Bibliophilia Amongst A Flotilla: Word on the Water…A Book Barge

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Have you ever stumbled upon something so cool and unique that you wished you were the first to discover it ( `a la Christopher Columbus)? This happened to me recently as I exited Paddington Station in Central London.  I came across Word on the Water, without a doubt the quirkiest book store in the land…or shall I say on the water.

There is nothing that tickles my fancy like a good book. Add water and a floating vessel and I am feeling like I’m on cloud 9. Word on the Water is all that…it’s a book store, it’s a barge and  it’s one of those places that can make even myself, clad in mum jeans and a shirt decorated with mysterious baby stains feel fabulous.

As I crossed the velvet rope that draped across the doorway I met Paddy Screech the man behind the books. Paddy can be described as being on par with the lifestyle; reading glasses atop his head, almost professor-esque but the type that you would enjoy sitting in on his lectures because he fearlessly goes against the grain. His demeanour was chilled out, not at all hurried, sorting through piles of classic literature to put out for display. Patient and obviously confident, certainly a skill he honed while working for numerous years with the homeless and those with addictions. He’s been doing this for 3 years, moving up and down the waters every 2 weeks selling and acquiring books along the way. Thankfully, they may have found their home outside of Paddington Station.

Classics, rare finds, and one of a kind pieces line the shelves. Many of the books are donated or picked up from second hand shops and sold here on the water. There is even a section of children’s books.

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It’s not just the discounted books that makes Word on the Water inviting, It’s also the atmosphere. The patrons are a hodgepodge of  yummy mummy’s, those on a slow stroll, students and dog walkers; people out enjoying a day on the canal. The resident cats, Queenie and Skitty lazily hang out on vintage leather chairs almost posing. Those along the footpath are drawn in from the mix of music playing over the speakers, peeking in with curiosity. On this day, an instrumental of “Royals” by Lorde has me tapping my foot on the wooden floorboard as a I thumb through pages. I like this, I like it a lot.

*For my fellow pram pushers, you will be pleased to know that the visit to Word on the Water has an added bonus: Paddington Station has step free access  making Word on the Water easily accessible for us mummy’s and daddy’s that love a good discounted read.*

If you are looking to visit Word on the Water or simply want to donate Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wordonthewater and Follow them on Twitter (@wordonthewater) for updates and hours of operation.

 

The Bookshop has a thousand books, All colors, hues, and tinges,

And every cover is a door That turns on magic hinges

~Nancy Byrd Turner

NuNu Goes Daaahhhnncing! Baby Loves Disco REVIEW

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To keep up with what seems like a month long celebration of NuNu’s birthday, we took her to get her boogie on. What better place than a proper London club equipped with strobe lights, fully lit dance floor, a DJ playing all of the hottest tunes AND for the parents, a fully functioning bar? What kind of party is this you say? Well, it’s Baby Loves Disco (UK) coined “The Original Family Dance Party”, and that is what it is and more!

Baby Loves Disco started years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by professional dancer, mother and dare we say… GENIUS,  Heather Murphy Monteith. It’s an afternoon dance party for babies, toddlers and children up to 7 years old. For children 4-11 years old, Baby Loves Disco UK hosts Pop Lock In events during the afternoon as well. There is a theme for each gathering ranging from Superheroes to whatever strikes the planner’s imagination. The parties are typically once a month, held in over 21 cities AND is also a big deal here in the UK and Japan. I found out about it while doing my usual search and research of “happening things to do” in and around London. I quickly had “P” scoop up some tickets which were extremely reasonably priced for such a great experience. The cost was £9.95 per walking human, so admission for NuNu was free since she has yet to take 5 unassisted  steps without plopping down.

Our London disco experience is held at Sway Bar in West Central London just around the corner from Holborn Station. Easy to get to and no need to drive. The venue was fab and so appropriate for the event. There is a separate and secure storage area for prams (strollers) which came in handy for those that wheeled in their little tykes. NuNu was asleep when we arrived and was awakened by the flickering lights and the sounds of The Village People singing YMCA. She was startled at first. Surely she was thinking, “This can’t be real!”. Babies bouncing in tutus with their little faces painted, stumbling around, juice cups in hand…must of felt like she woke up in baby heaven. The theme was in celebration of Baby Loves Disco’s 10th anniversary so it was overflowing with fashion from several decades 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and the current. Can you say, “Gettin’ Down!”. Boy do these kids know how to PAARRTAAAYY!  

There was face painting, balloons, staff walking around with bubble blowers and complimentary healthy snacks for the kiddos. This is the place to be for both Mums and Dads as it encourages full family participation with the occasional Mummy and Daddy dance off (needless to say I didn’t win). They also play “Action songs” where event staff lead the party goers in a routine of moves that goes along with the tunes. It didn’t take long at all for NuNu to start jumping around and smiling.

There were also several birthday parties going on which is a wonderful idea if you want to do something different without the hassle of planning a full on party yourself. Reasons to hold your child’s next birthday party here: 1) you have ready made attendees 2) no need to worry about music, venue or entertainment because Baby Loves Disco has it all.

