Sunday, 23 February 2014

I met myself----(in another soul)

I met myself. I met myself in a mosque. I prayed next to myself, the gold light streamed in through the windows, the glass chandeliers glinted lightning bolts and we both prayed. Myself and I. Life is so strange, so completely incomprehensible and interconnected. I met this girl, I met this girl named Maria in the mosque. A pound fell out from my pocket and landed before her, she picked it up and handed it to me and then... we began to talk. There was something, some kind of otherworldly magnetism that kind of drew us to each other, of all the people in the world, of all the days in the year, of all the places- we crossed paths, there in that mosque. So we left, Maria and I, on what felt like the first day of spring, the sun shining down, our friendship began to blossom....

We wandered around Regents Park talking, the more we talked the more we came to realise how much we had in common, in fact her life was a reflection of mine at eighteen, so much so that it was uncanny. Sometimes we meet people, who remind us of our better selves, or of times we wanted nothing more in the world than to be our better selves, to be the best versions of ourselves... Maria reminded me of me, of a time when I was searching. Her life, her thoughts, where she was in life; who she was in life--- it went beyond coincidence, her visits to the cemetery, that complete dislocation from life and expectations, a weariness felt at societies desire to clip wings, to take away all sense of freedom and possibility, and then there was that complete alienation from the education system, from the procedures put in place, those learned protocols--- to follow the well trodden path to the so-called good life is the only one way (only its not- there is no only). More than all this, what got me were our shared (and rarefied) experiences spiritual malaise and its physical manifestation. See, before I learned anything I told her about my newest project, this book; this book I've been thinking about for years, about the death of a girl; from the onset she knew. She knew it wasn't a physical death, rather a gradual decay--- a death of the spiritual heart...the only heart we truly possess, the only heart that possess us.  

That very morning Maria, Maria the girl who lives by her own accord, who ventures out searching for God, in the mosque, in the signs, in the faces of the people and the stories they withhold; that morning she left her country home and came down to London in search of something or someone and the more we talked the more things came to make sense, the more life came undone. God knows us too well to let us destroy it all, he gives us chances, he gives us ten thousand chances a day to come back to life, to come back to reality, to come back to Him, but its up to us whether we follow through, whether we commit, and re-commit and re-commit and re-commit, through whatever.

And so there, giving advice to this beautiful girl I just met, but who I felt I knew forever... everything became so much clearer- nothing is certain, to settle is wrong, to have expectations is to destroy oneself- to just be, to experience the grace of God in all encounters and all moments of sublime, synchronisation and beauty; the kind you can't put to words, that you can't ever explain. Have you ever looked into someone's eyes, and felt like you were looking into your own? -and then to be able to convey, to get across everything you learnt and came through from that point, to this point--- impossible, but the challenge is there, so tempting and so dangerous, for both you and her; a soul you've (never)known since birth. The way it happens always, connecting with a complete stranger--- a series of words in a number of places, memories that will one day fade. And so there we were walking around Regents park where we met a few of my other friends before heading to South Kilburn studios, to a Rumi's Cave Live Lounge event, to support OneOfMyKind, my sister, with one of my kind, -- and then to witness all these other broken and seeking human beings express their own struggles and journeys through music and art and sharing, but still being there and feeling just as displaced as you do in all those other places. And Maria, she left, she left in the night, with a hug and a promise to be in touch- and no one at home knew where she was, for its what she would do. Maria disappearing, Sy reappearing, some place else. Some place completely different. 

And maybe you'd understand why this encounter was so incredible if you understood the context behind it. Have you ever lived an entire lifetime in a week? This week I feel like I have, a hundred thousand thoughts and emotions and places and people; a whole lifetime. In the duration of a week, I'd never felt so completely beaten down and low and close to giving up, then I'd never felt so close so where I needed to be, so at peace. I wonder why our souls reside in wastelands, in the middle of nowhere, on the prairies of madness? I wonder why we have to go back to go forth, to go forth to go back; these cycles, these material premonitions- and when I was eighteen I came back, when I was eighteen I would also seek refuge in a mosque and in quiet places, and no one would understand it, only God and so I sought to build that connection. And I've been trying to go back but forward to eighteen for six years.

This week, I was again questioning everything, there I was, I'd gotten my dream job, I was where I thought I had always wanted to be. There I was, so alienated and displaced, a heart gone cold, a mind full of blurs. But it didn't begin in that way, no at the beginning of the week I wandered across the bridge over the river at night. I walked through the wet city streets overcome by a deep sense of joy, and clarity; I was brazen and prepared. Then only a few days later I was wandering by the same river head hung low wanting nothing more than to disappears. But then I received a letter from a stranger, a friend... I don't know. I just know that I needed that letter, the message inside it, more than I needed anything.

