16 Jan 2015

The Uncontacted vs. The Disconnected

I recently came across a French blog article that left me deeply perturbed. It highlighted in a few words the failings of our so-called modern civilisation in coming to terms with the precept of race equality, tolerance and acceptance of a lifestyle model that has been in place for millennia in harmony with all aspects of the natural world, from land to wildlife, and governed by indigenous cultures who are living models of sustainability, ecology, cohesion, coherence, balance, infinite wisdom and spiritual forte.

Pict source: Survival International

Here is the plea of the indigenous Guarani Tribe in Brazil, whose livelihood and survival have been increasingly severely compromised in their own land, on their home turf, on their ancestors soil. Spoliated by the biofuel industry, displaced, chased away, beaten up, broken down, belittled, condemned to make do on land cast-offs, in improvised ramshackle camps by the roadside, reduced to being treated like aliens on their homeland, as refugees deprived of their livelihood and undergoing other dehumanising treatments in the process like forced labour confining them into poverty, and alcoholism, The Guarani addressed the Brazilian government in one last ditch attempt, telling them that they would rather be killed than give up their lands.

The Guarani's livelihood is under threat, and other indigenous tribes across the globe have been going through the same pattern of habitat and lifestyle destruction, since 'modern' civilisation has started poking their noses into the jungles and cloud forests of remote lands so as to commercially extract and exploit their resources, in other words rape out anything that could be turned into cash. In a case of history repeated, we witness the death of a civilisation via the organised legalised commercial looting of its natural resources and the wreckage and pillage of its natural habitats: extensive logging, mining and monoculture farming activities, road and infrastructure building, new towns sprouting, wildlife trafficking, death threats from ranchers, loggers and farmers, and other nuisances. Pollution and the spread of diseases have made the local populations even more vulnerable.

Pict source: Survival International
What is happening is short of a legalised human and ecological holocaust in support of the modern lifestyle model, the super highways that link up the supersize malls across fields of super GMOs, to end up with the Starbucks Soy Latte we sip on the freshly-laid-out timber decking shipped from the Amazon, with the blood splatters from The Guarani coated in lashings of paint. But if corporate banking and the likes of Rio Tinto and Monsanto only care about the bottom line, why would this make us feel complicit as consumers? Because it should.

The irony is that the upwardly mobile super-connected that we believe to be are disconnected from the harsh reality of the world, especially the losing battles that are raging on in those remote forests that our mainstream media shun and block out like this is not to be cared about as long as the suburbia of America, Europe and China can carry on being supplied in decking and soy lattes.

Pict source: Survival International

Let down as always by the Brazilian government long sold out to Corporate America, 170 members of The Guarani, including 70 children, resorted to suicide. They killed themselves so that Corporate may carry on regardless its consumeristic car-crash down the capitalistic road to nowhere. A chimera!

7 Jan 2015

Freedom of Speech - Forever Charlie Hebdo

Visuals are powerful and impactful means of communication. As pictures, cartoons, illustrations, graphics and other forms of visual expression, they are each conveyors of a thousand words, emotions, actions, messages, ideas, wit, humour, innuendo, controversy, that words fail to express in one instant, one shot, one swoop. A French scandal magazine by the name of Paris Match even made the tagline "Le poids des mots, le choc des photos" (weighty words and shock pictures) its trademark - with an ambiguous play on the word 'weight'. Meanwhile let's just pause for a moment and try to figure out the likes of Life magazine and National Geographic without their image stock. This is simply unfathomable.

The power of the internet has from the start capitalised on the power of images (increasingly at the dispense of words), and social media have harnessed their success based on visuals, a perfect fit to wordless transmission, culture on the go and 'live in the moment' inclination. From the advent of the printing press, satirical magazines like Punch and Le Canard Enchaîné have had a field day with cartoons, building their readership around them. Charlie Hebdo did this too, with its star cartoonists Wolinski, Cabu, Tignous, Honoré, and of course Charlie's chief editor Charb.

