This year I’ve found myself reading a bunch of books about the mind, the brain, and the nature of the self. For some reason I’m reading them all in parallel, picking one or the other depending on how I’m feeling on any given day, which is probably why I haven’t actually finished any of them yet. I’m loving them all, in different ways. I could probably do with spending more time talking to people about all this stuff, as well, which is one reason I’m posting this now rather than waiting till I’ve finished the books to write about them (although I will probably do that, too).
Here are a few words about what’s in the Mind/Brain section of the towering pile on my bedside table right now…Â Â Does anyone else have any thoughts about any of these, or interest in discussing them?
I am currently working part-time at Camellia’s Tea House, in Kingly Court, on Carnaby Street. It is the sort of place that immediately feels like a slice of heaven to a tea lover – you enter and there is one wall filled almost to the ceiling with caddies and big glass jars. There are about a hundred and twenty different teas and tisanes here, while the rest of the shop is filled with all kinds of different teapots and tea accessories, and enough tables that it is usually possible sit down and be comfortable. It’s got a good atmosphere, with chilled out music playing most of the time,Â at a fairly unobtrusive level.
Slightly more than half of the teas are herbal, mostly Lubna’s own blends. These are largely named for their proposed health benefits, but by blending different herbs, Lubna also aims to produce infusions with interesting, well-balanced flavours, which is something she does very well.
That leaves about fifty tea teas, including a few that aren’t pure tea – Earl Grey or pu erh with orange, rose-infused black tea and so on – along with some very good white, green, oolong and black teas. They currently have three oolongs – a Chinese milky oolong, and two less-peculiar Formosa oolongs, both very good.
Part of my job is blending and packing teas, but I am also taking and editing photos, and writing for their blog. Mostly I talk about the different teas – how they taste, what they have in them and why, and so on. Fortunately I really like the teas, so I’m able to enthuse about them completely sincerely. Here are the entries I have posted so far:
I stayed for about two weeks in the town of Carballo, which is 35km from A CoruÃ±a, 45km from Santiago de Compostela and 10km from the nearest beach. It’s a small, quiet town full of empty buildings, half-finished or abandoned, slapped together with an obvious disregard for any kind of building code. Most of the bars are mostly empty most of the time, and presumably they couldn’t stay open at all if they had to pay the kind of rent you have to pay for premises in places where people want to live. There is life and music if you know where to look, though, and it’s an easy enough journey to the beautiful beaches.
A clear stream runs through Carballo, past the bus station. close to where I was staying, with fish and bats and dragonflies. It leads quickly out of the bricks and concrete, into the woods, like an artery. The air is fresh, and the hazelnuts you can pluck from the trees in late summer are like a taste of heaven.
The last night I was there, I was woken by a mighty rainstorm battering against the thin roof of my attic flat. It’s the rain, above all, that makes Galicia so gorgeous, once you get outside of its depressed not-quite-seaside towns – the rain that feeds its lush forests and sustains its wide green fields. The countryside throughout northern Iberia is stunning; you might miss the sunshine, but it’s worth getting wet for.
I spent much of this summer travelling overland around the Iberian Peninsula – the parts of the world commonly known as Spain and Portugal. I was teaching and looking after kids at a summer camp in the Basque Country for two weeks, and then I had about a week and a half travelling in a south-westerly direction before turning north to attend the ‘Bridges‘ conference on maths and art, in Coimbra, Portugal, where I was showing my interactive exhibit known as ‘Kenneth‘ and a large canvas print of one of my generative artworks. Finally I headed further north, to Galicia, and spent about two weeks there before looping around to the East and spending a couple of days in Bilbao before going on into France on the way back to Britain.
All of these places warrant proper writing about, but here are the major stops of my journey, in inevitably-misleading bullet-point, key-word form, in any case – if nothing else, this will act as memory aid for me: