I first discovered blooming tea about two years ago in a small, hipster cafe. As I watched the dehydrated flower blossom to life again I knew it would become one of my favourite beverages. Fortunately the flower tea trend has taken off and a pot can be ordered in many more eateries or purchased online. However, despite the popularity of the product its origins are still a mystery. We know that the majority of the blooming buds are produced in China but who or when it was invented is still unknown.
Regardless of its secret history I am happy we have it in the present. In the era of Starbucks and Coco Cola producing high caffeine, high sugar drinks, flower tea offers something fresh. Most blooming tea bundles are wrapped in whole green tea leaves which are renowned for their numerous health benefits. These range from being rich in antioxidants to the claims the drink can lower cholesterol, improve blood flow and block the plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease. However, if the green leaves aren’t your cup of choice then black tea and flavoured varieties are also available.
Not only is it a healthy drink the aesthetic value is important too. The dramatic resurrection of the flower turns a simple cup of tea into a Twenty First Century tea ceremony. There’s a tranquil moment as you take time to enjoy the natural artwork unfold. The only issue is that you can’t share the beauty of blooming tea. Attempting to take a photo is very difficult because light sources are reflected on the glass surface. This makes a pot of flower tea a private pleasure. The feast is only for those at the table, a selfish moment to be enjoyed away from social media or the wider world.
The health benefits of green tea:
An affordable example
Towards the end of last year I wrote a post titled ‘The Days out that Didn’t Happen’. The piece lamented my unfulfilled holiday plans and the three galleries/museums I didn’t explore. One of the places I missed out on was an old paint factory, Fargfabriken. Located in Liljehomen, Stockholm the building originally opened as paint producer in 1889. Nearly 150 years later it now houses art and architectural exhibits available to the public for a small fee.
To find Fargfabriken you need to journey about five minutes away from Liljehomen’s tube station. Unlike most art spaces which are located in affluent, central city locations the surrounding area of Fargfabriken is entirely industrial. Walking past the concrete landscape, coated in old snow the red brick of the factory is a contrast. It’s purpose is immediately imparted. The grey buildings are for working but the red is for exploration.
Inside, there is a popular cafe, gift store and exhibit rooms. Currently, the main attractions are installations from Beckers Art Award winner, Petra Hultman. Her exhibit focuses primarily on the home and the work of the women who make it. The walls are lined with old instruction manuals designed to inform housewives on creating the perfect living environment. The center tells a story of an elderly couple. The husband and wife have their creative outlets: He builds key boxes out of wood; she forms blankets from material. His work is stacked high and displayed for examination. Her work is folded into piles, neglecting the intricacies and effort of each piece.
I wondered if the works belonged to real people or if the couple were a fictional device to emphasise the experience of domestic labour. Huntman was available to question because she was working on a tapestry as part of the exhibit. However, I was stopped by a question: Did the origin of these characters matter? Whether they were a product of fact or fiction didn’t change the story. I’ll never know the answer and I’m content with that, If you have the time and about £7/70Sek spare perhaps you could visit and let me know your thoughts. I’ll leave a link to Fargfabriken and Hultman below.
After the indulgence of the Christmas period and the unfortunately rapid return to work I found myself exhausted. To cure my January Blues I retired from the reawakening world and I spent my Saturday night (and majority of Sunday) curled up with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and the last of the season’s chocolates. I hadn’t intended to indulge both days in the stories but after the first few pages the outcome was inevitable.
If you ever attempted to explore the world of the Old Norse Gods then you’re confronted with a lack of modern interpretations. Most likely you’ll be offered the Poetic and Prose Eddas, quickly followed by Marvel’s dissimilar Comic Book hero. Last year I attempted the poetic Edda and enjoyed the lyrical stories. However, it’s not an easily accessible book and not recommended for young readers. Gaiman’s contribution is a perfect solution to this problem.
Norse Mythology presents the usual cast of Odin, Thor, Loki and others in an easily understandable way. The deeds and downfalls of the old Scandinavian Gods are depicted in a light and engaging manner. Gaiman’s re-imagining has the unique quality of appealing to both adults and younger readers, which all myths should do. His style makes for easy reading and this simplicity allows the quality of the original stories to shine. In his introduction Gaiman writes that he chose the tales because of his childhood fondness. Hopefully, he was also interested in the myths of other lands too. A whole series of the world’s ancient stories in this style is worthy of any bookshelf.
In 1967 Last Exit to Brooklyn was trialed for obscenity by a UK court for its graphic content and depictions of cruelty. The jury consisted solely of men because Selby Jr’s narration of prostitution, homosexuality, violence and drug taking was deemed potentially embarrassing to women. After deliberating on the novel’s content the trial concluded it unfit for public consumption and prohibited sale and publication. Fortunately, this verdict was reconsidered, only to be overturned the following year.
Last Exit to Brooklyn is still a challenging book to read. Selby Jr treated his characters with the contempt they treat each other. Every person in the novel is dragged along by their base desire for sex, violence or securing a chemical high, often leading to their demise in a pool of their own blood.
Overall, it is a brilliant but uncomfortable book to read. The character’s lives are fast and you’re pulled through the pages by the sentences missing full stops and chapters lacking paragraphs. The foregoing of traditional punctuation lends a unique style, as if a friend is telling you graphic gossip at a bar.
