Launch of Holistic Happiness London

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Good afternoon world!

It has been a very long time since I was active with my blogging as my life has persued new areas. I am now a qualified reflexologist and I have also done a course in Soul Plan Reading and I am ready to bring my healing into the world.

If you are interested in having a relaxing and healing reflexology treatment, or if you are interested in receiving a Soul Plan reading, then please check out my new website:

logowww.holistichappinesslondon.com

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Design and Banter #16 at Skype Headquarters

Now that I am in the media world I am finding myself ending up at unexpected locations, such as Skype Headquarters in London!IMG_20150210_210412

It is in a beautiful building near Holborn, with gothic arches on the outside and modern glass work within, that houses the likes of Microsoft and English Heritage.

When we arrived we could hardly believe we were in the right place – it was clearly too fancy for us small scale designers from Shoreditch!

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But there we were in their offices being given name tags and free beer before sitting down to listen to some talks. The talks were more on the business side of design, such as the testing process of a new feature in an application, so it wasn’t really my area, but it was interesting nonetheless.

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My favourite quote of the night was very unexpected, but definitely the most entertaining point of the evening:

“I kind of see this harmonious future where we all sit on ponies and hug each other and cry.”

This guy was talking about designers pretty much being the future, as they have an understanding of how to make things work. So apparently the goal is riding ponies, hugging and crying… well it could be worse!

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And what did we get to take home with us at the end of the night? A sticker book of emoticons of course! What more could you want?

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas from London and Kew Gardens

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Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! I make my return to blogging whilst back in the UK and feeling a little strange being back in my usual tradition of Christmas-ness. It’s just too familiar to ignore all the fakery and get caught up in the magic that is promoted so much on TV and in the advertising industry.

One day I will escape at least the commercial aspects of this celebration and probably be somewhere on the other side of the world where it doesn’t exist. But for now I will try and appreciate the good stuff, such as pretty Christmas lights at Kew Gardens!

You can only enter Christmas at Kew Gardens at a specific time in the evening when it is dark depending on your ticket. This means that it is not overcrowded and it is definitely dark so that you can fully appreciate the pretty lights and strangely eerie Christmas songs that they have chosen to compliment the visuals.

There were all kinds of bizarre sights, from glowing presents in trees to giant mistletoe and trees with light-bulbs. They also had a jester telling riddles to the children in front of a giant tree-man with glowing eyes and flavoured marshmallows that you could melt over a small fire.

On a slow walk it took about an hour to wander around the prescribed route and at the very end (also the beginning) you come across some little Christmas markets with mulled wine and home-made stew. The vegetarian stew was actually amazing!

In the end, although this maybe does not best reflect the experience of Christmas at Kew, this has to be my favourite photo from the evening:

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If you are interested in going to Kew for this event it runs until the 3rd January so book soon!

Visit their website for more details:  Christmas at Kew Gardens

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10 things to know about Sweden

So the time has come to summarise some key points about the Swedes and Sweden. Here is my list:

1. FIKA

coffeeIf you have never heard the word ‘fika’ before, it is important to know before coming to Sweden. It essentially means having a coffee and some cake or ‘bullar’ whilst meeting with friends. This can be done in a cafe or at somebody’s house, but it is pretty much the only traditional socialising that the Swedes do. Of course, the cities have taken on the tradition of pubs from other countries (many of them are ‘English pubs’ which makes a change from the popular ‘Irish pub’ overseas, although they are more or less the same thing) but if you go out into the countryside pubs do not exist and cafes are not the most popular either; the Swedes prefer to stay home with their families.

2. PIZZA

pizzaOn the other hand, you will find many ‘pizzerias’, although they are more like fast-food places with kebab, falafel, hamburgers and more available in addition to the pizza. These are more common than anything else; for example, in Tranemo with 3000 inhabitants there is only one cafe, but 3 pizzerias. The interesting thing about the pizzas is that they like to mix things together: I have seen taco pizzas, kebab pizzas, pizza with fries on top, curry pizzas, pizzas with salad on them (lettuce and salad cream) and pretty much any combination you can imagine. This is of course not the traditional italian pizza!

