Month: April 2014

Walking to loosen the creative flow

I get many blogging ideas when I’m walking. Every day I try to walk for an hour at least in total. If you’re sitting at a blank screen, wondering what to write, I recommend you go for a walk. A study at Stanford University found a person walking indoors – on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall – or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down. 

Wordsworth was a walker. Charles Dickens was a walker, he would walk at night because he had a problem sleeping. Virginia Woolf walked for inspiration.

From where I live on the ninth floor of a Soviet block in Varketili to the metro station is a 15 minute walk. I can take a bus, but rarely do as I prefer to walk.

I could take a bus but rarely do, they are very crowded.

I could take a bus but rarely do, they are very crowded.

The route isn’t the most exciting, but that can be good for thinking creatively. I always carry my camera in a pouch on my belt in case I see anything interesting. The route is the same but there are different cars, people, animals and skies.

Sunlight is good for us, sunlight stimulates hormones (cortisol and melatonin, for example) in ways that promote activity and rest.

Sat at a computer we can be overstimulated checking our Facebook, Twitter, Inbox etc…the brain needs some downtime. Ideas need time to incubate: after you encounter a problem, some part of your brain will work on it while you’re working on other things.

The start of my daily walk to the metro.

The start of my daily walk to the metro.

A wet day an urban landscape, not the most inspiring day, but once walking I start thinking. Ideas flow.  I thought about writing this post.

Walking is also good exercise and helps me sleep.


St George’s Day: Patriotism Yes, Nationalism No

St George’s Day celebrated in England on 23rd April and Georgia on 23rd November and 6th May. A link between my old country and my new.

Pirosmani's Painting of a St George Feast in Bolnisi oil on cardboard

Pirosmani’s Painting of a St George Feast in Bolnisi oil on cardboard

St George is usually portrayed as this bloke on a horse with a big lance killing a fire breathing dragon.

St George killing a dragon on top of his column in Liberty Square, formerly Lenin Square in Tbilisi.

St George killing a dragon on top of his column in Liberty Square, formerly Lenin Square in Tbilisi.

How relevant is he to either 21st Century England or 21st Century Post Soviet Georgia?

The “Real” St George

The “real” George may have been born in Palestine in about 270 AD, to a Roman father and a mother from Cappadocia, in what is now eastern Turkey. He served the army of the pagan Emperor Diocletian until the order came to persecute fellow Christians. George would not deny his faith, so he was tortured, buried in the sand and finally beheaded, in the town of Lydda on 23 April 303. Historians disagree about many of the facts.

George is a man with a complex heritage, born as cultures and empires were colliding. George is a foreigner to both England and Georgia, although he lived considerably nearer to Georgia and his mother came from Cappadocia like the other major Georgian Saint: Nino, who is said to have brought Christianity to Georgia.

St George in Islamic Culture

Saint George is somewhat of an exception among saints and legends, in that he is known and respected by Muslims as well as by Christians, his  stature in the Middle East derives from the fact that his figure has become somewhat of a composite character mixing elements from Biblical, Quranic and folkloric sources, at times being partially identified with Al-Khidr, a righteous servant of Allah, who  possessed great wisdom or mystic knowledge.  He is said to have killed a dragon near the sea in Beirut and at the beginning of the 20th century, Muslim women used to visit his shrine in the area to pray for him.

St George and England

A good reason to celebrate St George’s Day in England is to keep him out of the grips of far right groups like the BNP, English Defence League and Britain First, who see him as some twisted symbol of nationalism.

Today (23 April) is also Shakespeare’s birthday, Shakespeare probably the most famous Englishman, who ever lived, mentions St George in Richard III.

“Advance our standards, set upon our foes Our ancient world of courage fair
St. George Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons
….. “Richard III. act v, sc.3

Traces of the cult of St George predate the Norman Conquest but it really took off when England’s French Speaking king Richard Coeur de Lion put the cross of St George on his shield to protect him during the Crusades in the 12th century. Saint Edmund and Edward the Confessors were rival contenders for England’s favourite saint. Cromwell suppressed St George celebrations because of their associations with idolatory. The Irish being predominantly Catholic have less issues celebrating Saint Patrick, who wasn’t Irish and may have been English or Welsh.

