Thursday, 31 July 2014

The insignificantly small glories

It is late Thursday evening and I have now returned back to the UK after an incredible month in Barcelona. There has been too much to write and far too much to accurately illustrate in my small corner of the world wide web. But I do know for certain that I shall return next time the opportunity is there. Just as this time, I will not question it - I will just go. Life is too short not to. The month was over before I had chance to feel ready to leave and I have never taken a work trip that has been so fulfilling and so full of friendship and freedom. I am certain that part of my soul belongs in Spain. Despite my fair skin and the constant requirement for factor 50+, my very basic knowledge of the Spanish language (probably flavoured with  Yorkshire twang), and the inability of my hair to adjust to the warmer climate (my poor hairdresser will have a lot of dead ends to chop), I have never felt so welcomed in a country other than my own. In fact, I am certain that even when in our own country in our own home, we do not always feel we are 'home'.

Why is it that even the strangers of Spain display much more kindness and gratitude than I ever see in some familiar faces at home? There are cultural differences of course, and the differences in climate and language. But this is about the nature of human beings. What it means to meet face to face - human to human. I have always thought that there is a collective language and culture bigger than the one we are born into; more universal and widely spoken. Perhaps there still is - we can travel and still understand the 'strangers' we meet, but somehow there is something about certain places and people that invite us in, and there is something about others that is so very boundaried and unknown. I suppose I have learnt a lesson that our culture really and truly shapes who we are - our identity. How we think of ourselves and how we are in relation to others. It is a much more powerful force than I often like to think. I always prefer to think that our individuality is a stronger force than any external factors We are unique beings; we are who we are and we exist in isolation. But how naive to assume that we are not shaped by the very culture we know and the relationships we thrive in. We exist in relation to the world we know. We create boundaries in response to the culture that we are part of, but certain boundaries do not allow for the human to human language - it is a shame that the boundaries of a culture can act as such a strong barrier to something much more powerful than the self we create within the boundaries we draw.

Anyway, my ramblings could extend for days and days. I am meaning to write about my wish to be back in Spain on our balcony with Zan, eating olives and watching the moon and the stars, but I am back in the UK. When in fact, I shall not wish my time away. I will not wish for it to be anything other than now. I am spending some time in Kent before I go back to research and client work. I am taking a little time in a place I know well. It is still beautiful weather and I still believe I can soak in some more vitamin D and travel to some more beaches, swim in the sea, walk some more, breathe some different air, spend time with people that matter, and yes do a little work in the evenings! Time passes too quickly, and we often take life far too seriously that we forget to marvel in the small glories. As my Nan reminded me this afternoon, it is never the 'big' things that matter; it is never the things we thought would make a difference. Always the small things that have the most impact. It always requires my stepping back and examining the full picture in order to realise once more that I must magnify the insignificantly small glories...

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Spanish morning

I thought I would be blogging much more whilst I am here but it seems that I am only writing one, maybe two each week... It must be a sign that other things are occupying my mind, or perhaps just that most days are either spent at castings or outside. Something would be not right if I were to spend days sat inside writing about the life I am living when I am not really living it at all... It is far too hot (and beautiful) to sit indoors and write blog posts. Nevertheless, it is Friday morning (Spanish morning... It is actually 12.25pm so to most Brits it is lunch time) and I have the day off as far as I know. It has been a busy week and despite sleeping for approximately 8 almost uninterrupted hours last night, I still sit here in the apartment on my second coffee wondering why I cannot wake myself up. It is still hot but it is surprisingly grey outside and there is a thunder storm which I think has passed now... Perhaps I am simply a child of the sun (despite what should be a genetically inherited aversion to the sun due to the freckles and ginger hair DNA).