3. SYSTEMBOLAGET

systembolaget1This is the Swedish monopoly on alcohol. The ‘Systembolaget’ is the only place allowed to sell alcohol that has an alcohol percentage of more than 3.5% and it is controlled by the government. All alcohol has incredibly high taxes and they are very strict on the age policy for buying alcohol, which is 21 years of age. The unfortunate result of this is that many people buy alcohol from overseas (especially Denmark and Germany) and bring it back to Sweden because they save such a ridiculous amount of money. This also leads to some people buying abroad and then selling it to underage drinkers in Sweden for the same price as the Systembolaget, meaning that they make a lot of profit. If you want to learn more about the alcohol situation in Sweden see my video on Swedish Youth and Alcohol.

4. TAKE A NUMBER

numberThey do queue in Sweden, particularly in the supermarket, but most places have this number system. You do not go up to the reception at the doctors or to the till at the pharmacy, you must take a number and wait for them to call you. If there is no one around it can feel a little strange, but you wait until they are ready for you and then they call you.

 

5. ‘IT’S GREAT, BUT…’

BUTThe Swedes do not like to be direct if they have a problem. It is some kind of over-politeness whereby they will tell you everything is ok but then suggest that maybe you could do something in a different way anyway. In some cases it can be frustrating because they will not give you a direct ‘No, this is not what we want’ but they try to get you to see that maybe their way is better and maybe you should change you mind, but whatever you decide is the right decision!

6. THEY LIKE TO LIVE ALONE house-snow

Aside from families, where of course they are living with other people, the Swedes like to live alone. 47% of households are people are living by themselves. This is of course finacially easier in a country where accomodation is one of your lowest monthly costs. In fact, where I live now sharing a flat with one other person I probably spend about the same amount of money on food as I do on rent! This is unthinkable in the UK, although apparently Britain is not too far behind on the living alone statistic at 34% of households.

7. FREDAGSMYS

breadThis is another family tradition where every Friday in the family they eat something easy to make or especially nice to eat (pizza, tacos etc.) and they spend the evening together and play games or watch tv or whatever, but it is the night they spend together as a family. Apparently it’s origins come from the past where meat was very expensive and they would eat chicken once a week and then celebrate this special meal by having an enjoyable evening together.

8. TA DET LUGNT / LAGOM

lagom-ar-bast copy‘Take it easy’ or ‘lagom’ are quite good ways to describe the typical Swedish outlook. It does depend where in the country you are, but the concept is accepted throughout the land. ‘Lagom’ can be described as ‘just right’ – not too much and not too little – and this is a way of thinking that they apply to everything in life. The positive result is that it helps people to not become too stressed out as they don’t put a lot of pressure on themselves to exceed expectations and that’s ok!

9. SWEARING

swearSwearing is not a big deal in Sweden. They have various curse words that are just an everyday part of their language and I think nobody feels bad about saying them. The two most common are probably ‘fan’ (often ‘fy fan’) and ‘djävla’ which both mean ‘devil’. On the other hand they have taken the English word ‘shit’ and they say it either like the English or in the Swedish way spelt ‘skit’ and they often combine it with other words like ‘skitbra’ (shit-good). However, this word is as acceptable as the other words and you will even hear children saying it.

10. TRADITIONS

pask-karringThe Swedish traditions are a little unusual because they are almost all now a mix of Christian and Pagan/Pre-Religious traditions. With the onset of Christianity in Sweden sometime around the Middle Ages the old traditions slowly became mixed up with the Christian traditions, which can make it a little confusing sometimes! It seems that it took up to 200 years for the Scandinavian peoples to finally accept the Christian way of thinking, which could also explain the mixing of traditions. For example, Santa Lucia in Sweden is both a celebration of the Italian Saint and also includes the story of staying up all night until the dawn to protect your children and livestock from evil spirits that come out on this night. The two ideas don’t really fit together and yet here they are!

 

 

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Global Festival: The Final Day

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So we came to the end of the Global Festival week yesterday and now I will share with you some of what was going on then. It was the busiest day in which the main venue was full of stands and information about different things, such as the importance of voting for the EU ballot in a couple of weeks, the ‘Power to Resist’ project that I made the video about youth and alcohol for and information about the collaboration between Nordic countries. We also had the ‘Bokbuss’ (book bus) outside, which was like a portable library, a clothes market and even a stand selling freshly made donuts! Those kind of donuts make me happy :)

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Aside from the stands there were some performances: little children dancing self-choreographed routines, a karate group and the Tranemo concert band, as well as a piece of theatre about the EU that was so ridiculous I could only stand so much, but their songs were hilarious because they were so bad! There was also the graffiti workshop for children and then the graffiti artist and designer running the workshop went out into the street to do their own work in front of the gallery, which was also open for viewing. Finally, the exhibitions in the main venue were of course open. All in all a busy day.

