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Paris 2013 – Basilique du Sacre Coeur

A year ago I finally reached Paris. I didn’t have much time so I chose to focus on a few sites, Sacre Coeur being one of them. At the bottom of the staircase to the top of Montmartre (not far from the spot in the photo) I had a thread wrung on my wrist. I had to make a wish first, and then a Congolese guy snapped off the ends of the thread…

If I Were to Count My Blessings

It’s not the end of the year yet, so I’m not going to draw any conclusions about 2011… except a couple of things.

1. “It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it“. – William Somerset Maugham.

The mistake we often make regarding the above is that we patiently sit and wait for the best to come to us. We have to go after it. It doesn’t mean that we should take any path. It simply means that we can create a fairly precise picture of what we want to achieve, have, and do, and then work/walk towards getting it.

It’s been over a year since I came back to Moscow. I still don’t know how long I’ll stay here. But I made a career decision at the turn of 2010, and although the first few months of 2011 were a bit of a wild ride, I eventually did most of what I planned. And if I didn’t get to do something, I know it happens in 2012 because I also know how to make it happen. It’s a much-desired change from my time in England since 2008.

2. I’ve always been grateful to God, Nature, whatever for sending wonderful people my way. This year I’ve had books, too. Some help me to understand business better, some – Cinema and Translation Theory, some assist at personal development. They make me better organised, better focused, better at doing things. The truth is that there’s never a limit to how much better we can be. Like many of us, I sometimes struggled with deadlines, but it looks like I mastered this skills in 2011 when I was engaged in over 50 projects as translator, editor, and journalist.

So, if I were to count my blessings, I’d be grateful first and foremost for my WILL (no, it’s not the Duke of Cambridge, nor is it Mr. Shakespeare), LOVE, and FAITH. And this is what I hope each of you has a plenty in 2012.

My Helpful Pet

I didn’t realise how this happened, but in the month of July our house acquired 4 kittens. I came to Moscow in 2010 to discover a cat, and this summer she (and we) got 4 more felines. They were orphans, and after a week of looking after them we decided to keep them all. The elder cat has stopped worrying altogether, since she realised that she’s living in the house where someone drops in casually once in a while, without any apparent threat to her personal well-being.

What a way to go for someone who was initially forbidden to have pets for health reasons! Now kittens inhabit the whole of the house, and one of them is casually and carefully strolling along the computer table, past the PC display, stopping for a moment to play with the mouse cursor. I’m practically typing in blind, but apparently without typos.

The pleasant thing is that they react well to the tone of voice. Although I still have to physically restrain some of them (like, rescue them from a wardrobe), most of the time it is enough to tell them off in a strict voice, and they obey. Unfortunately, they tend to get up earlier than me and immediately start their physical exercise routine that involves using me as either a barrier or a trampoline.

All in all, it’s been a great year, and I’m grateful to all who shared it with me, be they cats or people.

My Story of Riding Horses (Ponies and Camels)

A Horse Rider, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

My relationship with horses started when I was about 3 years old. My mother took me to the Moscow Zoo where I was photographed sitting on a pony. A year later, at 4 years old, I posed at the Zoo sitting on the same pony. Next time we went to the Zoo, I was 9, and I would never be able to sit on a pony that was now too small…

…which hardly discouraged either me, or my mum, for, when I was 7, I already climbed a camel.

I rode a horse a few times in my life. The photograph here was taken when I was yet living in Moscow, on the evening I had a walk at the famous Gorky Park. Later, at Sokolniki Park, I very strangely bonded with a horse at the equestrian show.

I have friends and colleagues in Moscow and England who are serious about horseriding. I am not yet… although I did win 50GBP at the Grand National once.

Blackburn – The Healing of the Nations 2001

This sculpture on the eastern wall of the Anglican cathedral in Blackburn, Lancashire is one of the most intriguing and innovative piece of contemporary art at an English church. Created in 2000/2001 by the acclaimed artist Mark Jallard and supported by the European Regional Development Fund, it is an abstract copper and steel piece, called The Healing of the Nations.

