I’m not your typical lass. I’m getting married (OMG IN A MATTER OF DAYS NOW!!!) and the usual trappings of weddings are just not my thing. When it came to planning the first question was, besides the brides, of course, who were the very most importantest people who needed to be there? Next was, how soon can we have it? And finally, where?
Outfits, food, rings, vows etc. were all secondary, with many things being ranked as not necessary for the sake of saving money (Gotta say, even when you go cheap, weddings are still bloody expensive). So a hen do (bachelorette/stagette for my North American readers) was not in the cards.
Absolutely nothing about such an event appeals to me: I don’t drink, I like to be in bed by 10:00 and I’m slightly baffled by the ‘meaning’ or purpose of having one.
But the idea was suggested and once it was suggested I shrugged and though ‘Why not?’
But I’d do it my own way, of course.
So I set about researching ‘Fun Things To Do in London that Don’t Cost Very Much.’
There was a lot to choose from, which probably comes of little surprise to most everyone who lives here. London is a place where there is such an abundance of choice one is in danger of doing nothing simply out of a feeling of overwhelm.
But I had a very specific idea in mind and so, in fact, it was very quickly narrowed down to an Alternative London Street tour.
Biggest key bonus? No pre-payment required (you pay what you want after the tour’s over based on what you think it’s worth). Just book online for the total number of people you will be bringing and you’re done!
Next thing is to simply show up at the appointed place at the appointed time on the appointed day. Which I did with a lovely collection of friends including (because I’m not typical, remember) a fourteen year old boy. First boy ever to attend a hen do, I’m sure. We were pushing the boundaries of gender stereotypes in the best setting: Shoreditch.
I'm a huge fan of Shoreditch and have been since my first few months in London. It's the best place for a good wander - especially if, like me, you're a connoisseur of street art.
Our tour was led by Kia, like the car but spelled differently. He didn’t tell us how it was spelled differently so for the purposes of this review I’ve spelled it like the car.
Kia was brilliant. His tour was full of delightful surprises, thought provoking history and heart-warming and entertaining antidotes. He didn’t just talk about the art on the walls, he talked about the walls themselves, and shared his passion for everything Tower Hamlets in the most engaging way.
I learned new things about artists I’ve admired for years and discovered new artists whose subtle application of work had gone unnoticed even by my curious eyes. This place which I'd become so familiar with suddenly had whole new layers of discovery for me as I learned the names of the artists, the history of the migrants that built the industries that fuel the economy of the suburb, and the culture of constant change as the area has become gentrified over the past decade.
It wasn’t at all typical and it was well worth every pound I chose to give our eloquent and delightful tour guide.
Dear human beings,
Apologies for this being in English because I know that not everyone can read English (nor should they have to) and I totally appreciate the huge advantage this language gives me. If I could translate this into every language I totally, totally would because seriously: This is for EVERYONE.
I want you to be happy.
Not to get what you want and not get what you don’t want, but for you to have a true appreciation for the value of your life & your experience. I wish for you to know what genuine happiness looks like and how to cultivate it.
Happiness is loving people. May you always appreciate the people you love and what that love can teach you. May you tell them and show them that you love them as often as possible and never take them for granted.
Happiness is having an open heart. May you recognise the value of compassion, generosity and kindness and also recognise these qualities take work. They must be diligently and habitually practiced and that is a practice which is invaluable.
Happiness is being flexible. May you see that it is far more important to be kind than it is to be right. May you recognise that it is ‘rightness’ which enables someone to strap a bomb to themselves and take their own life, along with the lives of so many others.
May you recognise that someone capable of such an act of terror is just as much a victim as everyone else in the room with them.
May you not be a victim of your own rightness. May you see that holding a sense of ‘other’ is what makes a person capable of not only killing for what they believe in, but dying for it to too.
May you see that such a mentality has never, in the entire history of humankind, ever been of benefit.
Happiness is free of dualism. May you let go of the idea that some people are evil or bad and others are virtuous and good and recognise that everyone is human and no one does anything because they want to feel worse. That there are countless causes and conditions that lead a human being to carry out an atrocious act and that not one of us is incapable of such atrocities given the same circumstances and that what sets us apart from other animals is out ability to choose whether we want to cultivate compassion or hatred.
May you see how difficult it is to make that choice because it involves a level of self-awareness most of us are terrified of because we don’t want to see the things that make us human and our ability to hate enough to kill is frightening to look at.
May you let this humble you.
Happiness is about your state of mind. May you learn to extend the love you have for those you know intimately to those you know casually and those you don’t even know at all and those who have upset or hurt you and eventually to those you hate.
May you learn to feel compassion for a stranger half the world away because you recognise that they are human, just like you, and you don’t want to be blinded by hate.
May you see that hate is a problem you do not want to contribute to and that the only remedy to it is love. Because hate is born of fear and fear is born of ignorance where love is born of familiarity and familiarity is born of our ability to recognise our shared humanity.
To love is to have an open heart and mind and see the world from a much bigger place than ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ and ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’ and therefore can see what will help and what will hurt, genuinely.
A loving, open heart and mind sees that the world has enough ‘rightness’ and ‘hate’ and to hold onto either, no matter how small, is to be just as much a part of the problem as someone who will die and kill and turn away those who need help in the name of any cause or belief.
So may you be happy. Because you are capable of changing your state of mind and you are capable of loving and you are capable of cultivating that love into something so much bigger than yourself.
Happy people are loving people and loving people see that war is senseless, hatred is toxic and we are all in this together.
Kaitlyn S. C. Hatch
When not writing, making art or recording podcasts,
Kaitlyn can be found in trees, listening to Dharma talks on her iPod, Boon.
Thusly named because
Brian Froud = Awesome.