Charlie Hebdo (pict source)

Since day one of 1970, Charlie Hebdo has been flirting with controversy. Then again, isn't controversy the one-size-fits-all word used to describe the free-thinking members of society, defenders of Free Speech and Free Press? Charlie Hebdo shot its poison arrows in all directions though, with no affiliation to a political party or faith or creed or line of conduct, just depicting the world around us with a streak of - sometimes acute - sometimes oblique - attitude, objectivity, sarcasm, derision, mostly turning to ridicule anything that took itself too seriously and imperiled freedom at large, democracy as a whole, and republican values. This cost Charlie dearly.

With this obituary cartoon by Charlie to Charlie, La Baguette Magique herein self-proclaims to be one of Charlie's guys ("Je Suis Charlie"). By slaying on this very day 12 people at Charlie's HQ and whereabouts, the terrorist low lives that take themselves way too seriously shot our already ailing Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press but they will not sentence them (us) to silence! Meanwhile the ultra-polished, ultra-sanitised politically-biased media brigade that deliver the news should shut up instead of yet again missing the point with their silly verbiage and pretend affliction.

Charlie Hebdo (02 Nov 2011)
Charlie Hebdo (03 Sept 2013)
Charlie Hebdo (29 Apr 2014)
Charlie Hebdo (16 Sept 2014)

30 Dec 2014

Turning Over a New Leaf

As odd as it may sound, I had meant to publish this post for a good couple of months now. In fact, I had put together some text and prepared the photo for it, but somehow I was too excited to press the 'Publish' button. I was out there, busy with my life. Oh boy, I am so excited that it feels like I'm sprouting flower buds and blooms all over like a Spring renaissance in the heart of Winter, and the 2014 New Year's Resolutions have delivered - exceeded even - the items on the proverbial list!

'Delivered' is an understatement! I started 2014 slightly iffy and am ending it in stellar mode, no boasting! In the process, I shed some old recurring patterns and took ownership of my life. I embarked upon some life coaching. I found myself - the real I - and I found someone extra-special to share the newfound me with!

Unlike most of my peers, I do not use my blogs as a platform to showcase every inch of my personal life. Having said that, I cannot not share some very exciting news! I have met The Man of my Life! We cannot wait to join soon, transatlantically! Yes ladies, he's a dashing American gentleman and an über-cool counter-culture writer. This is all I shall divulge for now.

There is another piece of personal news I wish to share. I have waved Britannia farewell and still cannot remain composed at the thought, two months later, that's how excited I am at the fact that a chapter of my life is now closed for good! In other words, I have managed to sell my house in Manchester, and as a result my last physical link to Britain is no more! Tickle, my little JRT dog is over the moon about it too: he's happier and safer in Corsica than he was in suburban Manchester, wondering if a Mastiff on the loose from the nearby council estate was not going to pounce on him from behind a bush, or the 105 bus run us over as our rain-soaked figures negotiated the puddles at the Hale Top junction... As a post-scriptum, there is no rain like the Manchester rain, over 300 days of it a year on average!

Roll on 2015, it's going to be hot and sunny!

24 Dec 2014

Sugar and Spice... and All Things Nice?

Christmas, bah humbug! Children's and retailers' favourite time of year, where shoppers and sellers unite for a commercial feast that toxically equates love and happiness with expenditure and balance sheets. The time of year where the religious meaning of the celebration and its modern interpretation sit at the antipodes of each other. Yet the air is snappy and slightly intoxicating and it feels like the advocacy of miracles and magic is summoned in the granting of wishes, maybe facilitated by the faerical sparkly silvery golden ambience and the field work of Santa's emissaries deployed high and low.


