Life’s Changing Perspective

Yesterday afternoon I was browsing wordpress and I saw the discover challenge  to post about perspective. Coincidently earlier that morning I took a photo of two work men from an unusual top down perspective as they sat on a truck cab.

However the visual perspective wasn’t what made me connect this with the wordpress challenge. But rather the image reminded me of my childhood. For a time my dad drove his own scrap metal truck similar to that in the picture.

I remember in those days I looked up in wonder at the big world; where even the simplest things seemed larger than life:

  • One of my dad’s friends could eat a packet of crisps in one handful!
  • An old farm we passed might reveal a collection of cool old cars
  • The world was huge by my dad seemed so strong and my mum so kind, nothing bad could ever happen.

Twenty seven years later; after study, work, travel and the countless interactions with people from all walks of life, my perspective has changed so much that the younger version of myself could never have imagined where I would be, what I would be thinking about or perhaps more interestingly how I would think.

All the things that happen as we grow up give us so much knowledge, and so much understanding. Our perspective can’t help but drastically change.

Is a potential price of this a loss of wonder?

New knowledge and experiences can help retain a sense of wonder in life. One thing that I try to do is occasionaly think outside the box. I might read a new type of magazine/book, visit a new place, learn a new sport/art/other skill.

As we grow and learnand our perspective changes we also run the risk of narrowing our viewpoint.

That may come down to the way we operate. If we have a bad experience with a certain type of food, people, place we form a negative viewpoint. Sometimes we need to be conscious of this and force ourselves to revisit our perceptions  to check if they are accurate.

The discover challenge on perspective reminds me to look for wonder. It also reminds me to check my negative opinions.

Now, time to go and have some fun with the big world!

Christmas in London

Too busy to write. Just over 4 weeks ago I started a new contract. Despite quite a bit of experience I still feel nervous at a new client. That’s my excuse for not posting on my blog.

But I want to write. I want to post. I miss it.

I hadn’t taken any photos in 4/5 weeks. I was starting to feel as though losing myself. I finally woke up and took my camera out on Saturday, the thought in mind; get some Christmassy photos:

london-6482

london-6438

It was such a long time between my last and current client that I had to sell my Nikon D750 and now back to using my Nikon D3100, it’s good, but I really feel the lack of low light capability (w/out flash).

In other news; I am in a fight with consistency these days.

My mind is full of good thoughts and ideas; be happy in the present moment, learn/improve yoga / tai chi / gong fu / pilates, treat people kindly, be confident, express myself, eat well, live w/out too much ego, read a lot.

But despite my intentions, on a day to day basis, I forget, and I am lacking the will power and minute by minute presence to go in the right direction.

Lately I succumbed to drinking too many beers; eating chocolate, chain watching TV, being a little moody and not exercising regularly.

I feel kind of embarrassed. And frustrated; I know that every time I miss the mark, I weaken my resolve for the future. Days are passing by and I am not actively living the way I want to moment to moment.

I have a couple of nice Christmas photos from last year taken at Holborn in London:

london-0543

london-0555

Can you tell that these two photos were taken with a more expensive camera? The lens is the same and I develop / process my photos in more or less the same way.

What are you planing for Christmas?

I was originally planning to visit Edinburgh for a few days. Then drive to  see my mum on Christmas day. But now I can’t visit. Or at least I thought I couldn’t and cancelled my reservations. Instead I was thinking about a trip to Germany or Austria for a few days. Or should I just stay here and save money. I still need to pay off some credit card bills following my long period w/out client work.

2015 has been a strange year. It started out with the worst flu ever; which I aggravated by taking a 3-changeover flight from Scotland to Hong Kong. Then I had some adventures for a few months; but that was followed by a bad decision about a girl and then a super difficult time finding a client.

I’m unsure about 2016, but I think I need to be more structured and brave in committing to things. This year I missed a lot of opportunities through indecisiveness. It was a little strange as it’s the first time in my life I found myself struggling to make decisions. It was almost paralysis.

