The devolution that matters for housing 


I have written another work related post, during the three days I attended the CIH housing conference. 

I have been going to the conference every year apart from last year, when I was heavily pregnant with Elliot. 

This year’s conference was by far the one I enjoyed the most, as I made good use of my time, going into sessions, writing 2 blogs for CIH, one quick news article for Inside Housing, took lots of notes to write other content. I also enjoyed the sessions, had chats with some delegates at the conference, met some of the exhibitors and enjoyed getting to know CIH’s staff in Coventry more. 

Here is the piece on housing and devolution, the hot housing topic in town. 

The devolution that matters for housing

This year’s general election reignited the debate surrounding the devolution of powers away from Westminster. CIH policy and practice officer Laura Shimili shares her thoughts on this divisive topic following Housing 2015’s masterclass session: ‘Is the UK on course for a break-up – and what impact for housing?’.

In recent months, the sealing of the Greater Manchester deal – and other potential city deals to follow in Leeds and Sheffield – has hit the headlines. Devolution has become another ‘hot topic’ and is much debated, perhaps most of all as a result of the Scottish referendum which, despite not achieving its intended objective, managed to give the Scottish independence legitimacy.

Read more

Why housing needs to be talked about by everyone?  


Housing became a political issue during the 2015 election campaign but it needs to get even bigger with the general public. 

The reason why people don’t talk about housing is because it sounds complicated and difficult to tackle. 

But it isn’t necessarily. Housing can be as simple as:

everyone needs a home 

we all need to be able to live somewhere we can afford

we all should be able to have some form of asset (housing is one of them) or skills that enables us to participate in the economic activity 

some people cannot afford rents or house prices and they look for help. They register with local authorities and wait for a long term to have a subsidised house 

some people can only afford a portion of their house and they look for a product such as shared ownership 

some people can afford to buy and they do 

a supply of different products and types of housing is needed to cater for all the different needs. 

So all these situations are about housing. Something that affects everyone. 

However not many people talk about it in these terms. 

The housing sector which is all the social landlords, including councils as landlords and all the people that are employed by them, together with housing charities, think tanks, pressure groups, social activists are passionate about housing. 

They are passionate because they believe in the purpose of their work. Which is to manage homes and communities and give their tenants, who need some help, support for a better life. 

The housing sector needs to talk passionately about housing outside the sector. 

“We want people to be enraged by the education issue”, said during the CIH Housing conference 2015, Jo Denye from Teach First. 

Teach First have managed to become the leading graduate recruiter in the UK in the last 12 years. They attract and retain talented, high flying graduates who want to give something back to the community. 

Housing needs to be able to talk to students about housing with passion and have a leadership programme in place for the talented students who want to make a contribution. 

The social and economic case is there. We just need to shout about it and have a strong offer and clear language in place for everyone. 

  

  

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-25th-june-2015/ 

Why I love children’s birthday parties?


Since having children this has become an area where I feel my expertise is growing year after year. Although it can be tiring and stressful I enjoy the excitement in the build up to the party and the immense gratification when it is over. Phew, we don’t have to do this for another year!!!

But there are some really good things about children’s parties. I am not talking about the money you spend on them, neither the most impressive act you organise. My birthday parties are simple, in a venue or at home, with some music, entertainment and cake. And some crazy, excited kids. And they are the real stars of the show.

This is what I love about them.

1. You meet parents of the children, your child keeps talking about often

2. You compare notes with other parents (not that you need to..)

3. You gain new skills. I was the entertainer at my son’s latest birthday party with about 18 loud and screeching kids. I realised that I actually need to be louder to be heard, who would have thought that one?

4. You improve your skills in planning and organising

5. You create lovely memories

6. You get to invite your own friends and their kids

7. You give joy and receive a lot of it in return

8. There is always a star child, who is easy to talk to and ready to take part in activities

9. You give party bags, children adore them

10. Presents are so well thought and they always surprise me. They give me inspiration for presents and make my life easier when I have to choose.  Last year, when my son was 3 the presents opened new doors for us, puzzles and games. This year at 4, the new doors are, quite good fun, with action figures and all sorts of superheroes but I guess it is a phase…

What about you, is there anything in particular you enjoy when you organise a birthday party? Or when you are invited as a guest?

