Saturday, 28 November 2009

On jer bike mate

I am on my bike again cycling to the shala for an early morning practice. Suddenly there is something new shining above the wall of the graveyard I ride by. Normally I ride through the graveyard, this morning I was out earlier and the gates were closed. There above the middle of the wall is a neon sign, seemingly floating in space. A translation is "The Earth carries your impression".
I take a photo and ride on. Has it always been there and I just haven't seen it? As I ride back a little later I am desperate to get it clarified. It is still early in the morning, the shops are only beginning to open, the passers by are taking no notice of it and most of them look in a state of shock to have suddenly found themselves wandering the streets at that hour of the day. I stop at an optician to check out a new pair of reading glasses, saw a guy with a must have pair and am now in search mode to hunt them down. I ask the optician if she rides by the graveyard on her way to work? Yes she does, has she seen the sign above the wall? Yes it only appeared a few days ago. Wonderful, mystery solved!
We reckon it is a piece of street art for the coming COP 15.

A few things here:

1. My assumption that an optician cycles to work!
If I was asking in England it would be do you drive by the graveyard? It is the norm in Copenhagen to move around the city by bike.

2. It is a piece of amazingly well placed art.
30000 cyclist pass the area daily. In a way a pat on the back to them, what kind of footprint are we placing on earth.

3. It is a religious symbol.
We live in a Lutheran society with a strong work ethic. It is placed on the line between life and death. Floating in space like the planet we cling to. A timely reminder to consider how we treat this gift of life a little before the final bell tolls. The feeling of having a right to this is slipping though our fingers as we become more aware of the consequences of our actions.

4. It is a political symbol.
What are we leaving our kids, can we lighten our impression? Something has got to give. It is all up for discussion, consumerism is so deeply part of our make-up. Is this an addiction that we can let go of. If we stop buying all the crap we desire will I be able to buy my new reading glasses?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Being here now

Just stepped out of the house and gone next door to pick up the washing. I can't help being amazed at the wonderful place I live in. A quiet old building in the centre of one of the greatest cities on earth. The evening is dark and warm, calm and clear, gazing at the lights in the apartments across the streets, the tower clock of the Town Hall.

A time of peace and expectation, Christmas draws near, a period of socializing.
I ride around this city daily and apart from occasionally dodging cars and pedestrians life is peaceful. This is the norm in Copenhagen, no big dramas, no floods or earthquakes. Life carries on in its quiet way.

This has not always been the case. Even here where I live some serious dramas have taken place. In the closing months of W.W.2 a squadron of planes took off from England to bomb the Gestapo HQ. in the Shell building right across from Nørreport station. The first group found the building easily hitting low down on the structure in the hope of bringing the building down. The building was a reinforced concrete structure and did not collapse as expected. On the top floor a large group of resistance fighters were being held, partly as a protection against just such an attack. 8 of the fighters were killed in the attack, the majority of the fighters managed to escape from the building in the ensuing melee.

One of the planes was damaged on the fly in, hitting a power pylon in the railway yards. This caused the plane to lose control, they managed to jettison one of the bombs as they crossed a broad road in the railway area, it hit an apartment block and killed a group of residents. Flying on into the city the plane eventually crashed into a French School just behind where I live. Over 200 were killed in the ensuing fire that broke out. The next wave of planes coming in mistook the target and now headed for the school dropping 6, 500lb. bombs on the wrong target. The firestorm that developed destroyed the homes of over 900 people.

The third wave of planes coming in realized the mistake and headed for the original target.

The School has now disappeared, leaving only a statue of Jean d'Arc in commemoration of the tragedy that took place.

So what has that got to do with getting the washing in?
It is that sometimes we kind of miss how incredibly fortunate we are, to be able to experience the moment and if we are even luckier, to share that moment with friends and family.

Monday, 23 November 2009

And the lights came on

So Finally.

I have lived in Copenhagen for 8-9 years now. There have been a few things that have puzzled me in that time.

One of the major questions has been this!

If you have a beautiful technical college in buildings that have been purpose built, tucked away on the outskirts of Frederiksberg, just bordering Copenhagen. Why Oh Why are the lights not on. This is a college full of technicians, learning media trades. How do you signal that you are there, how do you show that you exist? The first thing is turn on the lights! Hello is anybody home?

Maybe the lights have been on before, maybe I just cycled by at odd hours and they are saving power.

I can sleep better at nights now, knowing that someone has got it together to find the light switch and power up, we are just over here, come and look, see what we are doing!

The trees and lights of Christmas are all moving into place on the main squares and streets, ready to show us the way. Shining on this beautiful city, spreading light in a time of winter darkness. November has been a wet and dark month, the Christmas lights will bring a sense of relief, a brightness and feeling of expectation. A joyous precursor for the time of year of sharing and being close to family, friends and colleagues.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Picture perfect

Finally we have got it together to hang a few pictures.
It is putting up that last piece of skirting board.
You complete a major task and settle into the sofa for the next installment of Ugly Betty. At the back of your mind there is a little something gnawing away, like a small dog worrying its bone. What is it? Why can't I just sit here and blog out to the joys of a mindlessly funny TV show.
Its that bit of board that's missing! The pictures that have been sitting in the corner for weeks waiting for a decision.
We actually have done the deed, made a committed effort and hung a few posters and pictures.
The picture of Guruji, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is an important one. We have been allowed to use the picture by Govinda Kai
Govinda Kai has taken some of the finest pictures of Guruji, capturing the essence of the man.

Originally we had the picture on the wall as you came into the shala. We have now changed it and given him a more honourable placing. He is on the main wall above the Sri Yantra facing out towards the students, a placing he deserves.

