Let the Arts come to you: How to get your Culture & Creativity Fix during Lockdown

Before I get into this blog post, I just wanted to say I hope that you, your friends, family, and loved ones are all safe and well.

This morning, as I was watching a play (online), I thought to write a quick blog post for the majority of us who are staying in. For us lovers of the arts, and especially those who have and need creative outlets, I have put together a list of things we can do to keep the creative juices flowing.


The Arts

Some creative people need muses, visuals, stimuli, experiences and exposure to other creatives’ work; be it, art, literature, photography or design to name a few. And to get inspired, a creative does not necessarily just hone in to their own niche places, but expand to all forms of art.   

For inspiration, you might visit a museum or art gallery, theatre, or attend a concert, and of course, at the moment, we can not go out to such places, therefore none of these are available to us. Or are they? 

As long as we have the internet, we can still access plenty of inspiration (and entertainment) without needing to leave the four walls that are keeping us safe, and below I have listed a few.

1. Theatre

 The National Theatre is generously putting up a different play a week, through YouTube, for free! Presently they are showing ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ ( which is the play I was watching this morning!) and next week’s show is Jane Eyre. And so on. 




The Globe has quite the selection of Shakespearean plays to see, again, from the comfort of your home, though they do ask for a small fee. I have to say I love their ‘send as a gift’ idea. This would make a nice surprise for a Shakespeare lover.





2. Museums

The British Museum is my favourite museum in the UK. I love getting lost in it, especially
on the second floor galleries where there are over 100 mummies. But what I mainly love about this museum is the sense of travelling through so many eras and centuries, all under one roof.


3. Galleries

The Tate Modern and Britain are showing their latest exhibitions on line, and for free!
These can be found through their website and YouTube. The exhibitions include Andy Warhol and Aubrey Beardsley. A detailed article on this is here:  Forbes on Tate



4.  Opera

The Royal Opera House





5. Concerts

There are so many live concerts going on online, I think the quarantine will be lifted by the time I get through them all!

Here are a few:

Pop

Billboard have a thorough list and schedule of most ‘pop’ concerts - from Miley Cyrus to James Bay!


Classical 

Wigmore Hall has some past live streams on their website here Wigmore Hall

Jazz

If you’d like to hear (and see) Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and Nina Simone, amongst others, playing at the Montreux Jazz festival , just click here   50 concerts from past Montreaux Jazz Festivals here! That’s where I’ll be heading after this post!


6. Architecture & Design 

Wallpaper

When I think of Wallpaper, I think of architecture & design, but the magazine has so much more.



Wallpaper has a comprehensive website but if you’re used to buying the magazine itself, fret not, they are now putting their next editions on line, free for all to download, and April’s edition is already up!


7. Cinema

BFI has always been my go to whenever I have felt like watching cinema at its best. Although you need a subscription, you are not obliged to keep it and can cancel and rejoin as many times as you like!
I usually watch the foreign films and Hitchcock!

Now, the above was just a glimpse of some things available to us. If you can think of others, please do share in the comments, and also let me know what you’re doing to keep your creative juices flowing at this difficult time.

Of course, we are all creative in one way or another. These may be expressed differently to the general connotation of creatives, but nevertheless, creativity is about ANYTHING that uses the imagination or any idea that is then used to create anything. It does not have to involve a paintbrush or musical notes! You can use creative thinking in mathematics for example. 


Silence and standing still

It is only when we make space, that our creativity can truly come out. It has space to breathe and think and expand. This space doesn’t have to be an external one necessarily. What’s important is to make space in our heads. Have time to slow down, to unbury ourselves. Therefore, this period could actually be helpful for coming up with ideas and letting the imagination run free.
Have you noticed Youtubers coming out with more frequent content? Bloggers, the same, and writers too? It’s because we not only have the space to think of ideas but also the time that would normally be filled with other outside influences.
I found myself making bracelets the other night; a first for me!


From my living room to yours, 

Much love,
Raha x


What I honestly think about Audible!