My son's birthday party when he was 3

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-17th-june-2015/ 

9 sure signs that you live in Britain


There are a few things which are definitely British, things that you are not likely to experience in other countries. As an Albanian expat living in London I have been through them, in the last seven years of my life.

1. You know for sure you live in the UK if you still cover yourself at night, with a duvet in the summer.

2. You call the summer season, summer, just because that’s what called generally, but you feel cold and you go to work wearing a blazer and a scarf. Something you also do in the autumn and in the spring, so where is the difference?

3. You wear lovely summer dresses with leggings. Leggings were invented for the British summer. You would not need them in the Albanian summer.

4. One particular British habit seems to cause uproar in among fellow Albanian expats, sending thank you cards. You send thank you cards after birthday parties, when you or your children receive presents, when you receive greeting cards or thank you cards. To which you respond with a thank you card. And then what happens to all these cards? The cards industry goes from strength to strength in Britain but it’s something we used to do during communism in Albania and people feel allergic to it.

5. The summer solstice (21 of June) is not celebrated in Britain. Well it is but only at Stonehenge by some disciples of the sun. It is one of the best things they do in France; they celebrate it as “la fete de la musique” with gigs in public squares with a jolly atmosphere, drinks and a lot of “camaraderie” (read friendships).

6. When you start fretting about your child’s success in life at the age of 4, is definitely a sign you live in the UK. That is the age when they start primary school and there are many, many studies that show a direct correlation between your child’s future profession and earnings and the school they attend, of course private schools, feature highest.

7. There is only one country in the world where people are so polite, they don’t tell you what they think. In all other countries, people die to tell you what they think. But not in Britain, you can try but you will never succeed and you will always wonder what people really think of you, for ever.

8. British people are so protective of their land that they have all sorts of planning rules that discourage building on land. So it’s only about 10% of land in England that is built on. On the other hand, they have one of the most expensive housing markets. No wonder as they don’t want to use their land for other things, other than leaving it empty.

9. Green spaces and lush countryside is another sure sign you are in the UK. It’s great for the eye and for recreation purposes but does create huge imbalances between those that own and those that don’t (see above)!

Have I missed any other definite signs that you live in the UK? Have you got any more to add?

   
 

Why I miss being pregnant?


Alright, to be honest I don’t miss it so much.

In particular the physical side of it, getting big, tired and out of breath. Oh and I forgot, feeling hot and having bigger feet.

I read a great piece of advice, to buy shoes one size bigger. I did it and it made my pacing up and down the Northern line, much smoother

But there are two things I do miss, a little, in fact a lot.

The special feeling of having a little human being growing in my tummy and the superior mission, of looking after this fragile little creature.

Responding to that superior mission, I did so many special things that nurtured the baby but also myself.

A healthy diet. Although I was careful, I was not too obsessed in terms of risk, so I did eat smoked salmon, which is allowed in the UK. I also washed my salad only with water, as opposed to rinsing it with vinegar, as they do in France to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis… I know, a bit too much…oh la la!!

Having a daily rest after work or at weekends.

Lots of relaxing baths. I loved soaking in the hot water, with lovely Sanctuary Spa products, relaxing music, candles and all.

Sleeping on the left side, especially after week 32 is thought to encourage the baby to position itself in the OA (ociput anterior position which means baby’s back against your tummy), one of the optimal positions for birth.

Hypnobirthing for my first and hiring a doula for my second.

I spent a lot of time reading about the physiology of birth. I read how the signal of pain from contractions, is transmitted to our brain and especially how a different signal, the “I can cope with this” message after going through a contraction, reaches the brain even faster, causing what is known as “altered perception of pain”, or in simpler terms less pain. Dimmed lights, music, massage can help getting to that state and once there, it is easier to continue labour, feeling encouraged and euphoric.

I did reflexologie sessions as both my babies were late. Having your feet massaged is amazing, I loved it.

Swimming regularly.

I took homeopathic remedies. I swear by colophylum for a quick and efficient labour. I took it for a week, after my due date with baby nr 2 and I believe it made my labour faster: 2 hours 15 minutes of active labour and a baby delivered at home, with my husband and paramedics in the last 15 minutes.

Perineal massage with almond oil. I swear by this as well, for reducing the risk of tearing.

Sex, more than now. I don’t know how that makes me and my husband look? Like tired parents of two boys, 1 and 4 year olds??

Daydreaming.

