Saturday, 5 December 2009

omar khayyam

I've recently finished working on a documentary about Omar Khayyam who was an 11th Century Persian polymath - mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, physician and poet.
His most famous poems are compiled in the Rubaiyat and are still loved today for their timelessness and have been quoted in speeches by Martin Luther King and Clinton.

They are great fairytales and here are some of my favourite illustrations from it by Dulac, Vedder and others...

(This one is actually the Princess and the Pea, not the Rubaiyat, but I love the colours and draftsmanship)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

autumn trees

Friday, 20 November 2009

Apologies for being slack... I will be updating soon!

I'm also starting a 2nd blog on all my travels, mostly photography -

Saturday, 5 September 2009


This is a really old painting I did in my first few weeks at art school, many moons ago. I really like it though. Painting was a pretty new discipline for me and I did it from a black and white photo of Bertrand Russell, fairly quickly and spontaneously.

It's so long since I've done any painting or drawing. I really want to get back into it, but it takes committment and I know I would have to do at least 10-15 crap drawings before I got a decent one I didn't hate - and I'm too much of a perfectionist and too impatient to go through that process.

Maybe when I have babies, I will spend my afternoons painting and drawing again, that would be really nice.

This is a life drawing I did a few years back as well. Rubbish resolution but you get the idea. Again it came out quite spontaneously without me thinking about it too much. I love when it happens like that.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Inspiration for my new flat...

Friday, 21 August 2009

hiroshima mon amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour was another film I studied in my French Cinema course as part of my degree in French.

Parts of it annoy me (like the woman's voice and her repetition of Nevers) but I straightaway recognised its significance, both culturally and cinematically.
Despite finding a few bits teeth-gnawing, it is undoubtedly an amazingly powerful and beautiful film.

This film from 1959 by aclaimed director, Alain Resnais, and screenwritten by Marguerite Dumas (who wrote L'amant - one of my favourite films) looks at the relationship between a French woman and a Japanese man and was one of the first films to use flashbacks as a story-telling tool.

Elle (she) plays an actress playing a nurse in post-war Hiroshima. She meets a Japanse architect, Lui (him), and both separated from their spouses they become lovers.

The early part of the film recounts the effects of the Hiroshima bomb, in particular, the loss of hair and anonymity of the remains of some of the victims. The film does this in a documentary style and the keeps the narrators unidentified.

The flashbacks are intercut with the lovers story in the present day, which takes place in hotels and restaurants in Hiroshima. Elle starts to tell, for the first time, her experiences during World War II in Nevers, France, where she was involved with a German soldier during the occupation.

Like many other women who associated with the enemy, she was made to suffer the humiliation of having her head shaven in public. By the time she left for Paris, and then Japan, her hair had regrown and her anonymity regained. Lui wants her to stay with him but she won't.

The film was a co-pro and it was stipulated by both Japanese and French production companies that one character must be French and one must be Japanese and that it should be shot in both countries.

Jean-Luc Godard called it the first film without any cinematic references. It's also been called the most important war film ever made.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

le mepris

Le Mepris (Contempt) is a fantastic film from 1960 directed by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Brigitte Bardot.

I read the book and studied the film at University a few moons ago now.

Apart from being amazingly cool to look at, it has many depths and parallels with both real life and Homer's Odyssey, as well as the process of filmmaking itself. A must see.

American film producer (Paul) hires respected Austrian director Fritz Lang (played by himself) to direct a film adaptation of Homer's Odyssey. But he soon becomes disillusioned with Lang's treatment of it as an art film and hires a novelist/playwright to re-work the script.

The conflict between artistic expression and commerical gain parallels Paul's sudden estrangement from his wife (Camille - Bardot) following time she spends with a playboy millionaire.

Godard's film mirrors both the book its based on by Italian writer, Alberto Moravia and his own real life - to the relationship with his own wife (Anna Karina) and his film distributor. The 3 main characters also resemble Odysseus, Penelope and Poseidon.

musical tree

Saturday, 8 August 2009

sometimes I feel lonely, but that's okay

I have an etching on my wall by Tracey Emin. I bought it for £250 after my first really serious boyfriend left me when I was 21. It’s of a little bird on a branch and at the bottom it says ‘Sometimes I feel lonely, but that’s okay.’
I never care what people think about me.
Yeah right! Of course I do really, everyone does right? Or let’s rephrase that – it’s when you care what everyone thinks about you that you’re in trouble. Most people care what the people they care about, think. And that’s totally understandable.
I’m at home alone on a Saturday night – oh god, what will people think? I should be out partying, surely that’s what EVERYONE else my age is doing tonight? Then one day I realised something. It’s OKAY if I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing or what I think I should be doing. I’m much happier when I’m doing my own thing.
The happiest, quirkiest people I know often do their own thing, odd things, which is sometimes nothing, or not the thing they should be doing. See what I’m saying?
It took me a long time to get to this realisation, I’ve put a lot of work into learning to respect and like myself but sometimes I still forget it.
Oh god this blog is bloody boring and self-absorbed.
Ok what now? Well, I want to tell you something I find very difficult to admit or say out loud.
The thing is, what I really want to tell you is – that I’ve never felt that I have many friends or that they are REALLY there for me if ever I need them to be. I’ve always been someone who has formed strong friendships with individuals, and never really had a big group of friends who I can hang out with. That’s what I would like/need. The few close friends I have all have groups of friends who I’m not part of so I always end up being the friend they go out to dinner with or have round for dinner. Going round and round the M25 looking for the right exit and ending up at the end of a long traffic jam. Added to that, most of my few close friends have moved abroad/got married and had babies.
Living in a big city like London, I guess it takes a big effort to keep up a social life.
There was an article in The Times a couple of years ago which focused on a couple of late 20 year olds who both said that unless they had made a big effort to arrange to see friends at least a week in advance they could easily spend a whole weekend at home alone, not talking to anyone. How awful is that? Is that what modern life in the city is really like now? If I die, how long until someone notices? I reckon it would be at least a week for me.
Sometimes I just need to adjust my hermit crab/social butterfly settings – a bit of socialising and then it’s back to the hermit crab. I’ll arrange something tomorrow for next week. Everyone’s probably busy though.
So, I am at home again on a Saturday night, watching CSI, tweeting and blogging. And then someone posts this link on Twitter and suddenly it all seems okay again.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