Christmas, source of inspiration and stress in equal measures. Financial panacea and commercial commodity for businesses, and financial nemesis for the short on cash and the debt-ridden. Nonetheless it's showtime, across the sprawling retail parks, up and down the department stores, at the radiating heart of the cities where La Fée Electrique has electrified man-made canopies of snowflakes, shooting stars, sleighs, Tinkerbells, holly wreaths and spruces in an incongruous mish-mash of folklore reinvention of Christmas, a Christianised pagan feast (be said in passing). And they keep drumming it into us that this time of year is supposed to be festive in the spending, and fun has been engineered by admen and marketeers so that it relates to the purchasing and receiving of gifts, in that fine balancing act that defines conditional caring, and those who refrain from parting with their cash in order to be bought for in return, be despised for they are mean and scrooge! The Three Wise Men surely must be turning in their graves, bless!

Already the run-up to Christmas has seen a rivalry fought tooth and nail between family members, neighbours, co-workers, acquaintances and associates as to who will get the most Christmas cards. Believe me, I witnessed the frenzy when I used to live in England! In that spirit of things, you should expect one from your foe for they expect one in return, and to exceed the number of cards from last year, and may that living room wall be covered in them as a trophy display to visitors. Popularity is measured like it is in social media, in a very elusive, subjective and ultimately meaningless manner, where the quantity of so-called 'friends' has long surpassed the quality factor of the friendship.

Galletas de Encaje
In theory, Christmas Day at the dinner table sees happy get-togethers with the ones we hold dear in our hearts, with any sibling rivalry or in-laws feud forsaken for merryness of spirit and plentiful of fayre. However the blissful family reunion is not de-facto, especially nowadays, what with accent on individualism and the satisfaction of immediate needs, family values have been eroded and what results is a get-together of fragmented family sub-units who find themselves contrived to share a moment for the sake of tradition and in honour of that vague whiff of childhood nostalgia or filmographic reference that presents Christmas as an idealised family gathering brought to its epitome of sugar and spice and fancy free... Meanwhile let's go easy on the sour cream and the Grand Marnier! Soon enough Christmas Day will fade away and so will the brash light bulbs from the man-made canopies across town.

Blood Oranges by Mowielicious

11 Nov 2014

La Der des Ders

One hundred years ago our elders were about to get bogged down in an absurd, relentless, psychological trench war in the soggy mud fields of northeastern France, staying put for weeks on end under undescribable stress, inching their way through, losing those inches, fighting on, turning the trench war underground, 'while a clique of portly generals and high commanders watched from a safe distance, smoking cigars, clinking Cognac glasses and pushing clusters of batallion figurines across a battlefield map that might well have been a chessboard' (cf. Lest We Forget by La Baguette Magique).

Remembrance Poppy, via IWM

Remembrance Day leaves me humbled - and powerless - as a day where words are nothing but mere encumbrances, as they sit pretty on a page and console the writer in some sort of vanity of gratitude while failing to express meaningfully what is in our hearts and souls, and failing to soften the hurt and pain of the fallen who long passed away, and the absurdity of war that the international political and financial establishments inflicted to our young men in a collusion of shame, going as far as ordering the shooting down of soldiers by their fellow regiment comrades in order to 'set an example' to the troops. In France, (at least) 650 soldiers died of the sort.

A generation of soldiers got wiped out by the millions and the war irrevocably sent a ripple effect of loss and destruction far beyond the battlefields into the families and local communities, with the increasingly flimsy hope and belief that WWI was the obligatory evil that would lead to eternal peace on earth, and the history of wartime thus had to culminate into this WWI grand finale as it were to be 'La Der des Ders' (The Last Ever War), thus giving our elders the meagre validation as to their ultimate sacrifice of life and sanity.

'The Cemetery, Etaples' (1919), by Sir John Lavery (1919), via IWM

I was born in the French northern town of Saint-Quentin, Picardie, only a few miles away from The Somme and Chemin des Dames battlefields. My hometown was rased down to the ground during WWI, and both the town and countryside bear to this day a continuous reminder of war, through the myriads of war cemeteries, cratered landscapes, down to the Art Déco architecture that bears legacy to the fact that once stood a building that got wiped out by war.