This isn’t your typical kids party either. It is indeed fun for everyone. It is a great place to meet up and have a drink with your friends that have kids. A total home run for us parents that are still grasping on to the little bit of social life and coolness that was once in full force. We all know that when you have children you can kiss your night time clubbing goodbye but Baby Loves Disco provides a place to listen to music, socialize, get the kids together for a bit of fun, AND have them home nice and tired, just in time for dinner and bed.

All partied out!

All partied out!

Baby Loves Disco is where it’s at, bringing a new meaning to “Poppin’ Bottles” and “Gettin’ Low”….Parents bending over to grasp tiny hands, fist pumping to the beat. My back paid for it the following morning but I would certainly take NuNu back for more. Party Animals!

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Interested in getting your boogie on with your babies? Got to http://www.babylovesdisco.co.uk for those in the UK and for the rockin’ parents in America head to http://www.babylovesdisco.com to get your tickets.

Mama Biashara: Business Mother, Advocate, Author, Comedic Critic and Sex Maven…Kate Copstick

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Since being in London I have stumbled across some AMAZING places. I have had some truly jaw dropping experiences,  and it just gets better and better. Typically these encounters happen when I am simply just minding my business and getting on with my normal day to day.

I do my groceries in Shepherds Bush, West London. I like the feel that I get just walking down the street. The people and vibe make you feel as if you are in the midst of something great and interesting even when you are just going out to do the weeks shopping . For the past few months I’ve gone to W12 Shopping Centre. I go in. I leave out. That is until recently when I felt a pull to explore what was on the other end of the building.  My eyes instantly lit up. I’m in love. A shop! A charity “museum” of sorts, filled with fabulous, bright colors and loads of unique, handmade merchandise. A sign, “MAMA BIASHARA” adorned the store front window.

I walk in and I am greeted by smiling faces. I hear a voice coming from the rear of the shop near the register and I see a woman. She’s wearing glasses and she looks like she’s conducting business. Even though there is laughter I can tell there is a passion behind her words. This was Mama Biashara (Business Mother) Kate Copstick herself!

To be honest, when I began this post I thought that it would be comprised of bits of information and photos of all of the great items on display but as I started my research I uncovered and discovered so much more. Not only does Mama Biashara have lovely goods but it also encompasses a few other things that I have a passion for. Community, charity, sexual health and the empowerment of women all based on the vision of one Kate Copstick.

In order to touch on the greatness that is in the shop I had to explore the drive behind the force that created it.

Kate Copstick is a controversial comedic critic, an author, actress and long time contributor/owner of the Exotic Review (a publication that focuses on sexuality an eroticism). She is also what some refer to as a hard core feminist, opinionated and strong. On first glance you would wonder how does one find time to be a champion for Children With Aids Charity here in the UK, conquer many professions and manage to help others abroad. Well, that’s exactly what Kate does.

Kate Copstick travels often to some of the most impoverished areas of Kenya. Through her travels she quickly realized that there was a great need and instead of just simply making a one off donation she decided to put the power back into the hands of the people by assisting them with entrepreneurial endeavors. She meets with women and conducts business workshops. She gives business grants to women that have a desire to start or restart their small businesses. Sounds angelic but Kate is no pushover. She’s tough skinned and has no problem turning away those that are likely to misuse the funds. Her tough stance reflects the motto of Mama Biashara, “A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.”

Beautiful images on fabric found in the shop

Beautiful images on fabric found in the shop

With these business grants, Mama Biashara is able to put the power back into the hands of the women that she helps.  Just 25 will help start up a business selling vegetables or second hand clothing. That is less than what many of us spend on a night out. Through her travels Kate often keeps a detailed diary of her experiences and uses it as a way to keep family and friends of Mama Biashara up to date.

I was particularly thrilled to know that Mama Biashara works with commercial sex workers in Nairobi to give them other options to support themselves and their families financially. Additionally, many of the women that seek assistance from Mama Biashara are HIV positive but equally as  heavy, they are impoverished and looking for other means of survival. Mama Biashara will set them up with other businesses which will bring them one step closer to being free from their vulnerable circumstances. Anyone that knows Cocoa, knows that Sexual Health/HIV Prevention/Education and Advocacy are subjects that are extremely close to my heart having worked in the field for a number of years. Kate also provides information regarding safe sex practices/HIV/STI Prevention.

On her travels to Kenya, Kate takes with her  some much needed supplies such as vitamins, supplements, condoms, and medicines to help does that are in need. She brings back merchandise, fabrics, jewelry, shoes, handbags etc. These materials are sold in Mama Biashara’s shop and the money that is made is put back into the community to help fund the grants and many important programs in Kenya.

On my visit to the Mama Biashara shop, I had the fortunate experience of meeting Prudence Maseko, a designer and small business owner that displays her items within the shop. She raved about the philanthropic efforts of Mama Biashara in regards to women in Kenya but she also expressed how thankful she was that Mama Biashara helped her, a woman living right in London. Prudence hand knits her designs (purses, scarves, etc) and displays them in the shop to be sold. In turn she volunteers her time with the charity.

Myself, I couldn’t help but walk away with a renewed drive and inspiration to help others as well as some fabulous one of a kind earrings!