Listening to yoga nidra relaxation tracks from the Yoga Nidra Network.

There aren’t many other experiences as intense as pregnancy or giving birth. They are all consuming. Once you’ve been there it’s never the same afterwards.

That is what I miss the most, the intensity, the overwhelming euphoria from giving birth and having a new baby and all the other special things I did.

Now, if I did more of these other things, perhaps I would not be tempted to start all over again?

  

Huge crowds call for politicians to build more homes for everyone – the Homes for Britain rally


Protesters gathered in Central London on 17th March 2015, asking for all political parties in the UK to commit to ending the housing crisis and building more homes, for everyone.

An impressive crowd of 2,500 protesters from the Homes for Britain campaign, heard Jonathan Dimbleby welcome political party speakers Grant Shapps, Hilary Benn, Caroline Lucas and Ed Davey and UKIP party leader Nigel Farage, to the rally.

Tenants, housing professionals, young and old have gathered for the #homesforbritain rally in Westminster today

Tenants, housing professionals, young and old have gathered for the #homesforbritain rally in Westminster today

Film director Ken Loach also took the stage, to rapturous applause by the audience, reminding everyone of the tremendous effect, his 1966 film “Cathy come Home” had on raising awareness of homelessness and building more houses.

“It is much worse now” he told the audience “with 93,000 children homeless, in this rich country”.

The housing crisis and housing inequalities have deepened, especially in London where housing wealth is more than a quarter of the whole nation’s property wealth (£1.2 trillion) according to analysis from the National Housing Federation.

In London, younger renters, first-time buyers, wealthy domestic homeowners and international investors all compete for the same properties, driving prices up and excluding even more young people from the dream of home-ownership.

“Levels of home ownership are collapsing among young people but increasing among older people” says the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Solving the housing crisis needs political will.

“Politicians need to make housing affordable but they don’t live in the real world. Everyone needs a home”, Pearl Halliday, a retired tenant and volunteer of Bolton at Homes said. She had travelled a 5 hour journey to join the rally on the day.

Not being able to afford, renting or buying a home, is not an individual problem.

“Housing is a problem for all our (business) members”, added to the audience, Rhianon Kelly from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). “It is one of the biggest weaknesses of the UK economy compared to other countries”.

Housing policy has undergone extensive change since the current coalition government came into power.

“Housing has always been close to my heart”, told the audience Grant Shapps. “Council houses are being built at the highest level in 23 years”, he added. “It’s true that we must end the housing crisis within a generation”.

Housing organizations from across the whole housing market came together and “found their voice” as David Orr, Chief Executive of the NHF coined it, in a final speech to end the day.

All along the day, small baby voices were heard intermittently in between speakers. A little girl was in the rally with her father from Bristol.

She couldn’t speak but her father while holding her, said: “She is the younger generation we need to build more homes for”.

This was an article I wrote as part of an assignment for my Journalism course with the London School of Journalism.

How is it, to be in a relationship with a Brit – my interview for Migrant Woman magazine 


Back in September last year, I gave an interview to the pretty and engaging Migrant Woman magazine about:

“How is it, to be in a relationship with a Brit”

The interview is here http://www.migrantwoman.com/2014/09/cross-cultural-relationships-laura-roger/

The Brit in question is my husband Roger who I met in Albania.

Being an adventurous spirit he accepted an offer from his company to relocate to Albania and work on a big infrastructure project, building the nearly 1 billion euros highway that links rocky mountainous regions of both Albania and Kosovo.

We moved to London in 2008 and that was the start of my British journey. A country and a culture I hardly knew. It all seemed pretty obscure and difficult to understand for the first couple of years, especially the Brit humour and psychology – the “don’t show your emotions or thoughts” kind of thing.

Or otherwise “the stiff upper lip” a very British expression and behavioural rule that calls for moderation or self-restraint in the expression of emotions.

The Albanian way is completely the opposite, we have dramatic ways of expressing our emotions and that is our strength and part of our culture. Our songs, music, books, paintings are like this, strong, dramatic, with long lasting impressions.

But hey, there lies the beauty of differences and of those differences coming together. As long as differences are managable the relationship can continue and thrive. But we need to adapt, make changes, give way and learn to be a bit of everything.

Adopt an English style when having intimate conversations (so that my precious English husband can open up).