Each of my great grandads fought the war and I remember Louis, my paternal great grandad, telling our family a few chosen anecdotes from the front, after some convincing. He was private in his thoughts and views and we respected his pauses and silences and restraint and each of his carefully-uttered words. He saw death in the face, he lost comrades, many were kids no older than 20. Louis got impacted by a shell in the nape of neck that left him with a cross-shaped scar, like the protective hand of God. For he survived the war, resumed his life, returned to work in the textile mill, raised two kids with his wife, fed the family on his fruit and vegetable garden, haunted till death by the horror of war. And tragically La Der des Ders never was to be the last ever war...

1 Sep 2014

Happy Five!

La Baguette Magique is 5 years young today, a good excuse for a little sweet tooth celebration! Add sparklers and sparkling wine and dress the birthday table to the nines! Well, who said that September couldn't start off with a bang?!

Sprinkle Bakes' Bubble Gum Frosting Cupcakes with Gelatin Bubbles' could be the talk of the table!
Eh, wait! Sprinkle Bakes is 5 years young too! (pict source)

3 Aug 2014

High Five!

On Monday 1st September, La Baguette Magique will be 5 years young. This is the perfect excuse for a little celebration! Thanks to the magic of Pinterest, I have been able to piece together a few idea mood boards that define the idyllic Baguette Magique birthday party, in terms of the venue set in glorious gardens, serving an inspiring menu with accent on tasty honest fayre made from scratch, and a DJ playlist of swell sounds to boot! Fellow Pinterest friends, just click on the links and pick and choose from my selections! It's party time, so pin away to your heart's content!

'Magic Number 5', Digitized by Erik Marinovich, via Friends Of Type

23 Jul 2014

Rock Your Rocks Off!

These cocktail rings and brooches are not only works of art that stand out for their druzy uniqueness, they have a tale of nature unleashed to tell, with verve and attitude. They encapsulate changing seas, starry skies, moody landscapes and rugged hilltops, and one may be forgiven for losing themselves into their wondrous depths and enchanting highs. By adorning the discerning lady's outfit, those glittery jewellery items will add a touch of panache and sparkle to Summer!

Cluster Amethyst Ring, via Thrifted & Modern
Ethereal Paper Sculpture by Paper Artist Peter Gentenaar
'Birth of The Tree' Brooch by Nikolai Balabin
Lily Moth, Polytela gloriosae, by YogeshSave, via Project Noah
Lime Size Round Faceted Eco Resin Cocktail Ring, by RosellaResin, via Etsy
'New Work Fresh Cosmetics' by Christopher Baker Photography
Exposed Druzy Ring, via Anthropologie (sold out)
'Uniquely Chrysocolla Ring' by Ananda Khalsa, via Sundance Catalog

3 Jul 2014

A Candid Account of Cabin Fever

I live on an island and this gets people curious. A few friends and acquaintances from the mainland asked me what that felt like, and before I could get a word in edgeways, would muse: 'You lucky thing, must be so much fun! Always a beach close by, and the weather's so fine! Every day's a holiday... No stress, no nuthin!' - They're so sweet that I don't even feel like breaking a little taboo to them...

(Via Tumblr)

The last thing I want is spoil the island life cliché because it actually encapsulates some charmful elements of truth: the quality of life that is specific to islands, closeness/ intimacy to nature and a certain cosiness and security brought about by the scaled-down distances. And yes (in my case), the year-round beach holiday feeling. However this is not all pink hearts and fluffy clouds. Unless you were born with a silver spoon or enjoy the financial security brought by acquired wealth, you will still feel the stress engendered by the need to make a living and get creative in a challenging marketplace, with tough economic conditions to boot, exacerbated by the geographical, physical and commercial limitations of the island.

Then to the tough challenge of finding permanent employment, establishing a business model that yields a revenue beyond the tourist season, or finding a sustainable niche, all of those under the auspices of the local close-knit diaspora (a tough one, this one!), you will likely have cabin fever to deal with, a condition that is not readily discussed out in the open, as it might be wrongly perceived by some as a sign of weakness or some mental disorder. Therefore the chic and glamour and dilettante of island living as purported by the likes of Condé Nast Traveller and Coastal Living do not *in reality* come as intrinsic universal island privileges.

