Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Act for Change: Healing Minds

An Oxford University student has left me completely speechless. This is the most incredible project. Massive thanks to Scarlett Curtis for telling me about...

Visit the Act for Change website for more info and don't hesitate to support the Kickstarter.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Quentin Blake: House of Illustration

If you are in London and you happen to be near Kings Cross in the next few days of weeks, get yourself over to the House of Illustration

Quentin Blake is one of the most famous literary illustrators and I love his work in the Roald Dahl books the most. I hadn't appreciated how much else he had done. 

He has chosen seven books that he has illustrated and takes you on a whistle stop guided tour of how he goes about drawing the different characters. He obviously really has to get to know the plot / characters well before he can start to visualise how he thinks they might look. This is The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams:

I was particularly moved by Michael Rossen's "Sad Book"...

It was a relatively small exhibition but there was lots to look at and take in. I think I only paid £7 so it was worth it. 

A hidden gem that is, in fact, not too hard to find..!

NHS Youth Forum Conference

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the first NHS Youth Forum conference in London - its aim was to celebrate positive mental health amongst young people. Thank goodness for having the wonderful Kat Cormack with me as she was able to advise on where to go and what to look out for. 

I met Dr Radha Modgil, who is a London GP and who has also worked a lot in the media (BBC Radio 1 Surgery etc..)

Someone explained why they had chosen to speak openly about their mental health problems or disability - it gave them the chance to meet like minded people, it gave them more opportunities that they wouldn't have otherwise had, they had been able to form new and meaningful friendships. And it gave them the chance to help other young people.  I can agree on every point. 

I went to a workshop called "Fight the Pressure", which was run by Young Minds

The first question we were asked was "What comes to mind when you hear the words "Mental Health" ? I said stigma. Other people said stress, waiting lists, isolation, lack of funding...

Here are some interesting / thought provoking facts:

- We are all on the mental health spectrum. Some people have better mental health than others and some have to work harder at mastering emotions. 

- 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. (I thought this would be higher)

- 1 in 6 young people people in year 9 or above have deliberately self harm.

- 60% of young people feel like a failure when they don't get good grades.

- 53% of 11-14 year olds have seen online porn.

- 50% of young people have been bullied. (I thought this would be higher)

- 60% of local CAMHS budgets have been frozen since 2010. 96% of the Birmingham CAMHS budget has been cut in then too.

- 30% of boys have skipped meals in order to stay thin.

- 60% of young people know where to get help with anxiety and depression.

Interestingly, apparently we need to follow in the footsteps of the Australians as they are way ahead in terms of how they treat young people with mental health problems. However, I hear that the Australians on the ATDT forum don't have a good time at all. Ironically, their model initiated from the UK but apparently we have no funds or means to implement it over here. Oh dear. 

The final activity was a "Mind apples" exercise - the same thing that I did at pwc at few weeks ago. What five things will you commit to every day to improve your mental health..? 5 a day for your mind...

There were some fascinating services being exhibited at the "market stalls" which I explored during the lunch break. I particularly liked "Monkey WellBeing".

I love days like the above - the chance to learn something new, meet new people, give out a few business cards / network and come away with lots to think about. And its uplifting to see so many young people taking an interest in mental health. 

The best part about the day was that my phone charger broke the night before so I woke up with no phone battery and no means of charging it. I was able to concentrate for the entire time and not have any distractions. Joy.

Why not join the conversation... 
Go to @NHSYouthForum or #NHSYF

World Cup 2014 in 90 seconds

Thanks to this video - if you missed any of the 2014 World Cup, you can just watch this great video and be right up to speed!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Joanna Lumley's own School Report / Cecily's Foundation

I love coming home to post. Especially when its a large envelope that says DO NOT BEND as it means it contain's something fragile / very important... And I have been very excited about this particular envelope... 

This is a school report belonging to Joanna Lumley, written by HERSELF. It was a fun charity auction in aid of Cecily's Fund, and I was the winning bidder. I wonder how much of the above is true?! I read about it in the Evening Standard..

I have met Joanna Lumley before. She is one of the kindest, most lovely people ever... Do read more about her Garden Bridge project

Here are details of the super amazing charity Cecily's Fund, who this auction was in aid of...

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

It is exactly one year since the creation of Charlotte's Helix. It is exactly 6 months since Charlotte Bevan died.

Today would have been Charlotte's 49th birthday.

It is the first birthday that she will not have and that her family will have without her. 

