Adele’s “21”


Some time ago (on 24 January 2011), the second album by Leona Lewis’s former classmate Adele was released in the UK. Adele is a young singer from Tottenham, North London.

The album is called “21” and has become extremely popular – in its first week, 208,000 copies were sold. It consists of 12 tracks such as: “Rolling in the Deep”, “Rumour Has It”, “Turning Tables”, “Don’t You Remember”, “Set Fire to the Rain”, “He Won’t Go”, “Take It All”, “I’ll Be Waiting”, “One and Only”, “Lovesong”. Basically, it’s a kind of mixture of pop, rock, soul and R&B.

Adele is definitely the singer who somehow fills a niche in the British music market. Until now we have had crowds of artificially promoted artists. Adele’s work is different; it is moving, it’s great in its sincerity and simplicity. Also, her voice is characteristic; she has managed to create her own style, which means that she is – and will be – recognisable by different publics and no one will confuse her with Cheryl Cole.

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Edinburgh, one the most charming cities in the UK


‘My dear Sir, do not think that I blaspheme when I tell you that your great London, as compared to Dun-Edin, ‘mine own romantic town’, is as prose compared to poetry, or as a great rumbling, rambling, heavy Epic compared to a Lyric, brief, bright, clear, and vital as a flash of lightning,’ wrote English novelist and poet, Charlotte Bronte in one of her letters in July, 1850.

Indeed, Edinburgh is one of the most picturesque and astonishing cities in the UK. Undoubtedly, there are many nooks and crannies in this city worth seeing. Edinburgh Castle is definitely one of the most interesting historic buildings which I have ever seen. It’s incredibly huge and the view out of it is more than marvellous. Also, its inside is very imposing, especially the Great Hall, which was built in 1511 as the chief place of ceremony in the castle. Another interesting thing to see in the castle is the Honours of Scotland – the Crown, Sceptre and Sword of state, which were made in Scotland and Italy and first used in 1543 during the coronation of Mary Queen of Scot at Stirling Castle. However most visitors would be very interested in another Scottish icon – the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish kings’ seat, which arrived at the castle in 1996.

A wide road runs down from the castle called the Royal Mile. It’s of the most interesting streets in Edinburgh, as many buildings next to it are old (from the 18th and 19th centuries), and it attracts many tourists. In other words, something always happens there, especially in August, when the Edinburgh International Festival audiences have an opportunity to watch street artists from around the world.

At the end of the Royal Mile there is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty the Queen. Also, it is known as the former residence of a Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace has many fine rooms, which can be visited for a charge – the Great Gallery is worth seeing, for example.

Across from the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the new building of the Scottish Parliament, which was opened in 2004. Its architecture may be perceived as a bit bizarre, but on the other hand you would never see any similar buildings in the UK, and possibly in the world.  The Parliament is open for tourists from Monday to Friday, but there are specific hours of visiting, which are stated on the Parliament’s website.

In my opinion, Princes Street Gardens – a public park in the centre of Edinburgh – is the place that cannot be missed. According to net sources, the park was created in the 1820s. Today, it’s a popular place for meetings and many people go there to bag some rays.

Obviously, Edinburgh’s monuments are so absorbing and there are so many of them, that you would have to spend at least one week there to see everything. It is a truly amazing and astonishing city, but you have to go there and see its entire marvel for yourself.

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‘Hector’s Voyage or the Search for Happiness’.


‘Hector’s Voyage or the Search for Happiness’ is a book by French psychiatrist François Lelord. As its title suggests, it’s about Hector, who travels to many places to find a proper definition of happiness. While on his travels he observes people to find out what make them happy.

Hector is a psychiatrist from Paris. He has many patients, who seem to be constantly unhappy. Moreover, he becomes slightly unhappy too, that’s why he decides to take a break from his work and to search for happiness. Inter alia, he visits his old friend in China, and also a monk. Furthermore, Hector travels to see his friend in Africa, and is kidnapped there by drug dealers, and then he goes to the United States. As a result of his travels he writes down lists of things that make him or other people happy: ‘happiness is doing a job you love’, ‘happiness is having a home and a garden of your own’, etc.

Basically, the book isn’t written in a very ornate way, so the average reader would find this work very easy to understand. Also, the author uses humorous style, so the reader would never get bored while reading ‘Hector’s Voyage’.

