This week … under lockdown (eleven)

I’ve tried meditation, virtual festivals, coffee mornings and yoga. I’ve brushed up my social media skills with online training and travelled to Slovakian green pastures courtesy of Zoom. Most days I feel I’m getting a handle on the world. This week though has been a humdinger. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry any more.

In the words of Simon Evans, writer and director STAGED BBC1, “If the world is going to end, get on and do it. I’ve had enough of this f**king teasing”. @SimonEvans25

This week has been rather eventful. I handed in my notice on a 3-year part time role in tourism as my 66th birthday approaches, a rite of passage that is emotionally challenging at the best of times. Not because I feel any different but society’s attitude to ageing is so negative. For my parents’ generation the future at this point was bright with days of freedom and relaxation to look forward to. For my part, I lurch between sheer terror and overwhelming appreciation. My dear old dad sadly died at only 62 and I feel fortunate to be alive and fit and well.

For the past 18 months I’ve been building up my travel writing career, with some modest success and the aim of continuing for many years. I’ve always loved writing. I’m quite analytical in my thinking so, weirdly, find a 1,200 word commission an enjoyable challenge. Right now, though, a fresh career in travel is beginning to feel like poor timing.

This week a press trip to Canada is cancelled. Although other trips have suffered the same fate in the past few weeks, still, it depresses me. I was holding on to this one in the hope that things would improve by the autumn.

Equally mood lowering is the continuing tragic global news, and rioting in the US and now the UK. I’m not getting into the details as this isn’t the place, but it saddens me that racism, ageism, sexism and other forms of abuse continue in the world. We marched in the Sixties, and it’s still going on. Will we never learn?

So this week I allow myself time to just sit with the feelings that come up and find solace in the little things. A piece of music, a call from a friend, simple meals, early morning walks, favourite Instagrammers and movies. I watch, for the upteenth time, the spy movie Arabesque (director Stanley Donen, 1966). The action, cinematography and performances are first class. Gregory Peck is hilarious as a Professor of Classics under the influence of a psychotropic. Best of all though is Sophia Loren’s wardrobe by Christian Dior. Spoiler alert: Loren is magnificent as the glamorous spy.

Arabesque, 1966. Sophia Loren in a stunning full length Dior evening gown with jewel-encrusted hood. There are around 12 costume changes – I always lose count – one for every set scene.

Sophie Loren in a jewel encrusted evening gown, a still from the film Arabesque.

Music from the catwalk

You may remember my post last week about trending. During the past weeks we have realised just how crucial human contact is to our health and wellbeing. In future, a sucessful brand will be the one building more personal connections. #McQueenMusic is sharing music to download from the Alexander McQueen‘s fashion shows.

A model walking the catwalk for Alexander McQueen.
Alexander McQueen catwalk.

Isobel Waller-Bridge has created an exclusive new score Suspended in Air for the house. Isobel composed the music for the Paris Spring/Summer 2020 women’s last September. A video of the performance, with Robert Ames and Galya Bisengaileva, who also performed in the show, is shot in the Peak District where Ames and Bisengaileva are both isolating.

Video performance Alexander McQueen YouTube channel.

“I look around and I feel community more than ever. Community is a word so deeply associated with McQueen, and I wanted to celebrate that connectivity with diversity and energy. That doesn’t always mean in a major key, or fast paced, but two hours of diving into a world of excellent music to walk to, to stare at the sky, to run to, and to think of each other.” Isobel Waller-Bridge.

I can really identify with the sentiments. I’ve been doing my fair share of staring at the sky lately. Isobel’s curated Spotify playlist is also available to stream.

Blue Zone living

Woman dancing and clapping in the Blue Zone at Okinawa in Japan.
Blue Zone, Okinawa, Japan. All image and video credits: OCVB

I’m fascinated by the Blue Zones. Okinawa is one of only five of the world’s designated ‘Blue Zones’ for longevity and home to the highest concentration of centenarians on the globe, due it’s believed to a healthy lifestyle, sub-tropical sunshine and nutritious cuisine. Although we’re not able to travel to Okinawa at the moment I receive some top tips for living the Blue Zone life.

The Okinawa mindset means people feel less stress than those living anywhere else in Japan, don’t get too stuck into the unnecessary details of a situation and have a laid-back approach to life. There’s a strong sense of community – Yuimaru spirit – across Okinawa’s 160 islands. Family and community relationships are hugely important, as is participation in local events and social activities. Something we can all relate to since the pandemic began.

Kabira Bay, Okinawa Islands, Japan.
Kabira Bay, Okinawa islands.
All image and video credits: OCVB

Hand-clapping for the NHS has given us a little taste of the powerful effects of communal activities in times of stress, as well as online videos of musicians playing from their balconies or in the streets in Italy. Singing and dancing in union are daily activities often seen in local parks and public spaces in Okinawa. There’s something in this undoubtedly.

