Category Archives: People I Meet

What is art?

A short essay on art by Vaughan De Sousa

What makes truly great work is often not the work itself but the premise it stands on. To subvert reality is to create art which stands a level beyond ‘good’ or ‘impressive’ and has the ability to move people.
Is the purpose of art to move a person? Who knows. Art is already not a fully understood entity, and the purpose of an endeavour as intense as creating a piece of art one is proud of has deep psychological influence on the creator, even if this doesn’t reach the audience.

The Picture of Dorian Gray sees an artist put a piece of his soul into the painting he has created. An object of moral degradation used by its commissioner, but a creation of desire and connection. How art is used is somewhat meaningless once it passes from the artist to the surveyor. Try as we might, artists do not have the power to force their viewers into seeing their own vision. We will never see things the same way as another.
Sight, like every sense is built upon by experience. We are what we have been through, even if behind that we are the same. With our differing experiences we interact with the world, creating new visions every second. Does this invalidate the creator’s vision? Maybe. One could say that the value of an artist resides in their ability to create works which follow their intention, which transcribe the world from the brain of the madman to the eyes of the sane.

So then, could we argue that art is a language? Language is a method by which people relate their experiences with one another through a common understanding. We can never truly communicate our own world to another without a medium understood by both. This is because, as previously mentioned, there is no way for two minds to interact. Speech, signals, even expression define ways in which the living are able to relate their experiences. So too, in this way, does art describe an experience. We understand that which exists through the veil of that which is universally understood. Yet, art is able to provide an experience which is understood only by the creator.

Then does art not dictate reality? Maybe. Because what is reality other than what we define it to be. Let me explain; for us, the viewers, a piece of art may display nothing but an amalgamation of ideas, an expression on paper or a blur of half concepts. Yet to the artist this is a truth, a fundamental of their reality put into the universal world. A form of linguistic expression. The reality of this piece of work gains and loses substance depending on the surveyor, yet it exists! It is real, an expression placed into the observable reality. Meaning and value are nothing as art breaks the barrier of the mental ‘real’ and the physical ‘real’.

So then, what makes a piece of art great? I can only speak from personal perspective now; however, we have already seen that this does not invalidate my approach. Rather, this work that I put forwards is my own art. It is my expression of idea, understood by some and rejected by others but nevertheless a piece of my soul etched on paper.
I believe to move myself art must first break expectation. Whether that be in the initial glance, or scene or second, or at the end when a perspective shift changes everything. To create art which shatters the illusion of safety allows the individual to begin to ‘feel’. Before this we are simply running through the motions of experience. Everything changes us, but we are often not aware of it. Jarring processes allow introspection and a hasty desire of the brain to catch up to the new perspective, this provides a gap for art to flourish.

Think about art like waging a battle. Everything is connected of course, one could say: think about battle like performing a dance, or performing a dance like painting a picture. Everything is connected.
To win a battle at the highest level it is not enough to be perfect. Imagine two chess players of excellent ability coming to a head. To play perfectly allows the chance of winning so long as the other player makes a mistake. But these are human players. One can only think ahead so long. What if one were to play an unexpected and jarring move. The response can be a number of things: hasty, direct, winning, losing, cautious, optimistic… a previously perfect game is thrown into disarray with the introduction of a subversion from the norm. In art, there is no winning or losing, there is only the break from reality, and the chink the defences of our mind.

The surveyor is your dance partner, your enemy at war, your chess opponent and your audience. To slip past the defences created by a mind is to find the opening whereby a life can be forever altered. Sometimes this is easy. The surveyor has had a hard day, they have lost a family member, or they are ready to quit their jobs/lives. The armour is in tatters, the audience has come to the show begging for change, at this point to change one’s life is simple. We can relate an armour-less surveyor to a child. Experience weathers us, it creates layers or expectation which prevents art, and all other experience from changing who we are. Or better yet think of it like a river, causing erosion on a smooth surface. A rush of water down this surface will not change much regarding its path, as the path is already set in the ground. It may widen or deepen it, but there is no new course to be made.
The mind of a child is a pile of sand, and you the artist hold a bucket of water. You can shape this mind however you wish with the notches, grooves and streams that you may pour atop this pile of sand. And as the sand mixes with dirt and clay, the grooves you have created solidify. I hate to say with time, but that is what happens. Once the grooves are made they remain, slowly gaining in intricacy as other sources of water pour, and more sediment hardens the earth.

