It’s been two years since my post Coffee Art in Cornwall about my Dad’s fabulous daily cappuccinos – one of my many favourite things about visiting them down here in Gorran Haven, Cornwall. And since I’ve been here for two weeks and enjoying one of his special coffees every day, here’s another album of his Coffee Art.
It’s not like me to be organised or to plan ahead at all. In fact as a general rule I like things to be as unscheduled and surprising as possible – I think I’ve always enjoyed the freedom and spontaneity that brings. Some, probably most people prefer the sense of security, order and control that planning ahead gives them and need the sense of knowing (or thinking they know ;) ) what’s coming. I, on the other hand, always panic if my diary becomes what I deem “too full”, too far in advance (by which I mean a month…) It’s as if I am losing control of my ability to choose my own life and giving my power away to whoever I have promised to meet, visit, work for, etc. I’d say protecting this flexibility and freedom in the life has become my driving force over the last few years, probably to the point of dysfunction!
I don’t quite know why, but I’ve always felt a deep sense of security in having my life unscripted, unplanned and un-promised and in being free to change, cancel or create something in the moment, according to what’s going on in my world at the time – fitting in with what’s right for me and mine in relation to all those quirks of life that you can’t predict, not what you think will be right for you months before, when we are all, as far as I’m concerned different people to the one we’ll be a few weeks hence. It partly stems from a fear of being trapped and partly, since becoming a mother, from a deep fear of promising to do something that will separate me for too long from my children.
Somehow, however, this year, 2015 is turning out to be my most highly planned-out year yet. For the first time in years my entire life is getting booked up, day by week by month, to the point where I find myself planning a project in 2016 already and getting accidentally ahead of myself all the time, thinking it’s coming up this Spring rather than next.
And you know what?… I like it!
This is probably because everything that’s going into my diary is awesome and exciting. I feel pretty blessed and grateful that this is my life!
So here it is….
January & February
A crazy whirlwind of orchestral work, acting classes, Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Winners’ Event in Birmingham and visits from my parents, my parents-in-law and brother and sister-in-law from Bucharest, one after the other! To say nothing of Remus’ massive televised concert in Romania and all the work involved there, events and concerts here in London.
Classical Babies‘ 5th Birthday Concert is approaching and my acting partner Natalie and I will be writing and filming a scene for our showreel together, needing a DOP, lighting, music, the works. It’s a big project and we’re on a deadline of 31st March.
On 2nd April, I fly to Bucharest for a couple of days to see Remus play Paganini 1st Violin Concerto with the Enescu Philharmonic. For those who don’t know, I love Bucharest, it is a home from home for me, full of friends and family, great culture and events and favourite places to eat & drink! A trip there is always a treat. From there, we go straight to Cornwall where our boys, Gabi & Luci will be waiting for us at my parents’, already on their Easter Break. We haven’t been able to visit Gorran Haven (literally my ‘haven’ from the madness and pollution of London) for months much to our collective disappointment and I am practically gagging to breathe the sea air, take walks and chill with my mum and dad. (Though I’m tempted to pop up to London for a few days for an acting intensive at GFCA. We’ll see…)
Classical Babies will feature at Music in the Round, at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield! On the 18th, my youngest, ‘Luci Puci’ will turn four years old (which I can’t believe) and on that very same day, I’ll be jetting off on tour to Mexico with the City of London Sinfonia (including a couple of free days to look around!). This is my first real tour and although I’m gutted at missing Luci’s birthday, we’ll celebrate the day before and he’ll never know the difference. My amazing parents, officially the best people in the World, will look after the boys. <3
In June, Remus’ brother and sister-in-law, Lucian (Snr) and Dana come over with their kids, Eva and Vladi – exactly same ages as Gabs and Luci, minus 3 months! – and we will nail Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park and Thomasland, Drayton Manor in one weekend. (Crazy but has to be done!)
After a visit from my parents for my nth birthday and Gabi’s 6th (he’s already requested a minecraft cake), Remus and I leave the kids in Cornwall again (sorry, Mum and Dad!) and jet off to Sinaia, in the mountains in Romania to teach violin at a Summer Masterclass course. Also, to be honest to enjoy a bit of kid-free time together in a beautiful place, even if it is a working holiday.
