Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lent 2017

Each year there are two occasions when we reflect on our lives and muse on the things we wish to change in ourselves. The first is New Year - 365 days stretched out ahead of us ready to be filled with trips to the gym, diets, foreign travel, the learning of new skills or the breaking of a bad habit, which means that come the next year we are the version of ourselves we hope to be.
The second is Lent. Despite beginning on a different date each year, it offer the chance to jump back on the wagon, should we have failed to stick to our New Year's Resolutions, or to give up something we know is sort of bad for us (drinking, smoking, chocolate, gossiping, swearing etc.) but which we can go back to after Lent is over.
Usually I view Lent as a period to be endured and try to get through as quickly as possible so that I can go back to eating chocolate or having a glass of Merlot after work. My motivation usually being 'it'll be over in 40 days, hang tight' or 'Jesus went through crucifixion, you can last 40 days without some Cadbury's'.
However, there is another way to view Lent. A very wise man once told me that you should not focus on the hardship of what you are giving up but focus on the time you have gained back and reallocate this time to something positive. Do you spend 20 minutes a day on Tinder? That's 20 minutes you could spend learning Swedish. Do you spend an hour a day playing video games? That's an hour you could use to learn to cook a new dish.
This lent I have decided to give up watching TV (well Netflix, iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD as I do not own a TV) and reallocate my time to other things such as reading, playing the piano, crafting, and working through my '30 things to do before I am 30' list. 
Admittedly it has only been 3 days since Lent began, and I have not caved and watch Made In Chelsea, Gossip Girl or Tattoo Fixers, but so far I am enjoying this Lent far more than my previous one. It is interesting how much a change of perspective can impact on our outlook and thinking. Now back to trying to master Moonlight Sonata, reading War and Peace and knitting a laptop sock!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Russian Walks - Chelsea and Fulham

Today I decided to embark on one of the Russian Cultural Walks around London. As I was in the area after Church I decided to follow the Chelsea and Fulham Walk. The walk begins at the Saatchi Gallery and ends at Brompton Cemetery, a distance of around 3.5 miles. As I have never lived in this area of London I was excited to explore a part of the city I do not usually frequent.
I have previously been to the Saatchi Gallery so decided not to go around it and view the recommended works of art but walk straight on to stop B on the route. This was a former dance academy turned Pizza Express. As a listed building the outside and statues have remained the same, and make it one of the most beautiful restaurants I have ever seen. Note to self - one in dine in later.
The next few stops were buildings either built or frequented by famous Russians. They were worth seeing and created a slightly magically feeling as you could stand outside a building that once Tolstoy or Turgenev had stayed in over century ago. One for any Russian lit fan.
The last stop on the walk was Brompton Cemetery where Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh is buried, along with several other Russians I discovered. I had never been to Brompton Cemetery but it was without a doubt the highlight of the walk. The overgrown cemetery is filled with stone crosses, angels and mausoleums, and despite being a place of the dead has a sunny and calm atmosphere. From the information leaflet I learnt that it is London's most central and accessible cemetery, was designed to be a garden cemetery in the layout of a cathedral, and it was the first and only cemetery ever to be nationalised! 
The thing that struck me most about the route was that it did not just take you along main roads but down side streets. On the way I saw beautiful houses I never would otherwise of seen and got to discover several window boxes full of lavender. Something I bonded with an older gentleman over!
I would suggest to anyone wishing to pursue one of the walks is to take a smartphone. On more than one occasion I found it a little tough to follow the printed out map and had to use the maps app on my phone to find my way. However, this was a great way to spend a few hours in London and train for Shine Walk 2016.
NB It's not too late to sponsor me for my walk!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Cross Stitch Crazy!

As many may know when I am not at work, training for Shine Walk or doing all things Russian, I like to sewing and make things. So it was great to be in this month's issue of The World of Cross Stitching on the readers panel! Pick up issue 243 and see my lovely face smiling back at you;

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Shine Walk 2016 - Sponsor Me, Please!

Dearest Reader, things have been a bit quiet of late on the blogging front. Now this does not stem from a lack of desire to write or a lack of material, or because I have been too busy cooking and taking pictures of my food on Instagram, but simply in that I have been training for this year's Cancer Research UK Shine Walk for which I hope to raise £300.
The walk will be taking place on 24th September 2016 in London and begins in the evening. You walk the walk by night with glow sticks to light you up, hence Shine Walk! There is the option to do a full or half marathon length walk. I have opted for the half marathon and will be walking around 13 miles.
Aside from frequenting the gym I have decided to combine my love of Russian culture with walking and undertake some of the Russia Beyond the Headlines London Walks. These are a series of walks around London which take you past Russian related places you may not know were there. For example plaques of famous Russian people who lived in London, and sculptures by Russian artists.
Now comes the part where you can help, please click here to sponsor me! All donations of any size are very welcome, and you can also donate anonymously if you would prefer. We all know someone who has or has been affected by cancer, and Shine Walk is a way to raise money to help fund research into new cures.
Updates on progress and possibly funny stories to follow soon!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentines Day