Everything is connected. You understand where I am going with this, I am sure. The ability for art to create or add to a stream is clearly there, but what is the joy in adding to a groove in the dirt. You want to make your own. Perhaps art is a forceful thing, the artist a dominant figure. I write this piece expecting a change in your mental state, you will change after reading this regardless of who you are or what you have experienced, if only through the fact that you will have read something. But as the creator I have changed you, moulded a tiny piece of your mind forever.
But what if I were to change this work here. And completely destroy your expectations. I am not a great artist, I do not know what I could do to do this, but imagine I place beneath this wall of text an image which shatters your illusion. A picture that shocks you to your core, making you rethink all you have read thus far.

This would be your chink in your armour. Following this shock I could place a few simple words. You may go away from this with a desire to make something new, or a fear of art and it’s grips on your soul. ‘Soul’. Mind.
With this new experience you will rework your mind, you will solidify what you have seen and heard around your personality. It will become a new groove in your earth. And you will continue on, with a line drawn into your life by me. The artist.

I believe that art, when great, stands on a premise and shatters it. I believe this allows the artist free reign of your mind. I believe that a truly great artist uses this moment to reshape you, like a clay doll being altered before being placed into a kiln.
Because death is the final point of hardening, you will not gain any experience (known by us) from then on. You are the finished piece of art upon your deathbed.

Art is not just a painting on a canvas or a clip of a movie scene. Art is the the experience, from the creator to the created. We shape ourselves and others when we form art. Art is a language, and is also every language. But then you may ask, what is the difference between art and ANYTHING ELSE.

Everything is connected.

The Final Journey

What Is Our Life

by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618)

What is our life? The play of passion.

Our mirth? The music of division:

Our mothers’ wombs the tiring-houses be,

Where we are dressed for life’s short comedy.

The earth the stage; Heaven the spectator is,

Who sits and views whosoe’er doth act amiss.

The graves which hide us from the scorching sun

Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.

Thus playing post we to our latest rest,

And then we die in earnest, not in jest.

For Sue, on her final journey to rest. 🌸

Quote

Writers Club

via Writers Club

Eco Warrior

Culture: the beliefs and traditions we hold and pass down to future generations. Generations that evolve and develop, their beliefs influenced by their environment. That is what Amit Gandhi of Handy DIY Store is using to create a new culture in a beautiful Crowthorne village and its surrounding areas. He has devised a way of drawing residents into the 21st century using 20th century techniques. He has developed an eco-store.

In the wake of another successful protest in the city of Bristol by the well-known eco warrior, Greta Thunberg, objecting against the sluggish response of politicians and large corporations to reducing waste that will impact climate change,  Amit’s response might seem small in comparison to what these oligarchs could achieve, but his revolutionary methods of improving his business whilst reducing the carbon footprint of his customers do not fall short of inspired. As the world plays catch up, he is celebrating a year of selling eco friendly products and offering a refilling station for household cleaning supplies that encourage customers to reuse their old detergent bottles instead of adding them to the overflowing landfills in our towns and villages.118131cf-db39-4c60-8f3d-96b913696926

Speaking to the eco warrior about his decision to supply products that promote environmental change, he told me that over a year ago, he was approached by the organisation, Crowthorne Reduce Our Waste (CROW), which was set up by Georgie Morris in early 2018 after she became frustrated with the amount of single-use plastic from a weekly shop. The organisation has accomplished Plastic Free Community Status for the Crowthorne village, a status established and awarded by the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) to towns and cities who fight to reduce their plastic waste.  The organisation called on local business owners to champion their cause to reduce single use plastics from everyday shopping. Following his own passion for change, Amit decided to research products that had a lesser impact on the environment and began restructuring his local shop to accommodate products with a lower carbon footprint, replacing the everyday detergents and utensils we buy in supermarkets with biodegradable alternatives. ac0f8f5f-137f-4c39-8aec-3904e9a90d45557010e7-195a-4060-a6e9-f7a3c3583bc6-1A year on, he is still on the hunt for more alternatives, never tiring in his search to provide his customers with eco-friendly options.

