Sita Brahmachari’s Beautiful Books

 

I love to write, and to use words to weave a web of stories that reveal facts about our world and about what we can do to change it, but I also love to read. I always have. One of my favourite authors is Sita Brahmachari. She writes about real issues and real life whilst still managing to capture a beautiful novel on the paper.

Two of her books are written in diary form, from the point of view of a young girl from London called Mira Levenson. The first, Artichoke Hearts, is about Mira’s Nana, who is an activist and an artist, but is dying of cancer. It is heart-wrenchingly sad, but messages of hope and love are riddled through it and they lift it up and make it one of the best books I’ve ever read. Sita, the author, also talks about bullying and also about Mira’s relationship with a boy in her class who survived the Rwandan Genocide. I learned so much and it really inspired me to try even harder to make a difference.

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The second is called Jasmine Skies and Mira is older in this book. She is of Indian heritage so she decides to fly half way across the world to discover the culture and customs of the country she knows so little about. She is not prepared for the huge amount of poverty, inequality and human rights abuses she will witness, working at her Aunt’s refuge for street kids she realises what she wants to do with her life. This is a quote from the book:

I’ve seen real poverty and homelessness in London, but it’s not on the same scale. When you see it in pictures you don’t appreciate how extreme the difference between rich and poor can be, though they’re living side by side. I feel a heaviness in my gut that I can’t seem to shake off. Every day here someone is tapping on my conscience and saying “Mira Levenson, this is not fair. What are you going to do about it?” and the truth is I don’t know.

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The last book that I have read is Red Leaves, which I was given for my thirteenth birthday just over a week ago. It is a really intriguing and amazing book. It opened my eyes to so much. Homelessness, war, refugees, divorce, religion, journalism, kids who live in care.
Aisha sought refuge in London from war-torn Somalia when she was ten, traumatised and unable to speak, she was alone in the world and missing her family. Now she’s twelve and she lives with her foster carer. She is starting to feel safe and loved again when her carer suggests that she is adopted by a Somalian family. She feels betrayed and runs away to a nearby wood.
Zak is angry and sad and confused. His parents are divorced, his brother won’t speak to him, his Mother is a journalist in conflict zones. When she goes missing, it’s the final straw. He becomes tangled up in a mess of the past and present. Somehow he stumbles into the wood were Aisha is sheltering.
Iona lives on the streets, with her dog. She’s rude and sarcastic and tough, but underneath she’s hurt. She lies about her age and won’t accept help, but she was the victim of a broken family. She too seeks safety and security in the woods.
Elder is seen as a dotty old homeless woman, a free spirit. But she has a story too. She’s not just crazy. She cares about the children and watches over them as they begin to form friendships, forgive and forget, learn about each other.
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I would recommend any of Sita’s books. Not only do they help you understand the world, they fill you with a desire to make it a better place.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you’d like to! Has there been a book that you’ve read that has really inspired you? If so, why?

 

 

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Let The Audience Look to Their Eyes!

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Titania, queen of the fairies, in the spectacular A Midsummer Nights Dream Live from the Globe.

I’ve been watching Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare Live from the Globe on Iplayer this morning. It’s so good! It incorporates music, dance, comedy and, of course, the wonderful, enigmatic, meaningful language of Shakespeare.

The title is a quote from Nick Bottom, the comic part in this play, when he is describing how good an actor he thinks he is. He wants to play all the parts in the play, the hero, the villain, the lady and the animals. He is saying, in this quote, that when he kills himself (as the hero) he will need to produce some tears so he says: Let the audience look to their eyes! Which is silly really as you can’t exactly look to your own eyes, can you? Shakespeare’s good like that.

I love, love, love Shakespeare. I’ve already read all of his 37 plays, I can quote whole passages, translate them into modern English, I’ve written a few adaptions of many of his plays, completed in depth study guides,  I just love the language. It draws me in, makes me think.

Anyhow, A Midsummer  Nights Dream is two and a half hours long, so I’m watching it in half hour parts.

Here is a quote that I particularly like: “My soul consents not to give in to sovereignty.” Hermia. sovereignty means supreme power and authority, in my own words. I like Hermia a lot because she stands up for what she believes and she isn’t afraid of anything. She even tells the Duke of her land what she thinks is right and sticks to it even when he threatens her with death.