 I would say that this book is one of the most interesting I have ever read. On the other hand, it inspired me to think about things that make my life brighter. In order not to become too confessional, I’ll only list a few of them. One of the happiest things is listening to music with your friend, as happened to me a couple of days ago, and the piece we listened to was Aria on G String by J.S.Bach. Another thing that I would call a happy moment is talking with children. Two days ago I had a little conversation with my two years and eight months old niece: ‘ N: Auntie? Me: Yes? N: I’ll buy you a star.’ Me:‘ Which one?’ N: ‘That one from the sky.’ What more can I say?

 

 

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The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, by Janice Galloway


Contemporary times are not easy to deal with; our époque might be confusing, especially to those who are oversensitive. The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, a novel by Janice Galloway published in the UK by Polygon in 1989, deals with an important problem for the contemporary generation – depression.

The story is told by 27-year-old teacher Joy, who is an alcoholic, a typical femme fatale and suffers from depression; she had an eating disorder, she spent seven years in a strange, cold marriage. Later she jumped into a ‘happy’ (in her mind) relationship with a married man, but there were many things she didn’t know about him at that time; she didn’t realise that Michael wrote his diary in code, for example.

Also, her relationship with her family is bad and finally, she ends up in hospital. Almost at the end of the story, she confesses, ‘I am not a bad woman’. The key words from the last chapter, ‘I forgive’, symbolise the beginning of new life for her, as they allow her to clear herself from negative emotions.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is full of unexplained mysteries; until page 60 the reader is not aware of the reason for Joy’s mental state; also there is some tension when Joy waits for a mysterious lady. Later it turns out that the expected guest was a health visitor, but the reader is still not aware why Joy has the health visitor.

The author uses Barthes’ narrative structure like an enigma – resolution with 5 codes: the symbolical code refers to a psychological problem of Joy’s: she constantly lists things she ate and things to say to the doctor. The cultural code applies to Joy’s philosophy (‘God is missing’), and plot clichés us. The semantic code is hidden in cultural stereotypes, as in Joy’s relations with her ex-husband; ‘I learnt to cook’. The proairetic code refers to events ‘announcing’ future goings-on and the hermeneutic code uses its mystery to build tension.

The book consists of good plotting and interesting characters and Janice Galloway perfectly portrays contemporary society with its stereotypes and cultural values, where depressed people are almost invisible. However, many profanities used in the novel should be censored, although they were used intentionally – to emphasise Joy’s anger.

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My Heller


Stephen Heller (1813 – 1888), is one of those composers whose works are always pleasing to my ear. The first work by this Hungarian composer which I have ever heard was Prelude in B major, Op. 81 No. 13 (from ’24 Preludes’), not a very complicated piece, but very harmonic and somehow moving. Later I played some of his works myself; I remember my first crooked notes of Heller’s Etude Op.47 No.1 – Allegretto or Etude Op.46 No. 2 – Allegretto scherzando like it was today.

Heller, similar to Mozart was giving concerts to a wide public as a child. However, he didn’t travel that much at an early age: at the age of nine, he used to perform with his teacher at the Budapest theatre.

He settled in Paris in 1838 and it is said that later he even became friendly with Franz Liszt, Frederick Chopin, Hector Berlioz and many other famous composers of that period. He wasn’t only a composer, but also a teacher and a brilliant performer. According to www.classicalmidi.co.uk , some critics judged him as superior to Chopin. Also, according to www.classicalarchives.com, he is thought to have had an influence on both Fauré and Chabrier.

Heller wrote hundreds of compositions for piano and these included: scherzos, sonatas, nocturnes, dance movements, caprices, variations, waltzes, fantasies and many other works. He died almost forgotten in Paris at the age of 75. Some people would say that his works were very good, somehow elegant, but not very original. However, this can be only judged by a mastermind of classical music.

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A little known Europe – Czech Republic.


Studying and living in a different country is a great opportunity to improve one’s knowledge about people who sometimes are your neighbours living beyond the borders of your home country.

I remember the 22nd of May 2008 like it was today, as then Aberdeen College celebrated International Day. Also, at that time I spoke to one of my College tutors about my nation’s emblem, and I unintentionally referred to a very old Polish legend. This legend says that a long, long time ago three brothers wandered around the world to find a place where they could settle down with their people. They were named Lech, Czech and Rus. Lech built his city and named it Gniezno, which became the first capital of Poland and the place of coronation for the first Polish kings. The second brother – Czech, went to the South and Rus went to the East. They founded their countries over there and since then, these nations have been inhabited by Czechs and Russians.

