New finds and New Friends

Am back again with my theme of the gift of time along with doing what I enjoy and sharing my stories on collecting and where this takes me.

So here I am in Havana Vieja, the old district.  Just in the corner of Plaza de Armes towards the port  I stumble across a collectors market, feeling tired and hungry but  I couldn’t resisit a quick peak. It’s a small place, old books, coins, stamps, little things from a time gone by a hint of another era. There are cameras, postcards, and posters, the usual revolution era ones, most of these are reproduced but they are great.
Some thing catches my eye and as much as don’t want to I can’t help myself asking about a poster with former President Obama on it, and here my joureny starts. I love the poster  for several reasons. It now seems controversal to like Obama, but I remeber when he won and how excited the world felt, that energy reverberated, it was time of hope. This is a collectors market and full of things from the past, we buy these things as a memory of that time. The poster causes a reaction here as people want change to happen fast and there was a lot of hope invested in Obamas visit. I do not want to make any sort of political statement here, all I am saying is change often starts with a hope and a vision and then conversation. That first step can be the hardest one.
All that said I am a fan, and I love political satire and social commentary.
Here is when the conversation starts with Raul the stall holder who sensing my interest shares with me his love of the artist Ares who created the poster. I am familiar with the poster but didn’t know anything about the artist who is one of the few graphic artists to show successfully outside of Cuba.
Raul then shows me more posters and I am leaning toward the ones that are contemporary, mostly by Ares and I feel a purchase coming on. I know my family will love them too so I am justifying this as not just reminders of my time in Havana but good gifts that I will enjoy giving.
So the deal is done, I will have to go back in a few days having changed money and have to find something to protect them in on the journey home.
Celebration lunch  roof top restaurant where Hemingway stayed. Here is a good poster by Ares for a new bar, saying Hemingway was not here, a reference to a city committed to its grand restoration to pay homage to every thing and everyone that has a historic value.
More wondering and I find Ares’s studio where students can study his work, I get to eavesdrop on a lecture for teenagers on his art. The government is intent on educating people here about all aspects of culture, they are re learning old trades for restoration on an industrious scale.
On route I see an art shop that I suspect will have the art tube for me to transport the poster’s in.
Contactless  payments doesn’t happen here, in every sense of the word. If you are making a purchase then there will be some sort of contact made with that person, or maybe its a connection with the person who you are making the exchange with. Even in simple exchanges there is a conversation to be had, all the time my Spanish improves if only on a moderate level but my confidence in speaking is improving along with my ability to really listen. Something that I feel has been lost in our super fast world at home.
The challenge in contrast to the ease that I have in London was one of my many reasons for traveling and being in a city where simple things like taking money from the cash machine is not a given.
First stop, queue at the bank, one of my £100 Euro notes has a very little tear on the edge and is rejected, no worries in the bigger scheme of things as I am sure that when I go to Italy later in the year this note will be fine. But at this stage I am not sure what use a bank card is here. I get the cash and go to the market to pay for the posters followed by a search of something to carry them home in. As suspected the art shop has the tube but I don’t have enough cash on me which means a walk back to my Casa and back to the bank. An assurance that I can use my bank card if I need to in future as I see my in case of emergency cash depleting. To the art shop, by the art tube, which I make a mental note to never travel without again. Back to the market and for a much-needed coffee with Raul.
Raul and I chat about our  shared  love of collecting, the periods in history that we like along with his taste in American rock music and English punk. We share photos of our family and when he learns that my daughter makes period costumes for theatre we arrange another meet up so that he can give me a gift for her of illustrations of period costumes.
In the meantime I post on Facebook the posters and let friends at home know that I if they want any I will buy them and bring them back, a win win, Raul makes sales and we get to enjoy this art which is not so easy for us to get in the UK.
The pictures that Raul gives me for my daughter are incredible, taken from a book from the late 1800’s, from a french book, illustrated fashion from the day.  He is finding these things in house clearances. Can you imagine finding books from that era in England and what they are worth.
So this morning its back to the bank, with my art tube and to the market, my life is Hanava is beginning to feel like my life at home.
And so this story goes on, Raul now shows me these posters from the 1970’s fashion and working women.

One Woman, One City, One Month

It’s about time.

Here I am in Havana, Cuba in February, a very welcome change to the weather at home in the UK and I am experiencing total gratitude for gifting myself with this time. “Thanks to yourself” I hear you ask. well yes, it me, my idea, my vision, my dream whatever you want to call it but I would say YES to gifting myself with time. In our world time is a currency, we either have it in abundance or not enough of it, time is measured and it is billed, it has a value that more often than not we do not connect to. We are aware of money and how long it takes us to make it without giving much thought to how long it takes to spend it. So what I am saying is this is a gift to me from an investment of time and money earned over my working life to  invest in my dreams of a reality that I now want to live, experience and enjoy.

My first choice is Havana, and for me right now it was a right one to make.

