REVIEW: “MIDDLE PICCADILLY RETREAT and SHAMANIC HEALING”

Middle Piccadilly

Words and photography by Becki Burrows

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975….That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past…looking back now, I release I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years..” Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

It was that time. My stomach lurched. And a feeling of overwhelming sadness and doom came over me as I sat on the bus. I was fine when I left. What was wrong with me. I hadn’t expected to feel this way. I’d expected to be glad to leave. I was surprised that was not the reality. I woefully and yet hopefully, texted a few friends.

“Busy”..

“Sorry busy Becks..”…. “Far too busy..” another responded. I winced. Saturday evening and a twang of loneliness was starting to set in. Oh the love and hate relationship with oneself and the juxtaposition of the either joy or despair of isolation.

“It’s like.. I want to be alone… but… it’s like. In another way. I don’t..”

The bus passes Canterbury.. (the trains being delayed due to a leaf on the track..it’s always the little things!)…

*I could just get off here and stay in a hotel* I ponder to myself. It’s 5pm and I remember that everywhere else in the country shuts shop at 5.30. Not many options of what to do after that. *Nah I think. And I sit back and decide to just head home.

I had been staying at the Middle Piccadilly retreat, Dorset.

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Middle Piccadilly Retreat

And I hadn’t expected to feel this way. In fact I’d presumed the opposite. It was not as if I had been around people the whole time during my stay at Middle Piccadilly..a detox/shamanic healing retreat in Dorset. I had been excited to go. Of course! Yet also perhaps slightly cynical. With a bit of fear. Due to the thought of being on juice for two days without solids. I like to chew. And feel the different textures and taste of food. Don’t we all?

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Vegetarian Falafel, just one of the many dishes on offer at Middle Piccadilly.

I found some yoga retreats to be.. hmm not really about the yoga. Too many young fashionistas obsessed with their weight (and yours!) and trendy ‘overpriced’ yoga outfits rather than the actual practice or history of yoga. I’m not saying I’m not concerned about my weight but when one feels insecure..those places sure can be a rather intimidating environment when someone curls their lip slyly at ones figure. I remember when one of the retreaters – who was slightly plus sized came off the plane and greeted the rest of us. The yoga instructor whispered.. she doesn’t look like a yogi..”… to all the more.. ‘slighter looking ladies’. *F*ck that.

And then there was the bootcamp. I had been on a previous bootcamp – running around for 8 hours a day for 7 days. Admittedly I came out straight out and ate all the crap I had been trying to not consume in the first place. On my second visit to a diferent boot camp.. by day two,  and by push up 571 after a cracker for breakfast. I thought you know what. F*ck this. And made a sharp exit.

Extremism. Black and white. Which is exactly the sort of *thinking*  I am usually trying to escape from. All or nothing. Working out everyday. Or not at all. Working all day and night. Or procrastinating. For me the bootcamp way of doing things doesn’t really work. It’s like. It’s like… self f$cking punishment. Sure parts are fun. And yes I’m not a ‘dog’ and shouldn’t need a ‘reward’ at the end of the day. But all work and all work. Is not that rewarding. (I hate it when instructors use that line “You don’t need a reward you’re not a dog”… yeah yeah.. *rolls eyes*) and when one replies in a facetious manner.. “Well. Actually this guy once said..” doesn’t wash.

Then there was the yoga retreat that was meant to be all veggie health food, no meat or alcohol on site. Well let’s just say that went out of the window when a bottle of Vodka was discovered under the sink by one of the girls.. and well. Doing yoga with a hangover is not FUN.

So how about actually doing well. Nothing. And actually doing ‘nice’ things for oneself. Like having massages. And relaxing. Sitting around at home – can often not feel that relaxing especially when the incessant mind *I should be doing this* or *I  should be doing that* the haunting SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD’S that haunt our daily lives. Generally resulting in extremism or NOTHINGNESS. Well. I speak for myself.