 

Here’s my favourite dialog from the first part, between Hermia and Helena. If you don’t know the storyline, I would go look it up now. Not only is it intriguing, it will help you understand this next passage.

Basically, this is Helena complaining about how Demetrius doesn’t love her to Hermia, who Demetrius does love.

Helena: Teach me how you look and how you sway the motion of Demetrius heart. 

Hermia: I frown upon him yet he loves me still.

Helena: Then your frowns could teach my smiles some skill! 

Hermia: I give him curses yet he gives me love.

Helena: Then my prayers could such affection move!

Hermia: The more I hate, the more he follows me.

Helena: The more I love, the more he hates me.

Hermia: His folly, Helena, is no fault of mine.

Helena: Except your beauty! I wish that were mine!

Hermia: Take comfort, he shall no longer see my face. Lysander and myself will fly this place! 

Helena: No!? 

Note: Lysander is Hermia’s love.

Day 19 – London Street Art


The Chicks in front of the glamour Camden Lock Bridge

A selfie in front of the famous Camden Lock Bridge

The rivers and canals seem to be hubs for graffiti artists. Maybe because there is an abundance of bridges, walls and uninhabited ruins on and near the canal.  Perhaps because they want to show off their skills and talents to the many passersby.

I feel like graffiti brings some colour and fun to the canal.  Some of the art is very good. It’s also expressive, it helps people get their feelings out.  Sometimes the graffiti tells a story. You can tell if the artist is happy and joyous, sad and troubled, or angry and frustrated, by their work.

Some of the graffiti is truly beautiful and amazing. People see graffiti as a whole, they generalise it and, yeah, a lot of it is scribbly and rude, but some is just incredible.

What’s your favourite piece of art from the photos below?

These are pieces of graffiti that we’ve seen on our trip. My fave is the girl with the pink sunglasses. Oh, and I love the cat!

 

This is an upside down face, reflected in the water. Really creative!

This is an upside down face, reflected in the water. Really creative!

This one is super fun. Love the stripes and swirls!

This one is super fun. Love the stripes and swirls!

Admiring.

Admiring.

Not really sure the significance of this one. I think the emotion in the picture is: moody.

Not really sure the significance of this one. I think the emotion in the picture is: moody. Perhaps it’s  a defiant pair of teens.

This tells a story.

This tells a story.

I think he's sad. Maybe he's lost a family member. He looks a bit tired of life.

I think he’s sad. Maybe he’s lost a family member. He looks a bit tired of life.

Love this! It was on the side of a restaurant that had live music on Saturday nights. This would certainly encourage me to go there!

Love this! It was on the side of a restaurant that had live music on Saturday nights. This would certainly encourage me to go there!

My favourite, isn't it life like?

My favourite, isn’t it life like?

Giant stalking cat. Wow!

 

We had to get one of the sorta 'Classic' graffiti style.

We had to get one of the sorta ‘Classic’ graffiti style.

This is one happy dragon. Or is it a snake?

This is one happy dragon. Or is it a snake? Maybe it’s a green dog?

Day 15 – London Canal Museum

IRYS

When I was walking down the towpath dad told me and Evan about horses pulling boats and what happened when they fell in the river.

The horses might fall in the river because they slip or get spooked.

There are slopes at the side of the canal for them to walk back on to the towpath and tow the boat again.

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They have to wear a full harness, one of the bits is called a head collar, it helps them pull the weight of the boat.  The head collar has to be the right fit because if it’s too tight it will make the horse choke and if it’s too loose it rubs on the horses neck and it gets really sore.

The  Romans used mules to tow boats on their waterways.  In the 1960’s people stopped using horses to tow work boats.

There are still used for towing passenger boats today.

Outside the London Canal Museum

Outside the London Canal Museum

GRACIE

We visited another Museum, ‘ The London Canal Museum’.  Here I learnt the life story of Carlo Gatti.

Carlo Gatti was born in the Italian -Swiss Alps, the only Italian speaking region of Switzerland.  He was a bad scholar so, at only thirteen years of age, he joined his two brothers in Paris.  They had a business selling chestnuts on the streets.  Carlo longed for something bigger, more fruitful.  He wanted to be rich and successful.

So he travelled to London, where he figured he would be better off, he hadn’t imagined the poverty and squalor.  He, like most other Italian emigrants, had to live in a poor  part of town called ‘Little Italy’.  Nowadays it’s ‘Little Venice’.   He began selling chestnuts again and even sold waffles at a coffee stall.  He was very unhappy, his dreams weren’t coming true.

