A Wilde Weekend, Act 1

temptation

A few months ago, I spent a wonderful weekend in London with my sister. Part of her plan to ensure maximum fun in 72 hours included tickets to the Vaudeville Theatre in Covent Garden for my favourite playwright, Oscar Wilde.

Oh, if you were hoping for wild tales of alcohol-fueled madness or hazy recounts of debauchery, I’m so sorry to disappoint you. Those were (mostly) contained on stage. Oscar is as Wilde as it gets. But here is my travel log of the visit, with some help from my pal, the Master of Wordplay.

Friday
On the Underground from Heathrow airport, my suitcase and I are not very welcome amongst the suited, city types who are jostling for elbow room whilst simultaneously avoiding eye-contact. It takes a certain skill to show disapproval without looking up from one’s mobile phone.

“Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one’s prejudices.”
Fortunately for my mind, once the tube deposits the Disapprovers at their stations, it is left with Tourists, Students, Musicians, Non-City Workers, and Others. It is as if the air in the carriage has filtered out the busy-ness. People now smile. They give their seat up if required. The closer we get to East Putney, the happier everything seems. A kind soul even offers to help me with my suitcase. “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”  

I surprise my sister with an earlier than expected arrival and we catch up over a hot mug of (what else?) English Breakfast tea. She opens up a world of possibilities that the next 72 hours may present. But first, we must eat.

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” What better cure for jet-lag than food that nourishes the senses? We sample tapas and a nice glass of red at a local place called Home. After all, we are only 2 hours from Spain. It would be rude not to. The ‘cheeky bar food’ is delicious and the atmosphere is friendly and comfortable. So you feel at home, except with plates of tapas brought to your table. #win.

Home

As we are already out and about, we take a stroll along Putney High Street. There is a lot of temptation in the form of shop-window displays and SALE signs. Oscar offers a reason to yield: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

I don’t know if it is the jet-lag or the Spanish wine but a 3-hour nap follows. Then it is time for more food. We jump on the tube to an old haunt of mine, C&R Cafe, a Malaysian institution tucked away in a back street near Piccadilly Circus. I resist my favourite dish, nasi lemak (pictured), for other, smaller dishes to share. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

cr5.jpg Did not have this.

“My doctor says I must not have any serious conversation after seven. It makes me talk in my sleep.”
So our next stop, for the opposite of serious conversation: The Comedy Store! Stand-up comedy in a venue that’s small enough to be intimate but big enough to be comfortable. I am pleasantly surprised to see that one of the acts is Larry Dean, a hilarious Scottish comedian who I recently saw in Sydney. We leave after lots of hearty laughter and also get to chat to Larry on our way out. He may or may not think I am a groupie.

comedy.jpg larrydean.jpg

Nothing left to do but crawl into bed and dream sweet dreams of the next 48 hours of indulgence. To be continued….

[Exit Stage Left]

Venn will you be serious?

…is a terrible pun. But I couldn’t come up with anything better for a blog post about Venn diagrams. It’s not my usual subject matter.

After a few comments from readers of this blog that my last poem was a bit sombre (read: depressing, and why can’t that pigeon find that morsel of bread/love), I thought it best to take a break from the deep feels and turn to LOGIC and REASON and what could be more fitting than…MATHS! But don’t worry, poetry fans, it is only a temporary hiatus. 

Venn diagrams are beautiful illustrations of logic. They show relationships between different elements: where they overlap, where they have no connection whatsoever, and where they can be grouped together with other elements that share the same characteristics.

If I created a basic Venn diagram of picking out something to wear from my wardrobe, for example, it would look like this:

The Wardrobe Dilemmavenn-basic-12.jpg

Set A = Clean and not overly crumpled. Note I did not use the word ‘ironed’ because I try to avoid that at all costs. (Both using the word and doing the activity.) Maybe one day I will be the type of person who always looks freshly pressed, but it is highly unlikely.
Set B = Appropriate for work. Sadly excludes yoga pants, slogan t-shirts and onesies.
Digression: Here is a great story on the two-word dress code implemented by General Motors chief executive, Mary Barra. But please come back to finish this post. 🙂
Set C = Things that fit. No need to elaborate. 

