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Photos from friends

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how nice it is to look back through your pictures from some trip, and find a great picture taken by a stranger. Imagine my surprise then, when we received two gifts this weekend past. The first was a beautiful book, The Atlas of Experience, which creates a fictionalised landscape. Given our love of things cartographical, imaginary and bookish, this was a perfect wedding gift.

The second gift was a photograph. It was taken on an ancient piece of Chinese magic (or, for the more prosaic, a Seagull Camera). And it was beautifully framed. The picture we were given was taken of me and CIA in Amsterdam some months ago. We had spent the day with a friend of ours on NDSM-werf, a derelict shipyard. It is every bit as cool as it sounds, and really swung me around on Amsterdam, a city I previously thought little of. Our friend had just got the camera, and was taking it out on its first spin, and the result was marvellous.

The other picture, from the same day, is of CIA standing in front of an improbably new building that I cannot find on google maps. Still, there is this other amazing building there, which I am sure we will feel motivated to write about later.

For me, it is absolutely fair to say that photos from friends beat photos from strangers nearly every time.


Photos by our friend, MK on NDSM-werf

Indulgence, Swedish style


Our recent trip to Stockholm brought us a small edible discovery, in the form of the chokladboll. “What is this thing you speak of?”, you may well ask. Well. If you like chocolate, you probably like baked, chocolatey goods. And if you like baked, chocolatey goods, then you are probably (almost certainly) going to like the chokladboll.

You can find chokladbolls on the counter and in the cabinets at many cafes throughout Stockholm (and I am sure throughout the rest of Sweden). Our journey into chokladboll fan-dom began at the cute pop-up cafe at the Moderna Museet (don’t worry, we’ll be writing about that in posts to come!). We were in need of a coffee stop prior to hitting the galleries, and as you can see from the photo above, it was a case of perfect espresso and hot chocolate + chokladbolls = happy times in Stockholm. We really had no idea what these mysterious sweet treats were going to taste like, but I can report that they taste good. Really, really, really good. Read more

Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

Colour themes are tough. So we went looking for a twist. A look around swiftly brought inspiration to us. The name of the blog is a clue, and there have been requests for instructions. We realise that we are not best placed for instructions. PJD taught CIA how to fold cranes over noodles in Wellington. PJD is perfectly happy to share his crane-folding knowledge. But writing the words? That’s really tough.

Still, here’s purple:

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Lack, want, and reconciling consumerism with ethics


There are a host of issues in the way the global economy functions. I don’t believe that this is a very contentious statement. For me, what is odd is that despite egregious abuses of the system (LIBOR rigging and money laundering, just for starters) little has changed, and less still looks like changing. It doesn’t help that we have a declining media environment, where un-admitted bias from left and right prevent many from finding clear analysis.

At a lower level of consumption, I find myself struggling with a consumer-driven approach to living which permeates the thinking many people have. But of course, everyone wants stuff, right*? I want stuff too. I found myself making a list the other day, of things I want to buy. It’s not a very long list, but it’s still a list. The things on the list are not cheap — so I have to rationalise a little.

The naked truth about Denim.

More than that, the things are not even good value. Not in the sense that I am not pleased to think about having them, that having them won’t make me happy (at least for a while). But in the sense that they are divorced from any connection to their cost of manufacture, to the materials they are made from, to the costs of transport. What are we really paying for?

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Walking in rainbows: Daniel Buren at le Grand Palais

Today I get the fun task of revealing the amazing Paris experience that we had on the final day of our recent trip (I posted a teaser yesterday!) Hopefully that post and the photo I included was enough to whet your appetite. If you are into art and in particular contemporary installation art, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy this post, and even if you are not, I think you will too (well, I hope so, at least!).

An external shot of the Grand Palais, with a billboard for Daniel Buren’s MONUMENTA 2012 show

MONUMENTA is an art project organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication which has been running for a couple of years now. I’d never heard of it before, and it was only by chance that we got to catch MONUMENTA 2012. Each year a different well-known international contemporary artist has been given the space of the nave in the Grand Palais to create a site-specific art work – no mean feat given that the Nave space is 13,500 square metres! Read more

Saving the best ’til last

On our recent trip to Paris, we really did save some of the best things in the city until the last day of our short holiday. Normally we are not so much into jamming a large number of sights or attractions into one day (usually we tend to be more of the slow-travel approach, choosing a couple of particular things or places to see in a day, and to really soak them up). But on this final day in Paris, we took a different approach (largely owing to the bad weather we had had during many of the preceding days), and we climbed to the top of both the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, lunched in a quaint, old-world boulangerie in Montmatre, and even managed to squeeze in a return trip to the Louvre. Oh and one  other thing. We got to see this:

And yes, it was as incredible as it looks… Hopefully this photo has piqued your interest and you are keen to know more, because I’m going to write more about one of our favourite Paris experiences tomorrow… In fact it may have been one of my favourite art experiences ever…


Photo by CIA in Paris, France, June 2012.

Good things come in small packages…

Last week we came back from Stockholm, having been told to expect a small package, the contents of which could be used practically or decoratively. Whatever that might have meant. We got home really late – having tried to stay in Stockholm as long as possible. That meant the note we got telling us that our neighbour had the package was no good (he is pretty old, and so we didn’t really want to wake him up).

The next day we did get the package, and it’s funny how sometimes the smallest things can change your sense of how your day went. Can any of you think of a more appropriate gift than this one?

Thanks Mum.


Photo by PJD, of his left hand, taken on his phone with his right hand.

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