I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

So it’s probably time for an update on the big plan to change my life.

day 29 - international kiki day

I’ve heard back from Austria and, all being well, I should be fine for staying on there after my TTC (Teacher Training Course). I’ve sent the application anyway, so now it’s just a question of seeing how both sides feel during the TTC. I want to stay for 8 weeks, doing 8 hours of karma yoga (work) a day. That shouldn’t change, I don’t anticipate any problems, but you never know. I’ll be booking my flight back for the 25th of November anyway.

After that I’m going to start making my way round the world. I think maybe 3 weeks in California (San Francisco), with one of those weeks on silent meditative retreat at a cabin in the woods.

Then it’s off to Oz on about the 19th/20th December to spend Christmas at my boyo’s place near Perth. Stick around there until the new year, then head east. See some friends, chill out a bit, find some retreat to go to. 2013 is where the plan gets ultra vague.

the warlock of firetop mountain

I’m not getting too stressed about organising the after Austria part of the plan. That’s just stuff I can book, so there’s nothing needs doing on that apart from laying down the cash. I might not even book it until I come back from Austria. In fact I won’t unless there’s significant savings to be had. That’s something I need to check out this week.

Been delayed in my planning because of work. On the last of my night shifts this week and, man, is it tiring! I mean they were hard enough before, but now I know I’m leaving I can barely keep my eyes open. I just want them over with.

Got just two more to do, then 2 weeks of mid shifts (7 shifts, 11am-11pm), and that’s me done. I finish on the 23rd of August, which gives me 1 week to pack, move, dispose of my car oop norf, before jetting off to the Alps for 3 months. Crazy huh? Been planning this Brand New Life for ages and now it’s finally happening!

I don’t know what the future will bring (who does) but I look forward to finding out. Just 27 days to go and the adventure begins! Wish me luck. 😀

Buddhafield @ the Green Man

Well, it’s been just over a week since I worked the Buddhafield Cafe at the Green Man Festival. Ample time for me to reflect and come to some conclusions. If only that’s what I’ve been doing. Truth is I’ve just been faffing about, doing some yoga, writing intermittently, watch DVDs, and suffering work (but more on that in my next post, entitled “You’re all going to die!”) 😉

Rather than have one big lump of text I’m going to divide it up into categories, a la Wikipedia, with a few sub headings here and there and the odd picture or two (taken with my phone, so my apologies for their shoddy appearance).

NB: my camera is officially muerte! Had the call today. It’d cost more to repair it than it’s worth, so it’s time for me to move on to camera’s new.

Anyway, enough of that…


The Buddhafield Cafe

I got to the Brecon Beacons on the Monday afternoon. The festival wasn’t due to start until the Thursday/Friday, but I was there to help set up. When I arrived there were a couple of domes set up and they were working on the cafe bit, so in true workman style I grabbed myself a cup of tea and a sandwich.


Actually I got there a bit late. I had planned to arrive earlier. But still it gave me a chance to meet everyone, do a bit of work, familiarise myself with the set up, and just settle in ready for the whole experience.

The Buddhafield lot were really nice. All very friendly, very open, and I felt most welcomed by them all. I was just there for the one festival but some of these guys do it for the whole season, hence the van living (as above).


This wasn’t a usual set up for them though. They have a big cafe, but it was away at another festival. The one we had was smaller, but we also had hot showers, hot tubs, and a sauna built as well; kind of a Buddhafield Spa if you like. I think it was the first time they’d done that, outside of their own festival, but it worked really well. People got into it, and I think they sold quite a few weekend passes.

come and relax

When the festival started I was on the early shift, 7am to 1pm. Man it was cold at 6:30 in the morning! Seriously, I had blankets round my sleeping bag and still I was well chilly. That made getting up difficulty, though sometimes just the thought of a warm cup of tea was motivation enough to get you up and moving about (one morning it was so cold, when I poured hot water into the mug, the mug just cracked and spilled tea everywhere! that was weird).