To live a lifetime in a week, to experience each hue and shade of darkness, each hue and shade of light. I knew what I was to do, the time had finally come for me to write this book, this book I've been trying to write for so many years, but every time I'd put a pen to paper, my inspiration would dry up. I write to understand, to recognise and this book would bring me back; to understanding and recognition of the entirety.  It would be about death, about the intensity that overcomes one who's time is running out- the need, the desperate need to make sense of moments, the desire to connect, to truly connect to the One. And so she says, Lord if I were dying, I wouldn't be living in this way. I wouldn't be living in this way. The question remains, how would she be living? 

There is an emptiness within us all, a homesickness--- for this isn't home. We're not home. And this book would be all about that, about getting home, overcoming the sickness and reaching out alone. Because at the end of the day, we all walk the line alone. And after a week of  meeting people, so many people, trying to be someone, trying to be no one, trying to understand; locked out, overwhelmed--- I understood then, but then
and it was time to write, to pray and write. But it faded. It faded, and on Saturday morning, wholly confused, spiritually starved but wanting, I went to the mosque and I met Maria. Maria, a girl asking the same questions I was, all these years later. The questions never go away, the answer always remains the same. And to find it now-----to find it.

I feel so blessed to have met Maria, she said she asked God for a sign, for someone and that sign was me. God gives and takes at will, he brings people in our life when we most need them. She wasn't me, she was so much better and stronger then me, than I was then and than I still am now. But meeting her was the point. See she gave me something, something I pray I can hold on to. She renewed my purpose to write, she gave me the inspiration I was lacking.

To share---- it is a beautiful thing, a difficult thing, to give yourself to others, to expose parts of your soul in hopes that it will make others feel that much less alone, that much less afraid. To be a writer isn't easy, there have been so many times when I've felt like setting alight all my books, deleting all traces of myself, but then I meet someone like Maria, I get a letter in the post and I remember why I do it---- maybe I write for you as much I write for thank you....

a dream

Mayville Red Pitch Ribbon Cutting

I went along to this event a couple days ago. It was incredible to see one of Groundwork's completed projects; a red pitch in the Mayville Estate for local kids to use. I took the below pictures of the Mayor of Islington, MP Jeremy Corbyn, local community don Jess and councillor Joe Caluori. (more pictures here

Mayville Community Centre is one of the most wonderful community centres I've ever been too-- everything about it was magic; the gold light streaming in, the elderly people of all colours enjoying lunch together, the laughter and simplicity- truly a humbling experience to witness! 

Work has been really surreal this week, it's taken me to the strangest places (some more familiar than others); South Kilburn Studios, Smugglers Way, Mayville-- North and South, I've crossed paths with people I've known in a whole new and different context and time: I always used to go to stop the war talks (years and years ago) I would often hear Jeremy Corbyn speak. I would see George from the studios, flit around a stranger, and now here working on a project with him. And rubbish... colourful rubbish in smugglers way-- let's just say: there's history there too. Anyway, interesting to see where life goes from here....(as ever)


It's a shot in the dark, but I'd take it

....I met Luke from Clean Bandit this week, once and then once again, in a whole new context. Life is strange like that, and then when I walked back I heard the song being played at a building site....


I went along to this Rework: Learning Curve at Western Riverside Waste Authority one evening with work. It was really interesting to learn about the project and meet some of the incredible people involved! It was also really surreal to see neat square piles of colourful recycling against the orange night sky!

Rework is a reuse workshop managed by Groundwork which works to see hundreds of repairable items fixed up and sold on to low income families, as well as this the innovative programme enables young people to be trained for employment. I took some pictures below!

Pedro the engineer
Gabrielle the shop manager
Rachel the furniture supervisor

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Leake Street aka the Banksy Tunnel

I went back to Leake Street the other night, this time with my DSLR. I love the tunnel; the graffiti is so colourful and vibrant, some stretches so intricate and thought-provoking. The atmosphere is great too, easy and open, yet ever-changing. I would def recommend a visit...


Nunhead Cemetery

I went along to Nunhead Cemetery the other day to film/ photograph a corporate work day. It was really cool! I've been to Nunhead a few times, in fact, the picture I submitted for Time Out's Your London competition was taken in Nunhead. It's an incredibly beautiful and atmospheric cemetery and nature reserve, with so much to see and discover. There's something very timeless and otherworldly about this cemetery, and the the other magnificent seven... I'm hoping to visit Brompton and West Norwood cemeteries soon so I can get started on the 'haunted london' section of my book...