Happy Valentine's Day one and all. I thought I would share this video with you. It made me laugh and sum up the day for some nicely;

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Film: The Patent Leather Shoes of the Unkown Soldier

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a film showing of the Bulgarian Film 'The Patent Leather Shoes of the Unknown Soldier' as part of the SSEES 100 Years Film Festival.
Admittedly I am not very au fair with Bulgarian Cinema but having studied Russian Cinema for many years decided to give it a whirl. To me there were many similarities between the two cinematic styles, perhaps not unsurprising given the Soviet link, but there were a couple of things that struck me about the film.
The first was the use of memory and its link to the narrator's childhood in rural Bulgaria. This trope is not unusual and could easily be compared to other cinematic work's such as Tarkovskii's Mirror. However, the thing which interested me is how the memories are triggered; the protagonist accidentally hits play on his tape recorder and hears a recording of some peasant music from his native land. Nothing unusual in that you might say, but what is interesting is that this occurs while he is on assignment in London and is outside Buckingham Palace watching the changing of the guard while Feed the Bird from Mary Poppins plays. Was the director aiming for a link with this film? I think yes. Both films are told from the point of view of children, have fantastical elements too them, and an unhappiness which needs resolving.
Further if the director were wanting to engage a Western audience this music could have the same effect on a Western viewer as the peasant music on the narrator. The question is why specifically the West? If the director chose this music to establish that the narrator is in the West it is not needed as he has already shown footage of London and the iconic Buckingham Palace.Therefore there must be some other reason who its inclusion.
The second thing I found interesting in the film was the use of exaggeration. For example in family scenes where the narrator finds something noisy it is too noisy, when he describes the marriage between his uncle and aunt as sad the bride is overtly sad, and when it is mentioned that the family resemble animals the next scene is of them grazing happily on all fours like sheep. To me this links back to the link with Mary Poppins where the characters dance with chimney sweeps and jump into pictures drawn on the street.
The link between these two films may be subtle but is indeed there. This is one film I would recommend any fan of Eastern European Cinema sees, partly so I can discuss my theory with you.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Music Monday

I found this song a few months back and thought that it was worthy of sharing for Music Monday. It's by a Russian singer called Sergey Lazarev. I hope that you like it as much as I do, translation below.

I cannot fly, but when I'm with you I am floating
I do not like to surrender, but to you I am ready to lose
and even if instantly I have to lose my freedom
I do not like to repeat, but I will repeat again, how much I love you

On a dangerous pulse, I cannot stop
I am about to explode from this love
the ice is melting and the trigger is ready
and it hits the heart with a kiss

Go crazy, then die for a few hours
but die of happiness, not from a bullet to the temple
fly high and crash again
come back to reality
and lose your heartbeat

Go crazy, then die for a few hours
let time slip away, like sand between your fingers
fall asleep and wake up again
touch my hands
and lose your heartbeat

I am not ready to promise, I do npt know how to be, I'm scared to lose
I didn't want to talk, but if suddenly you leave I won't be able to let you go
maybe we just shouldn't believe those words we always repeat
and maybe it isn't easy - we'll reach the stars , to learn how to fly

On a dangerous pulse, I won't stop
I'm about to explode because of this love
the ice is melting and the trigger is ready
the kiss flies and hits the heart

go crazy, then die for a few hours
but die of happiness, not from a bullet to the temple
fly high and crash again
return back to reality
and lose your heartbeat

go crazy, then die for a few hours
let time slip away, like sand between fingers
fall asleep and wake up again
touch my hands
and lose your heartbeat

Recognize me, from a thousand faces
give me your hand, when I call your name
don't hurry, close your eyes
listen to my heart beat
only for you
I'm here with you, and I love you

Go crazy, then die for a few hours
but die of happiness, not from a bullet to the temple
fly high and crash again
return back to reality
and lose your heartbeat

Go crazy, then die for a few hours
let time slip away, like sand between your fingers
fall asleep and wake up again
touch my hands
and lose your heartbeat

Saturday, 27 June 2015

National Ladies Shooting Day

Apologies dear reader for the absence of recent posts, one has been somewhat caught up with work and the General Election Campaign 2015. Now that the Conservatives are back in power with a majority this allows me a bit more time to blog.
Today was the day I went to my first ever clay pigeon shooting event organised by the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club. As part of National Ladies Shooting Day the club had organised taster days across the country where ladies could book to have a go at shooting under the instruction of a seasoned expert.
My nearest event was at the E.J. Churchill ground in Buckinghamshire and after a few wrong turns (mostly due to the Sat Nav and my lack of sense of direction) I arrived. Ladies of all ages were in attendance and had been grouped into teams according to ability. After a quick cup of coffee it was off with our instructor to have a go at some of the pegs.
Our instructor for the day was a lovely older gentleman called Terry who took my team through the basics of a 20 gauge shot gun, gun safety and the techniques for shooting on a teal, rabbit and driven pegs.
I had been clay pigeon shooting a couple of times before but it was great to have some tuition on how to do it properly and correct any mistakes I was making. After a few off shots I got into my stride and managed to hit the clays. After 30 shots across the pegs my total score was 22. Not bad for a beginner!
After the shooting it was back to the lodge for some delicious homemade cakes and a cup of coffee. The selection was so delicious it was hard to pick what to have! In the end I chose the chocolate brownie cake, which did not disappoint.
The day was sponsored by Browning so after the cake there was a chance to try some of their guns on the ground before the winners of the day were announced. I was delighted to have come top in my team and been awarded a Browning shooting cap and protective glasses.
I would like to thank the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club for organising the day. It was great to meet fellow members and bond over clay pigeon shooting and tasty cake. If you have the opportunity to attend a future day I would thoroughly recommend it!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Achievements and Activities