And so I arrived at Middle Piccadilly and Eliana, 87 – who founded the establishment in 1986 with her husband greeted me cheerfully. I was astounded as she told me that she practices yoga everyday for 20 minutes and has done ever since she was 30. *And I never saw her once in Sweaty Betty yoga gear!*

“Try to not do any work while you’re here!” she smiled as she checked me in.

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Eliana – Middle Piccadilly founder and shaman.

On the first evening I meet a woman who has been there for several days. ‘Its so hard!’ She exclaims. It is a quiet time of year so there are not many people about. She starts talking about food. Fish and chips. And all things nice. I look at my juice. “Lets not talk about food” I urge.

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Lemon and Ginger Juice

DO NOT understand why why why go to a health retreat and then sit around mourning chips, kebabs, burgers and alcohol. It has happened at every retreat I have been to – and quite frankly my advice is – if you shut that one down straight off – your journey will be far easier. For it is simply fellow camaradie in self punishment. And futile in my opinion. Would you really go into a rehab and talk to a heroin addict or alcoholic about drugs or alcohol..

Oh hi- you’re trying to quit booze! Well.. do you miss wine? Beer.. heroin.. what about the fun and parties?! By the way I went to an amazing party at the weekend shame you missed out”.

I retreated to my room that evening…stomach slightly rumbling, armed with a few books ..’Fear’ by Thich Nhat Hahn and ‘The Body Keeps Score’ by Bessel Van Der Kock. The room, clean, comfortable and secure.

On the second day headed to the kitchen where my next juice was awaiting me. The woman I met the previous night is leaving. She is nursing her juice slowly. I take note of that and nurse mine too.

My first treatment is a therapeutic massage. By Claire one of the therapists. She takes me to a relaxation room and asks me about allergies and the scents that I prefer. I lie down. “Do you mind your stomach being massaged?” She asks.

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Manager Dominic, Claire and the cat.. name unknown..

“Erm. Well. I’ve never had my stomach massaged” I shrug, remembering  the time I went to a massage parlour in Korea and an old lady – wearing literally only her knickers started massaging my boobs after jumping up and down on my back. *Can’t be as weird as that experience* I think to myself.

Lunch and dinner are again juices. Yet, surprisingly I sleep well during the evening.

The next day, however, I awake feeling a bit depressed and lethargic. “Damn. I should of done more with myself yesterday!” I tell myself.

I go for my next juice. I am alone. But have shamanic healing at 10am. *Mmmmm juice*. I think to myself.

I am starting to get hungry now. The hardest part I am told. The first few days.

“With the Shamanic Healing just try and be open minded” Claire the massage therapist had urged me the day before.

I took that on board. On my first day Eliana had asked me about my health and all the generic questions one needs to ask someone. I had been surprised when she guessed my childhood past straight away.

With a caring nature paired with keen perception my instincts trusted her.

So I lay down on the table. And Eliana set her Shamanic tools out. She picked up a feather

“Calling to the winds of the west….!” she started.

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Eliana, Middle Retreat founder.

A part of me wanted to giggle. But I resist and decide to try and take it seriously. After all. What the hell do I know. I know that technology, materialism and disconnection has taken over the world.. and that most of the population are on anti depressants. Which can’t be normal.

So I feel happy to embrace and get back to a bit of earthy nature and universal connection.

She sits by me and asks me to close my eyes. And starts to talk about my childhood. My mind resists. *Eurgh I really don’t want to talk about that right now* I think. But then whatever helps, I’m keen to try.

“Always be curious….” A group therapist had said to me once ….”Always be curious when you don’t want to talk anymore”.. I remember I had probably rolled my eyes with a ‘oh whatever’ stance to what I considered psychobabble at the time.

But then. She could have been right.

“Ok” I persist. “What is the colour in your chest.. can you see it.” she asks. “Er. Erm Yes.” I reply with my eyes closed. “It’s er black…?”…

She relates this to a serpent from my past and asks me to pull it out and yell. I have my eyes closed and envisage this. I do as she instructs and I try to yell. But again. Feel silly.

