Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Choose Love - Everyday, not just on Valentine's Day

Some months ago I saw an image on social media that has haunted me ever since. It wasn’t gory nor bloody, though plenty of images nowadays are. There were no broken buildings and billowing smoke clouds, no dead bodies. Just a little orphaned one-year old girl, naked except for a very full nappy, which had been on her so long that there was encrustation of leakage at the tops of her legs and sores had begun to develop. She had no-one to care for her, no-one to take off the days-old nappy. I wept at my computer.

How I’d wanted to scoop her up, take off that soiled nappy, bathe her in soft scented bubbles, play and splash the water, hear her giggle and squeal, dry her in fluffy towels and pat her silky skin with sweetly scented talc. How lovely she’d look in a simple but clean little white baby grow. Her hair would curl into looping black ringlets as it dried, hanging down into her huge brown eyes.

But I’m frozen by inaction. How can I help that little girl or even ones like her? Can I donate money? What might it end up buying? Who can be trusted? Short of going to Syria – which is simply insane – what can I do?

Guilt and frustration add to my imagination resulting in a frozen trinity of despair.

Yet I still have my safety, warm shelter, food… and in an hour or so this despair will lift as my own day-to-day living pulls me out of my imagination, away from the images online, and the news coverage. I’ll blink and like waking from a bad dream, I’ll see my own world, I’ll feel a flush of gratitude. But gratitude is no longer enough…
I struggled as a child with a few things in the Bible. I struggle as an adult with many more aspects of religion, but some of that bible stuff I’ve come to realize, makes sense to me now.

It boiled down to the whole, “turn the other cheek” philosophy. Young and immature, I couldn’t understand why Jesus said to do that. But age can grant us startling insights, and I’ve come to understand it a little, if not fully.

But it goes a bit like this:
People do not kill each other. Ethnicity does not terrorize or maim other people.

BAD people terrorize other people.
BAD people frighten other people.
BAD people hurt other people.
BAD people kill other people.
BAD people do bad things.

NOT Muslim or Christian or whites or blacks.

No matter what reason a person cites for their actions, no matter how justified they think they are, frightening another person is an act of terror.

When someone decides (most likely without any factual evidence) that another has come into their country, stolen their jobs and soaked up the resources, that is merely that person’s opinion. The statistics, should you chose to investigate, might prove you wrong and at the very least provide you with an informed debate.

As soon as a person tells someone to “go back” to where they came from that person is doing the wrong thing. A bad thing – and this is a fact. At the very least it causes another person to be frightened. When a person instills such terror, that person is a terrorist.

As soon as we daub paint on a wall to write hate-speech, we become bad people because we are doing a bad thing – we are terrorizing another human being.

The moment you willfully physically or emotionally hurt another person, you are a bad person.
FACT – bad people do bad things to other people.

Despite all the diversity in the human race there are really only two types of people. Good people and good people who have given into doing bad things to other people.

That little orphaned toddler with the soiled nappy was there because of bad people, not Muslims, or white privilege or politicians – just bad people.

Let’s keep it simple. Don’t be a bad person and strive to love your fellow human beings. If you have food and clothes and a safe place to live you’ve made it in life and you are lucky. God didn’t give this to you anymore than he took it away from that little toddler. What made you so special and her not special enough? The God I believe in doesn’t have favorites. Jesus loved the sinners too, thankfully, and therein lies our redemption. (For the atheists reading this – please don’t stop reading because I used the G-word and the named the J-person!) I hope everyone can see that not all bad people are bad all of the time. Everyone has the capacity to stop doing bad things.

We do need to wage a war on terror, but by waging a war on people doing bad things. And we win this war with love.
In the same way that the undercurrent of racism, sectarianism and bullying rippling below the surface is now taking hold, fueling bad people, perhaps we can harness the love that exists in each of us to turn those people around. This may sound ridiculously simple, ludicrously naive but hey - it worked for Gandi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King and that's good enough for me.

Turning the other cheek is not about letting bad people get away with being bad. It’s about us not becoming bad too. It’s about us keeping our standards high. So think about this with every social media post you share. Are you ridiculing someone – even if you feel that person deserves it? Posting a fact is one thing, so long that it is a fact. Posting opinion is fine too if you’ve considered it – is it fair, does it promote hatred or love? Choose love - everyday, not just on Valentines Day.

Byddi Lee

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Get High in Paris!

For the ultimate birds-eye view many think that the Eiffel Tower is the place to go. However, when you are actually on the Eiffel Tower, you don't get to view it, and that's a shame as it is one of the most interesting things about the Paris skyline. Instead, for €15 take a trip to the top of the Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck.

The Montparnasse Tower is the only skyscraper in central Paris. My understanding of it is that as soon as it was built the people of Paris took one look at it (it's hard to miss!) and said, "Hell no!" (or the French equivalent, which I haven't gotten to yet in my lessons!) They banned anyone else from building anymore such buildings nearby. A stroke of genius I think, because now you have a perfect viewing platform with an epic 360degress view of the city. I've "wasted" hours playing with the photos we took that day.

I loved the black and whites and even used photoshopping software to preserve the gold roof on Les Invalides. Here's a close up of it - in color.


The Montparnasse Tower is a wonderful spot to take a zoom lens.

If you are so unfortunate as to only have one day in Paris (quelle horreur!) you could actually tick off all the sights in one swoop!

Arc de Triomphe

Centre Georges Pompidou - hard to miss with its bright colors. The Tour St. Jacques in also in this shot as is the roof of our apartment building!

The Notre Dame Cathedral

The Place de la Concorde

With it being the dead of winter (we went up mid December) the light was interesting.