Now, I am a person who likes to be busy and who usually has at least one project on the go, but in the last few weeks I think that I have managed to firmly dispel any feelings of having a quarter life crisis. 
For one thing I am now employed, which sadly means dear reader that you will no longer be treated to posts about my trips to the job centre. I am as sadden by this as you, but do not fear I am sure that there will be plenty of other things I will find to write about.
Aside from successfully finding work over the past few weeks I have; 
Graduated from University 
 Laura-Rose Saunders BA (Hons), MA (Hons), UCL (ULU)

Taken part in filming for a new BBC 3 show (look out for me in 'No Country for Young Men') helped interview one of the members of Russian Group Pussy Riot, had my last day volunteering at CCHQ, received a letter of thanks from Party Chairman - Grant Shapps, 
Letter from Grant Shapps

Travelled to Russia as part of a delegation, visited Yaroslavl, met Hero of the Soviet Union and first woman in Space - Valentina Tereshkova, met with members of Russia's four main political parties (United Russia, A Just Russia, the Communist Party of Russia and the Liberal Democrat Party of Russia), took part in my first press conference, 
 Alongside my fellow delegates

and once again found myself on Russian TV speaking, badly, in Russian.

Now to have a rest and catch up on some sleep!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Funemployment - Volunteering

Upon returning from my adventures in Russia (final post to follow shortly) I decided that I had had enough of sitting in my room applying for job after job and would use some of my time to do voluntary work.
It wasn't particularly hard to find people who were glad to have 'someone like me' helping out with them as, despite being rejected from over 100 jobs due to 'lack of experience', 'being overqualified' or 'not being quite right for the role', I still speak Russia, work well with people, have a Masters from UCL and have a wide variety of other useful skills.
Now, I consider myself to be an honest person and as such I dutifully informed the Job Centre of this fact. That and I have promised my boyfriend that I will not get arrested this year and that he will not have to come bail me out of jail for fraud or any other crime. This is where my latest spate of bemusement with the Job Centre and the whole JSA agreement began.
At my first appointment after returning from Russia I was asked, as always, if there was any change in my situation to which I replied 'yes, I am now doing some voluntary work' at which point the adviser's face literally fell and the reaction was akin to him just being told that I had committed the act of murder. When I asked why his reaction was such it was explained to me that while the Department of Work and Pensions (or Department of Worry and Pain as I have now dubbed it) do approve of me using my time to volunteer I can do no more than 15 hours a week or I will loose my benefit money.
My face now fell and it was my turn to react as if I had just been told that my adviser had committed the act of murder. I asked why it was that the DWP would have a problem with me putting my time to good use, gaining new skills and adding things to my CV rather than sitting at home eating MacDonald's, watching Jeremy Kyle and binge drinking. The explanation was simple; if you do more than 15 hours unpaid work the DWP will deem you to be in full time employment and will stop your benefit as it is not their job to fund your life while you help others.
While I can see that in some cases people could reject offers of employment in order to stay in their voluntary positions I was also confused, as isn't the Job Centre constantly trying to get me to attend workshops, or go and get more experience, or find unpaid positions that may lead to employment? How is it that when I then do these things of my own volition  I get told off by the DWP for doing so?
Since returning from Russia there have been two voluntary roles that I have undertaken. The first was at my Church's Arts Week where I offered my services to help raise money for a variety of charities. The second is at CCHQ. While I can see that if you are not predisposed towards the Conservative Party then you would probably be in favour of me loosing my benefit money as punishment for my Tory inclinations and right wing ways. 
However, through this voluntary placement I am learning new skills, meeting new people, being kept in the workplace mindset and environment, being given a focus, getting work experience and being praised for my contributions (something that counterbalances the constant rejection experienced while job hunting).
Given all of the benefits that come from volunteering somehow it seems strange to me that the Job Centre seem to have the stance that you can volunteer and try to better yourself, just not too much. It would be the same as them giving me a council flat but not providing me with glass for the windows or a front door, the attitude being one of 'we want to help you, just not too much.'
So for the time being I will be doing my 14.59 hours of voluntary work a week while job hunting, and if asked at an interview why I did not do more with my time to help others I shall simply reply 'Well, I wanted to use my time to better my situation and that of others but the Job Centre would only allow me 15 hours a week to do so and would prefer that I sit on benefits watching TV, drinking and eating junk food.'
The job hunt, and the disbelief, continues...