On the left wall as you enter the shala we have hung a series of position posters, nicely framed in black. There will be a series of four posters. We are waiting for the last one to arrive. It is Lino Miele, doing the third series. There was a mix up at the printers and it was returned today for a re-run. We will be in place by the weekend.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Moon Days

Ya hear all these stories about Moon days. Don't practice, take care, things can go wrong. Being a cynical westerner my tendency is, suck it and see. If it is proven to be correct then I will "believe" it.

In Astanga practice the advice is take care on Moon Days, at most do a light practice do not push it. At best take the day off. The very few times I have come to grief in the practice it has been Moon Days. Full Moon, feeling invincible, can do anything. Practicing at home one time I fell out of a pose, completely lost balance in an instant. The next moment lying in an embarrassed crumpled heap on the floor. That time it was my ego that took the biggest hit.

Today is New Moon, as I cycled back home from a visit to the shala; delivering a Birthday gift. I noticed that traffic was in its Moon Day pattern of behaviour. Aggressive feeling of disregard for each other. As I came out of Elmegade crossing Nørrebrogade a guy pulled directly in front of me, slapped on my brakes and had a little grumpy mouthing at him. A few hundred meters down the road a bus drives really close behind a female cyclist and hoots, then accelerates past her and cuts in to a bus stop, she is then trapped between the kerb and the bus.

I ride past the bus and cross one of the main streets into town. The bus is close behind me and I am not a happy bunny. The road narrows here, no cycle path and parked cars on either side.

Wham! the carrier on my Short John smacks into a 4 wheel drive car door. I am skidding along the road. This time my grumpy words come out with a few of the finest English swear words known to man.

The guy is as shocked as I am, the bus glides by, no danger there. It happens so fast. Adrenalin kicks in, my shoulder, knee and hand are painful, my right knuckle is bleeding. We exchange names and addresses, shit happens.

I guess I have to accept that Moon Days can be challenging.
It is finding that balance between stupid male bravado and paranoid reaction. Both are probably going to do you in.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Election time

To be said with a strong Japanese accent.

This is Copenhagen, this is Denmark. Very liberal, very democratic. It seems like pretty much anybody and anything can stand for election.
We have local elections coming up in a week or so. Who is going to run our towns and districts for the next 4 years.

The Nihilistic Peoples party are standing for the truly important issues.

The poster reads:

Stop the Church Bells

Fuck being saved; we have a hangover.

Their other campaign slogan is based on a series of posters with the candidates face and name on them. The punch line is: Vote for "Charlotte" (or whoever the candidates name is) and waste your vote!

Interesting points of view.

I just went to Wikipidia and looked up Nihilism:

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Subsequently there are no moral values with which to uphold a rule or logically prefer one action over another. Nihilism can also take epistemological, metaphysical, or ontological forms. Meaning, there is no point to anything, as in, any action taken has absolutely no value to the meaning in which is was taken. There was no purpose to taking it in the first place.

So I guess they have a point, or they don't have a point, which maybe is the point.

It stopped me in my tracks.

In the reality of Frederiksberg we have no Nihilists, they were too bored to stay.

This is a long standing Conservative town caught in the middle of a predominantly Social Democratic Copenhagen.
The Mayor here is running a campaign for more cars and more parking spaces, Conservative.
The Social Democrats are running on improvements for cyclists and maintaining social services.
The polls are saying that this could be the first time in a seriously long time that the left wing parties will have some say in governing the town,if not actually winning a majority vote.
This is the first time I will be voting in Frederiksberg and I know which way I will be voting.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

20 Years today

Wallace and Gromit

Not even a Wensleydale?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Father figure

This year I am lucky enough to have the time and money for a trip to India. Spending a few weeks in Kovalam, Kerala State, way down south in the tropics. Lino Miele has run a workshop/retreat there for many years. Fabulous shala on the roof of an hotel, practicing at the same height as the coconut palms.

Before traveling to India there is a little issue with a visa. Could be a simple issue. Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you going?
This being India it is a little more complicated.
One of the questions is: Fathers name. Why could that possibly be relevant?
Further down there is another one: Fathers Nationality. + Previous Nationality.
I am 61 years old, my Dad died 7 years ago.
Is this a reflection of a very male dominated society?
No mention of my Mom, she is still around, they could send her an email and check if I have been a good boy!

The Consular services live in there own small world, though they seem to be a good reflection of the society they represent. India being incredibly bureaucratic. Before landing in India you have to fill out a form on the plane that asks you nearly all the same questions, including Visa number, Passport number. Bags are dragged out and rooted through while sitting in the wonderfully cramped seats of an international flight.

One thing that is guaranteed with Consular Services is there total lack of humour.
When I was younger I had been living in Canada for a while and had returned to England. After a while I thought that I would go back to Canada and work again. Flights were cheap through New York and I had friends in the States I could stay with. On the application form it said Profession: being unemployed at the time I wrote Gentleman. I was duly called in to the American Embassy in London. The guy asked what I meant by Gentleman; being young and cocky I explained my present state of unemployment. He looked at me for a few seconds quite incredulous, then whipped out a couple of rubber stamps (this is the late 60's). Right of Entry Refused. Right of Transit Refused. So much for America then! Guess its plan B and a few months on a Kibbutz.

Many years later my cockiness came back to haunt me as I wanted to travel to the States again. One of the questions on a visa is always; have you ever been refused entry. Of course I lied, fortunately the file had been dumped by that time, pre-computer, so I slipped across the border to the "Promised Land".