Oak Bluffs Cottage, via Remodelista (photography by Julian Wass)

Seasoned residents and born-and-breds have (had) to deal with cabin fever. It has reached the more select corners of the Bahamas, Mustique, Madeira, Capri, Santorini, Mauritius or Tahiti, in fact all of the isles. Cabin fever is part and parcel of island life, and the smaller the isle, the more acute the 'fever' - I find. Cabin fever manifests cyclically, mostly outside the tourist season (personally I experience it around the equinox season, October-November and February-March time), when you find yourself at odds with your surroundings, stuck in isolation, in the tiny villages and resorts, the same ol' town, the same ol' faces, the same ol' stories that do the rounds, the same ol' repeated patterns, the pettiness of it all.

You feel restricted and it gets claustrophobic, the physical cut-off from mainland and the rest of world gets too much. There's a feeling of powerlessness, no escape, cut off from the buzz of 'real life' as portrayed outside the confines, the imposed protectiveness of the island vs. the hustle and bustle of the cities, the vastness of the regions and continents out there. You feel spaced out (as in not in touch with the reality of the world at large), locked in your own little world, like you live on a grain of sand. The energy is trapped on an island, it swishes around and goes round in circles and you may start going round in circles in your head! You are bound to turn introspective, reflective and nostalgic. A certain weariness and boredom set in. Some might experience an impression of hibernation, being kept on hold, waiting/ pining for something good to happen.

(Via Tumblr)

Gala Darling has aired a few times how cut off from the world she felt when living in New Zealand, and from other sources, I understand that cabin fever over there is due to its geographical seclusion from the rest of the world. Interestingly too, a friend from California who spent a few years in NYC told me how claustrophic she felt there, describing it as a world all to itself, 'a self-centred, navel-gazing island cut off from the rest of the US', and with an insular mentality... From there on, let's extrapolate further. How about those intense and exclusive family, friend or love relationships, where any sense of personal freedom is suffocated? Those may bring in the cabin fever. And the pinnacle of cabin fever, at the exact point that bears its stigma, and pushed to the extreme by the creep masters, with Stephen King who turned it into his trademark. Did you ever wonder that in The Shining, writer Jack Torrance (portrayed by Jack Nicholson on film) was suffering from a psychotic form of cabin fever?

But eh, don't let it put you off! There are ways to circumnavigate the pitfalls of cabin fever. First and foremost, the wonders of the digital age mean that nowadays we find ourselves no further than one click away from the buzz of the world. Secondly, if you have time on your hands, it is best to keep busy (especially in the bleaks of winter) and cultivate at least one hobby that you are passionate about and that will take your mind off the daily grind. Get acquainted with self-help techniques like meditation in order to deal with the troughs of energy, and to alleviate symptoms of melancholy. Take regular trips outside your island, go visit friends and relatives. Just don't keep all your eggs in one basket, all your focus on your little isle!

'Kangaroo Island Sailboat', via Coastal Vintage

As your person of choice to discuss all things cabin fever, I am much more than a casual islander. In fact, I am pretty acquainted with island life as a whole, clocking over 20 years of it: Corsica (4 years), British Isles (16 years), Greek islands, Cuba (and the Cayos), and - last but not least - a tourist trip to San Francisco's notorious Alcatraz! I don't recall cabin fever as such when living in the British Isles, despite the British reputation for their insular mentality (and for their economic model to stand halfway between two continents!).

You understand where I've come from for the purpose of this article: although it is not that clear-cut, cabin fever is not strictly confined to the small islands. I will deduct from my observations that cabin fever is a state of mind, irrespective of location. You are likely to experience it in the middle of the Australian outback, on a poxy little dot on the Indian Ocean, in the throbbing heart of the Big Apple or to get up, close and personal with it in 'the comfort of' your own town or village.

