' quality of some animation. I have come to the conclusion that some of the modern day animation is so detailed that he cannot fathom, compress and process all that information in so short a time. The simpler drawings/ models and gentler, slower pace of the voiceovers is more attractive to him, much easier to compute as he makes sense of the world around him.
With animated movies and TV series being big business technology is pushing every known boundary in the arena. It's very very exciting and I can't even imagine what the next level of animation will be. And while I am all for better and sleeker animation I do wonder at what point does animated become so animated that it loses that basic quality of animation, the edge of belief in a character and become so plastic in a way that makes one lose interest? This is a rhetorical question - and just my very small opinion. I guess I (and my son) have catching up to do.
In the words of Bruce:
'I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.'
At the end of a long busy week of managing my child's hectic social life I am out in central London having an evening with friends. We ate at the ever popular Busaba and chatted over the din of busy diners also enjoying and evening out. And then we walked the length of Oxford street taking advantage of late night shopping to try on winter hats. With my mad mop of hair I just look more deranged if that's possible. The only hat that might suit costs more than I am willing to spend. But as an exercise it was super fun. Also the only person not looking for a hat bought a lovely bright Christmas party dress so we all feel like our time and her money has been well spent. I've bought V a couple of kathi rolls and am now on my way home. Life is made of sticky children and wonderful girl friends! G'nite!
In early November this year V, kid and I had a weeks vacation in Italy. We flew to Rome where we spent 4 days before taking a train to Venice.
Plane and train journeys with a small active child are a definite adventure. But once we reached our hotel most of that 'adventure' feeling (read traumatised parents feeling) is soon drowned in a glass of a wine and patted down by a nice meal.
So Rome. It is a splendid city indeed. As the guidebooks rightly point out everywhere you turn is a beauitful building or sombre ruin of a once beautiful building. We stayed near the beautiful Borghese Gardens. Ever since the kid became part of the equation our vacations have become more relaxed and see-it-as-you-go-by than dash around and see everything the guidebook tells you to. So each day we managed only to see one site or monument before eating a relaxed lunch and returning to the hotel for a lovely nap. And in the afternoon we'd just go for a walk or find a local park with swings and slides for entertainment of small person who has no interest in monuments of any kind.
Each evening we ate in little local restaurants in the area near the hotel, pizza and pasta mainly. And the kid lapped it all up with a love that makes me think he's a bit Italian. We took a few tram rides in our search for playgrounds and managed to see a lot more of the non touristy bits of city than we envisaged. The thing that struck me most were the wooden shutters on every window of every building. Lovely, colourful and bright relief from the plain plaster walls.
We visited the Vatican where the long narrow halls were the ideal running track for the kid. Our view of the Sistine chapel was a bit like a darshan of a very famous temple - a quick and fleeting glance as we were herded in one door and out the other. But every bit of the Vatican was beautiful and we could have spent days just gazing at it's artworks and architecture. The Vatican was certainly the highlight of Rome for me although the magnificence of the colosseum is a close second.
We had amazing Mediterranean weather - in the mid-20s every day with brilliant sunshine and no need for any sort of jackets. It rained buckets just one afternoon but it worked out fine because we had already done our sightseeing for the day and instead spent the afternoon in a local supermarket marvelling at the number of pasta shapes on offer and buying fresh fruit for snacking purposes. And of course making sure that the escalators did their jobs properly. Ah the fascinations of foreign holidays lie in supermarkets and let no one tell you any different....
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. - Washington Irving
As someone who cries only in a bathroom with the tears running its a leap to think of them as marks of power not weakness. I can only try.
My ears hurt. And feel all blocked. My tonsils are,as usual, out of a summer hibernation and desperately foraging for every virus and bacteria they can latch on to. Swallowing is painful. And yet I have a full social life (or rather am secretary to the child that does) of a playdate and the first of many Christmas parties today. Home hippy remedies to suggest anyone?
While I begin everything with good intentions my follow through clearly leaves something to be desired. To make up for not posting yesterday here is the first of two posts today. We had two sets of friends around for a meal yesterday, one after the other and before I knew it it was 1am and I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
So in July my son turned 2 and although my intention was not to have a birthday party I bowed to the pressure/ my instinct so my parents could meet all his friends and mine at one go. It wasn't a birthday party in the traditional sense, more a glorified playdate. We invited 15 kids including a few babies to come round to ours between 2pm and 4pm on the Saturday before his birthday. There were no games or activities just plain simple running wild all over our small apartment and in our narrow balcony. We have an abundance of toys - balls, trikes, a tent, a slide, a train set, about 40 hotwheels style cars, a scootie, and baskets full of plastic and wooden crap to make 'toys r us' proud. Essentially at that age they don't seem to do much by the way of collaborative play, so most kids chose a toy or toys to play with and was oblivious of the others around him/her. There were cupcakes, sandwiches, vegetables with a selection of dips and corn and beetroot fritters for the kids. It was a busy afternoon and most of the action was 2 year olds trampolining on our bed. We had multicolored cloth bunting up (since re-used in his room) and enough helium balloons so each child could take one home. We avoided the gift bag route and gave each kid a set of balls (basketball, football and random yellow ball) small enough to snuggly fit under their buggies and a tub of playdough.
The piece de resistance was his cake , a collaborative effort between two of my friends. It was a forest of cupcakes with the characters from his favorite book 'The Gruffalo' strategically placed to look like a scene from it. So one friend baked and iced while the other made the figurines and details (like orange eyes, mushrooms, terrible teeth, butterflies and purple prickles) and they assembled it on our dining table.
I'm quite sure my son will have no memory of this day to celebrate his birth. After all every day at this stage in his life is a SUPER FUN playdate. But it was worth doing just to see the realisation in his eyes of the figurines of the mouse, the fox, the snake and the Gruffalo coming to life, and the beaming smile that followed.
This summer my cousin 40in2006 came to London with her husband and two daughters. It was a wonderful sunny week and every evening exhausted from a long day of sightseeing my nieces would fall asleep in our living room. As my own kid would be asleep by 8pm as well this meant that the 4 adults could sit on our narrow balcony and drink wine and eat our meal at leisure chatting and chatting into the long summer evening. It was a lovely week.
My son loves his chechis (sisters). He saw them in November last year and ever since then walks up to their picture on our bookshelf and says chechi chechi chechi. So he was totally prepped for their arrival and after the first few minutes of feeling shy followed them around like a shadow. My fondest memory is of him sitting on the kitchen floor while my oh so tall niece sat opposite him as he played some game. He kept looking up at her and blabbering away. And then there was our lovely day in Greenwich sitting in the park and eating our lunch while he and my younger niece ran around like loons. Special special days and times and although he is only small and will have no memory of this I hope he grows up loving his cousins as much as I do mine.
First it was an amazing summer of guests and I was having too much fun to post. Then I was lazy enjoying the sunshine and long summer days.
Then another beloved uncle (cousin of my mum) died. Then a dear school friend of mine was murdered. And although we hadn't met in over 22 years we had found each other on Facebook and it was like yay technology for doing what snail mail could not. We connected again and it was all the reminiscing, catching up and looking forward that we chatted about. I'm still in disbelief about his death. And with that any words I had froze. I sat down to write about 6 times in the past month but each time the words would catch in my wrists.
Today I just knew I had to write. I think I will try and write something everyday this month. Not sure what but a few lines each day to get the rusty old brain working again. And then who knows, in the New Year I might be readable again. Bear with me.