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At the end of the day there was a party at the location ‘Parkudden’ which has a stage, on which the band ‘Crimson’ were playing and an outdoor space to watch and drink from. However it did end up raining a little and as there was another music night in my own little village of Uddebo, I favoured that over the Global Festival party. More on that later.

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All in all it was a pretty tiring week as I was still going to my Swedish classes as well as photographing the events, but I think it was successful. I have to thank Juan Ochoa for doing most of the work for the festival because although we helped with some stuff, the majority was done by this one man. Well done Juan for getting through the week!

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Global Festival: Day Five

(Apologies for the bad photographs – I did not have my good camera this day!)

Day five of the Global festival featured more live music, from both Kulturskola students and music by a Swedish singer called ‘Lova’ and also featuring Marc Rossier accompanying her for his first appearance in Sweden.

Two Sisters

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The evening began with a short set by a group ‘Two Sisters’ which features, surprisingly enough, two sisters. Their partners played the accompaniment whilst they sang, danced a little and played percussion. The music had a folky-feel but also had that haunting quality where it seems more true on an earth-level, like they have some understanding of what is greater than us. I very much enjoyed their music, but unfortunately I cannot find any trace of it online.

Vi Gjorde det Själv (We did it Ourselves)

pianoboyFrom the name of this event I was expecting younger children, as they were promoting the ability to write or compose your own music in such a patronizing way! However, the music performed was all from older teenagers and it was a nice show. They had both singers who had written songs and worked out an accompaniment with the teachers from the Kulturskola (which I am also in the process of doing) and instrumental pieces. A special highlight was one teenage boy who wrote two songs: one for piano and one for 3 trumpets. The piano piece was maybe 8 minutes long and a really beautiful piece of music and the trumpet piece was shorter, but was entitled ‘Elefant Ljuden’ (The Elephant Sound) as it resembled in some way the sound of an elephant!

Lova and Marc Rossier

So unfortunately I didn’t make it to the last performance of the night, but I am now listening to the music of Lova and Marc Rossier, which again has a folky vibe including some American folk influence. It seems that Lova has been working with Marc Rossier for a few years and they have done a lot of work together. Don’t mix them up with the Spanish singer Lova from Madrid, who I just discovered on soundcloud, although I also recommend checking her music out! It’s a bit more electronic than the other two, which suits me fine.

Check them out on Marc Rossier’s website: Lova and Marc Rossier

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Global Festival: Day Four

Day four of the Global Festival was the best day so far! It started with the ‘kortfilmfestival’ (short film festival) with work by local children and then went on to the live music…

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Yes, it does say ‘slut’ in big writing on screen in a small child’s handwriting, but no, it doesn’t mean what you think it means! In Swedish ‘slut’ (pronounced ‘sloot’) means ‘end’. The Kortfilmfestival began with these short animations by students from the Kulturskola under the direction of Björn, the art teacher. They were done as motion graphic animations in Adobe After Effects by Müge Ayal, another volunteer here. So the children drew all of the images and wrote the stories and the movement was done on a computer. They were very cute little stories and every one ended up with the characters becoming ‘bästa vänner’ (best friends). The animations were accompanied by an orchestra.

After that they screened some short films by students from the normal school, which had been mostly improvised but were surprisingly entertaining.

African Music Group

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Unfortunately I cannot give these guys a name, and I am not even sure they have all played together before. The group was comprised of: Fabian from the Skolhuset here in Uddebo, along with Beno, a German drummer who is living in the house right now as well, and several other French speaking musicians, two of African origin.

Watch a clip here:

 

It was an amazing performance of djembe drumming, African dancing and other instruments, which altogether had a great energy and great rhythms. I was so happy to see them play!