If it does get unbearable on the island, it is best to pack up, spread your wings out and fly off to new shores, to feel the contrast and judge for yourself where it is you truly belong in your heart of hearts. Sometimes all you have to do is leave in order to better come back. Maybe you are too close for comfort and all it takes for you is to find your purpose, embark upon a journey of self-discovery, realise what makes you tick, what drives you, and then make it happen. As for I, as much as I know I won't be island-bound for ever, I might as well try to make the most of a beach life while I'm here.

My mum and Tickle (my little doggie) on our way to the local beaches...

28 Jun 2014

Field Day in the Garden

I'm living it up in the garden right now, and more specifically in that little spot at the back of my parents' land, a patch that includes a patio where I organically 'grow things' mostly in pots, a tiny potager next to it where I grow tomatoes and courgettes (zucchini), and an adjacent plot where... things, errm, grow by themselves.

But let's start off with the potted garden... I have resurrected my dear old classic English rose bush (see above) that I brought back from Manchester in 2011 (I flew it back locked in my suitcase!). Admittedly the rose bush has had its ups and downs, having to adapt to Mediterranean temperatures, but this year it has finally rewarded me with a bumper crop of flowers!

Potted hydrangea

Aside from that, I'm looking after my mum's potted hydrangea, lavender and thyme (which we keep for purely decorative purposes). I am experimenting with cuttings (fig tree, myrtus) and seeds (Eriobotrya japonica and lemon), without success so far, except for the baby avocado tree, grown from a stone. I've also set up a miniature potted mint nursery. I've got some succulents too (aeonium) and a couple of paltry cacti from England that oddly enough used to thrive better in the northern climes than closer to the Sahara latitudes, fancy that?

Wispy lavender swaying to a light breeze...
Small and perfectly formed thyme...
Baby avocado tree, grown from a stone...
Arty aeonium!

The wild plants that grow by themselves do so to my folks despair, since to them a wild garden equals uncouth and neglect – oh, and I'm giving up trying to convert them to permaculture! That little patch of wild is - surprise surprise! - my favourite spot in the whole garden, as much for the kid in me revisiting that TV classic from childhood - Little House on the Prairie - everytime I amble across the tall grasses, but also as an opportunity to satisfy the botanist side of my personality and gauge what grows, what might be tamed, and how rich the soil is.

A male Philaeus chrysops (a curious jumping spider, check out his eyes!)
A cricket playing hide-and-seek!
Fibonacci in action!

The soil is dark, crumbly and fertile and teeming up with life forms (worms, tiny snails, ants, arachnids, bugs and creepy-crawlies of all sorts). My parents estate is located in the plains, hardly a mile off the coastline, on former agrarian land enriched by a compost of sorts, naturally made up of sediments deposited by the nearby mountain chain and aggregated with those from the nearby brook, and kept in fairly good ambient humidity levels, heavy morning dew, humidity from the sea rising at night to the back lands, and moisture trapped in the plains.

XXL Zucchini!

Additionally, the underground water reserves are plentiful, as testified by the plethora of stone wells that the elders built during the 19th century and which only dry up in Summer. My parents have salvaged three of those wells in the garden and all of them have been dredged and are in working order. I've had a few pleasant surprises around the wild patch: wild and lush passiflora, the incredibly fragrant garden mint and other aromatics (melissa, aniseed), chard, bird feed (plantago), cornflower, Queen Anne's Lace (a.k.a. wild carrot), rumex, thistles, bramble (sigh!) and more.

Wild and lush passiflora
Wild fragrant mint
Wild chard

All in all, I do find the gardening a pleasurable experience and a stress-buster. Likewise when I lived in Manchester. Getting physical takes my mind off the nitty-gritty. And sometimes I will just sit quietly in the grasses and observe life at work, butterflies, bees, roaches, ants - fascinating! And for me to keep busy around the garden is also an incredible fuel to my creative inspiration! Maybe you should get down and dirty too (if you're not already)?

Those don't drive me potty!