You may remember my earlier blog posts about this amazing woman. If not, read here.

Laura started the "I choose to give..." campaign off. The idea is that you donate the money that you would have spent on a birthday card or present to Charlotte and give it to Charlotte's Helix instead.

So much has happened in the last few days, weeks and months that  I would have wanted Charlotte to know about. As well as my letter to an unknown soldier, I need to write Charlotte a letter as though I was filling her in on my news. 

I miss Charlotte a lot and think about her everyday. What can we do? Take Laura's advice. Please read about and support the Helix. 

When in Wales...

Last weekend, I hopped on the train at Paddington (stopping to say hello to the Unnamed soldier before I boarded) and headed to Monmouth in Wales...

I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was. The last time I was in Wales was on a school trip in the nearby Brecon Beacons. It poured with rain and we had to stay in a really grim hostel. So my memories of this country were not fond or pleasant to recall. 

I don't think we stopped laughing from the minute we got off the train. Two of us were going to stay with another friend. We ate delicious food, slept in super comfy beds and walked cup the Sugar Loaf, which is a mountain near Abergavenny. The sun shone too and even the clouds were beautiful.


Note the Mulberry handbag..! We laughed at the sight of me clutching it as we walked up - Well I wasn't going to leave it in the car..!

Look at the sheep who warmly greeted us at the top. The views were 360 degrees of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen. Imagine this but all the way round - uninterrupted beauty:

It was the most perfect chance to clear one's head, meditate and get away from the chaos that is real life (and this week HAS been chaotic..) BUT I managed to tweet from the top of the mountain:

I didn't embarrass myself by breaking into song half way up the mountain: 

"The hills are alive with the sound of music..."  OR
"Climb every mountain..."

(I am obsessed with the Sound of Music* - secretly would like to be Julie Andrews...ssshh)

This is the Sugar Loaf - nearly 2,000 feet high: 

We walked back down the mountain and rewarded ourselves with tea and cake to mark our achievement. Next mission: Pen Y Fann or even Snowdon..!

By the end of the weekend, it wasn't my legs and feet that hurt from all the walking as I am quite used to that, it was my sides that hurt from non stop laughing. 

All in all, the very best of weekends and I am already looking forward to the next..!

*Speaking of the Sound of Music, we are in the midst of a terrific thunder storm at the moment. Pouring rain - the lightening is talking to the thunder and the thunder is answering back. I anticipate that Ella will burst in at any moment as Gretl Von Trapp. I secretly hope she does so that we can sing "Raindrops on roses" and then I really can be Maria.  

Quotes and Photos

Here are several fun quotes and pictures that have been brought to my attention recently. Thought I would share them with you:

Alice in Wonderland's secret with the Mad Hatter:

I went to see the new and amazing Quentin Blake exhibition at the House of Illustration. Perhaps another blog post on that at a later date as it was so delightful. 

But for now, I will share this, which I saw on my way out. Very meaningful advice:

Someone very kindly sent me a card to congratulate me on completing and passing my degree - and funnily enough, this particular person doesn't know my interest in Mindfulness and meditation.

This bear seems very content and calm - I rather like the mouse on his head.

Ruby always says (and she's right) that we are obsessed with busyness - and its not at all good.. I therefore think that this picture needs to be circulated far and wide for all to see. The busyness has to stop but only we can find our own break pedal. Until someone can confidently and unashamedly admit that they are neither run off their feet or coming or going, we will forever be continually raising stress levels and making ourselves ill.

"I'm run off my feet, I'm neither coming or going" - what does that even mean?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

On Platform One of Paddington Station in London, there is a statue of an unknown soldier. He is reading a letter. On the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of war, everyone are invited to pause, take a moment or two.... 

And write that letter. 

All the letters that are received will be published on the official website - creating a new kind of war memorial - one made only of words. I am yet to write my letter but will do it pronto. 