I did lots of little bits and bobs during my shifts, but for the most part I was on washing up duty. I liked that, because it suited my methodical mind. Stuff comes it, I scrape, scrub and scald it, and it goes out clean. Nice, easy, no brain required. Very meditative, if you do it right. 🙂

It was funny at one point on Saturday morning. The washing up station was just outside the cafe, with nothing but a wall of doubled over hessian between me and the ‘spa’. I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on behind me, too busy doing the dishes, when I turned round to collect a pile of plates and just saw a sea of naked people all laying out in the sun, drying out after there sauna/shower experience. “Well,” I thought, “there’s something you don’t see every day!” And then back to the scrubbing I went.

our set-up, from a treehouse

All in all it was a very positive experience. Not only for the opportunity to practice some good karma yoga, and all the fabulous vegan food I got to eat, but for all the really lovely people I got to meet, and who I look forward to seeing again some time in the future. And it seems my efforts were appreciated, as it was suggested I might like to do the Buddhafield festival itself, maybe as site crew. It’s certainly something I’m going to think about; just depends on what I’m doing next July, and indeed which country I’m in!


The Green Man Festival

Green Man was a new one for me. A fairly small festival, only about 20,000 people, it’s not one I’d come across before. I volunteered for that one as there was a lot of folky bands playing. Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling, Iron and Wine, I was very keen to see them all.

the green man

The festival itself was very well run, very clean, very polite, and very family friendly. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to take their kids to something like that. All the people working there (with the exception of one asshole parking attendant) were nice and helpful, as were the festival goers themselves.

As for the music, it was a great line up. Here are my quick capsule reviews of the acts I saw.

James Vincent McMorrow

Heard him before on the Morning Becomes Eclectic podcast. He was good on that but I wasn’t bowled over by him at the time. I certainly was when I saw him live. Just brilliant. Haunting melodies and excellent guitar work, I’d recommend his album to anyone (I bought it as soon as I got back).

Laura Marling

As expected, a great performance, nicely done, very pleasing to watch. I just sat there and enjoyed everything she did. Such a great singer and very smiley, which is nice. 🙂

Fleet Foxes

Oh my God, so boring! I’m sorry, but every one of their songs sounded the same. I was bored to death. I really wish I’d skipped these lot. An hour of my life I won’t get back.

Iron and Wine

As expected, brilliant. Everyone had said he’d be quite quiet and standoffish with the crowd, not much of a stage act, but not at all! He was funny, engaging, very warm and up for having a good time. The crowd loved it. So much they got him to come do an encore even though the green man was about to be set on fire. Then they messed with his head by swaying out of rhythm, but he saw the funny side of it. It was a great show, and another great album if you’re looking for one.

Holy Fuck!

Find of the festival! There’s always one band/group you stumble across by accident and they totally blow you away, so it was with Holy Fuck. Not a great show, two blokes hunched over keyboards nodding away to the music, but what a massive, all encompassing sound. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll let these two videos paint a picture for you.


Imagine that but louder, and bassier, and bouncier, and you’re about half way there. Me likey, and another album I bought when I got back home.

And finally an honorable mention to Noah and the Whale. Nice tunes, but more importantly nice suits fellas. I’m loving the look. We need more sartorial excellence in music these days

If anyone’s interested I’ve done a wee playlist download which you can get by clicking here. Just a few tunes from some of the bands mentioned, as well as some tunes from bands that could have been playing if they’d been playing (if you know what I mean). Anyway, enjoy! 🙂

And finally, a public service announcement:

If you climb on your boyfriend’s shoulders in the middle of a gig and wave your arms in the air shouting ‘Woo!’ blocking the view of the people behind you, be in no doubt, you are a twat. Go and get twat tattooed on your forehead so that everyone you meet will know you are a twat. Then try and convince everyone that you did it ironically, and that really twat tattoos are cool. Because that’s the sort of thing you’d do. Because you are a twat.
(twat: see Morrissey)


Words I learnt

I added three new words to the old lexicon from my week in the Brecon Beacons. They are as follows:

Brash; a pile of chopped logs found in a forest.

Tatting; going through the stuff people have left behind to see what you can find.

Nesh; what I’ve become after living darn sarf for so long, apparently.


Quote of the week

When asked what kind of girl he went for Steve replied

“I dunno. She’d have to be pretty deformed for me not to go for her, if I’m honest.”