We had timed it to take in sunset. The sun cast light from its daily-death throes in hues of gold through bronze over the landscape.

The Scare Coeur

 In the changing light...

From our vantage point we could even see the French sister to the Statue of Liberty... can you make it out center picture?

I wondered what lucky sod got a balloon ride in a golden sky. Looks so romantic!

The moon over Paris, above candy floss clouds!

There is a restaurant at the top called Ciel de Paris (the Ceiling of Paris) pricey, but the food is excellent. However we didn't have a table by the window - my fault - I messed up the date on the booking and we rocked up two weeks early! They had room for us anyways, but it felt like we had been placed at the naughty table, way at the back. So for full effect, you might want to request a table by the window and actually turn up on the correct day!

But the view at night was equally spectacular.

The streets below a maze of buttery lights.

On the ground looking up at Mountparnasse Tower - It's pretty impressive but I'm glad it is just one of a kind.

Byddi Lee

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Saturday Afternoon Walk in Paris

I stumbled upon an interesting article in thelocal.Fr where Corey Frye, an American tour guide in Paris named the top thing to do in each of the 20 Arrondisments (districts) in Paris. Some of the places he mentioned sounded really interesting. Actually, they all sounded interesting, but I was focusing on the places near our neighborhood.

I also had a look at Corey's Blog - a French Frye in Paris - a fun name, the blog was packed with loads of great information. I particularly liked his post on the Palais-Royal... Not on his list of top things in the 1st Arrondisment because, in fairness, it was competing with The Louvre!

On Saturday the temperature nearly made it to double digits - 9.8 degrees Celcius! So My Husband and I decided to take a walk and check out some of these places that Mr Frye had mentioned. The plan was to wander until we found a nice spot to have tea and buns later on.

Galerie Vivienne is a covered passage in the 2nd Arrondissement, and to get there we decided to use as many covered passages as we could find on the way, beginning with Passage du Bourg L'Abbe off Rue de Palestro. We then crossed Rue St. Denis and picked up Passage de Grand Cerf, which popped us out near Rue Montergueil, a great market street that is well worth a peruse.

Any of these would have provided us with great spots for tea and buns but we pressed on, and headed straight to Galerie Vivenne.

All of these covered passages are lined with expensive shops often selling artisan products or antiques.

I really could not figure out why anyone would want to buy a wickerwork cactus - but if you wanted one you could get it here!


Fun to look at even if you don't want to (or can't afford to) buy something! We were really there to admire the architecture and soak up the ambiance, and we weren't disappointed.

The carving on the wall and the details were astonishing.

 And the old clock! Just beautiful.

Out through the other side and the buildings around us competed for our attention with their grandeur and fiddly trims. And since bibliotheque was probably one of the Frenchist French words I ever learned to love saying, that building won the prize - a photo snapped of it!

And then there's the fountains and the little surprise parks dotted all over the place. Though I think My Husband was a little grossed out by the statue of the fat nude kid at the bottom.

And on to the Palais-Royal...

I'd read about this place in Corey Frye's Blog and what had really intreged me most about the history of this building was the fact that this place had played host to such hedonism and debauchery back in the 1780's. According to his post (which I strongly urge you to read for all the Corey details!)
"Every night fireworks shot up from the center of the garden. Waves of revelers splashed back and forth against the architecture, crashing onto storefronts and funneling into pleasure palaces of their choosing. The crowd was a thick mixture of soldiers, shop owners, aristocrats and curious tourists looking to satisfy untold desires..."

Well, after that recommendation, how could I not go have a look!

Nowadays the tourists tend to behave a lot better than those in the 18th century.

And the locals were present too, soaking in the rare winter sunlight.

It is a much more peaceful spot now, though still with plenty to marvel at, such how straight a line these trees have been cut in - such precision!

I know a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. So if you don't have a hand, what is a bird on the head worth?

The window shopping was quite interesting.

And always with an eye on art from all eras in Paris. Though it was nice that the sky joined in the fun!

Empty and somewhat cold now, I wondered what this had looked like packed with revellers.

And in the gardens a lovely sign that spring might have sprung. Can't wait to see this city blossom.

The pigeons, possibly more tuned into the 18th century shenanigans than the human visitors, where looking forward to spring time too.

And out the other side to continue our walk, we admired this fab metro station entrance.

The outside of the Louvre.

And the free view of the inside of the Louvre as you walk through without actually visiting the museum - saving that for another day.

And of course the pyramid.

Just look at the details on the ceiling.

More shots of the pyramids though the sky is still stealing the show!

We were wishing we'd brought the Nikkon instead of making do with our camera phones.

This pyramid looks like it has a chimney. Can you see the big wheel on the horizon?

The Louvre building is stunning  and I agree with Corey - it is a "don't miss" in the 1st Arrondissment.

I wondered did those holes the ground lead to the dungeons?

I wanted to stand there and freak people out by pretending I could hear someone shouting for help, but I got distracted by the gorgeous wrought iron work.

And really if it's cold enough for a hat and a scarf, don't you think trousers would be a good idea? No wonder he only needed a wee leaf!

Something moody!

And I just loved this screen that is covering up a large construction project on the Banks of the Seine. The Parisians really do love their art!

And guess what - So engrossed were we by the sights on our walk that we actually forgot to stop for tea and buns! And we'd only covered about 3 miles... still, we'd filled our eyes and hearts (and hopefully yours too) with art.

You can also listen to Corey's radio broadcast with the Earful Tower talking about the best sights in each Arrondissment in Paris.

Byddi Lee