Let’s turn back the clock 30 years when the 17 year old me thought ‘audio book cassettes’ were for either small children or the elderly. No one my age would dream of listening to any, even when they came accompanied with the written book! But I always secretly wished I could listen to them but felt I would be uncool.. A few years later, my father, a lover of poetry, books and literature was diagnosed with a brain tumour and eventually lost most of his sight. Reading was his life. The two went together. Where there was my father, there was also a book. In any home he had, he always had to have a library / study. Therefore, as soon as his eye sight started fading, I went out and bought all the audio CDs\books that I could find, as frustratingly, there was never a big selection.
After not being able to read a for a short while, watching my father’s smile as he listened to his favourite writers & stories, was absolutely priceless.

There is something very comforting and subtly nostalgic with being read to. Perhaps this evokes memories of childhood or of times of illness, whatever it may be to you, it takes you out of your own world and onto an all immersing other.

Forward to the early 21st Century, audio CDS/ books are now close to obsolete, but books as always, are predominant. After centuries of enjoying a book, feeling it’s pages against your fingers,  brushing your hands against its shiny cover, and reading the epilogue for hints, and for some, like me, finding it sacrilege to turn the top corner of the page as it’s bookmark or highlight or underline words and quotes of meaning, after all that tangibility of textures and senses, and individual reading rituals, came the Kindle.

The concept and practicality of a kindle made sense. Most come with a light,  no trees would be chopped down because of them (though recycling them is possibly not done as much as paper is, even though Amazon does urge customers to recycle and gives ample information on how to do so), and they are immensely helpful for the traveller who doesn’t want to carry a number of heavy books in their suitcase that could be taken up with more useful, lighter things. Despite all these advantages, I swore I would never replace a book with a Kindle and until this day I haven’t.  I have however, replaced some books with Audible, and here are the reasons why:

(Note, the above was written before the coronavirus made it’s appearance and from below, I’m writing in a self-isolating, lock down time).


I absolutely love Audible because of how easily accessible it is. I have also noticed there are certain literature and certain times when Audible works better, say perhaps with a motivational self-help book, or play, or biography or books of a scientific or historic nature. Of course everyone has their own ways of perceiving so these suggestions may not work for you. On a normal, non-coronavirus day, it’s handy for when one is travelling, or when one is busy, getting ready for work, or unwinding, and even perhaps whilst cooking. It’s also company for those who are alone, or wish for alone time. I, personally, listen to Audible at times when I am cooking, getting ready for work, having dinner alone and sometimes in bed before sleeping. And of course, it goes without saying that it’s most comforting and useful if you are visually impaired, or too tired or ill to pick up a book and use what little energy you have left to read. In these cases too, when I suffered from chronic fatigue, Audible was my best friend. 



 Now, let me tell you a bit about my present Coronavirus lockdown situation. I was in between homes, staying with a friend until I find my new place. Once the virus became an epidemic, and before it was any where near a lock down, I decided to go stay with my mother and daughter for a couple of weeks. Those weeks are now probably going to turn into months, and whilst quickly packing for my short stay at my mom’s, reading wasn’t top of my list. Therefore, I brought two books with me, one nearly finished, and the other a new but easy read. I said to myself that if those books finished, I’d get onto my Audible and finally finish what I have already started there.

Presently, I’m 40 pages away from finishing one book, and finished the other. The idea of ordering books somehow feels indulgent at a time when we are all globally finding it hard to even have our basic needs of food and toilet paper and Sanitisers met!

That, plus the fact that I’d like to complete anything I have half done, makes it the perfect time for me to restart my audible subscription. Yes, you can stop audible any time, and keep all you already have as long as you go back to subscribing within 3 months. 

So, what do I have yet to finish? And what have been my top Audible books so far?
Well, I just had a look and there’s a lot I’ve yet to listen to, and I am looking forward to hearing the following below, to name a few, after I finish ‘The Dissolution of Czechoslovakia’ by Charles R Editors first! (What can I say, I want to know more about the history of Czechia!). 