St George in the Catholic Church

In 1963, in the Roman Catholic Church, St George was demoted to a third class minor saint and removed from the Universal Calendar, with the proviso that he could be honoured in local calendars. Pope John Paul II restored St George to the calendar in 2000.

წმინდა გიორგი  Saint George

წმინდა გიორგი
Saint George

St George and Georgia

Saint George is a patron saint of Georgia, and it is claimed by Georgian author Enriko Gabisashvili that Saint George is the  most venerated here in Georgia. An 18th century Georgian geographer and historian Vakhushti Bagrationi wrote that there are 365 Orthodox churches in Georgia named after Saint George, according to the number of days in one year. Our local church, where my wife worships, is St George’s.

Image of ST George fighting the dragon.

Image of ST George fighting the dragon.

Nationalism and Patriotism

George Orwell made the case for a progressive English patriotism, which he defined as a celebration of the good things in English culture and its well known contributions to the world.  Like for example four of the top ten universities in the world are English. He contrasted it with nationalism, which he saw as aggressive and generally concerned with elevating one country’s attributes and interests above those of others and often involving outright hostility towards rival countries or ethnicities. Orwell (or was it Clemenceau or Johnson?) said “a patriot is a man who loves his country, whereas a nationalist is a man who hates everyone else’s

Ironically, one of the nice things about the English is that (with the exception of the idiots in the BNP and similar parties and Sun headline writers) they are pretty understated about their patriotism. It’s a strength, in the sense that crude nationalist parties have always had tiny followings in this country compared to many other European states and you don’t get the nauseating flag-worship you get in US politics either. It’s a weakness only really in that it’s sad when people feel they have nothing to celebrate about their culture and country.

There is plenty to celebrate from English culture for example: Shakespeare,  the Beatles , numerous Nobel Prize Laureates, Dizzee Rascal, the 1966 World Cup, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, the Notting Hill Carnival, a decent cup of tea, Balti, Fish and Chips, wonderful puddings, Monty Python, giving the world an International Language, Samuel Johnson, Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Fry, Jaguar, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter….I’m sure you could add many more….

When England play football, I want them to win. I want Chelsea to win the Champion’s league, this season (2013-2014), being a London team and the last English team competing, I would even want Liverpool or Manchester United to win if they were the last remaining English club in the competition. Usually I am very happy when Liverpool or United lose in domestic competitions, but in Europe I was happy to see Sheringham and Solskjær get the two last minute injury goals for United against Bayern Munich in 1999. I was also happy when Gerrard rallied Liverpool to a famous win against Milan in 2005.

In other sports I’m not so bothered if England and English teams lose.

At the last World Cup, England were the only team in the finals who didn’t have their own anthem played. They had to suffice with the British Anthem “God save the Queen” (and not the Sex Pistols version.)

Saint George’s Day

St George’s Day in England, today

jim holroyd 365


Today, 23 November is Saint George’s day in Georgia. Here it is a national holiday, many people go to church, like my wife did, to celebrate.

In England, too, there is Saint George’s Day but in England it falls on 23rd April, which despite also being the birthday of William Shakespeare (arguably the most famous Englishman ever) is not a national holiday. Saint George was a Roman, living in Palestine, who as a Christian was tortured and killed for his beliefs, the emperor Diocletian having issued an edict that Christian soldiers should be arrested and offer sacrifices to the Roman gods of the time. Saint George was adopted by the English as their  patron saint by Richard Coeur de Lion, our French speaking king, who painted the cross of St George onto his shield to protect him in the Crusades.

The slaying of dragons is the stuff of myth, but…

View original post 47 more words



a candle burning a midnight, lit on the eve of Easter

a candle burning at midnight, lit on the eve of Easter

ქრისტე აღსდგა! Christ is risen!