So you can see where the sets intersect and where they don’t. And the number of items in each set could help me make life decisions. So useful! For example, too many items in the B/C intersection (B∩C) = it’s time to do laundry. Too many in A∩C = one should stop buying yoga pants and consider more work-appropriate purchases. And last but certainly not least, too many items in A∩B = one should wear one’s yoga pants whilst actually performing yoga.

It also explains why my black trousers are a staple, go-to, twice-a-week wardrobe choice.

The internet is full of funny Venn diagrams. This is a clever one from Stephen Wildish:
668vonvanvenn.png

And here is one on the beautiful Japanese concept of Ikigai, or finding a reason for being. Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, says: “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing.” If it is also what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, then you’re on to a winner.

ikigai
And for the finale, here’s one I made earlier, which I call The Triumph of the Trivector:
venn espresso
Maybe there is some poetry in Mathematics after all.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Chillax, bro

yoga#yo-goals

Whilst having lunch in a Sydney pub, a friend and fellow observer notices an old encyclopaedia sitting on a shelf. It is a whole volume dedicated to the letter ‘F’.

As we eat our (fabulous) burgers, we start thinking about the words of today that we wouldn’t find inside those yellowed pages. Modern-day proper nouns and slang that have jostled their way into our everyday language but didn’t exist in the days of unplugged knowledge.

So what F-words do we come up with? Facebook. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Flexitarian (That’s a flexible vegetarian, fyi). Definitely not for Volume F. It is a fun exercise, and one I recommend to all of us who remember leafing through actual encyclopaedias as kids, looking for precious information.

Later, I start thinking about other ‘new’ words. Or words that are a combination of other words, like Flexitarian. There is a name for this, I’m sure, so I look it up. (But not in an encyclopaedia.) It’s Portmanteau. A ‘linguistic blend of words.’ Examples: smog (smoke + fog), chillax (chill + relax), Singlish (Singapore + English) and of course, Brexit (Britain + exit).

But here’s a word I came across in the UK that confused me. I first saw it at a gym in Birmingham. Whilst looking through the class timetable, this word jumped out at me:

Broga.

Yes, my friends. A linguistic blend of Brothers + Yoga. Also known as: Yoga for Men. (No correlation to ‘Yin with Balls’, which, by the way is an amazing self-massage yoga class that releases tension through rolling on small, man-made balls.)

I hadn’t realised Broga was a thing. Mainly because the yoga classes I go to include men as a given, most of whom are side-crowing, flipping and reversing with ease. Yoga classes don’t usually specifically cater for women, unless we’re talking Pregnancy Yoga. Which, I might add, is called Pregnancy Yoga, not Proga.

So what exactly is Broga? I do a bit of research and find a number of articles on this phenomenon with headlines such as Real Men Do Yoga. Downward Facing Dudes. More Macho, Less Mantra. Broga is said to be ‘a yoga-based fitness program taught from a man’s point of view’ and includes high intensity interval training, or HIIT.

Wait, what??? So it’s a strength class with a few yoga poses thrown in? Apparently Broga is designed to encourage men to do yoga because regular yoga classes filled with flexible women are too intimidating. But then, Broga is so popular, one article proudly proclaims, that ‘even women are doing it.’ Another article says Broga is designed ‘specifically for your limitations, wants and needs,’ and focuses on ‘the physical over the spiritual, strength over flexibility.’ Doesn’t really sound like yoga. Sounds more like a marketing ploy. I’m dubious.

Purely in the interest of being an authentic writer, and also because the marketing ploy works on me, I sign up for a class, sceptical but intrigued.

The class is taught by a…..bro, but looking around at my fellow brogis, 7 out of 10 are women. So to those of you (you know who you are) who might sign up for Broga hoping to ogle lots of bros with limitations, wants and needs, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, if you want a workout that combines strength and stretch, dynamic moves with deep breathing, and don’t mind doing press-ups in between downward dogs, then Broga is worth a go.

