Great Britain? It’s not bad…

Britain is very patriotic this year, what with the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. You can’t move for red white and blue right now, and everyone seems more proud than ever to be British.

It was with this in mind that I allowed myself to be persuaded to attend the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square today.

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

I’ll admit that I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy myself. When I had gone down to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year it had been very crowded and uncomfortable, and I basically ran away (well, shuffled – it was impossible to run anywhere). However, what I found today was very different. The Saint George’s Day celebrations weren’t very well advertised, and so it wasn’t hugely crowded down at Trafalgar Square. The space did fill it, but it never became impossible to move, and I always felt like I had enough space.

My friend and I were met with a very quaint, English country garden atmosphere, complete with temporary flowers, fake grass, and plastic ducks and swans swimming in the fountains.

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

The event consisted of music…

Robbie Boyd Band

Robbie Boyd Band

Pearly Kings and Queens…

Brick Lane Music Hall

Brick Lane Music Hall

Living statues…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

Flower arrangements…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

And, of course, tea and scones…

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

I almost forgot I was in central London while I was in the tea tent, as it felt very Sussex-y, like I was in some country park somewhere.

I really enjoyed the music, especially ZeTrio:

And the Robbie Boyd Band:

The music hall performances from the Brick Lane Music Hall were fun, too.

The whole event got me thinking about how patriotic (or not) we Brit’s are. There was a smattering of red and white flag-clad, Stella-swilling football fans, and a few people dressed in red and white getting pretty into it, like these sweet ladies who let me take their picture:

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012

Thanks ladies!

But overall it wasn’t too nationalistic. However, whenever there’s a chance to be proud to be British, there is always this slight feeling that “British pride = not open to other cultures”, which simply shouldn’t be the case. As a Londoner, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the St George’s Day celebrations just as much as the Chinese New Year, Japanese Matsuri, or any other festival.

I’m no royalist or nationalist, but I did really enjoy indulging in a little British culture today. It’s so easy to forget where you come from when you live in such a multicultural city. I spend so much of my time submerged in Japanese culture, even though I live in England, that I sometimes forget to enjoy my own country’s culture.

I think the Londoners and Brits at the event enjoyed it, and I do hope the tourists and people from other countries also enjoyed the taste of British culture displayed in London today. I’ve realised that British culture is perhaps not as sophisticated or mystical as some other cultures, but we certainly do know how to have a good knees up! πŸ˜‰

St George's Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square, 21st April 2012


Going to church, and letting it be…

I did something completely out of character while I was on holiday in New York in December – I went to church.

I’ll begin this post with a little disclaimer, just to cover my back. I went to a Roman Catholic church when I was a child, but stopped going before I became a teenager, through my own choice. Now, I don’t practice any particular faith, but remain open to most ideas. I don’t mind what other people believe or do, so long as they accept my choice to believe and do as I choose.

So, it was December 19th, pretty chilly, and I was in New York. The first stop on my itinerary was the World Trade Center site. When planning the trip, my mum and I had discussed going to the World Trade Center Memorial, but had both concluded that it seemed a bit clinical and lacked the personal touch that we had hoped to find. Instead, we decided to go to St Paul’s Chapel, also known as The Little Chapel that Stood.

St Paul's Chapel

Neither of us are particularly religious people, but we wanted to see the chapel’s exhibition of memorials for people who lost their lives in 9/11. The items on display were incredibly touching, even heartbreaking at times.

St Paul's Chapel

St Paul's Chapel

We didn’t really plan on staying for a service, but it was Sunday, and a service was about to begin. Out of curiosity, and to pay our respects, we decided to slip in at the back and stay for a while. It was made clear that everyone was welcome, whether local or visitors, and that it was fine to leave part way through the service.

I’ll admit that the idea of sitting through a church service was a little daunting, but it was cold outside and I was interested to know what it would be like. My experience of church-going was mostly Roman Catholic, and the older I had got the more I had disliked the style of worship in the Roman Catholic church. I found the hymns largely full of doom and gloom, and didn’t like the idea of going to confession (especially as a child). To me, the Roman Catholic church seemed to be more about confessing sins and repenting, than celebrating life or faith.

Everything about the service in St Paul’s Chapel surprised me, but nothing so much as the sermon by The Rev. Clayton Crawley. He spoke about the rush and panic up to Christmas, about the stress of having to tick everything off our to-do lists and get everything done. I guess his point was that we ought to remember the real meaning of Christmas, but what he emphasised was the need, in general, to slow down and simply… let it be. He kept repeating the phrase “let it be” and I knew what was coming. He suddenly broke into song, and sang the beginning of the Beatles’ classic:

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

(Lyrics: Paul McCartney)

I hadn’t realised how absolutely incredible those lyrics were until that moment when the Reverend began to sing and I felt a lump in my throat.