Several famous names have put pen to paper to write their letter to the unknown soldier. Here is what Joanna Lumley wrote, which she read out by the statue at Paddington Station recently:

Dear Boy,
I can't stop thinking about you as you head off for the great adventure in France. You look very marvellous in your uniform: it is funny how a uniform turns a boy into a man so quickly.
I just wanted to say goodbye properly before you leave on the train, to remind you that even though you are excited now, things will change; and sometimes you will feel very wretched and frightened and not bright and happy as you were when the train pulled out of the station and you were all singing and waving your caps. 
Always remember that you must take care of your friends and mates who will be having a rough time as well: try to keep your spirits up, even when it looks darker than hell.
I don't know how sorely you will be tested but at all times be as brave and kind as can be.
I have put some cough lozenges in your kitbag and a vest for when it is cold.
Remember to read, as that will take your mind off the guns.
Look out for birds and flowers, as they are the signs that in the end all will be well; and if you meet local people please be polite (Bonjour, merci, au revoir).
Will you write to me?
Writing is like an escape, and that is why I am writing this now, as I think that if I saw you I would cry my eyes out at having to say goodbye.
I don't know what will happen, but every day and every moment I will be thinking of you, my Boy.
Come back safely. xxxx

Speaking of Joanna Lumley, I have been lucky enough to meet her and think she is really extraordinary. Her Garden Bridge project is very exciting. I recently won something from her in a charity auction, which I will tell you about another time...!

The Queen's Young Leaders

This afternoon saw the launch of something VERY exciting at Buckingham Palace: The Queen's Young Leaders.

This programme is searching for inspirational young people across the Commonwealth who are making a difference in their communities. 

Really cool video:

Exceptional people aged 18-29 will receive awards for leading the way where they live, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. The programme will support them to do more life-changing work.

Go to their website above for more info and @QueensLeaders AND also look for #TheSearchIsOn

I can think of lots of people I want to nominate....

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry's Royal Hangout:

Emma Freud was also there as this project is partnered with Comic Relief.. her tweets were thoroughly entertaining throughout the afternoon... here are some:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Marina Abramovic: 512 Hours at Serpentine Gallery

Today I finally found time to go and see Marina Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery, London. I tried to go earlier in the week but unbeknownst to me, the gallery was shut for their summer party (which judging by the photos was one hell of a bash...!) so today I luckily managed to get in without a problem. 

I have to admit that I didn't know much about Marina Abramovic apart from the fact that we share a birthday...! I do know that she is an extraordinary artist with a huge following. The last piece of work she did involved her sitting and staring in silence at random members of the public (over 1,500 people went to see her do that in New York).

It was the hottest day of the year so far. And what I witnessed today was unbelievable. I was assured by Rahla who went to see her a couple of weeks ago that I would love it, but I did feel a little apprehensive about the uncertainty of it all having read a couple of reviews / a synopses online.

Creating the simplest of environments in the Gallery spaces, Abramović’s only materials will be herself, the audience and a selection of props that she may or may not use. On arrival, visitors will both literally and metaphorically leave their baggage behind in order to enter the exhibition: bags, jackets, electronic equipment, watches and cameras may not accompany them. 

The public will become the performing body, participating in the delivery of an unprecedented moment in the history of performance art. 
It was the perfect chance for me to feel completely present - and I surprised myself at how long I managed to sit / lie very still. My mind wandered onto lots of other things but I bought it back and tried to absorb myself into the space and surroundings as much as possible. I loved leaving everything outside and just being with myself. Losing all track of time was also very liberating. 

Basically, Abramovic is spending 512 hours from June to August in the gallery (6 days a week) and anyone is allowed in or out as many times as they like to take part / experience in the performance / exhibition.

I walked in and stood and watched other people for a little while - most were deep in meditation or just had their eyes closed or were possibly even asleep. As well as Marina, there were a few other people helping her "perform" who would spontaneously come and take you by the hand and lead you to the middle and tell you to stand still with your eyes closed (they didn't do that to me so I don't know what they were telling them to do but thats what it looked like).

I then found an empty chair so sat on it and placed the headphones that were on the back of the chair on my head. I thought they might be playing music but they turned out just to completely block out all the surrounding sounds. 

I was then taken by the hand to a little side room which had two long rows of camp beds, pillows and blankets and headphones. I lay on a bed with a blanket over me, headphones on blocking out all sound and this was the BEST bit as it completely made me zone out and forget about the chaos of the outside world. I think I almost fell asleep a few times but a tiny part of me kept remembering that I was lying in a room full of strangers so I couldn't completely let go.

I came out after about 1 hour 15 mins and summarised it as "unpredictable, mind boggling and refreshing.." I want to go back as I gather it evolves as time goes on and she uses different props. Its good to go on your own so you can stay / leave when you feel like it rather than being influenced by someone else.

Go and see her for yourself - its totally free but you may have to queue - its worth the wait, I promise!

I concluded my afternoon with chocolate and caramel ice cream from Gelato Mio - the perfect ending to a great day.