Knowing many Czech people, who I obviously met in Scotland, inspired me to improve and at the same time share my little knowledge about them. The Czech Republic is not that big a country. Its area is 78 866 km2. It is a landlocked country and is situated in Middle Europe. It has borders with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.

The name of the capital of Czech Republic, Prague, may sound familiar to many people.  It is situated on the river Voltava with a dominant royal castle – Hrad above the city hill. The city has over 1.250.000 inhabitants and is the most popular and oft-visited place by tourists. This city is like a „living textbook” of the development of architectural styles. It is full of Romanian, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings with unique examples of cubist architecture. However, the most famous is Charles’ Bridge, built between 1357 and 1402, decorated with a gallery of sculptures.

The Czech kitchen is quite interesting, and Czechs are well known for their love of noodle called ‘knedliky’. The other most popular dishes are: ‘buchty’ – raised cookies and ‘kachna se zelim’- browned duck with cabbage. Also, Czechs like eating fried slices of cheese with…chips.

Beer brewing has a very long tradition in the Czech Republic and many of the breweries have brewed their original beer until now. One of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic is brewery called Regent.  People interested in the beer production can visit a museum of brewing, and the oldest museum of brewing can be found in Pilzno.

The pride of Czech classical music is Bedrich Smetana,  born in the 19th century. His symphonic poem ‘My country’ became a kind of symbol of Czech music. A curious fact is that the composer never heard his own composition, because a few years before he wrote it, he lost his hearing.

Currently, the most popular Czech musicians are Karel Gott, Peter Spaleny, Lucie Bila, Iveta Bartosowa, Heidi Janku, Hana Zagorowa, Helena Vondrackowa, among others.

Several times I have heard that the Czech and Polish languages are the same, so finally I would like to say few things about the similarity in meaning between the Polish and Czech languages. Doubtless when Poles and Czechs meet for first time they will understand each other much faster than the English and Russians would do, for example (obviously presupposing that they wouldn’t know each other’s languages). However, it does not mean that the Czech and Polish languages are identical. For example, the Polish ‘freak’ means ‘theatre’ in Czech, the Polish ’shed’ means ‘house’ in Czech, and the Polish ‘ladies’ means ‘man’ in Czech. They say ‘assault’ for our ‘idea’, and ‘penance’ for the Polish ‘fine’. We must be careful when we talk about smells because our ‘smell’ in Czech means…’stink’.

 

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A few words about Bulgarian folk jazz – Milena Karadjova


Bulgaria is probably most popular for tourism and travel and also its graceful folk choirs. However, in this country, like everywhere else in the world, there are different musical genres, but I’m not going to consider all forms of music associated with Bulgaria. I find one particular musical form very interesting, namely folk jazz. Folk jazz is simply a combination of traditional folk music with jazz.

Milena Karadjova (properly Милена Караджова), a jazz singer from the Strandzha-Sakar mountain, is one of those Bulgarian singers whose work and style is not commercial at all, but is worthwhile to paying attention to, though. In 2008 she released her first solo album ‘Awakening’ (‘Пробуждане’), which was in the folk-jazz style with folk songs from Rhodopi Mountain. In 2010 she released her second album with songs from Rhodopi Mountain – ‘Between’ (‘Помежду’) . Generally, for a lay person these works may sound like a very original mixture of Slavic and Balkan sounds. It might remind him of some Polish or Russian work joined with exotic musical ornaments, typical for the Balkans and even for Turkish music. But that’s what Bulgarian folk jazz sounds like.

Those more interested in Milena’s work can visit her website: www.asenmilenagroup.com , where four songs from Milena’s album “In the middle land”, can be found, which she recorded with two other musicians as the Asen&Milena Group: Asen Marinov (Асен Маринов) and Hristian Georgiev (Християн Георгиев).  This album will definitely be a treat for those who are folk fans, as these songs are full of the spirit of Bulgarian countryside:  shepherd’s bells mixed with a mountain shepherd’s flute – a kaval and side-drums can be heard, amongst other different sounds. The whole work is buttered with a classical guitar and a light, delicate and intense vocal by Milena Karadjova.

One day, I hope hear these magnificent sounds live, but I’m afraid it won’t be possible without travelling to one of the ethnic music festivals in Sofia or other cities in Bulgaria.

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