To start listening to:

1. The Beekeeper of Aleppo - Christy Lefteri
2. A Watermelon, a Fish, and a Bible - Christy Lefteri
3. The Audible Theatre Collection - Chekhov - Anton Chekhov
4. Crush it like Cleopatra - Sera Baker

And so far, amongst others, Below are the books I’ve most enjoyed:

1. Broken Glass - Arthur Miller 
It was so refreshing to listen to an amazing playwright’s play, with theatre actors. Nothing like it, in my opinion! Listened in one sitting of course. 

2. The Life & Times of Jean-Paul Sartre - Gary Cox
I found this book covered soooo much of Sartre’s life, from beginning to end, his personality, philosophies, relationships and what was going on in the world at the time. A real eye opener to Sartre and all that he did. Made me want to know more about certain philosophies, certain questions and also, about Simone de Beauvoir.

3. And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hussein 
I would only listen to this in bed, as my bedtime story. Enveloped in a fable style, beautiful and evocative. Wonderful to hear Khaled Hussein read himself, and just when I though it couldn’t get better, came along Shoreh Aghdashloo’s voice. What a voice! I found myself looking forward to the story, sometimes, just so I could hear her voice! 

4. Promise me, dad - Joe Biden 
I always wanted to know more about Joe Biden, and so, I did. The book had me in tears at times and also gave me a little glimpse of American politics and relations for that time. 

Do you have Audible? If so, what do you love about Audible and what have been your favourite books so far? And if you don’t have Audible, would you want to give it a try? Do let me know in the comments!









*This post is affiliated



My Desert Island Discs!

How can one narrow down favourite songs to just 8!? I can't, but for the sake of the reader, here are 8 out of many that have made an impact on my life.

1. Parisienne Walkways - Gary Moore & Phil Lynott. I was a child when I first heard this song. Being the little sister to my rock obsessed older brother, I heard a lot of heavy metal & rock music in our shared bedroom. Everything from Iron Maiden to AC/DC to Black Sabbath, to softer American rock such as ZZ Top and Toto.

Parisienne Walkways was my first experience of hearing electric guitar amidst a soft tune and sentimental lyrics. I found myself totally in awe of how long Gary Moore held that guitar solo! And of course, the romantic in me fell in love with Phil Lynott's voice. Parisienne Walkways covers so much; bohemia, an all encompassing nostalgia, and lost love. Until this day, more so when I have had a few drinks, you will find me singing along to this song and even holding the sustained note in the guitar solo (very badly) with my vocals. It’s quite the sight & sound!

2. When Doves Cry - Prince. Prince was my favourite artist for decades and this song was the first of many favourites to follow. As a young teen, I saw a man, unconventional and unafraid, with endless energy. As I got older, I saw raw emotion, sexuality and a complete musical genius. For a period, P-funk was my favourite genre and Prince's influence showed me the likes of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Prince was also a fabulous producer and I will never forget his first introduction to the lovely Sheila -E. 
I love the anticipation you feel throughout the intro of When Doves Cry, making you want to hear what comes next. It is story telling and expression at its best!




3. All I want by Joni Mitchell.  I heard Joni Mitchell's Blue album at a boyfriend's. My then boyfriend had to go out for a few hours and I found myself listening to this one song on repeat, swirling around and around mesmerised by her yearnful voice. A wonderful songwriter, lyricist and watching the way she strums her guitar so effortlessly is pure perfection and makes me fall in love with her all over again. Joni Mitchell IS music. All I want holds nothing back, The song is truth and complete vulnerability. 

4. Miss Otis Regrets - Ella Fitzgerald. Nightingales alone could compete with Ella’s voice! And no other singer beats Ella's version of this yet another sophisticated Cole Porter song. Ella captures the regret and pain and despair oh so well. Another song I end up singing along with in the wee hours of the morning (Sinatra reference unintended).

5. Nostalgia - Carlos Gardel.  Watching Jack Lemmon dance the American tango as Daphne in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, was the closest I got to any kind of tango, until one bored evening I saw an ad: ‘Argentinian Tango lessons, no need to bring a partner’. After trying to figure out a few steps in that first lesson, my tango teacher took my hand and said, 'just close your eyes and follow me', and he then took me to places in my mind I didn’t think were possible to visit via a dance. As with most who dance it, I got hooked and found myself going to milongas day and night.
Some describe the dance as making love standing up, but it goes deeper than the physical. The beauty and depth of the music is the perfect marriage to the dance, bringing out the sensual and evocative and pure nostalgia.