A summer holiday with the kids in Cornwall follows and then our lovely, car-crazy Dacia expert, Danuț (who lovingly and perfectly restored our Renault 12) and his family come to us in London. (I say our R12, and she is, but really it’s Remus’ baby.) Then, just one week later we’re into…
… when my Luci starts school! From then on really, Autumn is a big mystery, for the following reason… Oh man, this is complicated, it’s really needs a blogpost of it’s own to explain. But to oversimplify it, for this post’s sake, for a year or more now I’ve been really tempted to audition for this four-term Postgrad acting course (MA equivalent) at GFCA, the school where I’ve been studying part time for the last 2-3 years. Both boys will be at school at it’s time I really do something with my life. I really want to be able to get work as an actor and not just fanny-around with it like I have so far, but the course is crazy-intense. I’m on the fence big time. But that’s another post… Suffice to say, I don’t know what I’ll be doing with my Autumn. It could be that, or more classes, auditions, violin work, Classical Babies, being a mum, a bit of everything like I do now… Who knows. Whatever it is, I know it’ll be creative and I know it will be worth it.
Which brings us to…
On the 10th December my Classical Babies String Quartet will be part of a big Charity Christmas Carol Concert in Knightsbridge to raise money for my most loved charity The Lullaby Trust (who I did my Violin Marathon for in memory of Matilda Mae). It will be a really beautiful event that I’m so proud to be helping with. I can’t wait for Luci’s first school nativity and the usual Christmas stuff with the kids and then, for the first time ever for us (me and the boys) and the first time in maybe a decade for Remus, we’re spending Christmas in Romania! I’m very excited, because we get to spend some quality time with Lucian and Dana and our niece and nephew in their new apartment in the centre of Bucharest and the kids will go bonkers together! Then the parents in law will come over for Christmas Day and the big dinner. Sarmale!!! (my favourite Romanian food) Then for a week after, over New Year, we’re going the four adults, four kids, to a cottage/cabin place in the countryside where the kids can play in REAL snow (not the kind of single-layer flakes that close Heathrow airport) and we can sit by the fire and drink wine! PERFECT.
So, not only do I have the most pre-formatted year up my sleeve, I also have great plans for 2016 including a joint Azoitei family ‘Bucharest-London branch’ holiday somewhere hot and kid-friendly in the Summer, but also a brilliant idea for a big Lullaby Trust fundraiser in memory of Matilda Mae, akin to the violin marathon but quite different. I can’t wait!
Maybe being organised is the way to go after all… Though I really think that after all my years of playing it by ear will stand me in good stead when some of these best-laid plans of mine ‘gang a-gley’.
The Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel is a very business-class, modern style hotel so not for you if you’re looking for boutiquey Parisian romance, but it was perfect for us for it’s amazing proximity to it’s namesake landmark. It was a little run down in some places, (like if you looked up to the balcony above – but why would you?!) but Gabs loved it and I have to say this: The bed was AMAZING! I had an unbelievably good night’s sleep and only struggled to get out of it the next day because we had overdone it the day before. I really wanted to make the most of every minute before our train back to London for Gabi’s sake, so had set my alarm for 07:30 (06:30 GMT) so we could go out early. Ha! Fat chance. And although Gabs got himself up at 8am and, unbelievably for him, dressed himself! I quickly realised I wasn’t the only one who was feeling it, as you can see from his face! …
I was going to take the boy out to a café for croissants and chocolate milk but he had got the idea stuck in his head that he had to have breakfast in the hotel, so down we went and it was actually really great. He stuffed himself with mini-pain au chocolats until he couldn’t move and I had sausage and scrambled eggs, a bucket of cappuccino and a lot of very good, freshly-squeezed orange juice. Like that helps you climb 704 steps…
When we first looked out on our balcony, the top of the tower was completely shrouded in fog! It had never occurred to me that could happen and we were both delighted with how creepy cool it looked, though it had mostly cleared by the time we got there.