you have been warned

Friday, 19 June 2009

please come home

This was posted on the entrance to a tube station in London yesterday.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

pretty bedroom things

Saturday, 4 April 2009

aids in botswana and namibia

I had checked the map in the hotel room before we left, so I was adamant that we were on the right route, even when the tarmac abruptly morphed into the familiar dirt track of the last couple of weeks.

An hour later we were still on the same monotonous straight road. We had come across only one other vehicle and the road seemed endless, the landscape unchanged for almost 100 kilometres. Eventually we came to an agricultural checkpoint (foot and mouth disease controlled zone) where the guard, and then confirmation on a second look at the map, told us we were headed in the wrong direction – not northwest to Maun but northeast towards the border with Zimbabwe.

Botswana may be larger than France but, as the map clearly illustrates, you can count the number of roads on both hands, and the tarmac-ked ones almost on one hand. It still manages to amaze me that in a country this size, Botswana has a population of less than two million. It is so sparse that petrol stations (there are only about a dozen in the whole country, meaning that every car journey has to be carefully planned accordingly) and notable Baobab trees are marked on national maps.

For the most part you won’t find here the parched earth and huddles of starving Africans clich├ęs of Africa. But the contradictions are many and do not sit easy.

Botswana is one of the most politically stable African nations. The diamond finds of 1967 turned it into a success story and one of the most economically stable countries in Africa almost overnight. Since independence in 1996, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. After mining, tourism is Botswana’s biggest source of income. The stunning Okavango delta in the north provides some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities on the continent.

Despite all of its assets, Botswana has only recently been overtaken by Swaziland as having the highest AIDS population in the world. Life expectancy is currently at 33 and expected to fall to 27 by the year 2010. Approximately 70% of Botswana is desert and despite the statistics, the majority of the population live in isolation, farming the poor soil.

Across the border in Namibia, the contradictions are greater still. The first thing ones notices after Botswana is the infrastructure. Roads are comparatively abundant, in the most part, tarmacked and in good condition.

An ex-German colony, Namibia plays its cards right; tourism is huge. Cafes, boutique shops selling African curios, fast-food restaurants and pristine shopping malls and state-of-the-art private hospitals service most towns. But it doesn’t take long to scrape beneath the surface and discover an altogether different side.

My boyfriend and I had notched up an impressive 5,000 kilometres on our one way Honda Civic rental, from Johannesburg, through Botswana to the glitzy tourist seaside town of Swakopmund; and before we returned it we decided it deserved, or perhaps needed, a quick once over at the local garage.

Dave, a South African, had been in Namibia for nearly 13 years where he ran a successful car mechanics business. On the desk in his office sat the obligatory framed photos of the wife and kids, and another of the family cat. As the payment was being negotiated my attention was drawn to the photograph on the wall, the only other image in the room.                  

Taken in 2001 it showed Dave with about 12 other colleagues. Going through each, Dave explained how he and the only other white man in the photo was HIV free; and out of the remaining, all black, one had AIDS and all the others were dead. All had died from AIDS. 

Currently the World Health Organisation estimates one on seven Namibians are infected with AIDS with the number of those infected with the HIV virus feared to be a lot higher. In Botswana the figure is one in six. Dave had an even bleaker take on the situation, and it’s not surprising when he has had to completely replace his workforce over the last few years.

What soon became clear talking to Dave, and others we met on our travels, is that the African psyche still has a long way to go in addressing AIDS. Take Jacob Zuma for example, South Africa’s leading contender in the next presidential elections who is it openly known thinks a shower after unprotected sex will protect you from the virus.

According to Dave the statistics will get worse before they get better. Namibia’s and Botswana’s proximity to and history with South Africa means that many of the ideologies at the height of the apartheid rubbed off on their neighbours. Possibly as a result, one of the battles in beating AIDS has long been said that Blacks see pressure from the West as a way of ‘controlling and minimising the Black population.’ Death certificates rarely state AIDS as the cause of death, liver failure, pneumonia, anything but the underlying cause.

 Another problem, which had never occurred to me, is tourists contracting HIV and taking it back home to the West. The next day we returned our car and headed to the beach. A beautiful, toned and trendy local guy who had obviously got it on with one of them the night before joined two English girls sunbathing nearby. According to statistics, he was likely to be infected. I couldn’t help staring at them, wondering. Had this girl slept with him? Had they used protection? Did she know of the risks? 

For all its assets and status as two of Africa’s richest nations; both Namibia and Botswana still have mountains to cross in defeating AIDS, maintaining their position on the African stage and competing on the world one. In the growing economic depression, I fear for the future of these two beautiful countries.






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