Then become an excited Albanian girl at a dinner party – but only after ‘the English’ have had a few drinks. Be eccentric when partying, that’s how they will remember you…

But reserved at the start of the party, giving everyone space to shine.

Otherwise be yourself, however you are with a dose of caring, empathy, humour and interesting conversation.

That is how I survived the British cultural shoc. I am still here 8 years after.

Apart from the interview and probably most importantly, what we have as a lasting memory are some beautiful photographs by a young Albanian photographer Rinaldo Sata.

The photos were commissioned as part of the interview by the magazine’s warm and professional editor Mirela Sula.

Rinaldo came to our house, and made us feel very comfortable and at ease. He spoke Albanian to my older son and managed to get the best out of him – Edward tends to be shy with new people, so that was an achievement of some sort.

Elliot was very young, 2 months old and it is so lovely to have these beautiful photos with Roger and the two boys, as a family.

Thanks Rinaldo for the photos and thank you Mirela for sharing our story.

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

How did communist Albania help preserve neighbouring Corfu? An interesting fact


The reason for this area of Corfu remaining unspoilt to this day, as we discovered, is its proximity to communist Albania.

The reason for this area of Corfu remaining unspoilt to this day, as we discovered, is its proximity to communist Albania.

Beyond Agios Stephanos, the Albanian coast and Ksamil by the sea

 

Boat entering Agios Stephanos bay, opposite Albanian coastline

Boat entering Agios Stephanos bay, opposite Albanian coastline

While holidaying in the North-Eastern part of Corfu, in the area of Agios Stephanos, we discovered a very interesting fact about Albania and Corfu.

Albania is geographically very close to the North-East of Corfu, the distance is said to be about three quarters of a mile. And during our stay, we could actually see Albania’s mountains and coastline very close from our villa, in Agios Stephanos.

It is the southern part of Albania that is so near that you feel “you could touch it with your hand” (an Albanian expression). The same for the small town by the sea of Ksamil, the ancient archeological site of Butrint and the southernest mountainous village of Konispol. Their lights would shine across the sea, at night.

It is so close that I kept asking my father constantly “is that Albania” in disbelief, “is that our country”? He kept answering “yes, yes, and yes” till I stopped asking.

I was so surprised by the proximity because up until now, aged 35 I had no idea that Albania was so close to Corfu. I knew it was close from Saranda, a bigger town of the South, half an hour away from the border. (We had departed from Saranda to Corfu when I was 12, my first trip abroad with my father, so I was familiar with that route).

But here, in the precise location of Agios Stephanos, Albania was much closer. It seemed to me that it is possible for a good swimmer, to swim across the sea, in perhaps 1 hour, from these nearest points on both sides. After some research I found the answer to this. A British, Thomas Hodgkinson, has actually swam the distance of three quarters of a mile, from Albania to the bay of Agios Stephanos in 2011, in 1 hour 10 minutes.

Corfu being so close to Albania at this point, made me think about the excellent opportunity the location must have presented at the time, to escape the communist regime.

It must have been the Mecca of all those wanting to leave the country and find refuge in a western country.

But as you would expect, the area was fortified with a heavy military presence, to prevent the escapees from reaching Greek shores. And it was possibly mined, I was told recently.

On the other hand, from Corfu shores, the heavy military fortification of the Albanian border, presented a threat and was a cause of fear.

And this is where it starts to get interesting. The area of Agios Stephanos, is a beautiful part of Corfu which has remained unspoilt from the building boom of the 70s where most parts of Corfu were developed into resorts and blocks of flats for European tourists.

From the hilltops you can enjoy a clear view over olive trees, the bay of Agios Stephanos and in the distance, the imposing mountains of Albania.

The reason for this area remaining unspoilt to this day, as we discovered, is its proximity to communist Albania. Because it was so close, building in this area was “restricted”. There were no roads either, before the 70s, something that slowed down the pace of development. But the main reason, for this part of Corfu keeping its original unspoilt character, was Albania’s communism.

It is quite ironic that on one side, the location was a golden opportunity for escaping from the country but also an impossible mission, as every movement was watched and the area heavily patrolled. No one would leave the shore alive.

On the other hand, communist Albania had a beneficial effect on neighbouring Corfu, as it preserved one of its best areas as a traditional fishing village, to this day. Thanks communist Albania!

For us going there from London, me being Albanian and my husband English, with my Albanian parents, the fact was very telling. It was insider’s knowledge as well, as the owner of the villa we were staying in, an architect and builder, told us this story.