“I feel stupid” I say to Eliana. “It’s ok” she urges..” So I yell. Admittedly not that loudly feeling embarrassed. “Louder!” she urges..

Whilst there is no one in the room with me I imagine my three brothers and most of my male friends in my mind guffawing and mocking me.

The “night sea journey” is the journey into the parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out, and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness… the goal of this journey is to reunite us with ourselves. Such a homecoming can be surprisingly painful, even brutal. In order to undertake it, we must first agree to exile nothingStephen Cope

I leave the room relaxed and thoughtful. My mind awake. As I had been asked to go back to my past. Something that has never and never will leave me. Although my desire to let go is strong. I aminterested by the perception in my mind post shamanic healing.

I go for my next juice. Starving and a bit grumpy, I steal an apple.

“I don’t believe in juice diets” I think to myself.. “plus how am I meant to go for a well you know! Need fibre don’t we..”…

Ahhh the beloved mind. Always very good at excuses. It can talk oneself into the silliest of things.

I eat the weetabix and apple.

And cue: guilt…….. “Tsk. You can’t even do two days!” my mind berates.

At dinnertime Dominic the founders son – and the person who now runs Middle Piccadilly is there juicing my next drink. We chat about several things.

“Well it’s not that bad if you do eat an apple or something it’s not like it ruins everything.. or is that much of a big deal” he says.. which seems a healthy way to look at things.

I start to wonder if he had counted the apples in the bowl and knew that I had eaten one that afternoon. I look for the hidden cameras.

“Erm. Yeah..” I shrug. ‘Guess not”.

And the next day! I am introduced to food! A delicious bowl of oats soaked overnight in water – resulting in a milky texture awaits me in the kitchen. I am surprisingly not that hungry but eat it thankfully.

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Overnight soaked oats

My next appointment is an holistic massage again with Claire and is more about getting in touch with the body. She talks about chakras and sensations within. We discuss disassociation.

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Raw Nut Burger with Avocado Mousse

For dinner Dominic makes me a cold ‘raw nut burger’  which is served cold with an avocado mousse and an abundance of salad. *Dominic is a genius* I thinkIt is delicious. And probably the best vegan/vegetarian food I have ever tasted..I am in awe of his cooking skills. “Really you made this recipe up? Really.. ” I go on. Irritatingly. The “burger” is followed by a deliciousness gluten free cheesecake made from cacoa beans.

 

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Cacao Cheesecake

I don’t feel deprived. Not like the punishment of a bootcamp where one works out all day and returns to a dinner of  half a cracker.

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Claire, Middle Piccadilly Retreat

And before I know it.. time is up. And on the last day I have a mud wrap and a good chat with Claire about life, relationships, being a woman in a mans world etc. I shower and smother myself in organic coconut body lotion. My body feels soft and relaxed.

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Claire preparing a mud wrap

Whilst I was only at the retreat for four nights and five days… I could easily have stayed longer. Having the freedom in the day to do what one pleases but having the structure of treatments and regular meal times incorporated kept boredom at bay. 

Whilst I don’t want to be a cliche,  I believe that this retreat was the first time I had experienced what the term ‘self love’ really means.

Being kind to the body. Not putting it under gruelling tasks for the sake of society (from over working out – to binge drinking). Taking time to just connect to oneself. Just being. Without ‘trying’ to just be. Nourishing the body and trying to eliminate stress in a healthy way.

And so.. you know how the story ends. On the bus.. feeling sad at having to say goodbye. But. On to the next adventure..

Middle Piccadilly is in a beautiful location in the English countryside, and has a homely community vibe without being overbearing. Eliana, Dominic and Claire are very likeable, friendly individuals. And it is as many reviewers have said online. “A home from home”... well they weren’t lying...

I highly recommend.