Brilliant! 😉



In short, meditate more, do more, live more, love more, and life’s too short to work in an office.

Sivananda Yoga Retreat

Well, I’m back from my yoga retreat. Quite a weekend, let me tell you. Hard work sometimes (getting up at 5:30am for example) but certainly worth it. And I don’t feel half as tired/achey as I thought I would. Maybe I’m getting better, lol.

gaunts house

It was at Gaunt’s House, which is this big old former country house (now retreat centre) in Dorset. The place is massive, with lots of grounds, a big garden, and good sized rooms. I paid extra for a single and got a room that’s bigger than my flat (seriously, though I do have a very small flat!) with a double bed. Oh the luxury of a double bed! So nice to just spread out like that. I miss having a double bed.

enjoying the view

The grounds were made for chilling out, but there wasn’t much time for that. The schedule kept us quite busy. Check this out:

5:30 – Wake
6:00 – Satsang (meditation and chanting)
8:00 – Yoga
10:00 – Breakfast/Brunch
12:00 – Nature walk
14:00 – Demo/talk
16:00 – Yoga
18:00 – Supper
20:00 – Satsang
21:30 – Finish
21:31 – Bed 😉

Quite a lot to do huh? I tell you, took a little getting used to. You just had to relax and go with it (probably part of the ethos I reckon). And I’m not kidding about the last one. Soon as you were finished it was straight to bed (for me anyway). If I’m getting up that early I needs me beauty sleep.

The whole thing was run very well, which is no surprise from the Sivananda lot. I even helped out with some of it, getting to the centre early to load up my car with stuff (I had pictures of the swamis and deities on my back seat, and every time someone cut me up in traffic, and I swore without thinking, I found myself apologising to ‘the boys’ for my bad language, lol), helping set up when we got there, and finally fiddling with the sound system during the satsangs, swapping wires between mikes and twiddling knobs to get the levels right.

All the yoga-ey stuff was excellent. My ability to do it though, varied from day to day. Funny how some days you can get your toes on the floor when doing the plough, and other days you find yourself completely scrunched up, feet flailing, unable to catch your breath.

nature walk vs fence

The nature walks were nice, though ‘walk’ is a bit of a misnomer. March, stomp or trudge might a better way of describing it. With Swamiji and his long legs up front, striding off into the distance, it was sometimes a task just to keep up. I know for a fact we lost most the group on the first day (and the second day for that matter) and it was just some good guesswork (or the sound of our post-meditative omming) that brought them back to the rest of the group unscathed, lol. 🙂

As for all the chanting, I can’t say I’m entirely sold on that. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good Om as much as the next man, but after 30-40 minutes of it… well, you get the idea. Maybe I’ll get into it one day, maybe I won’t (the Swami himself admitted he had some difficulty getting his head around it in the beginning), I just know for now it’s not the thing for me; and so mote it be.

thai yoga massage

On the last night, instead of a long satsang, we had a talent show. People told stories, played the piano, sang, did demos, and I even got roped into doing a bit of Tai Chi for them. Got to admit, I was a bit nervous doing it. It was a big crowd (about 70 odd) but it went ok in the end. I got plenty of compliments afterwards, which was nice, and maybe some people might feel motivated to give it a try; which would be great, as yoga and Tai Chi are very much sister disciplines.

(more pics here)


On the way back we stopped off at Stonehenge to go check that out. Was nice to see the stones close up, though not as close as I’d have liked, as you’re not allowed near them for some reason; and you have to pay £7:50 for the privilege, which seems a bit steep to me.

And, everyone was walking round with these little recorders listening to a commentary on the stones, which made for an odd sight. Made me think of the Victorians, who would go out into the countryside and, since they only ever saw landscapes in paintings, had to use a little framing devices to look around, otherwise they couldn’t ‘see’ the beautiful views around them.

Still, it was worth a visit, and I’m glad I went. And it was fun to spend some time with Swami Krishnadevananda and the gang not doing yoga or anything like that, just monkeying about a bit.

swami and the stones

He’s such a cheery fella! 🙂

kiki and the henge

Still rockin’ the new do’. 😉

All told a very good weekend, and one I would recommend to anyone who fancies a bit of a yoga retreat some time. They have them twice a year in the UK, and at other times at other centres around the world. Check out their website for the what’s going on.