Another stress busting tip is Uchinaa, a relaxed sense of time. Okinawa people have a forgiving attitude towards being late and don’t like to rush.

Be at one with nature... eat what you grow. In Okawana regular fruits and vegetables on the menu include the purple sweet potato, high in the antioxidant anthocyanin. A bitter vegetable, Goya, has four times the amount of vitamin C than a lemon, and aides digestion. Taro, high in iron, calcium and potassium and handama (Okinawan spinach) is said to be effective against anaemia, due to its high quantity of magnesium and iron. Shibui (winter melon) is used as a digestive aid.

Watch a series of videos on Okinawa.
All image and video credits: OCVB

In my inbox

Romance on the High Sea

Sustainability has been top of the world’s agenda in recent years, but more than ever now we’re aware of how our actions impact the planet and everyone’s lives.

How we grow and produce our food has a ripple effect in terms of health, the envronment, and wildlife. Wherever possible I eat local foods and seasonally because that’s how I grew up, and enjoy eating that way. I do though love good coffee. I received a press release about Yallah Coffee who have launched the first coffee in a series that is aiming to improve their sustainability practices. I’m impressed.

A man holding a basket of raw fresh coffee beans.
Photo Yalla Coffee.

The coffee has been shipped under sail power from the port of Santa Marta, Colombia to be unloaded within a few miles of their roastery near Falmouth. It all sounds very romantic and harks back to 17th century traders crossing the vast oceans. Or in my very young childhood the barges that plied the canals.

The French schooner De Gallant sailed 3,300kg of cargo (coffee, cocoa, panela, and olive oil) over 7,500 nautical miles with a carbon footprint close to zero. By comparison, says Yallah Coffee, “this would have created approximately 2,000 kgCO2 if shipped by container and 178,000 kgCO2 if sent by plane.” I haven’t had the opportunity to try Yallah coffee and there’s no affiliation but I like their ethos. yallahcoffee.co.uk/collections/our-coffee

Museums closure

The interior of the Louvre Lens Museum at Arras, Northern France showing art works and statues.
Louvre Lens Museum in Arras, Northern France.

I read that Museums might close as they struggle to recover after months of closure. An interesting piece, ‘Art Fund charity warns of ‘existential crisis’ and major closures of London’s museums and galleries‘ by Lizzie Edmonds is published in the The Standard. A second piece by Senior Fashion Editor, Caroline Leaper, resonates. ‘Could department stores have the opportunity to return to their glory days post-lockdown? (The Telegraph). It occurs to me that museums and department stores have something positive in common.

“Leaving the house, putting on gloves and masks, wiping down the basket, joining the socially-distanced queue outside, navigating the one-way route around… it’s a faff. A necessary one, but a faff all the same.” Caroline Leaper, Senior Fashion Editor, The Telegraph.

Caroline points out that department stores have a significant advantage, in that you only need to go through the housekeeping ‘faff’ on entering, rather than repeating the same process over and over again for different stores and “…once you’re in, you’re in”. Inside a department store there are multiple franchises to browse so there’s a bigger reward for your efforts. This format applies equally well to larger museums and galleries. Inside, there’s the exhibition to explore, the museum shop for a little gift retail therapy, followed by lunch, possibly with a civilised glass of wine. (Life really is too short, we have sadly discovered recently).

Similar to department stores, the larger museums and galleries have the space to implement 2-metre distancing with well-marked, creative trails. A one way system means a captive audience.

We have all spent way too long in captivity and we’re looking to be entertained and, if we’re going to take the risk of stepping outside of our comfort zones, we need to be courted, assured and valued like never before.

Philantourism

I receive a number of emails this week about the predicted ‘top trends’ as the travel industry endeavours to take some control of a market in flux.

The garden courtyard of the Hotel Louvre Lens at Arras in Northern France showing chairs and tables and a tree.
Hotel Louvre Lens located in converted miners’ houses. Arras in Northern France.

Philantourism will be about choosing a holiday or experience in order to support a destination and its economy in the aftermath of a disaster, right now a pandemic. Last year, I visited the Louvre Lens Museum. The triumvirate of museum, hotel and fine dining restaurant was estalished to regenerate the former mining community. The museum is situated literally on the ground above the mines and the hotel is a row of repurposed former miners’ houses. The elegant restaurant is run by Michelin Chef, Marc Meurin.

Philantourism is not an entirely new movement but I hope it’s a trend that will grow. Even better is that the Louvre Lens Museum is reachable by Eurostar.

buttons

Micrashell

I’ll leave you with a vision of how social interaction might look from now on. Gone are the days of kissing on both cheeks by way of greeting, or even whispering sweet nothings in someone’s ear. The Micrashell by Production Club, is personal protection designed for live events and the entertainment industries.

Micrashell by Production Club.
Micrashell by Production Club.

That’s it for this week. Who knows what next week will bring but I wish you health and happiness.

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