I realise now how important it is to be brave; take a leap of faith and take risks.

Moganshan 50 Shanghai (M50)

I had a dream-like three weeks in shanghai earlier this year. I want to introduce you to m50; the contemperary art district.

Shanghai itself is a bit of an enigma, it’s China of course; but also very much it’s own place. The history is fascinating and provides background perspective on the modern day relationship between east and west. Shanghai also has it’s own dialect and other Chinese people may consider the Shanghainese as overly proud.

It’s a city of old and new, a city of hope, and also a city of hope lost. There is division of rich and poor that reminded me of my time in Russia years before. In big Chinese cities there is a context of rich people becoming super rich on massive growth vs. poor people arriving in the cities with nothing but hope. But there is a sense that anything can happen, although perhaps only to the lucky or entreprenuerial few.

When I was there I stayed in a traditional lilong / longdang apartment for two weeks and a more modern apartment in the french concession for one week. I like to avoid hotels or restaurants with other foreigners and stay local and eat local.

When I was in Shanghai I read the excellent five star billionaire by tash aw; which further lost me in the feeling of the city. I can’t recommend enough reading novels set in a place you are visiting.

There is so much to say about Shanghai, but I want to talk about Moganshan 50 in this post. It’s abbrievated as m50 and is the site of a former mill that is now a contemperary art district. It was perhaps my favourite place to visit.

The mill has been converted into a lot of individual galleries (over a hundred?). The art varies from traditional oil paintings to fairly ‘out there’ stuff. In addition to the galleries there are working art studios; you can see some artists at work. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph any of the art itself.

When I was there I really wanted to buy some artwork; I had my eye on a few peices, but I just couldn’t afford it.

One of the best things about m50 is the aged industrial architecture, which I always thinks goes so well with art; particularly contemporary. This is why I like Tate Modern in London, the turbine hall is breathtaking; even if a lot of the art misses the mark to my taste.

There is also an excellent cafe at m50 – with wonton in soup to die for, not the main cafe at the entrance, just nearby at the side. It’s also an art bookstore.

If you visit Shanghai please be sure to go and have a look around m50.

Tower Bridge

london-5194

Stately stone towers,
Stand over the Thames river,
Watching years go bye.

An iconic sight,
That sighs when misguided types,
Say “it’s London Bridge”.

Remember ’Tower’;
London’s majestic lady,
And favourite Bridge.

london-5143

london-5211

london-5151

london-5168


Tower bridge; often mistaken for London bridge, is one of the most popular sights of London. The bridge itself is extremely central just south of the city and right next to the Tower of London; from which it takes it’s name.

Standing on the south side you can see the shiny modern glass buildings of the city through the bridge; what a contrast.

When you get up close you can also see the beautiful detail of the stone and metalwork.

I included a few haiku that I wrote. I was trying to think of a good metaphor or simile for the bridge, but I couldn’t come up with anything concrete.

When I think of the bridge, I think of it being over 120 years old, and I think of how it must feel watching all these modern glass buildings grow around it. At one point it would have been the tallest thing in the area, but now it’s dwarfed by behemoths like the shard.

And most days it’s constantly photographed by tourists, I suspect the bridge is ‘bemused’ with modern life.

Tokyo Rail

Clean, shiny steel and birdsong soft and sweet. A place full of people, some fast asleep, where could I be?

The Tokyo metro, or one of the Japan Rail (JR) lines in the city. Rail is something of a cultural passion in Japan. It’s a huge part of day to day life in Tokyo; the most convenient way to travel around the huge city.

A microcosm of Japanese values it’s impeccably well managed. Almost always on time and masterfully maintained.

Perhaps the most famous image of Tokyo’s hectic rush hour is the attendants shoving and squeezing people onto already packed trains. Faces can be seen seen squashed against windows and doors. It does happen, but I never take part; I tend to wait out the rush hour in a cafe.

It’s quite a different story in the UK; when our aging underground stations become overcrowded the station attendants will temporary close entry.