What an irony of history! It is the same sea, the same place. On one side of it, the country and its people are degraded by a brutal regime and on the other side, the countryside is preserved and enriched thanks to the same brutal regime and the threat it represented.

It is a shame the enriching and preservation didn’t happen on both sides. But Albania will catch up and its coast and its villages will also turn again into traditional places that display a rich culture and history. What is happening now, is similar to what happened in Corfu in the 70s, an uncontrolled building boom.

It will take some time but anecdotes like this one, will also be told to tourists, on the other side, the Albanian side, about some positive effects Corfu had on a part of Albania which will be preserved at its best.

There are examples already, the archeological site of Butrint who receives a lot of attention from Corfu and foreign tourists in the area. Agios Stephanos also share the same patron, the father of the Rothschild family (insider’s knowledge again, from the same source).

Family day at the Battersea Arts Centre – great way to discover the centre with your children, enjoy live music and free lunch (for kids)


Me and my two boys went on a rather special outing on Saturday morning (27th september), at the Battersea Arts Centre. The centre holds a Family Day event, on the last Saturday of every month (next ones will be on 25th October, 29th November and 27th December 2014).

The toddler was very excited as I had explained that we are going to:

“a new place where there will be toys and a play area for you to play in, live music (with real instruments and real musicians, something amazing for my toddler!), a workshop where we will be making things (less amazing, he’s not very good at sitting still and making things…) and we can also have lunch there, together (“and get an orange juice or an ice-cream” I could read on his face)”.

It all sounded a dream and I could see his face, beaming with happiness as I finished my explanation.

He was getting impatient in the morning (while I was having my beauty baby-feeding nap) and was asking “mami (the Albanian version of mummy) when are we going to that thing”?

As soon as daddy dropped us off at the centre, the excitement began with the toddler noticing balloons outside the main entrance, “mami, look there is a party”.

We went in and were welcomed by a girl who asked if we wanted to take part in the workshop. “Yes please”.

Then parked the buggy, took shoes off and got ready to go in the Bee’s Knees, a magical indoor play space for under 5s . That’s where the workshop was going to take place. But my toddler rushed off to discover “the magical play area” and showed no interest whatsoever in the making of the workshop. I ended up doing it myself at the end, as I thought we should have something, to take back home after such a lovely morning…

But the toddler loved the setting, the toys, the bridge and the hills in the play area, as well as playing with other children (and their parents, a couple in particular he befriended). A place to go back to again, I thought, observing him play, as I was rocking the younger baby in the sling.

(I didn’t see many other mums or dads on their own with 2 children, but didn’t realise that until I was home and was feeling exhausted; no wonder, looking after two children at the same time…).

As part of the workshop we also went to the Grand hall, to see the spectacular glass window, up in the ceiling in the shape of a dome. My toddler wasn’t very impressed by this either and was impatient to return to the main hall, where he noticed the musicians were setting up and the instruments (a cello and 2 guitars) were out.

More activities were available to children to play with in the main hall, next to the staircase, which my toddler was quick to spot.

Then began the music, a kind of gypsy mixed tunes, which reminded me of the music of the Orpheus production we had seen last year at the BAC, beautiful cabaret style music and performance (I definitely recommend it, if it’s still on).

In the meantime the toddler was getting hungry, tired and thirsty and it was time for some food. We ordered at the bar, ‘beans on toast’ for him and ‘mushrooms on toast’ for me and with our drinks in our hands we were listening to the music in the main hall, dancing and waiting for our lunch.

The toddler’s lunch was free, a nice little gesture by the centre.

It had been fine until then, but hot and tired toddlers are a receipe for disaster. While I was getting hot myself (the cafe is really warm), with a headache (the coke I was drinking relieved it somehow) and my shoulders aching from the sling and the weight of a 6.5 kg baby, the toddler needed more attention and distraction, while the lunch was being made.

The order took a long time to arrive (the only criticism) but then when it did, it was very quickly gone. He finished his beans in no time and I took a big longer to eat my mushrooms, dropping some on the baby’s head…

We left at about 2pm, having arrived at 11am after a morning heavy in playing, music and some dancing, lunch and even a pair of cute baby slipper we bought from the clothes swap, at the centre.

All in all, a wonderful busy morning, in a lovely arts centre.