During the day I signed up to become a member of Friend of Nunhead, mainly so I could find out when the chapel tower will be open, from the top you can see out across the whole of London. I also got talking to the founder of the ground (Jeff I think his name was) who like me is also fascinated by cemeteries. He once wrote a piece entitled 'around the world in 80 cemeteries'! It's funny, before I left, I said something like 'see you around, maybe at another cemetery,' which reminded me of the time Owen the windmill photographer said 'see you at another windmill.' Strange how certain spaces connect people...strange, how life works and is.... 

Anyway I've included some pictures below, there are more on the Groundwork Facebook page:



As part of the workday, the Friends of Nunhead also allowed us to check out the crypt under the chapel which is generally closed off to the public. The crypt was incredibly eerie, there were bags of bodies scattered around, broken and worn coffins, chipped and dusty gravestones, the sound of drip drip dripping, and it smelt very musty (sort of like bones). There were also pointy stalactites protruding from the ceiling!


Saturday, 8 February 2014


Lose Yourself, In a Dream ///that never was////

I thought  I knew      everything  about  everything; 
      but now     I know    I know  nothing   about   nothing

You would think it would get easier, moving on- starting anew, but it doesn't. It never gets easierThis last week has been long and hard and wholly exhausting, but now here at the end of it, sitting alone in an empty corner of an empty house, now, I can think (or at least try to)...

....see....before we can even begin to understand, we must first reflect, we must first try to accept, reality for what it is....

I started a new job on Monday, a job in the environment sector. I got there in the end. I got where I wanted to be. Life... it gets me every time. Life... life is wholly a paradox. As soon as you stop caring about people, they start caring about you, as soon as you're about to give up on a dream, it comes crashing down from the sky and lies gleaming at your feet, as soon as you stop wanting something, that's when you get it. Freedom, perhaps it lies then in letting go of all hopes and expectations... perhaps it lies in simply letting go...

Just a few weeks ago I was in Maroc, thinking about what I should do with my life. I was thinking and thinking and thinking...  should I go to Ankara and live with one of my best mates, should I go to Australia and stay with my brother who's been asking me to come over for years, should I go back to Lahore or should I just stay there in Maroc... I could rent a place, maybe learn Arabic, hang out with the locals... walk everyday...

I didn't know, I really didn't have a clue... but not having a clue, its not such a bad thing. In life I've never really had a clue, I've always just gone wherever I've gone... done whatever I've done... uncertainty has been a way of life for me for as long as I remember, uncertainty; although it can be scary at the best of times, it can also be a beautiful thing- not knowing. For even when we do think we know, we very often don't, we don't know. 

To a degree, all lives are uncertain, sure some more than others. We plan. God plans. And Gods plans are far weightier and more substantial than ours. This has been apparent to me for years and often I've found in life that when I've submitted to the will of God, that's when I've found myself most weightless and free. When you come to the realisation that you have nothing to lose, that's when life starts to fall into place. And so I got an email while I was in Maroc, I was sitting in the hotel lobby checking my inbox to see if anyone had sent me anything, friends, family--- nothing, no, instead I got an email stating that I'd gotten the job, the only job that I actually liked the look of...

And so this job, it's almost slightly and completely but not at all everything I've ever wanted. As of Monday I started working as a communications and PR officer for an environmental regeneration charity, an incredible charity called Groundwork. Stranger than fiction; I was staying in a hostel in the south downs a few years back, when I met this women in my dorm, Clare. Clare worked for Groundwork, she was a community gardener, she told me all about the projects she was involved in one night. And then, the next morning, we reached a junction and we said our goodbyes. And now here, in a completely different life, in a whole new context- I'm here, working for Groundwork.  

But it's important not to lose yourself. For my job, I travel around London a quite a bit. We have offices in North London, South London, East London and West London. For now, I'm all over the place, which is pretty ideal for someone who has a hard time sitting still. Everyone's pretty nice, especially my team, and there are chickens about. I made friends with the brown one named marmalade. And yeah I'm constantly meeting new people-- next week I have a whole load of meetings all across London, I'm filming in Nunhead Cemetery too, one of my favourite cemeteries. I would be lying if I said I'm not scared--- about life, where I am, my job. I feel like I have so much riding on this. I feel like its my last shot of staying and living in London...and so I have to make it work. I have to do whatever it takes to make it work, and I know, I know it won't be easy. But nothing good and true is ever easy.