A reflection of a prioritisation of efficiency over comfort in Japanese culture. As a Japanese friend commented, “it is very important get to work on time in Japan”.

Other thoughts of Tokyo rail; complex rail maps, female only carriages, cleanliness and modern technology. And less well known; beautiful visual design and ever helpful staff.

An example; the Japan Rail map of Tokyo and the surrounding area at the station in Shibuya – complex and beautiful.

Note the look and feel of the ticket machines. It’s modern, but yet retro. A metallic feel with plenty of prominent buttons and slots. They say to me, “I am proud to be ticket machines”, they don’t attempt streamline themselves into the human world.

It’s not only the ticket machines that feel metallic, trains are finished in polished metal; always very clean. It’s especially noticable at one of Tokyo’s many railway crossings. When you wait on trains to pass you can see the trains are clean from the ground up.

Why so clean? – Japanese people take a lot of pride in their work. I think this is in part the healthy desire to do a good job. And in part it’s the story of a society with strongly enforced cultural values.

Take for example the Japanese word, “Ganbatte” (がんばって) which means roughly “do your best”. You hear this a lot in Japan. For example if someone is preparing for an exam, has an interview, is entering a competition you might say “Ganbatte”. It’s telling in English that we don’t have a word like this and you rarely hear people say “do your best”. When I think about it, we would use, “good luck”. Do we subconsciouly place emphasis on luck vs. hard work? I heard it said that your true nation is your language.

Let’s be frank, trains in UK are disgustingly dirty, if you are on the london underground just touch the outside with a finger – it’ll come away black.

They play birdsong in some of the stations in Tokyo. On one trip I regularly used the Toei Oedo line. I would always enjoy listening to the birdsong in the background. I don’t think I consciously noticed it at first, but at some point I realised it contributed to a joyful and relaxed feeling.

A friend tells me it’s used as a warning sound for blind people. Regardless of the true purpose it has a calming effect.

It reminds me that concrete cities and high technology are not our natural environment. Perhaps we suffer from a build up of background stress from our surroundings. These small touches can bring some peace and make life a little more comfortable.

When trains arrive or depart in Japan you get jingles, tunes and tones. It makes you aware but doesn’t cause any panic or stress. In the UK we get alarms and buzzers. It makes me feel tired.

Have you ever hear of ‘cotton wool Britian’ – we have a love affair with health and safety. Visual and audio warnings are everywhere. Do they reduce accidents – I don’t know, but they certainly contribute to a feeling of constant threat.

Even though Tokyo is a huge modern city packed with people and technology, I feel like it caters to the human need for comfort and relaxation better than many others.

Perhaps the most popular rail line; the Yamanote line. It’s the circular route that you can see in the centre of the rail map. It stops at many famous places. The green colours of the Yamanote trains and the little touches of green on the clocks, ticket machines etc. make a beautiful theme.

Tokyo is a city full of amazing vibrant colours, which really pop in photography.

The Yamanote line is a case in diversity. The stations it stops at include everything from traditional temples to electronic and business districts. A wide variety of people can be found on the platforms and trains; tourists, salary men/lady, school pupils, fashionistas and even Elvis style rockers.

What a strange city. In some ways it could be considered monocultural as Japan still remains relatively closed to foreigners. But within it’s Japanese culture there is a large diversity. Perhaps driven from the need to be different.

I expected Japanese commuters to play Nintendo or Sony or be glued to their mobile phone, but it’s not completely the case. A big surprise was the popularity of books. Tokyo has big bookstores in all the main areas. And even has some cool concept stores such as the Tsutaya at the fashionable Daikanyama.

I started to realise how important literature and poetry is in Japan. I recently discovered one of the most famous concise forms of poetry ‘haiku’ comes from Japan. And only yesterday while finishing the very good book, “strange weather over tokyo” I discovered the following poem:


In loneliness I have drifted this long way, alone.
My torn and shabby robe could not keep out the cold.
And tonight the sky was so clear
it made my heart ache all the more.
– Seihaku Irako

A little of topic, but worth sharing. So a lot’s of people read on the trains. Japan has a slightly smaller format for novels. They look really cute and easily go in your pocket.