 ჭეშმარიტად აღსდგა

Easter is the most important date of the Christian Calendar.

I started the day attending a service of the Tbilisi International Christian Fellowship held at the Holiday Inn in Saburtalo, Tbilisi. The congregation comprised of many nationalities including 29 Koreans, Russians, Chinese, Georgians, Dutch, South African, German, Azeri, Indian and Brazilian.

Holiday inn, Saburtalo, Tbilisi

Holiday inn, Saburtalo, Tbilisi

Part of the service included a living tableau. DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper was recreated by thirteen men from the cosmopolitan congregation.

Living Tableau of the Last Supper inspired by Da Vinci's painting.

Living Tableau of the Last Supper inspired by Da Vinci’s painting

The disciples, having learnt one would betray the master from among them, address the congregation,each in turn, asking if they are to be the traitor.

 “Is it I? Is it I?”

Peter speaks while Judas Iscariot awaits his turn.

Peter speaks while Judas Iscariot awaits his turn.

After the service I met with my wife, her sister and her brother-in-law and we went to visit the grave of her father and uncle.It is an Easter tradition in Georgia to visit the graves on Easter day or Easter Monday.

At the graveside a few words are said some wine is drunk and red eggs are left on the grave and wine is spilt on the grave, so the dead are remembered as part of the celebration.

red eggs and red wine left on the grave

red eggs and red wine left on the grave


After, we leave the graves for a big Easter “Supra” (feast) with Khato’s cousins.

Easter "Supra"

Easter “Supra”

Easter ends the long Lenten fast, my wife observed the fast following a vegan diet for the forty days before Easter. In the last week she also omitted  any oil from her diet and on Good Friday (here Red Friday) she had just bread and water. I followed the Georgian fasts in my first year but have since been less strict about what I eat.

Khato with the eggs she has dyed.

Khato with the eggs she has dyed.

It is the practise here to dye eggs red on Good “Red” Friday, to be eaten on Easter Day with special Easter cake.

Easter Cake and Red Wine

Easter Cake and Red Wine

I notice one of the blogs I follow, covered the Pope’s Easter Message, this Pope has a pertinent message in these troubled times.

The Pope’s Easter Message

I was given a book at the TICF service, looks interesting.



Stand up comedy

Standing on a stage and trying to make people laugh is not easy. Comedy is a serious business.

During my last year in England, I thought I would have a go at Stand Up Comedy, to see if I had what it takes. I took a course run by Logan Murray in London (I’d highly recommend the course to any comedy wannabes)  at the end of which was a showcase, where we had around 5 minutes in front of a live paying audience.

I cringe every time I watch the video of my performance, I was nervous and halfway through my set I forgot my routine.

I got a few precious laughs but not a lot. I followed on from the showcase with six more “gigs”, before I left UK for Georgia. I am glad I had a go, but I don’t think I would have made it in the competitive world of stand up, as there are some very funny people out there.

I saw Jimmy Carr perform back in 2000, when he was starting and I was underwhelmed by his performance, a few years after he was a household name (at least in England), he had worked his socks off honing his craft, looking to get a gig every night.

Doing the comedy course I met a lot of fascinating and funny people, many of whom I am still in contact with through Facebook, on Twitter I follow some comedians like Ricky Gervais and Dara O’ Briain. My favourite stand ups tend to be the Irish comedians like Dara, Ed Byrne, Aidan O’Hanlon and Dave Allen. Also on the circuit there are many very funny female comedians like Sarah Millican, Janey Godley, Gemma Goggin, Susan Murray and Karen Bayley…repudiating the myth that women can’t be funny.

I have no aspirations now to do any further stand up, but I might have a go at comedy writing. One of the reasons for starting this blog was to practise writing (not comedy writing per se), as any skill you wish to gain requires an investment in effort (Jimmy Carr being a prime example).

Details of the comedy course I attended

Click to access 14t-04-09_abc98_evs_v2.pdf