I write to understand, to make sense of things. Yet, I can't, because life is and forever will be wholly nonsensical. It's a blur, a never-ending series of moments- of cut and paste images; landscapes and places and people and broken memories and unsaid words. Life is. Life just is. And it's important to not lose sight of what's really important. It's so important to keep up your own projects, to keep going with your own life, to stay connected to yourself and to the One. People come and go, I haven't spoken to my best mate in months, haven't heard my mums voice in forever, and friends... well, lets just say I'm trying to stay visible, but it's hard. And when it comes to places, and not losing yourself in certain places, well that's a whole different story... the point is, the point is you have to do what you can to make your life liveable, life- with all its fluctuations and challenges and disappointments- it's up to you to make it beautiful, not circumstance, not place, not people.   

And so I've still been working on my alternative London book, and well this week, despite starting a new job, I've still managed to stumble across so many hidden, beautiful and trippy things, gold framed computers, a Lithuanian church, a secret garden with chickens, Leake street tunnel- graffiti galore, a homely cafe in the middle of a church. I've met people on the streets; an old man called Tommy, ten thousand years old, brittle bones and look of Fagan. A lady named Joe who works in collections at the Imperial War Museum. I hung by the river at night watching the raging high tides, a murky brown, I tried to be. For a time, to just be. I guess what I'm trying to say is that wherever you are, whatever you're doing in life, you just have to remember who you are, and what you're about. You just have to be real and true. Life moves so fast and for years and years, I've been trying to keep up, to stay afloat, to keep going and sure is been tough, but that's life- you just have to plough through, to keep your eyes open, and to believe in yourself...

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Take a View - Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2013

I went to see this great exhibition on at the National Theatre. Some truly magical pictures of some truly breathtaking landscapes, my favourite image of the exhibition had to be Beached by a talented photographer Alan O'Riordin who I actually met through this blog... small world....

a moon

Bargehouse: The Republic of the Moon

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. 
It is the source of all true art and science. 
-Albert Einstein

I went to see this exhibition at the Bargehouse, it was great, so dreamy and out of this world. More info on the exhibition below along with photos and random stuff...

Republic of the Moon. Bargehouse is transformed into an Earth-based embassy for a ‘Republic of the Moon’ filled with artists’ fantastical imaginings.

As the Moon once again becomes hot property, 40 years after the first moon landings, a group of artists are declaring a Republic of the Moon. In a provocative pre-emptive action these artists will re-examine the relationship we as Earthlings have with our planet’s only natural satellite.
With works by Liliane Lijn, Leonid Tishkov, Katie Paterson, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, WE COLONISED THE MOON and other international artists, the exhibition combines personal encounters, DIY space plans, imaginary expeditions, and the new myths for the next space age.
Leonid Tishkov's Private Moon tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In a series of intimate photographs, the artist pairs images with his private moon with verse which describes how the Moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it. Tishkov and his illuminated moon have travelled the world together for almost 10 years.

WE COLONISED THE MOON will be the artists in residence throughout the exhibition, creating work and running talks and workshops. They will be co-ordinating protests against the exploitation of the Moon and working with scientists to look afresh at our closest celestial neighbour.

Aurel Stein and the Silk Road: a hundred years on

I went to see this fascinating exhibition on at the Royal Geographical Society. Strangely reflective of a never-ending thought I was thinking. the silk route --- a hundred years on, everything changes and nothing too. Quite beautiful. More information (taken from the RGS website) below.

The Silk Road

Two thousand years ago the towns, temples and forts of the Silk Road bustled with life, with rivers from the mountains creating fertile tracks through the Taklamakan. The desert has long taken over, and the skeletal remains of these once thriving communities are now buried by the sands.

Aurel Stein and the Silk Road: a hundred years on, marks 100 years since archaeologist and explorer Aurel Stein first documented the ancient remains on his travels along the Silk Road – an important trade route across Eurasia that allowed cultures, technologies and religions to spread on a global scale.

Stein took thousands of photographs, now held at institutions including the Society and the British Library, to record archaeological remains dating back around 2,000 years. A selection of these photographs is displayed in the exhibition alongside contemporary photographs of the same sites, taken by researchers from the British Library and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology.

Despite China’s rapid growth over the last century, the arid and remote Taklamakan desert has protected many ancient sites along the Silk Road meaning the remains of farming settlements, Buddhist temples and Tibetan forts appear largely unchanged since Stein visited.