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Beautiful Rural Retreat in the Dorset countryside Telephone 01963 23468 Email relax@middlepiccadilly.com

www.shamanka.com – for the School of Women’s Shamanism

www.middlepiccadilly.com 

Follow Dominic and his tasty recipes at www.instagram.com/the_lifestylechef

A FEW OF THE ABOVE RECIPES CAN BE FOUND HERE

You can follow me at www.instagram.com/becki_burrows

Becki BXx

Words and photography by Becki Burrows

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FITNESS: THE FEAR

FITNESS: THE FEAR

Three months and two weeks (and two days actually but hey who’s counting) I took myself to the doors of what I hoped would be… redemption. The desire to skip over this part is strong. And I might just indeed do that. A culmination of fear of judgement, other people’s opinions , advice and psychiatric diagnoses headed my way… “all you need to do Becki is..” … “if I was you I would…”… “why don’t you just…” … resulting in… “I think sometimes its easier to just say nothing at all”. But here I am writing about it and wondering where shaming and fear starts. The playground perhaps… where whispers, gossip and damaging ideas are vocalised… “did you hear about so and so” for example.. “he’s damaged goods…”.

 

I’m trying to type this on an tablet. God it’s hard work.

 

Anyway, with the utterances of “honesty is always the best policy” I tend to find myself thinking… “are you sure about that”. I am usually on a get fit and quit everything mission but generally have been on the first rung of the ladder or in a two steps forward and three steps back position. Stuck in that place where one can’t see any growth or progress but are learning some lessons at least.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” Aristotle
But right this minute as I’m typing this… I’m two steps forward rather than several back. But I’m aware of how that can change. And thus I’ve learnt in my short yet occasional seemingly long life on planet earth that sometimes some things that ‘should’ be pretty simplistic can be harder than one thought to put into actual practice. I might tell myself I’m giving up coffee for example but by 7am the next morning when I’m reaching for the kettle my mind has already decided that that goal is going to be delayed til tomorrow. So three and a half months back I started training and working out with no specific goal in mind or outcome other than I wanted to feel better than I felt. Which was like crap. And something that was significantly holding me back in any of my fitness goals or getting to my desired weight was alcohol.

 

It was not a lack of working out that was the problem…I tried it all…bootcamps, yoga retreats but.. it wasn’t until I broke the spell with what I now see as a toxic substance (in my life) that anything else was going to work.

 

My first get fit goal was a 5k race… and to build up to this I started off small and regular. I was actually in rehab whilst I started this part and although one wasn’t/isn’t allowed off site alone… I knew I could get away with not being missed for an hour. I guess I was one of the less troublesome ‘inmates’ and didn’t need keeping an eye on. So off I started..  down the winding paths of the glorious British countryside on a blazing hot summers day with nothing but my music and a water bottle.

 

Which was totally fine until on my way back I found myself at a Wizard of Oz crossroad and had forgotten which way it was back to safety.

 

Left. Or was it right. Sh*t.

 

I was walking through a field wondering if anyone was aware I’d disappeared yet.. when I came across a man and his dog. Most probably looking beetroot red… he asked me if I was ok.
“Erm yes er..“ … “are you lost?” he queried. I wanted to ask for directions but didn’t want to admit where I was staying. It just sounded… stupid.

 

“Erm yeah.. er do you know where the main road is?” I queried…. he peered at me.

 

“Ok I’m staying at a huge house.. in about – er that direction do you know where it is?” I blurted it out.

 

“The rehab?!” he asked.

 

“Yes…the [bloody] rehab” I quickly shot back resisting the temptation to roll my eyes.

 

“Oh sure..that way” he pointed off into the distance.. ”it’s awful hot to be running around in this weather…be careful” he said slowly peering at me. I thought I sensed him trying to figure out what I was there for but he was probably just being considerate. After all…it probably happened ALL the time…people running away to get to an off licence for instance.