Before coming here I had heard several opinions from people who don’t really know me about their experiences in Havana. I was shocked by their reactions, what I got was a projection of their experience which with some different levels of extreme was what I would call a toxic dump. Urm, I have never being one to knowingly put out someone elses fire but one persons reaction was visceral, they even used the word anger that I was staying in Havana for a month without seeing the beauty of the whole of cuba.

Hey ho, another persons visions of a dream is someone elses vision of hell, ce la vie.

I live in London, and am busy most of the time, there are things that have to be done and things that I like to do and things that must be done. Time is pretty much taken up with doing. To be honest I like doing and will be doing in Havana, in fact I am doing a lot here and I love it. The difference is ‘doing’ on my terms which by other people standards is that for me it will be a month to do what some people will do in 1 week or 4 days or less.

Which brings me back to time, in London,  conversations have been reduced to text, not so much of the spoken word and text is now being replaced by imogis. All this smart phone technology and we are reduced to experiencing ourselves through a sticker designed by someone else. Oh Wow, evaluation……

Holiday time, by this I mean time at home, Christmas or whatever family time we might have. It’s a big deal because its one of the few times that everyone makes an effort to get together and talk to each other face to face, over meals that they make togther and maybe exchange a well-considered gift.

So here I am in Havana with a gift of time and what I am to do, or now after a week into my trip, what I am doing.

Well first question should really be hows it going? And I will say it is going good, thanks.

Any anxiety that I might have absorbed from others negativity was soon diminished by my own reality in feeling happy to be here. It is everything that I hoped and expected. I am comfortable and capable and time is my friend.

I am lost in wonder by the scale of urban decay, I am immersed in the layers of past revealing itself though worn out shades of colour, broken tiles, sun damage, sea damage and war damage. Buildings without roofs, people living in derelict buildings that chime with noise and vibrate with industrial labour. Peeping through the gaps in doors there are the picture post card images of what we know to be relative poverty compared to western standards, (why that is a photo opportunity I don’t know, I guess it’s a glimpse of a life been lived) old style shabby chic. Yes there are men sitting in shorts on PVC sofas eating food. Its grimy, choked up with exhaust fumes from the old cars, there is no sense of heath and safely. Behind doors I see what is left of a stair case, I see people restoring furniture, I see small factories with people at sewing machines, I see the interiors of homes with so little physical substance, I see an upholsterer at work and restoration on the scale of what looks like something from the italian renascence.

I also see colour and feel the vibrancy of the people and the sunshine bouncing off the buildings, there is music and dancing everywhere.

I see progress, it’s on a collective scale, everyone is in this together, there is something for everyone. As the historical restoration replaces what has been, and still is a demolished city, it is a city is in transition, whilst been true to its identity and community this is a time of change. The romance and the old style charm is not just been replaced but enhanced, drawn out from the rubble that has held its memories, nothing has but everything is changing.

Oh for the gift of time, to immerse myself in this vision, lost in the decorative beauty, the long conversations and laughing with exchanges in a different language, taking time to try, to be vulnerable to understand myself better through experience. taking time for change.

A Very Talented Woman


Meet my friend Amanda, a super cool woman and great friend to have.

Back in the 80’s when I was a fashion student at Jacob Kramer art college in Leeds Amanda was studying fine art at Leeds Poly.  It was decades later when we actually met, when our kids were all at primary school together. The first time Amanda came to my home she saw a piece of her art work that I had bought years before.  Kind of cosmic  I think. Our kids were not in the same classes, we just met through other friends and here we are many years later happily walking our dogs and sharing our interest in creativity often over tapas in Tooting Market, London.

Like many working mum’s, getting the work life balance is not even a consideration when the kids are young. There really isn’t time to think about what you might do for yourself when you have to do so much for everyone else. But much to our surprise we slowly start to reemerge from under the pile of laundry and washing up, post exams and teen angst to observe that the little people have become bigger and better versions of themselves and can more or less get on without you doing it all for them.

I was thrilled when Amanda started to re-connect to her natural creativity and carve out time to work on her own art again. I know from my own experience that brushing the dust off  our previous life is exhilarating but it can also be scary. No matter how successful we have been in the past, and with all that life experience that has brought us to this present moment, we will invariably feel vulnerable starting out again and putting ourselves on show.

I have seen Amanda go from creating small pieces and gift cards to bigger canvases full of colour and texture. Paintings that demand you stop and immerse yourself in the moment, taking time to experience the enjoyment of engaging with something original Something that someone has taken time to create.

In our world of instant fixes, works of art can be reproduced quickly and can be a colourful accessory to a room, picked up cheaply in the supermarket without much consideration to any aspect of where it has come from.  For me original art is there to enhance my need to be connected to colour, texture, themes that excite me and to be motivated by. Original art holds the energy of the artist even if you never know who created the work you will have a visceral connection to it. The art work that catches our attention takes you on a journey, it evokes memories and cultivates desire.

To live with anything less than that would be foolish.

We might not be buying but we can enjoy, most artists that I know love to share the inspiration behind their work. I hope you enjoy Amanda’s, she can be found here.