Japan is obsessed with cuteness – a topic close to my heart.

Coming into or exiting a station in Tokyo is generally a pleasure. The stations are super clear, they always seem to be staffed by helpful attendants and every station I have been to has a clean toilet! Just the thing when late night asahi and sake are common features.

You can’t escape from the rail in Tokyo, everywhere you look it’s their to see.

Life in Japan can be difficult with long working hours. It’s important the trains are clean and on time. One thing that will amaze any visitor is how quickly and easily japanese people can fall asleep on the train. If you fall asleep on a train here in the UK it’s likely someone is going to steal all your stuff.

Tokyo is very safe. Theft is virtually non existent. You can leave your bicycle unlocked at the park entrances, you can leave you Macbook, phone and wallet unattended in a coffee shop.

The only complaint I have to say is when I’m stranded after 1am, then it’s time to find a late night club, a 24hr restaurant or a manga cafe and wait it out with all the other partiers for the 1st train the next day.

But that’s a small complaint.

A Portrait By Love & Sadness – Writing 201 ‘Found Poem’

A story of time,
As seasons pass,
Of dream-like
Love;
A teacher of heartbreak, which breaks hearts, and
Sadness;
Distance from intimacy and intimacy with distance,
With subtlety time paints,
Portraits,

 


I wrote this for wordpress bloggingU writing 201 poetry course day 6. The challenge today was to write a poem based on the prompt word ‘face’, using ‘found poetry’ and including ‘chiasmus’

I decided to use the back cover of a book I am reading right now; strange weather in tokyo, by hiromi kawakami, translated by allison markin powell.

The book itself is beautifully written and reads like poetry to me so far.

It was quite challenging using a restricted set of words. I decided to go with the theme of our portraits showing our experiences in life; think laughter lines, worry lines etc. And I included the idea of love and sadness which I think affect how we look.

The chiasmus were fun to think about, I am not sure how well they work. The first one heartbreak and breaks hearts. The idea being that if we are hurt and have our heart broken we may find it harder to love in future and hence cause heart break in return; not sure if the prose is strong enough to get this across. The distance / intimicy one, I simply fell into having wanted to balance having one for love with one for sadness.

Edit: after the original posting I had to remove ‘by, how and our’ which weren’t on the back cover; i only noticed when adding the second picture.

Limericks about Tam and Cookie (Writing 201 day 4)

cookie

there was a cookie, gold like
the morning sun, with choc chips dark as
midnight comes, so crumbly to see
it’s comforting to me
But wait! – 500 calories, that’s just no fun.


tam

there was a man named tam
who loved a bit of a dram
unlucky for him
life can be grim
his wife was not a fan


BloggingU – writing 201 day 4. Today the prompt word was ‘imperfect’, the form ‘limerick‘ and the device ‘enjambment‘.

The first poem ‘cookie’ came from my state of mind today. This week I’m only eating porridge at breakfast and korean food at night (kimchi, rice, vegetables etc). I like to do occasional weeks like this to give my digestive system good treatment. The side effect is I am thinking about cookies a lot. And of course the perfect cookie would be made of kale and broccoli but taste as a normal one does.

The second poem I wrote after reading the wikipedia on limericks; which describes the ‘nonsense’ funny style of Edward Lear. I realised limericks are popular for amusing topics between men and women, and while I didn’t go into anything too racey, I thought this was fun. Tam is a very ‘scottish’ name and a ‘dram’ is what we call a whiskey. And it’s quite a traditional stereotype that the man in the family would try to sneak in a dram or too at night; all to the disaproval of the lady; who normally controls the house.

A couple of limericks about the form that made my laugh out loud
There was a young man of Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When asked why this was,
He replied “It’s because
I always try to fit as many syllables into the last line as ever I possibly can.
– unknown

There was an old man with a beard,
A funny old man with a beard
He had a big beard
A great big old beard
That amusing old man with a beard.
– comedian john clarke