 

“Thank you” I shouted putting my headphones on and running in the direction his hand  had waved at…  as fast as I could trying to hide my embarrassment by the speed of my feet…which admittedly wasn’t fast enough…

 

I completed my first 10k a few weeks ago.. and have so far lost 17 pounds.. I’m working towards my next goal of running a half marathon.. which to be honest.. sounds like hell. Exercise/fitness for me is.. a huge motivation for staying on the right track. It clears my mind and exerts unused energy. I’m doing a culmination of British Military Fitness and Park Run‘s when I can fit them in. Although I’ve developed a bunionette from ill fitting trainers.. I’m pushing through.. I’m running a half marathon for ActionAid and Children’s Society.. sooooo.. 

 

PLEASE CONSIDER SPONSOR ME FOR A HALF MARATHON HERE:

 

 

Your motivation and support is greatly received.

 

BeckiBx

 

I am currently reading and gaining a huge amount of strength and inspiration from James Rhodes’ ‘Instrumental’.. Buy it.
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REVIEW: VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE

REVIEW: VIPASSANA MEDITATION CENTRE

Considering I only lasted only two days at the retreat it didn’t seem fair that I should write a review.. let me introduce Cassandra Mansueto. She and her partner gave me a lift to Hereford from London – (which was a very enjoyable part of the journey). Here is Cassandra’s review of the Dhamma Dipa Vipassana Meditation Centre in Hereford.

The year of 25! Quarter-life crisis! I have strayed from the Garden of Eden; my body has embarked on the primrose path and my soul is at odds with this! I expect my new fixation is the answer: I will float out of this 10-day meditation course, as light as a feather, my tarnished heart very nicely polished. Sometimes, when I walk with my partner in nature, I scream an adaptation of an excerpt from Apocalypto: I AM ALMIGHTY POWERFUL!! THIS IS ­MY LIFE AND I AM NOT AFRAID! After these 10 days, my title in the world will be ‘she who is strong and controls her own mind’.

For the duration of our stay we are to live humble lives as nuns and monks (kind of). All sexy areas (knees and shoulders) to be covered in modest clothing. No communication allowed! Males and females separated! We are served vegetarian meals (well, breakfast and lunch….apologies to my tummy if it thought we were off to an indulgent retreat).

Each day, everyone is greeted by the 4am gong and a two hour meditation (which means only another 8 hours of meditation to go within the day). The technique itself is quite basic in theory, but applying it is something else altogether. During the first few days we are slowly introduced and eased in to the practice of Vipassana, which slowly cultivates our awareness to perform the technique correctly. We all hear the looped message of, ‘Awareness and Equanimity. Anicca, anicca, anicca. . .change, change, change –insert never-ending, possibly Sanskrit tunes from the past-’.

The Vipassana technique, in my opinion is a good one. The method behind the madness is really quite simple and powerful, but on a primal level I want to throw all of my primrose path toys out of the cot and scream, especially during the three daily one hour sessions where all movement is prohibited. Eventually the chanting becomes unbearable to listen to, as is Goenka’s monotone voice, and the incessant talking at the beginning of each meditation.

This must be part of the plan, testing our tempers and ability to be equanimous, after all, Vipassana is ultimately to be applied at all times, throughout our daily lives, forever and ever.

It’s incredible what silence can do to the mind. Many memories resurface of even the most insignificant mistakes, actions and words. I make mental lists of all the people that I need to apologise to, when I do eventually go back home. This is precisely what I shouldn’t be doing. Vipassana teaches the mind to be present and cease all craving and aversion. This is all too sobering for my liking, so I start to entertain myself. During one session, I envision a fire has erupted and in a panic all of us meditators are forced to get up and speed out of the hall, but it’s happened during our ‘Simon says be a statue’ meditation hour and I’ve lost all sensation in my leg, so instead I’m falling all over the place.

There is no shame at this course. On the first day, the ladies’ bathrooms were filled with sounds of plopping jobbies and pee-induced farts. No-one wears make-up. A sense of liberation pervades the air. I take it a step further, being an eco-bunny, washing and hanging my reusable fabric panty liners on the washing line. Have I taken it all too far I wonder? Or will they all gawk in wonder and amazement at how dedicated I am to being a super-being?