 

“I am originally from Kenya where, even today, we go to the shops to get refills on certain products. Bottles are collected and returned to be reused. That is how we have always lived. Some residents here remember doing the same thing.”

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What drives a business owner like Amit Gandhi to make that change? He believes that we all have a part to play in reducing our carbon footprint, but his passion goes further than that. Through conversations with local residents who have lived long enough to see the change in our consumerist culture, he recognises a parallel to his own childhood. “I am originally from Kenya where, even today, we go to the shops to get refills on certain products. Bottles are collected and returned to be reused. That is how we have always lived. Some residents here remember doing the same thing.” Amit’s belief that our older ideals should not be dismissed or thrown own with modernisation highlights the throw away culture that has developed with the excess in supply and demand of goods in our modernised culture. The Department of Environmental Food and Rural Affairs produced a report in February 2019, stating: “The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH; including IBA metal) was 45.7% in 2017, increasing from 45.2% in 2016. There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.” If communities are to reach that target, more households need to embrace change.

“The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH; including IBA metal) was 45.7% in 2017, increasing from 45.2% in 2016. There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.”

So, while the world sluggishly engages with a cultural change that existed before the turn of the century, Amit is spearheading the change needed to encourage shoppers to reuse their plastic bottles and purchase goods that won’t sit in landfills for centuries to come. 5e39744d-ed85-49ae-826b-fbee8f5dbfb4674fbd50-6460-44c6-9c63-6b8339659ef9From biodegradable kitchen foil and dog poo bags, to bees wax food wrappers and bamboo kitchen utensils, as well as eco-friendly cleaning products, his shop is in the forefront of fighting waste. Products such as Ecoleaf Washing up liquid, liquid hand wash, toilet cleaner, fabric conditioner and laundry liquid are available to purchase, and dispensers are in place for convenient refills.

“Just a conversation with him, he tells me he’s on a boat for days and sees plastic straws floating around.”

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Amit’s decision to supply products that promote an environmental change is a small step to improving the world and hopefully impacting climate change. Surrounding himself with a belief system to sustain and supply, he might not be as well-known as Greta Thunberg, but he is still an eco-warrior to those that know him. With a friendly, down to earth attitude, he shares a story about his friend who goes diving around the world to explain just how far the impact of waste affects the environment. “Just a conversation with him, he tells me he’s on a boat for days and sees plastic straws floating around.” Amit shakes his head and points out that we must do something to stop this from happening. His attitude and those of societies such as CROW and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaign for a better world for all of us. Maybe it’s time we take a page out of the own of  Handy DIY Store in Crowthorne so that we too can become part of the cultural change.

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Sources:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/784263/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_March_2019_rev_FINAL.pdf
https://www.greenredeem.co.uk/greener-living/lifestyle/how-to-work-towards-plastic-free-in-your-community–crow-
https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/meet-the-first-community-to-go-plastic-free-in-berkshire/
https://www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-communities/

 

 

 

Waking Up

It has been a very long time since I’ve been woken by erratic words racing through my head, waiting to be caught in a net and sorted to make some semblance of order. Last night was one of those nights. Continue reading

Monday Coffee

Good morning. It’s the first Monday of the school holidays and that thrill of excitement is running through my veins: no work! So, grab your coffee cup and let’s get a refill and catch up. Continue reading

Bloggers Bash 2019

Good morning readers. Today, I’m taking you on a journey to London to meet the blogging family. Nerves are jingling and I’m tingling because I haven’t travelled by train since my last trip to the Bash a few years ago.

As the day progresses I will send you photos and updates and hopefully catch up with you along the way.

I’m on my way to Victoria station in London and the sights have been relaxing so far. Peaceful, rolling hills with wild flowers swept past my window and horses grazing near streams reflecting the morning light kept my fears of travel at bay.