19 Jun 2014

Pain for Gain - An Ode Against Inhumanity

His name was Satao. He was a beautiful tusker, one of those rare elder elephants with the majestic tusks (a genetic trait), his pride and joy - and ironically his ultimate downfall. Satao was a living legend for conservationists, wildlife broadcasters and safari photographers. And a coveted ambling booty for the poachers. In recent years, he had found shelter in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park, and ironically his refuge was unable to grant him the immunity he deserved. Satao used to hide his tusks in the bushes when he sensed danger because he knew poachers were after them.

In the savannah garden of good and evil where nature's equilibrium is a tall order compromised by persistent human interference, greed won the victory and humanity's waning credibility weakened further. Greed, the root of all our evils that feeds the seven-sin matrix, is turning our Eden on Earth into the antechamber of Hell.

Satao (pict source via The Telegraph, photography by Richard Moller/ Tsavo Trust)

I have taken Satao's death very personally, and I think you should too. What crushes me is that Satao was killed by our human counterparts and this is what makes me question my pride as a human being if that means being associated with those who traded their humanity, their innate humane qualities (according to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), for the lower basic needs hierarchy that celebrates instant gratification, fast cash, consumerism and hedonism at all cost, with not much of a care for tomorrow, the consequences and the repercussions. We humans are turning our garden of Eden into a shambles: wastelands, fracked out hills, depleted jungles, displaced indigenous populations, polluted soils, GMO cultures, The Pacific Trash Vortex, all incumbent to our unbridled quest for more that takes our garbage heap to Babylonian heights, except I doubt this would take us one step closer to good, one step closer to God. The Horn of Plenty is now running on empty.

When we gloat about being the superior ones, top-of-the-food-chain masters, maybe we should cut the brag and take it down one notch to the periphery of modesty. Because how can elevated spirits like ours be capable to lower and cheapen themselves, stump rationale and morality, go against their benevolent grain, sell their soul to evil, awaken to sadistic pulsions, trade their honour for the lure of the quick buck and ephemeral satisfaction, go on the rampage to inflict pain and death, on cue, on autopilot.

(By Michael North Imagery)

I look at industrial farming, death on a plate, vivisection labs that practice torture to a 'T', bile farms, foie gras industry, big game trophy hunting, canned meat safaris, zoos, panda breeding programmes, shark culls, BlackFish, Taiji slaughters, Great Barrier Reef dredging and the Faroe Islands cetacean killings - to name a few examples that evidence our doomed interference with the natural world. Where is this Frankenstein nonsense leading us?

The destructive powers of humanity frighten me. They frightened Albert Einstein too when he realised that his participation in the evolution, the advancement of mankind would be turned on its head and used to nuke it instead.

Satao died for his ivory, 45 kgs of it, that will be shipped to the notorious Chinese ivory carving factories licensed by the notorious Zhao Shucong. The majestic elephant's pride and joy will be turned to trinkets. That is all it comes down to.

China, a paradox of a country all to itself, the only communist state to ever enjoy American capitalism to the hilt and to the point where it's taken over most of the US manufacturing marketplace (not to mention Europe's) and has been peddling its cheap wares to us by the container-load. Consumerism has turned cheap and cheerless, our high-turnover fast fashion items that burst at the seams after the first wash.

China has infiltrated African states like Kenya and South Africa with organised crime and corruption ensuring a supply of elephant tusk and rhino horn, sourced from the national parks like Tsavo and Kruger. China has also taken over the mining industry, not only across Africa but also Central and South America. And it seems that depletion is the end word. The West are at risk to be named and shamed as accomplices if their heads of state do not take a firm stance against China's organised destruction of our wildlife and embargo it until it complies.

You have no idea how saddened and angered I am. Behind the scenes, behind the ordained composure of this blog, yours truly is a dedicated animal activist and advocate. Elephant protection has been on my radar since childhood. I have always cultivated respect towards our natural environment and my contribution to its preservation may account for 1/100000th of a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things, but I won't just sit still and look pretty, because ignorance and indifference kill more lives than any form of commitment, no matter how small.

