Prickly pear

Today started off as any other, but ended up reaffirming my faith in the power of London to make me deliriously happy.

I jumped on a train this morning, armed with a big bag of books and took off to the bright lights of town, expecting nothing vastly exciting from the day, but for a couple of laughs and a bit of gained knowledge. As I passed time away on the train I read, as I am prone to these days, "Art & Physics" by Leonard Shlain, a book so well written and so absorbing that it's got my undivided attention in every free moment at present.

In it I read the following about one of the physicists whose name will be forever linked with the Manhattan project and the subsequent atomic weapons that were conceived as a result, Robert Oppenheimer. In reference to the Bhagavad Gita [Oppenheimer] described it as "more brilliant than ten thousand suns".

I'm not ashamed to admit that I had no idea whatsoever what the Bhagavad Gita was and just put it on my mental list of things I needed to find out when I got home.

On arrival at Charing Cross, I was stopped in my tracks by something I thought never actually existed - I saw a fruit stall and on it there in the cold light of day, there in all it's red and green opalescence was a prickly pear. Next thing they'll be telling me Timbuktu is actually real!

Naturally I bought it out of pure curiosity and it's in my bag awaiting my curious virgin mandibles. I shall savour it with great pleasure no doubt and report back once the experience is over although I still refuse to believe it exists until after the event, in much the same way that I still believe that Cindy Crawford and Chesney Hawkes are the same person given that they have never proven it otherwise.

Next I went around town doing stuff that I don't believe I can yet reveal here for fear of ruining the later surprise for you my dear reader, and the highlight of this particular excursion was an office with a glass door with one of those big aluminium push or pull handles that stretches the length of the door. Normally something that we all assume is of sturdy construction, especially on the door of a plush office like this one, I pushed the door open only to have the handle come off in my hand in the full view of reception and the whole of Regent Street for that matter. I fell about laughing and gave them their handle back before chuckling my way to Carnaby Street.

Through the back alleys of Soho (not for that, Cez) when I walked past a window with a book in it. The book was titled Bhagavad Gita and I stopped in my tracks. Checking the place out I decided to go in, and the Hare Krishnas invited me in warmly and I went upstairs and had lunch with the Hare Krishnas. I really do dig their lifestyle and have big love for these guys, and they told me about the Bhagavad Gita and the Krishna mindset then sent me on my way with my very own copy of the Bhagavad Gita and a couple more books to boot, which were hardback and seriously beautiful. In fact I would say that in my pretty vast collection of books these are in the top five, only behind "The Wisdom of China and India" for pure aesthetic beauty, so I was very impressed. More impressive though was the fact that it just seemed like, once again, fate had conspired to answer my questions in as lucid a way as possible, and via the most interesting people and means. Life is a great teacher indeed.

I went to Hammersmith next to sort out some volunteering stuff that I want to do and was pretty surprised that they recognised me from the impact that I left on them 6 months back! These guys have only ever seen me once before and that was for about 5 minutes but it seems I left an impression which is always a nice feeling.

I topped the day off with one of my favourite pastimes - I went to the National Gallery and immersed myself in the beauty of Cézanne and Gaugain. I guess as Londoners we can become complacent and underestimate the breadth and magnificence of what our great city has to offer, but faced with Raphaels depiction of St John the Baptist preaching on the rock and Van Goghs Sunflowers, masterpieces for which I paid a grand total of nothing to see, I realised that there is a reason why I love London so much. Art and culture, science and philosophy, music and sports there is nothing we don't have, and for that matter we are spoilt enough to have access to the best of all of them.

This is a city which can keep even the shortest attention span, the most curious mind and the most restless imagination nurtured with the milk of invention. Every day is a fresh experience if you open your mind to the infinite possibilities that this city presents.

But the day didn't even end there. I finished up with a meeting for coffee with the secretary of the British Vietnam Friends Association, a meeting to find out about the aims of the organisation and how I could get involved with their charitable work. I found out in depth the long term effects of the chemical weapon, Agent Orange, deployed in the Vietnam War by the Americans and how it is still wreaking havoc 30 years later.

We stand on the brink of war once more, but as Len Aldis, the man I met today noted in his proposal to Parliament, wars do not end when the bombs stop falling, but the devastation continues long after, in the lands and in the minds of the people.

Agent Orange was commisioned by the US government and has caused long term suffering to innocent people who were born long after the war ended. These physically and mentally deformed babies were not responsible for any of what hapenned in Vietnam to American soldiers but America as usual, refuses to acknowledge responsibility for this act of international criminal negligence. And to add insult to injury, any families of American Veterans who suffer any ill effects attributed to Agent Orange will be entitled to compensation from the government under a bill passed by the Congress.

It seems that the two faces of American self-righteous double standards are on clear display once more.

If you want to do something about this please support Early Day Motion 228, The Stockholm Declaration on war and the environment in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, by contacting your local MP to add his name in support of this motion.

So, with a bit of art, eastern philosophy, voluntary work, that magic thing I'm not telling you about, and politics under the belt today I think I can safely say I had a really wicked day. A day that really, I can only ever see happening in this town.

Vive La Londres! Vive La Vie!
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