His fortune changed the day he met Ballo, who would soon become his business partner and good friend.  They set up the Gatti and Ballo Café Ristorante. Carlo put a cocoa grinding machine in the window.  It was his pride and joy.  Soon he became famous all over London for his chocolate.

The thing Gatti was most famous for was his amazing ice cream.  He got ice from all over London, mostly on the Regent’s Canal.  It wasn’t a success, the ice was dirty, thin and some winters, not even there at all.  So he began to look further afield.  Soon he started to send ships over to Norway and America.

The process of ice collecting is relatively simple. First horses pulled a plough over the surface to clear debris.  Then they pulled a sort of blade that cut the ice into large cubes.  The blocks were then lifted out of the water by a pair of metal blades with wooden handles, these were called ‘Ice Dogs’.  The ice was then hauled up the steep fjords and sent down the other side on a chute. Then they were loaded onto ships bound for England.

The ice was then transported up the canals and taken to one of Gatti’s ice wells.  The museum had two of these deep, dark, damp wells beneath it.  The ice was lowered in by hand cranes and left. It didn’t melt because it was cold underground. Also the sides were packed with sawdust that helped keep the ice cool.

Soon ices became all the rage and Carlo Gatti became really rich.

A model of the ice well

A model of the ice well

EVAN

In the afternoon we went to the London Canal Museum.  Up till about 60 years ago it was a place where they stored ice for fish mongers, ice cream makers and lots of other things, it was called The Ice House.

The ice  wells could hold 2000 – 3000 tons of ice at a time, the ice came from Norway.

Looking down into the ice well

Looking down into the ice well

The first way to move boats along the canal was to get horses to pull the boats, they then used steam engines, now boats have diesel engines .

One of the most famous and common diesel engines was the Bolinder.

The Bolinder engine was 9horse power.  If you still have a Bolinder engine in your boat it is worth a lot.

Taking Clairie To London

Yesterday we took Clairie, a young girl from Germany who is doing a bit of work experience at the campsite/farm where we live, into London to see all the sights.  It is her first time in the UK, so we made sure that she saw all the things that are unique to our capital city. We explained to her about British history, from Queen Boadicea of the Iceni tribe to Guy Fawkes and from KIng Henry 8th’s many wives to the legend about the ravens at the Tower.

“Sorry, can’t smile”

The marching band

The marching band

Changing Of The Guard

Changing Of The Guard

First stop was Buckingham Palace to see the Changing Of The Guard.  This is a major tradition so Clairie had to see it.  The Busbies looked so smart in their uniform, it must be really hard to stay still and not smile all day while people are staring at you and snapping away with their cameras.

Wigeon ducks in the park

Wigeon ducks in the park

After Buckingham Palace we walked through St. James park.  Clairie and I took loads of photos of all the different breeds of birds, including wigeon ducks, black swans, mallards and even white pelicans.

Me, Evan and Irys with a member of the Household Cavalry.

Me, Evan and Irys with a member of the Household Cavalry.

We visited the Household Cavalry and had our picture taken with one of the horsemen.  Just like the Busbies, he couldn’t smile!!!

Big Ben

Big Ben

Clairie is taking photos

Clairie taking photos

We visited Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament too.  Clairie is really into photography, so she took lots of amazing shots.  Big Ben is stunning, I love all the gold leaf and the sheer height of it is incredible. The Houses of Parliament are also lovely, they’re rather posh and very beautiful.

We walked along the Embankment on river Thames. We saw the London Eye.

We walked along the Embankment on river Thames. We saw the London Eye.

Clairie and I had our pictures taken in one of London’s classic, red telephone boxes.

“Say cheese”

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My turn!!!

Next up is a little trip on the underground, it was a little busy so we had to stand. A London experience just isn’t complete without an underground journey.

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” Tower bridge and The Tower Of London, here we come!!!”

Such a cool photo of The Shard behind a bush. It looks like it's just exploded!!! BOOOM, BAAAM and BOOOOSH.

Such a cool photo of The Shard behind a bush. It looks like it’s just exploded!!! BOOOM, BAAAM and BOOOOSH!!!!!

The Shard is now the tallest building in London.

The Shard is now the tallest building in London.