Only a few more stops left before I get to see familiar faces I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing for years. Not long now!

We’re early but the committee are already here and prepared. It’s wonderful to see the old venue and bright smiling faces welcoming us.

Some of our speakers are stuck on trains but that’s not going to stop the day. With a shuffle and a jiggle we will get to them once they arrive and the guests who are approaching but can’t quite get here yet.

Now, Susie has announced the best writing blog and the winner is…

Head full of dreams.

Best entertainment blog is

Just Another Blog from A Woman.

For those not here but have won a prize, your certificate will be in the post.

The presentation for the blogging competition is next.

Hugh is giving us a breakdown on the competition entries and how incredibly good they were.

Gareth, one of the judges, is about to announce the winners…

The lovely Samantha Smith has won!

Laura from Full to the Brum takes us on an delicious adventure into her blogging life. With her love of burgers and what she was searching for in a blog, she gives us the scoop on the tone of her foodie blog that doesn’t follow the pretentious palate of mainstream food reviewers.

Adam is about to present the best food blog…

The Tennis Foodie

Best lifestyle blog is…

Invisibly Me.

Jemma Todd presents: a talk on how she got into writing and landed a deal with a big publisher.

Find her blog here.

A quick break for lunch and we will be back to business soon.

Back late so I’ve missed some of the awards unfortunately. We have now reached the exciting part of the afternoon with the Q&A panel who will be answering questions from the audience.

First question asks whether receiving an award like the Sunshine Blogger’s award. The panel agree that it’s a great way to be motivated to write more and a way to show appreciation for blogs you love but don’t hold a lot of value compared to, say an award from the Times.

Is there a place for blogging with the new types of social media presence available for followers, such as podcasts?

Comments from the panel agree that there has been a change in media but people might be looking for something more personal such as newsletters. Blogging will still have a place even if podcasts or vlogging take over social media because it is personable, easily accessible, cheap and flexible. You get a sense of the writers as there more is more an intimate contact through mail or blogs rather than the commercial click bait showcasing perfect lives on social media.

Should a blogger be focused on a specific area or well rounded?

If you’re a lifestyle blogger you might dip into different things whereas if it’s a type specific blog the audience will be attracted to those blogs that focus on the topic they want answered. It can help to help to define your blog but you’re best served to write on what you’re passionate about, even if it is a mixed bag.

Do people still sign up for mail shots if they are getting updates on blogs about their books or being inundated with newsletters on selling books?

There are great mail shots delivering information that conveys a letter style of information with various topics or upcoming events which adds value to the mail shot as well as selling the latest products.

That personal element of a mail shot gives authors a chance to reveal extra special give aways such as Sacha’s mailshots which contain marketing tips as well as more info on her books. It proves as a great way to connect with your audience.

Do you thinking using polls and asking for feedback from your followers adds value to a blogger or author?

Yes! It helps the rest of the audience too as they might be on a different part of the journey to writing. Engaging your audience is a great way to share information and help others as well as yourself as a blogger.

What advice would you give to a blogger who doesn’t get much feedback or interaction on their blog? How would you encourage them to stay motivated?

Shelley and the rest of the panel advise that when you’re doing it for a business, plan. Have a key word or a theme that will stimulate new ideas. If something comes in the news that’s relevant, that might be a way to keep your content fresh and relevant to your audience. Have a bit of banter with fellow bloggers and spend time visiting other blogs and leave comments. It’s a great way to get other bloggers to read your work and it could stimulate new ideas for your blog after reading their content.

It’s also good to bear in mind that a lack of comments does not necessarily mean your blog is not being read depending on which platform it has been accessed from.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Participate in events or competitions on other bloggers accounts too to promote your blog.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made when blogging and what’s the best piece of advice for bloggers?

Expect your first few blog posts to be rubbish! It takes time to find your voice and the only way to get started is to make mistakes and keep going. Work our the values of your blog too.

The worst thing was really terrible photos posted on a blog and saying yes to lots of events which clashed with personal events.

Esther advises not to make your blog posts too long or wordy as the audience tends to disengage.