The music of Nostalgia takes you back to a smoky, dark, lonely salon, with poetic, lonely people, all wanting to be accepted, longing to be embraced, to be loved, to be made love to. But then the tango takes over and all they want is to dance and dance and dance again. The lyrics of Nostalgia are about a life and a love lost. It is the epitome of the core of tango where the lyrics are deeply sad, and the dance addictive.

6. Shiver Me Timber - Bette Midler's live version. For me the mystery of the sea has always been a fascination. I believe it's in my genes. My father and his father and his father before him, were in shipping and they all shared the same middle name, as I do, which means 'from shipping'. My love for the sea and all its mysteries and voyages need a whole blog post of their own. But for now, to say that Bette Midler's voice here is so full of emotion. As I listen, I feel I am floating in the sea, in the dark, with perhaps a dimmed light from a lighthouse far, far away, slowly getting lost at sea..., to the sea... 

7. In Dreams - Roy Orbison.  This song has always brought magic, but after my father passed away, the song took a different magical meaning for me. I would listen to it on repeat all night, through the night, hoping my dad would show up in my dreams. . and he would. This song brings me love and solace and the musical arrangement is fabulous.



8. Mamma - Claudio Villa. This song has been sung by many greats such as the beautiful Andrea Bocellli and the great Pavarotti to name a few. But for me, Claudio Villa’s version resonates the most. Sung in the 40s, has subtle Carlo Buti vibes in places. And although Villa was from Rome, the song makes me think of an old Naples.

I didn’t know who Claudio Villa was when I first heard this song on an old tape. None of my young Italian friends knew so I ended up taking my Walkman to Italian delis and asking the older staff who this singer was. It took a few tries and finally, I found my mystery singer’s name. My love for Italy probably started from this song.


So that’s my 8! I realise there aren’t any current songs on this list, perhaps I can save that for another blog post! 

Amazon are offering new subscribers a 90 day free trial for Amazon Music HD (and ultra HD). Which means a sound that is as close to the original recording as the artist intended. But hurry, offer ends 6th March!


And if you do subscribe be sure to listen to Parisienne Walkways! ;)

What song has left an impact on you?
I’d love to know!
Raha x



Affiliated.

Belsize Park, London NW3, UK

Thornton’s Budgens Plastic Free-Zone Supermarket


Thornton’s Budgens has been in Belsize Park since my childhood, and along the decades has made so many changes. .
In the last decade or more, Budgens became more environmentally conscious and very much about helping the community and now, well, actually, since 2018, this ideal expanded towards our entire planet and not just one local community.

In 2018,  Budgens  became the second supermarket in the world to have specific plastic free zones. I personally try to buy minimum plastic and to actually be able to go somewhere and pour your own juice or vinegar or oil or milk into a glass bottle and then buy it, is just so refreshing and genius. The question is why don’t other supermarkets do the same?

I suppose a lot has to do with cost. A cucumber, for example, lasts just that bit longer covered in plastic. This should no longer be an argument though, as our planet is in crisis.

The good news is there are more and more stores around the world going in this direction so here’s hoping plastic free zones can be the norm rather than a minority.






Budgens has so many plastic free zones- too many to put in pictures! But they include, cereals, coffee, pick’n’mix, nuts, pastas, olives,  vinegars, and oils to name a few!











 What’s really refreshing is how the plastic free zone doesn’t just end on foods. *Side note to the store manager-  if I were them, I’d put an actual label on the cleaning liquid glass keg; at first glance I thought it was water! Apart from that worrying second, this is just genius! So simple, yet so effective. 


Even washing powder!



Plus, the supermarket make such an effort to ensure a lot of their products are biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable packaging! 








 Bravo Thornton’s Budgens in Belsize Park! I really hope more and more supermarkets follow suit!

Raha xx

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