Wednesday, March 21

Cycling towards the Sunset

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I live on the West Cambridge Site, a new part of town which was built by the Cambridge University to provide housing for graduate and post graduate students. It is considered very bleak and desolate due to its industrial style architecture and large parking lots. In character, it is a complete opposite to the vibrant historic city core and some people jokingly refer to it as the “East Berlin” of Cambridge.

However, being situated at the edge of town with vast open fields to the West has one redeeming feature – gorgeous sunsets! Each evening when I cycle back home along the Coton Footpath, I see before me a most stunning display of natural beauty. The setting Sun slowly heading for the horizon and then bursting into myriad shades of orange, blue and purple. I find myself looking forward to this as it provides a perfect end to a long tiring day - relaxing and re-energizing me at the same time.

Tuesday, March 20

Cheerful Yellow Daffodils

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It was officially the first day of Spring today and the Sun was shining down cheerfully. So I went out for a stroll to grab some lunch and chanced upon this beautiful patch of yellow daffodils in the Trinity Hall gardens. Perfect spot to sit by and daydream, soak up the mild Spring Sun and have something to munch on.Bliss!  

Wishing everyone a very happy "First Day of Spring"

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Tuesdays are no better than Mondays when it comes to starting work in the morning. I feel my spirits go south when I look at my desk and see a pile of papers that need reading. But it does help when you see a sweet message reminding you that it is the “First day of Spring.”

Thanks Google for this thoughtful pick-me-up. Their logo today is a colourful Spring scene of plants and animals to mark March 20 – the spring equinox when day and night are the same length. The doodle, designed by the Finnish fashion label Marimekko, features flowers, butterflies, a flamingo, a green truck with a tree on it and a red and white zebra. Guaranteed to bring an instant smile to anybody’s face.  

Monday, March 19

Cambridge in Holi colours!

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Holi the Indian festival of colour was celebrated recently by the Cambridge University Indian Society at the Queen's Green. I will let the photographs speak for themselves as they sum up all the fun and frolic, colour and camaraderie of this unique festival, enjoy! 
All photographs courtesy Max Liu of Cambridge University Photographic Society (PhoCUS). Thank you so much Max.

Sunday, March 18

Festival of the Spoken Nerd at Cambridge – I want my money back!

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Having read great reviews of the FOTSN, which mentioned stuff like pyrotechnics, `bangs and flashes’ and stand up math, I was eagerly looking forward to the show but it turned out to be very disappointing. For starters at last night's show at the University Centre in Cambridge, we were informed that only songstress Helen Arney and “experiments guy” Steve Mould will be performing, as stand up mathematician Matt Parker was away in Australia, (very unprofessional indeed considering all the publicity material included his name).

They tried to cover this up by including videos of Parker on Australian beaches showing you how to impress ladies, by calculating the distance between you and the horizon and the total quantity of water in the world. All very nicely done but it left us feeling that we could have just watched it on YouTube if we wanted to. Another embarassing moment for the duo was when they called Parker on Skype to try to fit in some of his stand up math, but nothing was audible owing to the weak internet connection.

Although the concept of combining science and comedy is intriguing, this show failed to rise beyond that, as the performances were a big letdown. It felt like the show was hurriedly put together at the last minute by a couple of high school kids and all of it seemed terribly under rehearsed.
Helen Arney and Steve Mould
In contrast both the guest stand up comedians – Robin Ince and Prof. Richard Wiseman brought a dash of much needed energy to the stage and their performances saved the day to be honest. Especially Prof. Wiseman with his razor sharp wit and great comic timing was the star of the show. He shared some facts on how our brain and eyes play tricks with us – going on to show photographs of random day-to-day objects in which we see faces, because our brain is trained to see faces everywhere. His performance showed that there is a lot of scope in the sci-comedy genre, but it all hangs on the performance. The regular audience at such shows might already know all of the sciency bits, but they are only there to be entertained by lively performers. 
Prof. Richard Wiseman and some of his slides

Monday, March 12

Cambridge Raincoat Company

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Here is something to brighten your day next time it rains - beautiful raincoats in yummy colours from the Cambridge Raincoat company. I love the way they have focussed on the cyclists and combined style with utility. Most of the pictures in their brochure show students with their cycles in a quintessentially Cambridge setting, as they go about their day in and around the colleges.
Picture courtesy the Cambridge Raincoat Company

Sunday, March 11

Design find: Bokja at the Mint Shop

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I visited the Mint Shop in London recently and one piece of furniture caught my eye above all others. The Bokja Bean sofa – upholstered in a patchwork of traditional textiles is in one word - magnificent! I can assure you the photograph does no justice to it. Established in 2000 by Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri, the Bokja brand is a wonderfully eclectic mix of traditional textiles and vintage furniture. Their flagship boutique in Beirut sits in the heart of a historic neighborhood called Saifi district that has recently become a mecca for designers. You can view beautiful photographs of the store here.