Having done the trip to the top by lift in the night time, our plan (devised by Gabs) was to take the stairs to levels one and two in the daylight. First, we walked round the park to get a really good view of the whole thing and I was so happy to see Gabs just as excited about it as the day before and talking all the time about how amazing it was. Then we climbed the 704 steps to the second floor, which for a little boy with hyper-mobility issues who usually whinges about pains in his legs when walking, he scampered up remarkably quickly! There is a staggering amount of steel inside the tower and Gabi was fascinated by the fact that it all comes from Romania (where his Daddy’s from) and pondered how they got it all over here without the ship sinking…
The view of Paris was a little foggy and Gabs wasn’t that bothered by it anyway, he loved being inside the stairwell the best so we went down to the first floor which is all redone since I was there last. Gabs was really disappointed the ice-rink is only there at Christmas time as he liked the sound of trying it out, but 30 seconds later he was distracted by the gift shop where we got gifts for Daddy and Luci. The great thing about the new first floor is the transparent floor, which made me dizzy but didn’t bother Gabs at all who was just fascinated by seeing people like ants on the ground below. Apparently it was even scarier when they first put in completely clear glass and people were getting freaked out by vertigo so now they have tiny little dots in it so you can kind of tell you’re standing on something.
Skipping back down the steps Gabi saw two young, friendly-faced Japanese boys, maybe 20-25 yrs old, one of whom wore a bright-red jumper. Don’t know what possessed him but he stared the guy straight in the face and said in a loud voice, “Hel-lo, ‘Mr Tomato’!” The guys looked taken aback but laughed and then a few steps later, still in their ear-shot, Gabi noticing the “600 steps” mark on the steel cries out, “600 steps to go??! NO! That is just an INSULT!!!” I tried not to laugh and said that if anything is was an insult it was probably the “Mr. Tomato” comment. If you like travelling incognito and doing your sightseeing without attracting too much attention, Gabi’s probably not the person to go with…
So Gabi said his goodbyes to the tower and we pootled off down the very pretty Avenue de Suffren back to our new favourite place where we’d had dinner the night before. The same smiley waiter greeted us and I was really proud of Gabs who is – mystifyingly for a half-Romanian – massively resistant to speaking any foreign languages at all, for managing to say, “Je voudrais un chocolat chaud s’il-vous-plait” (and it was one bad-ass Parisian hot chocolate the like of which I never tasted in my life) before falling asleep – again! – under my coat, to the bemusement of our waiter who remembered us from the night before. At lunch time ‘Saffren’ is full of well-dressed native Parisiens and business people sharing a bottle of wine (why am I only person holding up my end of that convention in London?!) over giant platters of glazed spare-ribs, lobster-and-oysters or steak frites. It was nice to be surrounded by natively-spoken French and you know you’ve found a good-‘en when the locals eat there.
While Gabs slept and I had coffee and crème brûlée, the waiter came over to chat and tell me about his son who is studying at a university in London. It was clear that he missed and was proud of him, and it seemed to me that he felt, through talking with us just before we went for our train he was making some sort of energetic contact with his son, through us. Such a look of fatherly love mixed with sadness in his eyes, like he wished with everything he had he could jump on that train in our place. We will go back and find him next time we are back in Paris.
Meanwhile, Gabs played Atlas with his mini Eiffel Tower in the lobby while I charged my phone and then it was time to say goodbye for the last time to his beloved steel monument (even I got a bit emotional, his obsession has rubbed off on me and after so many hours spent with that bloody tower, I started to think of it as a person – what the hell?!). Then a tired boy rode the metro back to Gare du Nord and was, again an angel all the way home. The journey home was as beautiful as the rest, with this sunset appearing as we travelled through the French countryside to the tunnel, and Gabs was good enough that I could sneak off the buffet car for a last glass of bubbles…
At this point, before we make our return to London and real life, I have a confession to make: I never did give much of a crap about Paris, as a concept. I mean, everyone always falls over themselves to get to kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower, Americans in movies shriek with excitement when they get to go, and I understand it’s atmospheric and beautifully constructed, but I just couldn’t make myself want to go. I don’t know why! Well, I don’t know what Gabs has done to me, or if it was the wine or being at the le tour itself for so many hours and it just grew on me, but first of all it is just a spectacular piece of art and the longer I looked at it the more it fascinated me, and second of all I started to feel at home in Paris and suspect that it might be just a tad friendlier than it dares to let on. Maybe it was just being in such good company and seeing it all through my Gabi’s eyes, but I really started to fall a little bit in love with this city… Paris, we will be back! <3
And LOOK what was waiting for us at London Kings X-St Pancras!!!