This week a friend of ours from the agency at home has been visiting us in Barcelona and it has been wonderful just to have the time to spend time with good friends. If I take anything from this trip, it is a lesson in living; a lesson in how to relax and how to embrace time for what it is. Before the agency closes for August we had a last dinner and proceeded to barely sleep before shooting the following morning. The shoot was interesting to say the very least... However, a balance of work, friends, beach, drinks, and sunshine has certainly been achieved this week... My brother jokes about my talking about the soul. But the soul is the most integral part of our being and it is good to understand in greater depth what that means. It is definitely the best week so far... I have never been on a work trip where I know I will not be ready to leave.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Breaking the glass

Hola from an incredibly hot Barcelona 4th floor apartment. Really, it is very very hot - not a complaint at all, more an appreciation that the sun can make an unbelievable difference, particularly when combined with kind people who make it seem that it is always a pleasure to wake up in the morning and to live life, rather than one more day to endure on the never-ending treadmill of living and working and breathing just to get by. This is something I notice here; it is not only the pace of living that is significantly different to 'home'/UK. But the pace of living is different because the way of being is a very particular way of being that embraces any time of day. It embraces all people, and it chooses to fully live in whichever activity a person may be doing, be it working or sleeping or spending time with friends or strangers. Life is embraced and so people treat each other with much more kindness and respect than I have ever seen on the tubes in London (granted, Yorkshire is a more grounded place to live...). But nevertheless, the way we as human beings treat other human beings dictates who we are as people, and what I notice is that it makes a difference.

It is my third weekend here already and we have the weekend off to do as we please. We have been joined by three new housemates from Sicily (although one is leaving today).. After deciphering Spanish messages from our landlady we are assuming that one leaves today and the other two will leave over the next week. We have been incredibly fortunate to have our apartment to ourselves for so long, especially considering that most model apartments are anything but comfortable and homely. So it is only right that we share it for a little while. Again, castings have been somewhat slow as most people seem to be slowing down for summer and the agencies close during August anyway... So it has meant that free time, a concept I did not understand before, is now an idea I understand more fully. I am on my fourth book, and I am learning to get my bearings around the city. In fact, I was even stopped and asked for directions by a Mexican yesterday. To my delight (and surprise) I was able to help him out and send him on his way, confident that I had directed him to his destination. Even he was surprised. His response was something like 'you don't speak Spanish - how do you know the way!?'

One of the books I finished this week was a beautiful, if not short piece of work again by Paulo Coelho (By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept). It is so rare for me to make time for reading for pleasure that I am grabbing this opportunity with both hands, and likewise wanting to share each of the words I find.

'Break the glass, please, and free us from all these damned rules, from needing to find an explanation for everything, from doing only what others approve of'  

Of course he writes about much more than breaking glasses. He writes about falling in love... But the metaphorical breaking of the glass might otherwise be known as breaking the rules we so carefully create for ourselves over the years and years we have spent living and adjusting to the expectations of others. He discusses the way a child lives compared to how we live as adults. A child who has no glass to break because he has not yet realised the power of the other. Ironically, it is when we realise the power of the self again that we can live more freely and fully, not afraid to do the things that break the four walls that confine us regardless of the fact that our external surrounds have a part to play in the creation of the four carefully and uniquely formed walls.

Now to drink coffee, gather my thoughts and myself, and head to the beach...

Monday, 14 July 2014

The universe

I came across this Max Ehrmann poem not so long ago and when words stay with you I always believe that they are words worth sharing. It is a much longer poem than these few lines below, but these lines particularly mean a great deal. It is a good reminder for the times when we are uncertain about decisions we make or the times when we make the decision and suddenly life is changing and we cling to the things we are too afraid to let go of. It is good to remind myself that change is good and that life is unfolding just as it should. It might feel like madness and complete chaos, but the universe is working with us, alongside us, all the time. My studies and training remind me of the power of 'trusting in the process' which is a phrase I both love and despise sometimes at the same time (I am sure I'm not alone in this!). But when I have taken that advice it has been the most trustworthy advice I have chosen to take.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Max Ehrmann - Desiderata 

post weekend, pre-casting

Currently I am sat in our apartment about to head out to a casting. I wishfully thought that today was a day off, but we got a call for a casting so we have to head out soon. I would much rather head to the park with a book in the sunshine than attend a casting that I have been instructed to bring a bikini to, but it seems that the Spanish way of living (and working) is a very relaxed process so we almost knew that last minute castings would come up on our 'day off'.

I was looking forward to relaxing because we had the most wonderful and busy weekend with two of my very good friends from England coming to visit. I only knew that Tasha was coming, so to see Mark walk along the beach front with her to meet us was a total surprise. There is something wonderful about friends who travel across the sea to surprise you. We did so much, ate and drank so much.. walked around the city... it has been lovely. The way weekends really ought to be spent. Not the kind of weekend I typically have in England where I work and mostly rush around racing against the clock barely making a couple of hours to spend time with the people that matter. We went swimming in the sea and for the first time in my life I realised how liberating the water can be. There has always been something I hold back; perhaps my breathing or my thoughts or not really allowing myself to swim or feel the movement of the water properly. But yesterday I felt it for the first time. My favourite place here is the beach, with a book, and an occasional swim in the sea. When we are surrounded by beautiful boutique stores, independent cafes, and an abundance of wine and coffee bars, it is not the material things but it really is the simple things that make the difference.