Couldn’t we all do with letting it be sometimes?

St Paul's Chapel

I had thought that my church-going experience in New York was pretty unusual until I discussed it with a good friend today. She’s a Christian, but not a Roman Catholic, and she made me realise that I had been basing my views on church (and perhaps religion in general) on my childhood experiences in the Roman Catholic church. This visit to St Paul’s Chapel, followed by a conversation with my friend, made me realise that there are a whole bunch of different ways in which people worship, and that people celebrate their faiths in so many ways.

Thinking back on the songs I used to sing at the Roman Catholic church I went to, the only one I can remember liking was Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. When I Googled it, I discovered that Sinead O’Connor has covered it, and it’s beautiful. So, if Sinead O’Connor can record songs that I used to sing at church, why shouldn’t songs like Let it Be, that perhaps weren’t intended for church services, be sung at church?

St Paul’s Chapel was interesting to visit from a tourism point of view, although I did feel a little awkward about taking too many photos of the memorials. If you happen to have the chance to visit there, I would recommend staying for a service, or even just part of a service. If, like me, you don’t really call yourself a Christian, don’t worry. I found it to be an inspirational and moving experience, with or without the belief in God. I believe in music, and I know that I will be humming Let it Be to myself all year, especially when I feel stressed or under pressure.

St Paul’s Chapel is on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, but I went in the back from Church Street. I got off at the World Trade Center stop on the Subway.


Tobogganing…

In my last blog here, I announced that I have just completed the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in less than a month.Β  I know that it is not yet a good book, and that it will take a lot of time and effort to make it something that could possibly one day be published, so why am I feeling so relieved right now?Β  When I know that, actually, there’s still a lot of work to do, why do I feel like I’m over the hill and tobogganing down with the finish line in sight?

I’ll tell you why.

Because, not only have I been dragging that damn toboggan up the hill all throughout November, I’ve also been dragging it about behind me everywhere I’ve been for the last three years or more. It’s a weighty old thing and can be really tiresome to drag around behind me, no matter how beautiful it is or how important I know it could be. I’ve dragged it around behind me all this time, hoping that one day I would have the time and energy to climb up that hill and take a ride, but always making excuses and feeling too scared to do so in case I reached the top of the hill and found I couldn’t let go and slide down. I was scared I might never reach the finish line, but also too scared to try.

Well, let me tell you, dragging my toboggan up that hill was worth it.Β  Not only was the journey towards the finishing line spectacular, even the view as I was dragging it up the hill was worth the effort.

And, now that I’ve gone through the process of dragging the toboggan up the hill and enjoying the ride down, I know that there’s nothing to be scared of, and it’s worth a little blood, sweat and tears. I won’t be afraid to do it again, and again, until I become a world-famous professional tobogganist!

So, if you’re dragging your toboggan about, whatever kind it may be (a novel, a song, a poem, a painting…), don’t let go of it. Just get started on that hill, chase yourself to the top, admire the view, and enjoy the ride towards the finish line…


What's your theme song?

In Ally McBeal, season one, episode 17 (“Theme of Life“), Ally’s therapist, Dr. Tracy Clark asks Ally to think of a theme song – something she can play in her head to make her feel better, when necessary.Β  In this episode, Dr. Clark says her song is “Tracy” (by The Cuff Links), like her name.

Ally has trouble choosing a theme song, but I think she settles on”Tell Him” (by The Exciters) in the end.

I really related to this episode (not sure if that’s a good thing…!) and have since been trying to come up with the perfect ‘theme song’.Β  I actually have a playlist on my iTunes called ‘Theme Songs’ which I regularly listen to.Β  I’m down to a top 5 now I think.Β  And they are…

What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes

This is a classic for me, and one I always sing at karaoke!

β˜†β˜…β˜†

Ain’t Never Been Cool – Lucky Soul

I can just relate to the lyrics of this one – it reminds me of being a kid at school, and I’m disturbed to find that life doesn’t change as you get older!

β˜†β˜…β˜†

Perfect – Fairground Attraction

I’m a perfectionist – what more can I say?

β˜†β˜…β˜†

Dare – Stan Bush

Classic get-up-and-go song!

β˜†β˜…β˜†

Vienna – Billy Joel

This one is probably more of a movie montage song than a theme song. It calms me down though.

β˜†β˜…β˜†

So, what do you think?

(1) What should I choose as my personal ‘theme song’?

(2) What would you choose?

Please leave your thoughts and musings (and YouTube links) below! πŸ˜€

Oh, and by the way, you’ve gotta love John Cage’s theme song in Ally McBeal…