Give ’em a go! You’ll meet some lovely people, learn some new stuff, get a bit fitter, and have a right laugh whilst doing it. What more could you need? 🙂

Life & Stuff & Things Like That

Bon Iver’s got a new album out!! To celebrate I’m peppering this post with a few of his tunes for you to enjoy whilst you read. Lord knows how long they’ll last, so get ’em while they’re hot! 🙂

Y’know, I considered deleting my post of yesterday, it being full of talk and no action; and what’s the point of that? But then I thought sod it, you can’t delete the past. You’ve just got to learn from your mistakes and move on. So, no more wishy-washy wishful thinking. From now on it’s do, or do not; there is no try. 😉

So, with that in mind, check out my doings yesterday. Spent the day performing some karma yoga at the Sivananda Centre. I was involved in setting up the rooms ready for each day, helping people find where they had to be, cleaning, cooking, carrying, stuff like that.

tranquil bench

It was a very full day, with a yoga session at the end and a trip to the osteopath in the middle, and I was pretty pooped by the end of it. But I didn’t mind, as spending the day with lovely people doing something worthwhile together is well worth the effort. We need more of that in life.

Speaking of yoga, check me out: I managed to do the scorpion for the first time last night. Wasn’t easy mind! What with my achey shoulders and the day of work I did I was well shaky. But still I gave it a go and I didn’t land on my face, which works for me, lol. 🙂

Obviously that’s not me, though if I’d known that’s what I’d be doing last night I’d have definitely got the camera out, lol. It’s amazing to think how far I’ve come in the past 8 months. From not being able to touch my toes to doing, well, that! Heck of a change, let me tell you.

Apart from all that I haven’t been doing a lot recently. I have a habit of writing big ‘to do’ lists, and then moving things from one list to another, never actually doing any of them. So I put all that aside for a while and just did whatever came naturally, which seemed to be ‘snooze’ apparently.

But I also got quite a bit of writing done. I’m about one third through the book I’ve been working on, and if I just keep plugging away I’ll have it done by the end of the summer.

And I’ve taken a few more recipe card pictures. Check out one of the out-takes.

recipe card out-take

Just got two more to do then I’ll have a set of six. Right now it’s just a question of weather. Need strong sunlight to make them come out nice, and we keep getting lots of rain in the UK at the moment. But everything comes with time, and if I don’t have them done in the next few weeks I’ll be surprised.

Right, think that’s everything. Got a few hours to do some writing before I have to go to work. Hope you enjoyed the tunes. Buy/download/rip any one of his albums (or his other project The Volcano Choir) you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Good Karma / Bad Karma

Good Karma

The place where I go to yoga has this idea called Karma Yoga. Basically it means doing something for others. A task, a good deed, just being selfless for a moment to ‘exercise’ your karma. I did some last week after class, hoovering the room we’d just used, and I thought that was my bit for the week. But I got an opportunity to do much more the day after.

Came home from a night shift Thursday night (7am Friday morning) to find my upstairs neighbour and her boyfriend huddled shivering in the hallway (it was -2 outside). Turns out they’d gone out for a cigarette in the night and accidentally locked themselves out of the flat. I guess it’s lucky for them they hadn’t gone all the way and locked themselves out of the house too.

I offered them a cup of tea which they refused (they’d been to McDonalds at 6am to get a coffee and warm up a bit), so I gave them a blanket – they said they only had a half hour wait of so before her friend down the road who had a spare set of keys would be getting up – and started to get ready for bed.

But as I contemplated climbing into my nice warm bed with them shivering in the hall outside it just seemed daft to me. So I invited them in, stuck the heaters on, gave them a cuppa, and we chatted for an hour or so until her friend would be up, then they went on their way. I felt pretty good for doing that.

Sometimes we are fortunate in life, and our path is clear.

Bad Karma

I watched The A-Team the other night, and I was very disappointed about their blatant mis-appropriation of a Gandhi quote to justify killing people.