By the fifth day, I’ve seen most rules broken, a girl smiling at her boyfriend across the hall and another woman wrapping food in her scarf and hiding it in her room. One evening my roommate makes rustling noises and it sounds like she’s opening a forbidden Wispa-Gold. It then sounds as if she’s disguising the noise of her chewing, by rubbing her hands together as if she is very cold! I refuse to look in her direction for fear of making her feel uncomfortable. I want her to know that she can trust me with her secret, so I myself break a rule in her presence, by writing something down. The next morning I look at her bedside table and realise there was no chocolate, she was actually moulding ear plugs. Paranoia sets in and I start to wonder if I snore.

The highlight of each day is the teacher’s discourse in the evening, recordings of Goenka. He’s got such an amazing warmth and understanding of human nature. A teddy bear of note. . . a Buddah-Bear. What a sense of humour! We all laugh hysterically! Surprisingly, it’s only on day seven that I start suspecting an aura of brainwashing around my head, but after some rumination (again, while I should be meditating), I come to the conclusion that Goenka is telling us to do the same thing over and over again because we simply aren’t following the simple instructions the first 100 times.

 I chastise myself for having a weak mind!

Finally, day 10 arrives. It’s the lowest point that I’ve had, as so much has been brought to the surface. But there’s a surprise for all of us. We come out of meditation that morning and mixed areas have been combined for the males and females. We may talk! I am greeted by my Henry-Bear (boyfriend) and all is right in the world. We are standing under an umbrella in the rain recalling all that we’ve been dying to tell each other. He can’t believe that in one of the chants (quite a catchy one), I don’t hear ‘gay protection’. Believe you me, I hear it in every meditation session for the rest of the day. Upon leaving, we are instructed to meditate each day for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening and naturally, we all promise each other that we will – insert ominous raised eyebrows-. I don’t leave as spiritually light as I would have liked, but I definitely have dropped a jean’s size!

Four months later and I’m onto my next fad, Feminism (read ‘Eat my Heart Out’ and ‘How to Be a Woman’!!) but I’m still feeling the effects of this donation based course and know that I want to keep Vipassana part of my life. I just haven’t been disciplined enough to follow through with the prescribed meditation sessions, which I know would alter my whole reality. Goenka claims less sleep is needed, one is more efficient and you will ultimately live in line with karma. Changes are occurring in my life on a subtle level. Most nights I have a ritual of meditating after a hot shower. There is a lot more awareness in my thoughts and speech and best of all, I’m letting go of every bad memory as it occurs, forgiving myself immediately, so that I never have to be burdened by it again, until I can live in line with karma and have a clean slate. I also intend on going back and I encourage any person who wishes for a better life, to embark on this journey.

Cassandra Mansueto Xx

Would you like to write an article for ohDearyme? Get in touch at beckiburrows@gmail.com

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ART: Städel Museum

ART: Städel Museum

Anish-Kapoor-Green-Shadow-2011

Anish Kapoor, Green Shadow 2011

With a press invite to the Städel Museum – one of the oldest and most renowned museums in Germany, I decided to leave the small ‘healing’ town of Bad Ems Germany and jumped on the train to Frankfurt changing at Koblenz. My experience of German spas, whilst certainly interesting  – I found to be more traumatising than relaxing:

“She is wearing her swimming costume! GET IT OFF!! GET IT OFF.. ” a hundred naked old people are stomping towards me.. the sauna is hot and the chants are getting stronger.. louder. I wake up. Time to make like a tree…..

The museum holds almost a complete overview of 700 years of European art history. And I assumed that I would find the contemporary section more appealing (none of that old boring history stuff). However, I found myself completely and totally absorbed in the Old Masters section. Perhaps it’s the stage of life that I’m in right now – but as I read about the ‘Ideal to Individuality’ stages of art I realized. Most artists of their time are under the illusion that whatever they do is revolutionary. Which quite rightly it could be! And actually competitiveness is nothing new. Artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo competed against each other to attain perfection and ‘ideal beauty’ in their work… always trying to surpass each other. And that was teh 15th Century.