"See the animal in his cage that you built
Are you sure what side you're on?
Better not look him too closely in the eye
Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?
See the safety of the life you have built
Everything where it belongs
Feel the hollowness inside of your heart
And it's all
Right where it belongs (...)"

Nine Inch Nails, 'Right Where It Belongs'

16 Jun 2014

A Belated Tribute to Maya Angelou

We were too busy with our lives to even notice. Maybe, oh maybe, we had even taken you for granted, as a component of the collective psyche. And there, you quietly passed away. Your poetry tip-toed out of mortality into immortality. Please rest assured though that your legacy will live on and here's why.

Your poetry, an accidental art form that conveyed your truth to a 'T', wisdom borne ouf of the school of life, that makes it relevant, relatable, palpable to all walks of life. In every picture of you I've seen, you wear that beautiful broad smile of gratitude for the many lives you'd packed into the one life, and whose experiences had amounted to building into the 3D richness and depth of your character and personality. 

Maya Angelou Quote Art Print, by BelievePapergoods, via Etsy

I too had many lives and in my meltdowns I found my fortitude. You turned fortitude into an art form. The world is made richer by those unique individuals like yourself who worded their life experience into those metaphorical sailing guidebooks on how to navigate the pitfalls, the stormy waters, the impending shipwrecks, the mermaid laments to the rocky solitudes of life, and to keep focused on the ocean's horizon line, on the International Date Line Change that indicates a happier tomorrow to our hapless today. You are one of the select few who succeeded in making this happen, Maya.

(Pict source)

Dr. Maya Angelou, 'Global Renaissance Woman' (1928-2014)

15 Jun 2014

Garden Mint Cordial

At the back of my parents garden lies a stretch of semi-wild land, a former cultivated garden, where wild passiflora, vines, aniseed, melissa and garden mint are growing as nature intended. They came with the soil, the land, and thrive with the seasons, little to no human intervention involved. I do keep an eye on them though and the mint gets my undivided attention, especially at this time of year when the weather is hotting up. Throughout the day, I brew some refreshing mint tea and a few days ago I even threw together this dead easy cordial!

Psssst, if you are partial to a cocktail, consider cutting the cordial with a dash of Bourbon whiskey for a cheat's version of the Mint Julep - yep, my bad!

Serves: 2.5 litres (5lbs) cordial
Preparation: 10 mins
Infusion Time: 3 hours
  • Generous bunch, approx 220g (7.76oz) fresh organic garden mint (full stalks, i.e. with the leaves on)
  • 1l (2pts) still filtered water (at room temperature)
  • 1.5kgs (3lbs) white caster sugar
Pour the water into a large saucepan and add all of the sugar to it without stirring. Bring to a light boil. Add the bunch of garden mint to the pan, a few stalks at a time, pushing them into the water with a wooden spoon. Leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the cooker. Put the lid on the pan and leave to infuse for 3 hours with the lid on.

When the time is up, take off the lid, breathe in the sweet minty aroma, plunge a tablespoon in, check the appearance of the cordial (should be slightly thicker than water but not too syrupy, coat the spoon, and have a light yellow colouring - resembling elderflower cordial). It is recommended that you taste the cordial, as depending on the variety of mint used, you may want to leave it to infuse an extra hour. Please note that wild mint will naturally be more potent than the cultivated store-bought varieties.

Filter the cordial through a sieve and preferably into a glass preserve jar that can hold up to 2.5kgs (5lbs) liquid. Leave to cool down completely without any lid on. Once cool, tighten the lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator. Make sure to use up the cordial within 4 weeks.

As a rough guideline, go for 1 part cordial to 1 part water when serving as a drink, and adjust to taste if need be. The cordial may be used to sweeten fruit salads, waffles, pancakes and yoghurts, poured onto ice-cream and sorbets, or as a basis to cheat's Mint Juleps or Mojitos. Perfect for ice teas too! It is a pretty versatile and easy-going cordial indeed! Have fun, y'all!


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