Nothing Paris has to offer could be more beautiful…
We are in Paris!!! (I am actually writing this on the eurostar home.) Gabi, who has been obsessed with the Eiffel Tower specifically, and with Paris in general for about a year and a half now, has finally achieved his dream of visiting it, IN REAL LIFE!!! For about a year he was constantly talking about it, drawing pictures of it, zooming in on it on Google Earth and asking to go. Then eventually he stopped asking to go but we would find pictures like this lying around:
(I asked him what the building was next to the tower and he said, “My Hotel”.)
And when nothing happened for a year, he just stopped altogether. Except on the last day of term after we had already, unbeknownst to him, booked the tickets, when he burst into tears and wept all the way to the car, “You promised me a year and a half ago we would go to Paris and we still haven’t been, that means I’m NEVER going to go!!” So he had basically given up on it when we gave him the trip for Christmas in the form of a Paris-themed box of gifts including a miniature Eiffel Tower, a Paris calendar to mark off the days until his trip, passport holder with his new passport in it, and his tickets in a gorgeous little fake-book box with the Eiffel Tower on the front.
Finally, 50 days and a hell of a lot of red pen later …. So, yesterday morning, we woke up at 6:30am and Daddy and Luci dropped us at the tube station to go to King’s X-St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar. Both of them were clearly a bit emotional, Daddy because he wasn’t going to see his Gabi’s face when seeing Paris for the first time and Luci because he wouldn’t get “cuddle with Mummy” at bedtime. Luci cried all the way to nursery :( But we knew nothing of that, we were off to Paris!
When I originally booked the tickets I did something so stupid; I booked for the wrong week by mistake and had to call in an embarrassed flap saying, “I thought it was half-term, it’s not! Please can we move the booking to real half-term!” And it was lucky I did, because the lady on the phone was so chatty and nice and upon learning about one 5 yr old Asperger boy’s dream trip, made sure we had not only the right time and day of the freaking week but also two forward-facing table seats right next to the buffet car on both legs of the journey.
Consequently, Gabs was an angel for the whole 2 hrs 50 mins, reading, drawing and playing on his Samsung tablet (what the hell would we do without that thing, eh?), being cute and funny and impressing the man opposite with his bizarrely adult vocabulary and amazing knowledge of chemistry (the plus side of Aspergers).
Unfortunately, 2 hrs 50 minutes turns out to be exactly his limit, because the second we hit the ground at Paris Gare du Nord, he immediately turned into a noisy, stimming, fidgeting, flapping nightmare, just as I was trying to figure out le metro map (the other side of Aspergers). After managing to narrowly avert a falling on the tracks disaster by grabbing his hood, we made it on three metro trains from Gare du Nord to Bir-Hakeim without incident and without drawing any more attention to ourselves than Santa Claus might at a BBQ pool party.
We got a thrill when we were trundling along in the metro and suddenly, through the window, this appeared:
and then, just a few steps around the corner from the station, we saw our hotel… RIGHT next to the Eiffel Tower! Gabs was beside himself when he saw how huge it looked from our balcony!
He loved the novelty of a hotel room and wanted to stay, but we were starving (3:30 Paris time, 2:30 GMT) and had to go out for lunch. More highly AS behaviour followed, I struggled with him knocking things over, repeatedly over-loud voice-level and him being over-emotional and misunderstanding and misinterpreting everything I was saying and crying loudly, basically being impossible to keep calm or still in his seat. I felt like I was having a heartattack from all the stress and teeth-gritting, so after a quick trip round the corner to check out the tower, it was a relief to get him back to the hotel for a nap while I took a shower.
I let him watch TV for a bit until it got dark, as we wanted to catch the lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower after dark to see the lights of Paris! So we queued ‘at dusk’ – I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence! – in time to see the lights come on. The queue for tickets was all right but it takes forever to get everyone in to the lifts and up to the very top of the tower. People are so very un-British here; when they queue they stand so bollocking close to each other I could probably have lifted both feet off the ground without falling over. It was OK for me, because it kept us all warm in the bitter winds whipping around us, but poor Gabs permanantly had his face in someone’s arse and no amount of me elbowing people made them stop. It made me cross and I was surprised he didn’t have a sensory-overload panic attack but he was just amazing. It helped that I’d dangled the carrot of a large Eiffel-Tower lolly as a prize for getting to the top.