The two ladies share a passion for textiles from the Levant and countries along the Silk Route including India. Their focus on sustainability is reflected in the use of found fabric pieces, which are used by traditonal craftsmen to upholster the furniture. Hoda and Maria think of themselves as modern day Scheherazade’s spinning tales through their furniture and believe in making each piece a unique collage of different time periods, lands and moments of people’s lives. These one of a kind pieces are breathtaking and can create an instant focal point for any room by adding a splash of bold colour, texture and pattern.
Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri of Bokja
The Bean sofa at the Mint shop

All images courtesy the Mint Shop and Bokja.

Friday, March 9

Urban Trend - Knitting Grafitti

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Love love love the trend of knitting grafitti or yarn bombing! It is such a sweet way to add color and warmth to a dull grey cityscape. Walking along a big city street you would hardly expect to see electricity poles and telephone booths lovingly wrapped in knitting. It brings an instant smile to my face and not only brightens up spaces but makes them feel cozy and homely too. What's more it's completely legal, you cannot arrest me for knitting Mr.Policeman! 
Phone box cozy in Parliament square and 8-metre handknitted giant squid, made from 160 plastic bags, with Darwin at London's Natural History Museum
A knit grafitti inspired by the nursery rhyme 'oranges and lemons and a couple knitting a 'tree cosy'
All images from the new book Knit the City: A Whodunnknit Set in London published by Sommersdale and written by 'Yarn Corps' member Lauren. Check out their website to find out more.

Wednesday, March 7

A little yellow pick-me-up!

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I have been working flat out on my thesis since a week. I'm mentally fatigued, my eyes feel gritty and tired and my neck feels frozen stiff. And to make it worse today was the dullest, greyest most depressing day in weeks. Guess it's high time for a pick-me-up and what can be better than a cup of Vanilla and Camomile tea, Shortbread biscuits and a bright yellow chair in my study. There, just the thought of that makes me happy.


Sunday, March 4

Space for sunny Sundays

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We have been having such gloriously mild spring weather here in Cambridge. Such weather just begs you to be outside and its times like this when I wish I had a small outdoor space. Outdoor areas like decks and gardens are just perfect to while away sunny Sunday afternoons. Specially when this space is as beautifully done up as Veronika and Mark's home in Surrey. The multi-functional family dining area and workspace has big glass doors opening out to the deck which makes it perfect for al-fresco dining and entertaining guests. At the same time the soothing color palette provides a sense of calm and relaxation.
All images courtesy A new home in a new country from Ikeafamily.

Friday, March 2

Rickshaw recollections

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I was in Paris recently and spent an immensely enjoyable afternoon walking along the Champs Elysees, ogling the impossibly elegant window displays and enjoying scrumptious Ladurée macarons (more about that in a separate post). It was all fun and good but by the time I reached Place de la Concorde my sore feet reminded me how far I had walked from my hotel. Imagine my surprise then on coming upon a rickshaw, right under La Grande Roue! Talk about finding something just when you need it.
Parisian Rickshaw and my friendly driver
Tempted by the drivers friendly summons I went for a short ride on the Parisian rickshaw. It made me smile as I compared this comfortable rickshaw, smoothly gliding along the grand boulevards with the tangle, screech and jolts of a rickshaw ride in “purani Dilli” or old Delhi. My mind drifted to a hot summer afternoon – three girls crammed into a tiny rickshaw, hanging on for dear life as it maneuvers speedily through the narrow alleys. We wedge our toes tightly into the foot-rest, for we know that when the driver brakes sharply at the next obstruction, it is the only thing which will save us from toppling over.

A rickshaw ride is the best way to explore the sights, sounds and smells of any new place. You are on the street, moving along at a leisurely pace but at the same time you don’t need to worry about getting lost. Moreover, it is a green mode of transportation, reduces congestion and creates jobs. For this reason, the rickshaw is increasingly becoming visible in tourist hot spots of London and Paris.

An artist who like me seems to be completely enamored by rickshaws is Rajkumar Sthabathy, he has done a whole series of watercolors depicting this ubiquitous mode of transport on the streets of South India. I love the way he captures the colorful patterns painted on the rickshaws along with the burnt sienna of their rusting iron bodies. What makes his work take on a deeper meaning is the fact that he captures these strong hard workers in a moment of quite reflection, lined sun burnt faces telling a story of lives filled with endless toil. He depicts the rickshaw as a precious source of livelihood; the driver waiting alertly for the next passenger adds to the sense of anticipation in his work. I find myself waiting along with them, wondering when the next passenger will come along. Here is a selection from the beautiful paintings for you to enjoy. The rest of the collection can be viewed here.
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