Archive for December, 2009

Winter Solstice night or what to do on 21st of December

Since the start of winter in London I have been bombarded by Facebook and email invitations to Essense Winter Solstice Celebration (yes, es-sense). Very excited with the idea that it was invitation/networking-based party with the potential to gather a large number of likeminded Londoners and spiritual types under one roof, me and Dani got 2 late bird tickets and set ourselves to ignore weather conditions outside. Freezing!

Dress code: white and tribal/ethnic – exactly the thing you would expect from the night like that. Just one tiny detail – it is -6C outside and all my pretty party stuff is meant for warm summer nights. So I jumped into low profile warm clothes and exaggerated on tribal make-up. Always a solution!

Did I mention me and Dani were brave enough to cycle 3.5 miles to Brixton and back home battling icy roads and even icier winds? “This is not girly at all!” – I shouted to him on the way, but in my head I was comforting myself with an idea that a) I actively dislike public transport and long waits for night buses b) I can remain loyal to my principles of cycling in London. Hurray! We reached the destination alive.

The problem for a wake-up-early-go-to-bed-early type of person like me is that the solstice celebration is meant to be an all-nighter. Hmm. We were in location at 10 pm hoping that the party would be rolling already. How naïve. By 10pm couple of dozen of organisers and helpers were still buzzing around decorating the place while a few other ‘early birds’ were hanging around in a traditional-English-pub-setting-turned-into-a-hippy-haven with yogi teas, chai and love potions (??). Despite that, there was an overwhelming spirit of a community in the place – I immediately felt at home. People were lovely, friendly, warm-hearted and connected. In these moments I can’t help myself thinking “wow, what a wonderful, organic and ever changing community there is in London!”

Four halls, chillout area, healing area, endless inspirational quotes on the walls…. All home-made and DIY’ed with love.  Bliss, serenity, love, vision, crystals, beautiful artwork, decorations, lights, visuals all mixed up together to create a space for the best day ever to happen. Or at least that’s what the posters from the walls spoke to me. And it wasn’t far from that at all. Chillout area – which I instantly favoured – reminded me of cosy evenings at Buddhafield festival with freshly made chai, raw chocolate infused with good vibrations (like always loads of it), cosy atmosphere, grassroots performers, healers, angels, vegans, seekers, mediums, observers and other spiritual types.  But more importantly, lots of hugs, smiles and catching up with long-not-seen buddies (you would be surprised how many friends of friends which are your friends as well you meet! – neat networks, small world).

And hey, the opening ceremony was absolutely magic! Suddenly half empty hall with dancers here and there was filled and packed with people from all directions. The spiral was quickly and smoothly formed. Love flowing freely in the room, hand by hand we breathed and chanted Ommmm as one, present, bright and powerful. And then – let the party begin! The line-up for the whole night (until 7am!) was impeccable with live performances, DJ’s and both combined.

 People make a party and people were great. Bright, conscious, diverse, embracing and present. Well done to the organisers, the helpers and everyone who were there to be, love and celebrate.

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Veg Box or Farmers’ market – urban dilemma

It’s been a while since I decided to boycott supermarkets and rely on organic, locally grown or distributed produce. Especially when it comes to veggies. Who doesn’t love the taste of those sweet ripe juicy tomatoes, mushrooms that remind you of earthly wilderness, greens that are lushious and crispy and roots that haven’t been scrubbed off their skins’ natural nutrients and that make your hands dirty when you touch them. Closer to nature.

After intense search for alternatives, I was suggested to look at organic veg box schemes by my colleague at work and, guess what? I fell in love with the whole idea right away. No more time-consuming shopping, heavenly real taste, a new creative challenge (I have never eaten or better so, prepared some of their stuff), eating in accordance with seasons and supporting local economy. No more supermarkets! I could swear veg box scheme made me eat a healthier and more nutritious diet because I just wouldn’t have bought so many veggies if I had to go through the supermarket process of pick and choose. For the first time, in this overly picky society, having no choice of the food on your table was a good thing.