Her worst post was posting a pic that offended a reader and having to deal with the aftermath.

Shelley advises a new blogger to know what’s available in terms of platforms. If it feels too stressful or like slogging, figure out why and change it so that it’s an enjoyable experience.

What do you do with a follower who becomes incessant after reposting your blogs and now expects favours in return?

Copy the url of the blog site and paste it to the option to block a blog page in your dashboard which will stop that blog from making comments on your blog.

The Q&A is now over and the event will move on now to a flatlay workshop.

The final awards will be straight after.

Geoff is presenting the best travel blog…

Lisa Dorenfest.

The best book blog is…

But I Smile Anyway

Sacha is closing the event with a big thank you to everyone who attended, the fest speakers and judges.

A huge thank you to the committee for a wonderful event.

Saturday

It’s the start of the bank holiday weekend and all I can think of is work!

With all the little fires burning in my head proclaiming their importance in the grand scheme of things, it’s very hard to switch off. Only two weeks are left till my final exam for my first year of uni to be complete and in that time I could be writing or illustrating my books. So, you see the dilemma: study or keep working at those time sensitive manuscripts. Not any easy choice.

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting various authors at a special event hosted by the Bracknell Library. We were invited to an author visit from David Barker, a Cli-fi (climate fiction) writer with a set of crime thrillers called the Gaia trilogy (Blue Gold, Rose Gold and White Gold). The stories are based on the effects of climate change and how the greatest commodity on earth (far more valuable than any precious metal) would become a source of temptation for cunning countries and super villains to steal. His books are set in the future and follow the theme of a high action thriller as two detectives try to uncover who is stealing what everyone needs to survive: water!

David spoke about climate change and how little we know about the impact of losing our most valuable resource, which got me thinking about how much water we all waste on a daily basis. Though his books are only fiction, his professional knowledge and the further research gathered whilst writing his trilogy make them all the more believable and worth the read. That will be my treat once my exams are over. I can’t wait!

Apart from meeting David and his lovely wife, Fiona (a children’s author), I also had the fortune of meeting another crime fiction writer, Harry Dunn, who is the author of Smile of the Viper and Forever Evil. Needless to say, my summer holidays are going to be very busy with all these fantastic thrillers and crime novels added to my reading list.

The bank holiday weekend may be a working one and a wash out but it will definitely be worth it once all the work is done and I get a chance to free read again.

Happy weekend to you all.

If you’d like to read David Barker’s thrilling trilogy, click on the link below:

What is beautiful to you?

What is beauty to you? Is it the soft curves of a woman’s form or the visions of humanity and its gods captured on canvas or in stone? Or is it the natural beauty you find in the world around us? Continue reading

Interview with an MDC Leader

As a freelance reporter, scooping a good story in a timely fashion was pretty difficult. After all, I had to hold down a proper job to pay my bills.  Luckily, my boss was very flexible and encouraged my ridiculous requests to have an afternoon off to catch the frequent riots occurring outside our ten story building in the middle of Harare City Centre.

Most of the time I went in blind; that is, I didn’t know what the riots were about and had to strike up conversations with people running from the military police in order to get the scoop.

In 1997, such a day occurred. University students had been staging riots across Harare city centre, striking against new taxes being introduced to pay for war benefits for war veterans who had fought in the struggle for independence over seventeen years earlier. In the midst of the ruckus, I bumped into the Bank Worker’s Union leader. He and I happened to share a space within a group of strangers watching the chaos from a street corner outside Greatermans department store. We were deciding whether to run down the road like the frightened crowds around us or wait. Most of those standing with us were shop workers trying to find a safe way home. As we paused amidst the screaming, running mob, conversation sparked.

When he heard that I was a reporter, he offered me the opportunity to interview him to get the bank workers’ perspective on the behaviour of the Zimbabwean government. A date was made for the next day before a military jeep interrupted our discourse. A tear gas cannister barely missed my head and shot past the rest of the group, ending up bouncing across the street to a shop aptly called Reflections.

Escape became our main priority and I lost sight of my news source in the choking cloud enveloping us.

To be continued…