Here is the toddler enjoying his drink and listening to the live band performing.

20141002-145746.jpg

The Pope’s visit to Albania has turned Albania (my lovely country) into a positive example abroad


The Pope visited Albania yesterday, Sunday 21st of September 2014.

It was an emotional visit for many, catholic and muslims alike, as he was seen by Albanians as a  blessing to their country and its continuous efforts for improvement and an homage to its long suffering people.

Also very importantly the Pope’s visit has turned Albania into a positive example abroad and an inspiration for other countries. Albania’s portrayal by the media abroad, under a positive light is amazing on many fronts:

– it is so unusual as the opposite negative image is often aired, of a country crippled by corruption and organised crime. So hopefully images and stereotypes will change and ordinary citizens will be able to remember a positive fact about Albania.

– it will be inspiring for others abroad and hopefully show that it is possible to have different religions co-exist harmoniously – especially in the current efforts to counteract the violence and extremism shown by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Currently 3 religions co-exist peacefully in Albania, muslim, catholic and orthodox. The key to this is perhaps a moderate level of belief, not taken to extremes which allows for the acceptance of other forms of belief.

– it will be inspiring for Albanians themselves who have very little trust in their politicians and institutions. A blessing from the Pope can give people that touch of magic or supra-natural belief that things will get better for them.

– it will genuinely improve Albanians self-image and confidence as they can refer to an important collective event that enhanced them as people.

– it is a recognition of Albania’s hundreds of martyrs who died or were persecuted by the communist regime when Albania became the first atheist country in the world to officially ban religions. The communist dictator Enver Hoxha took the idea that “religion is the opium of the people” to an extreme and waged a war against religion, killing many priests and imams, and transforming many churches and mosques into cinemas, warehouses etc.

– it will help the collective psyche to accept the communist past and its horrible crimes better and reognise the pain suffered by its many victims. There are still people in Albania today who praise the dictator Enver Hoxha as the leader and the saviour of the nation!! ( I don’t know in which world they live but they need to wake up and listen to the victims’ side of history).

 

 

While watching the various photos and videos posted online by friends and media, I felt many times emotional (almost weeping but that’s probably due to the early-motherhood hormones) and mostly proud of my little country, who has indeed suffered a lot and has not had a very smooth history.

It is up to people to change their history and I hope the Pope’s visit will have given my fellow Albanians more courage and hope to tackle the problems and issues they face (which are many, unemployment, lack of opportunities, fleeing of the youth to other countries looking for better opportunities, poor health system, corruption, etc, etc).

The Telegraphs article

Pope visits Albania: 10 things you may not know one of Europe’s least understood countries

is quite nice and gives a few interesting facts about Albania. Do have a read.

Some beautiful photos were taken during the visit

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/380220/news/world/muslims-and-christians-throng-albania-streets-to-greet-pope-francis

Do also have a look.

Let’s finish with a blessing, God (or the Pope) bless Albania.

 

Mama of two goes to the movies – the Big Scream – to watch Luc Besson’s, Lucy


Do you think going to the cinema with a baby is a good idea? I am sure you don’t, you have in mind noise, crying, other people tutting at you, stress. That is how it would be, going to a normal cinema screening, with your baby.

Imagine for a second, going to the cinema with your baby and it all going well: the baby feeds, sleeps, is a little unsettled but nothing too inconvenient and guess what, there are other people in the same situation as you. You are not alone and no one is going to tut at you or say shshsh. Wouldn’t this be incredible or indeed possible at all? Yes, it would and luckily (for those parents near a Picture House cinema) it is a real-life, scenario, not one just imagined. The cinema with babies is real.

It is called the Big Scream and it is a stroke of genius. They have customers who otherwise they would miss out on and the mamas and papas of young children, have the chance to go to the movies and enjoy a moment of normality with a sense that life with babies, is still quite, errr, similar to before. “See we even go to the cinema, it is not that bad”, I can hear myself tell childless colleagues at work.

Ok it is not the same, as going to the cinema in the evening, the sessions run at 10.30 am and you don’t usually have a beer or a glass of wine before or after. Instead you have a cappuccino or a late (offered by the cinema). And it is something you can only do, if you are on maternity or paternity leave. “Yes there are some dads with their babies, yes on their own, at these screenings, I have seen one or two”, for those that are asking the inevitable question, are there men at these fabulous events?