But there it was… One cold winter evening, after almost a year of a faithful and comforting relationship with my veg box, I was walking with a very dear friend of mine on the South Bank when he cruelly told me that veg boxes are a rip off. Yes! Just like that. I couldn’t believe it and spilled all my arguments to support this brilliant idea for time-short urban dwellers. But I could not help it but investigate further.

Yes, we all know that veg box schemes are on the top of their (well deserved:)) trendiness these days and when you go online the websites resemble more of a upper-class shopping centre than a local farmer’s wholehearted attempt to sell his lovingly grown veggies. And yes, you can buy a veg box gift card with a personalised message, books, T-shirts, cups, wine, exotic fruit and overpriced pasta. ‘Do all good things get sold to Coca Cola and Tesco once they get big?’ – I was wondering in my head holding a carton of Coca Cola owned Innocent smoothie and drawing comparisons to veg boxes. Quite naturally, couple of days later, one chilly Saturday morning, there I was on my bike, ready for a 3 mile ride to my nearest farmers’ market in Oval.

I love riding my bike, the sun was shining and I had a spirit of an explorer, so the whole trip didn’t feel like a duty. I deliberately took £30 cash reducing any risk of overspending on those sinfully delicious olives, sun-dried tomatoes and cheeses they often sell in markets. ‘I have to focus on the basic veggies and make sure the food lasts for a week’ – I contemplated. Not many of us have a luxury of shopping multiple times a week!

Here I was in a muddy church yard in Oval. Couple of stalls – not too many, but with a lot of variety. ‘Go around first and check what’s available’ I warned myself in my head but in few moments I was already holding a gorgeous deep orange pumpkin, few apples and pears, fresh spinach, salad and eggs and waiting at the improvised ‘counter’. After paying my first £10 for the purchases I unconvincingly bounced to other stands. ‘Expensive’ I though comparing in my head how much I could have had in my veg box for this price. But on the other side of the market – actually it was the main side of the market, arrrgh – I saw another veggie stand with much better prices, more variety and, guess what???, many more people. I bought brocolli springs, spring onions, potatoes, fresh carrots, sweet pepper and payed another £5. ‘Good deal’ – I said to myself. The stand was heavy with ‘buy 3 bags for £3’ kinda thing that makes the whole difference.

Couple more stands and I was armed with a fresh organic baguette, half a kilo of those killer olives – I know, I know, but I was still within the budget! And summery red and tasty cherry tomatoes on a vine. A lot of them.

Damage done: more or less £30.

Products missed: I was upset I couldn’t find basil (for that home made pesto I was dreaming to make), mushrooms and unpasteurised milk, yoghurt and butter – my favourite dairy products.

Content with my purchases and full of bags I was contemplating on my journey back home on my bike. Yes, I have fallen off my bike before with shopping bags on my bullbars. After a thorough re-organisation on a bench in Kennington park I could actually move, even if with a lot of effort, and while slowly pushing myself forward I was thinking about the Planet Earth documentary I watched the other night. There was a Himalayan Puma and her prey. After the cat caught her prey it had a hard time bringing a heavy animal on top of a hill where her cub was waiting impatiently. ‘She needs to eat at least half of that animal before even attempting to struggle any further’ – I commented out-loud. But now it was all clear to me as well. Like that Himalayan cat I was struggling to bring the food back home completely untouched. To share with the loved ones.

So is veg box a rip off? I really wouldn’t say so. If you stick with your box (obviously depends on the company you are with – I am with Riverford) and don’t start buying individual items outside the box too widely, you get a really good deal. Can farmers’ markets replace my veg box love? I haven’t decided yet. But after cooking a delicious stir fry from the veggies I just bought I was sure I will come back there very soon. The taste makes a difference. And I feel I make more difference supporting real farmers, with real faces. Hey-ho for face to face contact!

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