It was painfully, harshly cold at the top because a stinging wind whips around you and you are just so high up with no protection from the elements, but Paris is Oh So Beautiful at night!! I have been up once before and I don’t remember being so impressed. Maybe the company of a little boy who was loving it helped. Gabs was for once quite quiet which means he was taking it all in but you can tell from his face he was a very happy little boy indeed. Dream fulfilled.
My Gabi <3
We phoned Daddy to say, “We love you!” from the top, and looked at the view all the way round and then Gabs was very firm that he had had enough and was frozen and wanted to go back down. It took even longer to queue to get down and by the time we reached the bottom we were both exhausted and freezing, but somehow elated and hyper from the blissful feeling of a dream having been realised.
Then, just as we thought we were tired enough to be over the whole thing, this happened…
We walked a long way up and down Rue de Saffren trying to suss out the right place to eat because we had been a bit disappointed at lunch time and wanted ambience and proper French food. I also had three top requirements: champagne for me, steak for me and crêpes for Gabs. I found all those things at a great brasserie restaurant called ‘Saffren’ where all the nicest people seemed to congregate. The smiliest waiter in Paris looked after us and made jokes, a gorgeous Spanish couple loved Gabs and ruffled his hair and the energy in the place was golden.
At 10pm French time, I woke Gabs up to walk home and he started to say he felt homesick, because “at home there are lots of birch trees, and here are spruce trees and birch trees are so nice and spruces not so nice.” So after two minutes to appreciate how very lucky we were to have this view from the hotel (thank you Daddy for pulling out all the stops), we snuggled into bed the very best kind of tired after maybe the most magical day in the life of my boy.
Thank You, Paris! <3
When Remus was back from his big televised concert in Romania (more on that later…) we made a start on Luci’s room, taking out all the unwanted old toys and the big cupboards to make way for the bed.
One day while I was out working with the BBC Concert Orchestra and then at acting class, Remus was looking after the kids and planned to paint the room, if they let him (nice warm magnolia instead of the horrible old graying off-white.) He thought he’d only have time to tape up the skirting boards etc. and maybe one coat if he was lucky, but in reality he ploughed through and completed the whole lot. It was super quick-drying paint so, somehow forgetting I really, really wanted to be there for this bit he went ahead and moved the bed up there, with the kids helping him carry every slat up the stairs, super-excited and jumping up and down around him as he worked.
The poor guy worked so hard and expected I’d be happy so was a bit taken-aback when I came home, went up there to find Lucian asleep in his “new room” and promptly burst into tears!! I had so wanted to have the room finished just as I’d been planning for weeks (as seen in Lucian’s New Room). He felt so guilty when he realised how much I had dreamed of being there to present Luci his first ever very-own room and see the look on his face! But in his defense it was the only free time he had, the whole thing just snowballed with the kids around getting excited and he hadn’t quite realised (trying reeeeally hard not to say, “I had“!) that as soon as the bed was moved, the rest would have to follow on the same day as Luci would have nowhere to sleep…
Anyway, we rescued the situation. I carried Luci downstairs into my bed so he hardly remembered being in this room:
and woke up next to me. And I soon accepted that it was all for the best and couldn’t have been helped. Sometimes things just roll and you have to go with it and we ended up finishing way earlier than we would have otherwise. I kept him out of there until I managed to get the whole thing finished and got his new bedding and all the stickers and transfers on the wall – his name from Blue Daisy, my favourite ever baby shop which has sadly now closed, and the beautiful stars, to match the rug from Great Little Trading Company at the head and the foot of his bed. The stars were inspired by two things, his name ‘Lucian’ means light and he is my star and the light of my life completely, and they remind us of a very special little star in the sky, Matilda Mae who is the inspiration behind this blog:
And the numbers (also from Blue Daisy) on the opposite wall:
Here’s the boy, discovering his new room. He was quite cool about it, but one thing I noticed watching his body language and energy while he looked around was this kind of holding himself bigger, a really subtle puffing-up of the chest type stance. I could see him thinking, “Wow, they really take me seriously if they did this.” The poor boy has spent his whole life stuck in with Gabs, tagged on to whatever his brother is doing or has, getting all the hand me downs and never anything of his own personality and style and suddenly now he has his own place in the house and clearly, I can see him feel, his own place in our family as a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON. !!!
One of the things I love the most about Luci being up in the roof is the big window that lets in so much light:
This means that Lucian can see the stars and moon from his bed at night time, something he loves and was very excited to learn!
Night Night, Luci. We Love You! xx