Mama Biashara needs your money! If you would like information about Mama Biashara and how to donate to the cause,  please visit http://www.mamabiashara.com/.

Visit the shop at

Address: West 12 Shopping Centre
Shepherds Bush Green, Shepherd’s Bush
London, W12 8PP

Here are some lovely shots of just some of the merchandise on display for sale: Scarves, Jewelry, Handbags, Clothing, Fabric, Home Decor…and so much more!

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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Part II

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A while ago I posted a few stunning photos that I took outside of  BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple) and I’ve finally been able to make my way to back to Britain’s first traditional Hindu Temple for a proper look around.

Before visiting, I made sure that I did a fair amount of reading up about what to expect while visiting. The official website http://londonmandir.baps.org/ has an abundance of information that includes visitor guidelines and photos of the various areas where cameras are not permitted. It is also important to time your visit (information about timing is also on the website) so that you are able to view Darshan. Darshan is one of the most basic forms of worship in Hindu, admiring the Deities. This is offered during particular times through the day when the shrines are open for viewing.

I know that there is no way that I can give such a beautiful place proper justice through words but I will do my best to document my experience. This is certainly a place that one must take in for themselves. When visiting places of religious significance I take it as an opportunity to learn. I listen and most importantly maintain respect for those that are worshiping. It took so much out of me to keep all of the Ooohs and Aaaaahs that were floating around in my mind from blurting out. The only reason that I was able to keep quiet is because I was rendered speechless by the beauty of the Temple inside and out.

Bags and cameras are not allowed inside of the Temple, they must be left in your vehicle or in the Security booth where these items must be checked in. The Haveli (cultural centre) is the point of entry into the Temple. The Haveli is made of 17,760 square feet of intricate wood carvings of Burmese Teak and English Oak.

Outside of the Haveli

Outside of the Haveli

Wood Carvings

Wood Carvings

Haveli

Haveli

Haveli Wood Carvings (www.http://londonmandir.baps.org)

Haveli Wood Carvings (www.http://londonmandir.baps.org)

It is customary to remove your shoes upon entering the Haveli complex where male and female shoe racks are provided.  As we entered we were told to hurry as we were just barely making the time to view the shrines. I must say that I knew that I was about to witness something beautiful but the energy that I felt once entering into the Mandir (Hindu place of worship) nearly bought tears to my eyes.

The Mandir is a Marble Masterpiece in the middle of a concrete jungle. It is made up of tons of limestone and fine Italian Carrera Marble etched and sculpted in India and lovingly put together in North-West London. In every piece you can see supreme craftsmanship. Go to http://londonmandir.baps.org/the-mandir/mandir-how-it-was-made/ to see how it was made and for more amazing photos.

The Mandir is a quiet place where you can literally feel the stillness in the air. You will see many people bowing, hands together in front of the images, some lying on the marble floor or sitting in meditation in front of the sacred images.

We visited during Hindola Utsav (Swing Festival) and were able to witness the devotional tradition which takes place 24 July-22 August 2013. The Swing Festival is where images of God are placed on swings and devotees rock the image away and toward them in a loving manner. Placing God on a swing symbolizes placing God in your heart and the rocking motion is symbolic of the desire to bring God closer.  The swings are changed and redecorated throughout various times of the month. On this particular day there were two large fish sculptures with the image of God placed on a swing in the middle with a long rope extended from the swing to the area where devotees stand. One by one they would approach the image and give a light tug.  http://londonmandir.baps.org/2013/07/hindola-utsav-swing-festival/ (more images of the completed swings so far).

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Also seen in the Mandir are the sacred images or Murti displayed in shrines throughout. They are not just seen as beautiful “images” but admired and cared for as a living being would be.  The images are dressed elaborately with colorful garments and headpieces and adorned with jewelry. The shrines are open during particular times and closed for others to allow times for visits, food offerings and a to allow the sacred images to rest, following a normal daily routine. Murti Darshan is changed daily. Pictured below is one Darshan displayed on the day of our visit.  The smell of fresh fruit was soaring through the air and each one was delicately and purposefully placed around the shrine.

Murti Darshan on 10 August 2013. (left to right) Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami,  Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and Aksharmukta Gopalanand Swami (courtesy of www.londonmandir.baps.org)

Murti Darshan on 10 August 2013. (left to right) Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and Aksharmukta Gopalanand Swami (courtesy of http://www.londonmandir.baps.org)

After walking through the Mandir, taking in the beauty and calm of it all, we visited the gift shop. There are books for children and adults, miniature sacred images, incense, candies and teas that bear the BAPS name. Additionally, across the street from the Mandir is Shayona Restaurant (and delicatessen) which serves a delightful menu of authentic Indian cuisine.

tea and baps

We were allowed to retrieve our cameras from the security area to take photos outside of the Mandir before leaving. These are a few of the images:

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Intricate carvings

Intricate carvings

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Upon leaving “P” turned to me to say that he now has a sudden urge to visit India and I agreed! I highly recommend visiting BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir to anyone visiting London, it’s a MUST SEE, a pleasurable, peaceful experience.