Basically BA Baracas had an epiphany in prison, and decided that killing people is wrong. But when the big fight at the end comes Hannibal decides he needs him the way he was before, so he uses the quote, “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” Apparently that is enough for BA to give up his peaceful ways and go back to whacking bad guys.

The full quote goes something like this, “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence. Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.” Basically, it’s better to do something rather than nothing; but it’s better to be non-violent than it is to be violent (click the link to check out a much more detailed and eloquent explanation).

When they first brought up the BA non-violence angle I thought they were going to do something clever with how, in the TV series, they used to blow things up left-right-and-centre and no one ever got killed. So when they just did a reverse and decided to go back to killing (and used Gandhi to advocate violence!) I was gob smacked. If I was involved in the making of this film I would be ashamed of myself for being a party to such a thing.

30 Days of Kiki : day 2

day 2- the meaning behind you blog name

Quite simply the idea behind My brand New Life was just that, to use the blog as a catalyst to starting a brand new life. I wanted a job that didn’t make me sag when I thought about going to work, a house big enough for all my stuff with enough room for me to monkey around in properly, and someone special to share it all with.

Unfortunately I got caught up in stunt blogging, lost my way a little, and in eight months things haven’t panned out quite how I thought they would. But, I have done a great many new things! I have loads of new recipes I’ve invented (and am on my way to doing a recipe book), I’ve started a number of new projects that could bear fruit in the future, and I’ve gained a certain amount of clarity as to what I want to do, so it’s not been a complete loss.

And it ain’t over yet either! I may not have achieved what I set out to do (yet), but I haven’t failed until I stop trying. 🙂

Week 23: In which our hero falls apart (physically, at least)

Man, what week. I’m exhausted! It started with a couple of night shifts (always fun) and ended with a long weekend Tai Chi retreat (which really is always fun, but also very tiring). Along the way I had a filling fall out, my right leg decided it was no longer going to work properly – giving out whenever I tried to put a lot of weight in it suddenly, I got bit on the head by some unknown insect that stayed icky for days, and my hay fever finally kicked in for the year with a vengeance. I don’t mind admitting to you, I’m pooped!

regine in repose

We had our regular yearly retreat at Braziers Park, a residential college and experimental community deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, where beasts run free, the lawns are comfy, and the (veggie) food is excellent. Actually, you hear some of the descriptions people give of it, and read their own literature, and it sounds far more hippy dippy than it actually is. In fact it’s quite a well run retreat centre, and an absolute pleasure to visit each year. The staff, both permanent and visiting, are always a lovely smiley bunch of people, you get left to your own devices pretty much, and there’s always a big stack of wood for the bonfire when you need it. What more could you want?


There’s also invariably a cute girl or two to be appreciated all weekend, and this year was no exception. And as always, it never fails to bring home to me the fact that I’d quite like someone to share the old trials and tribulations with. But this year, thanks to my soberness (still haven’t touched a drop, and this will be the last time I mention the not drinking thing I promise), I have had the chance for some reflection. Quite simply, if I want to meet the kind of girls they get volunteering at Braziers Park, I need to go the kind of places those girls are known to congregate. Obvious I know, but never the less, a fact I obviously needed driven home. So I’m on the look out for opportunities – volunteering opportunities I suppose – to go places and do stuff that will be give me the chance to meet my future would-be missus. I’ve got a few ideas, but I could always do with more.

And I really need to go for it too. Faint heart ne’er won fair lady, and no one ever got lucky humming and harring about the place and being a candy ass about the whole thing (I’m sure Shakespeare could have put it better, but not any truer mark my words). That’s how I was, but no more. It’s time for a new me.


NB: Ate my first egg for 2 years while I was away too. The chickens were very well looked after so I didn’t think I’d be accruing any bad karma by having one (or two). Tasted great too! You can always tell quality from the rubbish you get in the shops.

Off work this week just chillin’ with nothing to do. Experimenting with cutting out nightshades from my diet and hope to do a wee bit of writing. Also plan on doing a few recipes while I have the chance. Will report on all that in seven days time. Til then, keep on grinnin’. 🙂