It is half way through the month already and I am sleeping in later, eating dinner later, reading actual non-study related books for the first time all year, getting to know my bearings, and understanding the metro system in the city... I am also discovering and embracing the exotic fruits (no better thing to do as a vegetarian temporarily residing in another country). I am so very fortunate to have spent the entire weekend in one of my favourite cities with some of my favourite people.

Casting time now...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

'Right now'

I have arrived back at our apartment and I am sat out on the balcony (with the rather noisy traffic somewhere beneath me) with a coffee and my laptop wondering how to spend the evening. We had a TVC casting today which had such a long wait (probably all the models and actors in the city were there...) so naturally we went to get coffee and went back still to find at least an hours wait... I finished my book already and then made my way back. I am really a very impatient human being, which can be a helpful characteristic of mine when appropriate. But for some reason I don't mind so much waiting for castings when the weather is so perfectly beautiful outside. It is not so bad at all.

I have been reading The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) over the past week - well, re-reading it anyway. It is one of my favourite books to read especially whilst I am travelling. His writing is a beautiful reminder of the things in the world greater than ourselves that connect us despite the things that set us apart. Here are some of his words...

'Because I don't live in either my past or my future. I am interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you''ll be a happy man. You'll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you. A grand festival, because life is the moment we're living right now.'

Monday, 7 July 2014


Hola seems to be my most spoken word these past few days since my Spanish vocabulary is very limited and it it always nice to be polite to the person serving you coffee or wine or the people you are working with! I am, however, with the assistance of Zana, learning a phrase a day. It seems that the best way to learn a language is to live in it... So far I can ask for a soya cappucino, directions to the bathroom, I can state that I do not speak Spanish (although who knows - this may change!). I can say 'no problem', and I can ask for the bill :)

Barcelona is nothing short of a beautiful part of this world. I keep having to remind myself that this is a work trip, but after more time spent on the beach than at castings it is a reminder that is easily forgotten about. I am slowing my usual manic pace of life down for a while and embracing no early wake up calls. Life is far more relaxed with late nights on the balcony, navigating my way around with a street map and no wifi device glued to my hand, and the fact that drinking good wine or coffee at any time in the day/night is absolutely unquestionably acceptable. There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning and drinking your morning coffee on the balcony overlooking the Sagrada Familia.. It is really quite beautiful.

There was a rather spectacular thunderstorm last night which kept us both awake. I have never woken up and almost jumped out of bed because the smashing of thunder was so close and startling.It is still going on now... hours later. Which means that the sun is not out and it is much more comfortable to sit in my room and write than it is to sit out on the balcony. It is really fine though. I am reminding myself of the power of living in the moment, and the moment right now is just fine. We have castings later but not until 4pm. Since it is not so hot due to the storm, I might even wear jeans for the first time of this trip...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Moving with time

My endevour to complete all research interviews and all 57 pages/20,000 words of my practice file before my month away is a mission completed. It is happily sitting in my bag ready to submit tomorrow. All left to do is a couple meetings tomorrow to check in with research work before leaving, a meeting with my tutor, a trip to get some euros, and a late night of suitcase packing/maybe a little wine drinking. I shall always wish for more time in the day, but as discussed yesterday with a good friend, we are often fooled enough to think that we want or need certain impossibilities so much so that we wish for the day our fantastical illusions are made real only to find that it is not all that wonderful anyway. To have more time would take meaning away from our days. And to live in a perfect world as an inevitably imperfect and flawed human being would be just as torturous as wishing for perfection anyway.

So I reach the conclusion time and time again that I shall not fight time, I shall move with it. The universe works in wonderful ways and I am certain it does no good to fight against it. I am looking forward to packing up tomorrow evening and heading to Barcelona for a while. It is typical of me to question my decisions, but this one feels right. I will of course be working; taking some research with me but I will be modelling mainly, although only time will tell how much!