The thing Clairie really wanted to see in London was Tower Bridge and as The Tower Of London is right next door we decided to visit both.  The Tower was really good, we saw Traitors Gate, but Tower Bridge was amazing. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a horn sounded and the bridge opened to let a wedding boat through. It was so cool, we hadn’t expected it to open at all!!!!

WOW!!!!

WOW!!!!

We saw the wall that the Romans built around London while they occupied it. They purpose of the wall was to protect the city from invaders. Eventually London outgrew it’s wall. Beside the ruins of it stood a statue of the emperor Tiberius.

My brother, Evan, is history mad. He enjoyed this part of the trip.

My brother, Evan, is history mad. He enjoyed this part of the trip.

Evan by the wall. I bet no enemies could get over that!!

Evan by the wall. I bet no enemies could get over that!!

Irys and I posing as royal emperor's assistants.

Irys and I posing as royal emperor’s assistants.

The next stop was my favourite part of the trip: Somerset House’s Fountain Courtyard!! Mum was explaining to Clairie that in the Winter there is a huge ice rink in the yard and in all the other parts of the year there are big fountains you can run and play in. As it was a really hot day, I asked if I may go in the fountains, I’m so glad that the answer was yes. Me, Dad, Evan and Irys skipped and jumped in the beautiful, sunny fountains. It was much to the amusement of lots of people enjoying the pretty sights and grand house. Loads of folks with snazzy cameras took pics of us , but I didn’t care, I was having the time of my life!!

Fun, fun , fun

Fun, fun , fun

Barefoot, with our trousers rolled up, in London? Mad!!!

Barefoot, with our trousers rolled up, in London? Mad!!!

Irys, lovin' it!!

Irys, lovin’ it!!

Time to move on again, this time to Covent Garden, Clairie’s favourite spot. We walked along all the shops, watched some street acts (including an opera singer and a man who performed magic tricks), Clairie bought a coconut full of coconut water and we saw the living statues. We also visited the Tintin Shop and bought a mask.

Clairie, me, Irys and Evan.

Clairie, me, Irys and Evan.

The living statue

The living statue

Trafalgar Square next!!! We saw Nelson’s Column and the Canadian and Ugandan Embassies.

Such a brave and proud man. He died for his country and so he deserves his place looking down over London.

Such a brave and proud man. He died for his country and so he deserves his place looking down over London.

Back down The Mall, all of our legs are aching now and our feet are sore.

The Mall, SW1, The City Of Westminster, London, UK.

The Mall, The City Of Westminster, London, UK.

The Union Jack

The Union Jack

One last Selfie at Buckingham Palace

One last Selfie at Buckingham Palace

The train home was a bit of a squeeze. Oh well, you haven’t experienced London properly if you haven’t been shoved in a crowded train carriage fighting for personal space and gasping for air.

STOMP

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On Saturday I went into London to see STOMP, a musical production with music made from junk only.  I was with my Uncle Sean, it was my birthday treat.

It’s all rythmic,  clapping, drumming, bashing, stamping, stomping, ect.  At times it was really funny, there was great dancing and the performers were extremely talented.  They played with a great selection of junk, from barrels to hose pipes,  from trolleys to match boxes and lighters.  It was amazing to think that these everyday objects were all they had to make music with.  It’s kind of music, acting, dancing and comedy rolled into one, which made it very entertaining.

 

the stage with scaffolding and junk

the stage with scaffolding and junk

 

 

I’ve picked my two favourite tunes or acts or whatever you might call them, to tell you all about.  The first one is called ‘newspapers’, it’s funny, and a great racket. They rip up the the papers and rustle them. One man even has a tuneful coughing fit!!! With rattling of pens and flapping of papers it has to be my first fave.  My second is called ‘walkers’, it’s where three men put on ski boots and strap them to huge oil drums. They walk around, using the stage as a drum and their own legs and feet as drumsticks. The funny bit comes at the end when, after these big, muscular men come stomping in, another man goes walking in on paint pots. It’s hilarious. Another awesome one is were they harness themseves onto ropes and swing from scafolding. Then they sway to and fro, hitting pots and pans that have been strung up.

Watching the performers was fascinating, they are so good at what they do. When they dance they are perfectly in time, their music is amazing and they are so enthusiastic.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Thanks for taking me, Uncle Sean!!!

 

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