It’s a tough class. My core is switched on, my arms ache, and I quite enjoy warrior poses to Top 100 hits. It’s different, and fun. In the end, I concede that any class that encourages strength and flexibility, whether you are a bro or a sista, can only be a good thing. I’m still not sure about the name, although I realise ‘Strength & Stretch’ isn’t as catchy. But yoga is about balance. So maybe not strength over flexibility, but with. And there’s nothing wrong with mantras. Even the word is bro-friendly. Man-tras. 🙂

All this Bro-business. It started with Bromance, male friends who love each other’s company, because plain old ‘friendship’ doesn’t quite cut it. There is already Brosé (Rosé for bros) because ‘Real Men Drink Pink’. So in light of this current brobsession, here are some ideas for new portmanteaus:

Brodka – because Real Men Drink Vodka
Brolates – because Real Men Do Pilates (Or perhaps this is men who meet for coffee)
Broliday – formerly known as Guys’ Weekend.

I think we’re on to something.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Your body is not a temple.

LunaPark4mp-600x300

A quote from Anthony Bourdain inspired me to write a poem. He said:

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” 

The poem then expanded into a post on Elephant Journal with some ideas on how to enjoy the ride. My Amusement Park Goals.

You can read the full post here on Elephant JournalYour body is not a temple

And here is the poem:

Your body is not a temple.
Forget your pristine offerings,
the steps leading to enlightenment,
and the need for worship.

God doesn’t only live in holy buildings.
He also lives in Disneyland, Legoland,
and perhaps even in your local playground
if you look hard enough.

Your body is an Untemple
waiting for that Mad Tea Party
where spinning around can also bring
the discovery of divine pleasure.

Delight in the fairy floss of her hair,
lose yourself in magic kingdoms,
feel the adrenaline pumping from a wild ride,
and sometimes take the slow train to nowhere.

Before the sun sets
and you must hand in your wristband,
make adventure your Guru,
make fun a sacred ritual.
Your body is not a temple.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Football Fever

CR7

Three out of the five humans living in our house are football fans. By ‘fans’, I mean the type that choose to wake up at 4 in the morning to watch a match. Any match. Not a critical, qualifying decider or potential knock-out of former champions kind of match.

Of these three fans, two have decided they will call it ‘soccer’, as they were born in Australia where ‘football’ is – how shall I put it – a whole different ball game.

I’m not saying that I am a non-fan. I’m sometimes there on the side lines, cheering on the 7 year old and his team-mates, enjoying the determination and passion radiating from such young hearts. I ask him to explain the offside rule for fun. Not because I don’t know it (I do, honestly, as I have had it mansplained to me many times), but because I love watching his eyes sparkle as he moves salt & pepper defenders, a tomato sauce bottle striker and a wine glass goalkeeper to create a visual representation of this vital piece of football knowledge.

When the World Cup comes around, I morph into a football fan. Every 4 years I pick a team to support (usually Brazil). I suggest we put up a newspaper pull-out wallchart to dutifully enter match results and give life to the Path to the Final. I rally the kids to wear the colours of ‘their team’ (usually Brazil) for the last few matches. I also read a little bit about the players, the experts’ predictions and some post-match analysis. Like a leap year that also comes around every 4 years, The World Cup is something you just accept and embrace as a part of life, a part of the calendar.

This time however, I don’t need to do any research. I have a 7 year old Human Encyclopaedia of Football Soccer Knowledge. He rattles off players’ names like they are his best buds (‘They’re all out, Mum! James, Sanchez, Messi, Aguero, Higuain…….’ etc). He moves from hooligan to pundit in the space of a few seconds as he yells at the television when he thinks a card should be awarded and then argues his case logically and coherently to anyone who will listen. He also has strong opinions on the tactical decisions of managers: ‘He shouldn’t have taken Costa off, he would have EASILY scored a penalty.’ It’s like having a high-pitched Gary Lineker sitting on your sofa.

There is something different about this World Cup. Perhaps it is the fact that the Italian team was a non-starter. You could always count on them to wear the tightest jerseys and provide something for those who did not watch football for the football. Perhaps it is the shock of recognising managers on the side lines and realising they were players 20 years ago – like Didier Deschamps of France and Spain’s Fernando Hierro. And then watching an amazing Schmeichel in goal and noting it is Kasper, son of Peter, world’s best goalkeeper 1992.