“Hydraulics and fibre optics between two copper skins make all 7 tons of the awe-inspiring sculpture slowly ‘pulse’ or ‘breathe’ creating ever-changing patterns of light. The sculpture reflects a passage from the last chapter of the Bible where the Book of Revelation describes the river of life”, tells Blackburn City website.

Victoria and Albert Museum – The Inner Court Decor

I‘ve noticed someone watching the V&A Museum set on Flickr, and so decided to share one of my favourite photos from the set. Everyone who visited the V&A knows that the building is impressive both outside and inside. And yet this elaborate balcony that overlooks the inner court is so splendid that I still remember losing my breath when I looked up and saw it.

If this had such effect upon me, can you imagine what happens when I look up the buildings in Piazza del Duomo or Piazza della Signoria in Florence?!

Christmas in Painting: A 15th Century Tyrolese Altarpiece

I took the photo below during my visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington in London in 2008. What we see is the Brixen Altarpiece, produced between 1500 and 1510. It comes from the Italian part of Tyrole, and the style is said to be related to that of the Hans Klocker workshop who was active in Brixen (Bressanone) at the end of the 15th c. On the sides we see the story of Our Lady, particularly on the right we see Nativity (top) and Adoration of the Magi (bottom). In the middle Mary appears enthroned with Jesus, both flanked by donors and saints (St John the Baptist and St Florian). The predella (a panel below) depicts four females saints, St Barbara, St Dorothy, St Catherine, and St Margaret.

And you can listen to a full story of the altarpiece over at V&A’s website.

Victoria and Albert Museum 27
The Brixen Altarpiece, 1500-1510, Italy (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

What Do You Dream About?

Actually, you don’t have to tell me – this was the question I was asked recently by someone.

What do you dream about?

There is, of course, hell of a difference between dreaming and not doing anything to make the dream come true – and being driven by your dream to get closer to realising it.

And very often we succumb to a sort of casual dreaming, the one that provides the otherwise dull and uneventful life with an “injection” of serotonin to keep us going. Moreover, we only dream about things for ourselves and maybe a few close ones. The rest of the world is not included.

Here is where the problem lies. Reaching the heights of personal happiness and thus releasing the mentioned happiness chemical will only temporarily cure any lack in well-being. The reason is simple: you’re constantly drawing on your own resources to pump yourself happy.

Try and help others. Give them a smile. Give them a hand. Don’t just dream how good your house will be with a new kitchen. Dream how good everyone’s kitchen can be when everyone can afford to have a kitchen of their dreams. To make this happen, something will have to change in design, in economy, in the way we live. James Dyson did just that, and now that his vacuum cleaners are making millions of people happy, he is a happy man. And no, not only because he’s become a billionaire. It is because people’s satisfaction rubs off on him.

The law of attraction still works here, too. If you want to be happy, start dreaming of seeing other people happy. The truth is that we can really make a better world. But we need to answer this question first.

What do you dream about?

The Power of Written Goals

Many people all around me are talking about the power of writing your goals down. Now, I did this in the early 2009, then something happened, it all didn’t pan out quite well, and I freaked out. I knew better this year, as I understood the difference between publicising the goals and actually writing them down. And even though I didn’t announce that goals I was working for, I made sure I had them in front me on the paper since January.

As a few people who tried to do this will know, you don’t always get to hit the goal. But you can get really close; and then, instead of deploring the fact that you didn’t get what you wanted in exact way, shape or form, you can assess the success, identify and minimise the lows, and maximise the highs. And then hopefully with the next set of goals you will get what you want.

I mentioned the difference between publicising and writing the goals. I believe setting the goals and working on them should be very personal. Of course, you cannot accomplish everything by yourself, so you do need a team. However, as some students of business might know there is a concept of GRASP, in which G stands ‘getting along with the right people‘. So, this year, rather than announcing my goals to everyone, I chose to attract those who were right for my project and/or for me.

When you write your goals down, something magical happens. Good things start occurring, positive changes begin, great people enter your life. It is important to remind yourself of those goals, no matter how things are actually going. And it’s even more important to remember that “it’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be“. This is the only thought that will always keep you afloat.