Sebbe and Juan

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Juan (left) and Sebbe (right)

Next up were two very talented guitarists, one aged 14 and one not-so-young. Sebbe is clearly going to go somewhere as a musician so Juan kept reminding the audience of his name so we can say ‘we saw him first’. Juan is our co-ordinator for the EVS and has had a long history of being a musician, among many other things, so he didn’t feel the need to boast about his own ability! Oh and at one point Sebbe also played the harmonica.

Watch a clip here:

 

Curly Camel

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Amazing, astounding, attention-holding and atmosphere creating as always, Curly Camel played another powerful gig for the audience of Tranemo area. All three members come from Tranemo and are only in their early twenties, but have already created a sound and an emotional energy that rivals many famous bands. The most impressive thing that I have seen them do is capture the entire audience in the music; even when they use strange sound effects or suddenly have a really heavy breakdown the most old-fashioned listener appreciates it. This is because of the pure power and emotion in their compositions that all people can relate to in some way. Their style is a kind of contemporary jazz with electronic influences and the instruments are: keyboards, double bass and drums. If you get the chance you must see them perform!

Watch a clip here:

 

Check out their website: www.curlycamel.com

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Global Festival: Day Three

There were two events today: the Träffpunkt at the Glasets Hus, Limmared, and a live music evening in Sveaborg, Tranemo.

Träffpunkt

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The Träffpunkt occurs every week as a meeting place for people to come and practise languages and mix with local people, often from different backgrounds and countries, but for Global Festival a Columbian family decided to share some of their culture with clothing and food. They made empanadas with rice and chicken in them so although I hear they tasted very good, I could not try them. Sometimes being vegetarian is annoying – I was very hungry!

Musikal Äventyr (Musical Adventure)

So this was originally conceived as a kind of open mic night, but then some bands were interested in playing, so they did! They are all managed by the same guy, so I guess they are connected… But right now I have forgotten to find out more about the bands, including their names, so they are going to be mysterious for now and I will provide more information later.

Mysterious Band No. 1

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Music: Rock/Alternative, own songs and covers

Mysterious Band No. 2

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Musik: Energetic non-descript metal

Mysterious Band No. 3

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Music: Normally Folk-Metal, but here was an acoustic folk set

DeLarge

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Headlining the event – in leapord print – were a band I have seen play a couple of times before and whose afterparty I crashed last time! They are cool guys with a dancy indie sound and a really strong stage presence. They are establishing themselves more, having recently won a music contest, and plan to play a lot of gigs over the summer; a couple of them are studying at university elsewhere making it a bit difficult during term-time.

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More on the mysterious bands later…. (when they become less mysterious)
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Global Festival: Day Two

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Today the main events were the String Orchestra and a dance performance by students from the local school. I was over with the Orchestra as I was playing some easy songs with the children, before the real musicians began!

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It was a really nice evening of music with two guest musicians playing some pieces together, as well as the celloist playing 3 solos. It was mostly classical music, but at the end they orchestra played a rendition of ‘Lady Madonna’ by the Beatles, which had been transposed for violin and cello by the cello teacher at the Kulturskola, who was also playing.

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Here you can see Per Lundin playing with the two guest musicians who were both previously students of his:

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Global Festival: Day One

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The Global Festival began in front of the Tranemo Kommun building with a music group called ‘Alla kan’ (Everyone can) who had links with LSS, the national organisation for people with disabilities. The young people who were singing were supported by accompanying musicians from the Kulturskola and the people who work with their group sang along with them. They played a mixture of songs, both Swedish and otherwise (yes, there was ABBA) and then they handed over to some representatives of the kommun to properly introduce the events of the week.

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They then did the old-fashioned cutting of a ribbon with some scissors, which I personally think should have been a lot bigger, and the week had begun.

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After this a small group of musicians with drums and trumpets marched along to the library as a procession that people could follow to the library where the next event would be: BABAR, a performance.

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This was a reading of the first Babar book, written in 1938 by Jean de Brunhoff, and accompanied my piano music by Lars Hagglund from the Kulturskola. The book was of course in Swedish, as the Babar stories have been translated into many languages from the original French. It was an interesting idea: how to tell a story through music. They did this by reading a part of the story and then having piano to represent the mood of what had happened or was happening at the time.

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A sad moment: Babar’s mother had just been killed!

 And so the week begins; onwards with music, dance, talks and art!

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