But mostly, I think it feels different because of my next generation Super Fan. I will look to him to keep me in the know this month. The generation gap is obvious. My favourite Brazil players were Romario, Rai, Cafu and (the original) Ronaldo. My Super Fan has been known to ask for a Neymar Jr. haircut. His goal celebration is borrowed from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He is surprised if I know anything at all about football. However, when we watch a match, the generation gap is bridged through yelling at the television together and then we’re on the same playing field.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Anchors and chocolate sprinkles

65476914-chocolate-vermicelli-chocolate-sprinkles-on-white-background

Billy Collins, the American poet, said that “the trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry.” It is never ending, he says, until “we have compared everything in the world to everything else in the world.”¹

He then proceeds, with his delightfully witty style, to illustrate the use of comparison:
“Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.”

Comparisons bring the words to life. They add imagery to the emotion. Rising like a feather in the wind conjures up feelings of floating, of lightness of being and of bliss, whereas sinking like a chain flung from a bridge paints a dreary picture of desperation and hopelessness.

Poetry is filled with two key types of comparisons: similes and metaphors. I am not always 100% sure of the difference. Instead of having to Google it every time, I tried to find an easier way of remembering, and found it in my music playlists.

Simile: “My life is like an open highway” – Bon Jovi
Metaphor: “Life is a highway” – Tom Cochrane

In other words: Metaphors are the anchors of poetry that hold everything together, they are the life-blood of the poet running through the page. They are not like anything, they just are. Adding similes to a poem, however, is like adding chocolate sprinkles to a warm, milky drink.

Some of the most famous poems ever written are filled with anchors and chocolate sprinkles. Scottish poet Robert Burns declares that his love is “like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.” Shakespeare, poet of poets, in Sonnet 97 laments: “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee.” Emily Dickinson beautifully describes hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words.” And what about this from Kahlil Gibran, Master of the Profound: “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness.” Wow, and Ouch.

In music, anchors and chocolate sprinkles are also abundant. I found one of my favourite pieces of imagery by accident, in Al Stewart’s The Year of the Cat: “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running/ Like a watercolour in the rain.” Vivid, beautiful and creates a masterpiece in your head. 42 years after that song was released, Vance Joy’s Take Your Time echoes the sentiment in a subtle, less chocolate sprinkle-y way: “I’ll admit I never saw you coming/ Now I see your colours running.”

And back to Billy Collins. His poem Divorce, is the type of writing I admire – saying so much in so few words, crafting a whole story through the tightly woven lines of a poem, calling upon the reader’s imagination to bring it (even more) to life:

“Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks
across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.”

This is poetry with depth, humour and style. Reading it is like climbing into a warm, scented bath, cold glass of champagne in hand. It is sometimes like swimming in the sea, making surprising discoveries, occasionally coming up for air and dreaming about the magic you want to create with your own chocolate sprinkles.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

¹The Trouble With Poetry, Billy Collins

Enough.

what-about-lunch-winnie-the-pooh-picture-quote

I love the beauty of language. I love the weaving of words into sentences and paragraphs that form a literary tapestry to make you laugh out loud, shed a tear or maybe even inhale sharply, look up from your book and say, ‘Wow!’

However……there is surely something to be said for the simple phrases in life – the ones that bring a smile to your lips (or to your heart) without metaphor, comparison or any mention of tapestries of any sort.

The American writer and grammarian (now there’s a great word!) James J. Kilpatrick, who wrote a lot about writing, advised, “Use familiar words. When we feel an impulse to use a marvellously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away.”

I’m all for the exotic (and now aim to use the word marvellous wherever possible) but for writing to be understood, it needs to be simple, clear and sincere. Otherwise, all the multi-coloured jewels you use to adorn your thoughts will smother them into oblivion. In other words (that I am borrowing from an expert because I’ve just smothered my thoughts), “eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hofmann, abstract expressionist painter, on the ability to simplify.)

So, going back to basics – in the style of Winnie the Pooh who likes short, easy words like “What about lunch?” – here are some of my favourite phrases:

‘I’ll bring dessert’

‘How can I help?’

‘Let’s start by lying on our backs’ (I feel the need to qualify this with the context of a yoga class.)

‘Washed and ready to use’ (Again, to qualify,  I’m talking pre-washed salads. Yes, incredibly lazy. But also marvellous.)

‘I love you.’ No adornment needed. Enough.

©2018 Seetha Dodd