So mama of two is back, with 7 weeks old baby nr. 2 at the Clapham Picture House. The movie I watched this week is Lucy, Luc Besson’s latest. I was excited to go back to these sessions, 3 years after going there with baby nr.1.

There are aplenty official reviews of the movie that gave me a feel of what to expect: “the blockbuster of the summer”, “silly but eccentric”, “an interesting idea with a questionable execution” (the one I agree the most with).

Apparently, Besson himself, has said Lucy is a film in three acts: “The beginning is Leon The Professional, the middle is Inception, the end is 2001: A Space Odyssey.”. Quite ambitious I thought (as did the official reviewers) and intriguing enough, to make me leave the house without my morning nap, finishing the house chores, getting the dinner ready, speaking on Skype, watching the last “Live at the Apollo episode”, etc etc (life is busy for a mama). I just got ready and left (with baby still in his pyjamas…).

I am not going to give a full review of the movie, as the point is to talk about, mama’s outing. Nor I want to give the plot away. Just a few thoughts:

– Lucy was thought provoking, a good attempt at imagining how would the human brain function at 100% capacity (now we are at about 10% according to the movie, something considered more widely as a bit of a myth)
– Informative, the 10% (as a theory) but also other aspects of our evolution. I will be able to remember that life appeared 1 billion years ago thanks to the movie (I remember better visual information, and I hope Luc has got the facts right). I will also remember, the first ancient human ancestor we know of, was called Lucy
– The plot was satisfying from a woman’s point of view with all the action and the killing of the bad guys performed by a woman (not a muscled man)
– And also satisfying for giving the role of having the full brain capacity to a woman and seeing what she does with it. What concerns her, it turns out, is knowledge and the philosophical questioning of human life and what are humans doing with it. “We are too concerned with having rather than being”, says Doctor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist who has conducted research into the evolution of the human brain and its growing from 1% capacity to 10%. This kind of a concern, knowledge and the human brain do echo with me and i believe with many other people around the world. And it is good to see they are shared by Luc Besson too.

Some more thoughts. What would I do if I had 100% brain capacity? I asked myself that question and my immediate answer was, I would explore the universe, find other planets for humans to live in “peacefully” without the need to fight over resources. And at the end I would surely get used to it and would lead a normal human life with a 100% brain capacity.

What does Lucy do with her 100% brain capacity?

– She transfers all her newly gained knowledge about how the brain works into a USB memory stick (yes, hilarious) and gives it (after having disaperead from her human form into a form of being everywhere) to the doctor.
– She travels in times, backward only… I would have loved her to travel in e future… And sees, New York’s Time Square as it was back in the early 20th century; when Indian populations lived in that piece of land, riding their horses and looking baffled by the view of a woman sitting in a desk chair; when dinosaurs were roaming around and finally when Lucy was alive. Our Lucy obviously had to meet her.

Some parts of the movie that are difficult to believe:
– The drug that allows Lucy to gain the full brain capacity. Where is it, can we all have some please?
– Her nearly fully dissolving in the toilet cabin of an airplane only to regain her full figure, after having some more of the blue drug. And also why blue, has Luc been watching too much Breaking Bad?
– All the killing which doesn’t seem justifiable and not believable either, does it really happen?
– When Lucy first realises she is gaining new supernatural abilities, she calls her mother and starts by saying “mum, I feel everything, I feel the planets, I feel gravity (it all sounded a bit far fetched for a real-life type of conversation), I can remember everything, the taste of your milk in my mouth (quite sweet), the room and the 1000 kisses you gave me (definitely sweet but not enough to make the whole story believable).

So to conclude, Mama of Two, enjoyed Lucy, it poses good questions about the meaning of life, our knowledge of human brain and human evolution. It is entertaining and it is a good attempt at trying to imagine the full brain capacity. I would have wanted more scientific information around that, more than philosophical meandering. But as we, humans don’t have the answers yet, Luc does not either. He is not able to see into te future, as he hasn’t yet reached 100% brain capacity, himself. The quest continues although Luc has ruled out, a Lucy 2.

Now it is time for us to leave, go and have some lunch and back to the joys of breastfeeding and being the mama to a lovely, sweet little baby, who is part of my answer to the question of the meaning of life. As it is for many other people, I am sure.

See you next week for another Big Scream movie.

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