As I headed from from the Old Masters down to the Contemporary section, I found myself wondering whether over the decades we might have lost something along the way. I wonder what the Michelangelo’s over the centuries might think of the current state of the art world. The increasing popularity of Banksy, X Factor, Tracy Emin, Vice Magazine, JLS….

Narcissus-at-the-Fountain-xx-Giovanni-Antonio-Boltraffio

This is a picture of Narcissus at the Fountain, 1510. A man who fell in love with his unattainable image in the water and died of grief. The tale is where we derived the word Narcissist – excessive self love.

And so I left the museum. Perhaps a little more at ease. Comforted by the fact that revolutions, disease, disaster, pain, anger, love, control, happiness, temptation. Well. Its nothing new. And the world has survived. I suppose I’m just a little bit unsure as to where we’re at. I wonder. What will our era be defined as?

A really thought provoking museum with an excellent delivery of art – unassuming of one’s artistic background – I definitely recommend visiting the Städel, Frankurt.

Becki Bx

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Tonight we’re going.. Night Clubbing..

Tonight we’re going.. Night Clubbing..

 

One day I was walking up the road in the local town – Cheongju with a male (western) friend – and several young Korean ladies (drunk) approached us… (well him actually) screaming. Throwing themselves into his pathway I decided I couldn’t compete with this PDA. The only thing I could really do was offer him out for 10000 won (6 pounds)…

Of course Korean girls do fit the stereotype they are hot, slender and extremely attractive. So it is no wonder why western men should not be tempted. They are also under a lot more pressure from their counterparts to maintain a respectful household, cooking, cleaning, running a dignified home – and as a male friend of mine put it so well ‘with dating a western man – Korean women can jump straight into a feminist friendly world without having to go through fifty years of bullshit’.

After moving to Changwon – in the South of South Korea – I found myself living in an area with not many westerners. Walking down the street one day I was approached by a young guy whose English name was Kaka (22) – he was named after some football player (ugh football). He came right up to me and stated: ‘I feel very proud right now everyone is very scared of you because you are western but you can be my first western friend.’ How could I turn an approach like that down? After all I couldn’t be choosey I didn’t have any friend’s. And thus came about Korean nightclubbing..

Of course Korea does have the ‘normal’ westernized nightclubs where people get drunk and dance together.. but a Korean nightclub is seriously a whole new world with a whole new list of rules and regulations.

After paying the entrance fee which is about 50 manwon (35 pounds) – you are led to your own table filled with alcohol, fruit and a limitless supply of anchovies. If you want to dance you must only do this on the da

nce floor which is a stage at the front of the club. You are then issued with your own waiter/waitress who will see to all your needs. So there you are – sitting and drinking – and the waiter will come to your table and tell you some ‘men’ or ‘women’ on the table in the far corner want you to join them. This is how people meet each other in these typical korean nightclubs. They will then usher you to their table where they will entertain you and if you want you can get up and leave or… stay if you should find their company so appealing. Now – I had my big coat on.. was wearing jeans and above me were half naked Korean ladies dancing on podiums but as the only western girl in the vicinity that night – or that had probably ever been to this nightclub – all eyes were on me. And yes.. that definitely felt very strange.

Needless to say I was ushered around a few tables that night (uh of course!) – and had chats with Marlborough cigarette advertising men.. MD’s.. Politicians most of whom had their wives sitting at home with the children. When it came to dancing (yeah on the stage- ahem) I was greeted by a group of girls one who danced the dance of Eminem in proof of her hotness. Like I say I wasn’t really competing though. So I gave everyone a handful of anchovies in a friendly – ‘I don’t dance this dance hon’ kinda way… and that night I realised how hot I really was.. no not really – that night I realised – which was the point I was trying to get to – was that sometimes we can live day by day looking at the same things and the same people and the same landscapes and we forget to see how beautiful – just how beautiful they really are.

Crap. I drank a beer towards the end of this – does it show?

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