I first joined Goodreads in September 2015 and have been using it on & (mostly) off ever since. In the last eight or nine months my activity on the book review site has accelerated. Before opening the first page I immediately update my “book shelf” and after final sentence I award the author my stars. My visits to Goodreads have probably increased due to ‘Reading Challenge” function. This feature allows the user to set a reading goal for the end of the year, so that whenever you complete and update your latest favourite you’re also reaching a goal.
For this year’s reading challenge I set myself an attainable target of 45 books. Now we are roughly half way through the year and I’ve managed a respectable 27 titles (60% apparently). This pile of books has been bolstered this year by being able to update eBooks from my kindle devices. Opening up my Goodreads to electronic texts has been helpful in finding new books as well. Sometimes, one of the worst aspects of being a heavy reader is that you simply run out of books, or rather you can’t see the wood for the trees. Perhaps a more subtitle metaphor for this stage in the paper’s production would be ‘not seeing the pages for the books’? Whichever allusion you choose, it’s handy to have a community of people, across several platforms with varied reading interests that mirror and inspire your own.
The other function I’ve recently discovered (I shall exorbitantly name) is multi-platform reviewing. This allows me to share my recent Goodread reviews on my WordPress blog. Sharing the reviews onto my blog is something I am excited about because it enable me to join two areas of my writing experience together. Now that the reading challenge is slowly rolling downhill towards the goal I intend to focus more intently on the reviews and hope you enjoy them.
If you’re among the two people who read my previous post you’ll know how nine-year-old me failed to become The Hero of Time. My inadequacy in completing my first Zelda game has haunted me ever since. At night my sleep is disturbed by my conceding of the Kingdom of Hyrule to Ganondorf. The failure repeated itself in several of the games and every incarnation of Link I played ultimately lost. In Majora’s Mask I couldn’t prevent the moon from plummeting into Clock Town and in a Link to the Past I gave up at the first dungeon. However, just as the Zelda games keep reincarnating the hero for fresh adversity, so I continued to pick up my sword and console to face the varying Avatars of Ganon. There’s an anecdote that stipulates that a room of monkeys with a typewriter will eventually write up the works of Shakespeare. This claim is accurate because after trying my sixth attempt at Zelda I finally succeeded in defeating the darkness. I became the saviour of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
Some may argue that this is an easy game and a true Hero is the one who can dispel the tide of Evil on a television, not on the dual screens of the Nintendo 3DS. Others may postulate that it is cheating to use an online walk-through and to rage quit when defeated in order to preserve hired weapons rather than wasting Rupees on purchasing items again. To these combatants I respond that I am the Hero of both Hyrule and Lorule with no defeats. To save two kingdoms from despair any means must be taken.
A Link Between Worlds is a classic Zelda title, relying on the usual tropes and story I have come to expect and adore. As Link I save the Princess, obtain a decent enough sword to cut up bad guys and defend the triforce. The map is reminiscent of a Link to the past and it isn’t an offence in saying Nintendo has built on old work. The unique mechanic of this game is the ability to merge into walls by become a painting. This technique allows you to walk between Hyrule and Lorule, accessing areas that cannot be reached in one plane alone. Jumping between the parallels is a unique feature that adds an interesting facet to the game and a new complexity to dungeon puzzles.
With the newly mastered ability I imbued the master Sword with ore and defeated the recent aspect of Ganon and his androgynous benefactor Yuga. As the title credits detailed victory my chin raised in pride. After fifteen years and countless defeats I had finally grown into the Hero of Hyrule. With new pride I may return to the past, be awoken by Navi and rectify the mistakes of childhood.
I have been the Hero of Time for fifteen years. In all the time I’ve been defending Hyrule I’ve been cursed: cursed to never complete a game. My hex began with my first console. For Christmas 2002 I was gifted with a Nintendo64, a copy of Mario Cart and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Mario Kart was easy to play, simply accelerate and dodge the shells. Zelda, on the other hand, proved to be a challenge to great for a nine year old.
The first hours of game play were easy enough. I was awoken by Navi, bought a shield, obtained my sword and delved into the internal dungeon of The Great Deku Tree. After banishing Gohma I mourned the passing of The Great Deku Tree and snaked my way around Hyrule Castle, before Princess Zelda sent me on my Quest up Death Mountain. It went so well I could have recorded the first few hours as a decent walk-through. Next I bombed open the entrance to Dodongo’s Cavern and with my shield raised I soldiered inside. At this point my Mother wanted a turn at being The Hero of Time. Hesitantly, I passed her the yellow controller, only to watch her push the joystick forward and Link straight into lava.
Declaring it was a child’s game she passed the controller back and went along with her day not knowing my Deku Shield was now cinders. I tried to continue along the Dungeon with my Hylian Shield but it was too strong to defeat the Deku Scrubs. Instead of returning their projectiles, the overly effective shield demolished the attacks and prevented further journey into Dodongo’s Cavern. Defeated I trudged back out of the second dungeon and went in search of a new Deku Shield.
Even now I am hindered by my lack of instinctual direction. For the nine year old player this was even worse. Hard as I tried I couldn’t return to Korkiri Village and purchase the essential item. I traveled the map for days, braving the skeletons the plagued the plains at night. In the end I gave up on my dream of retrieving the Goron Ruby and left my the console to gather dust.