Friday, October 11, 2019

Even if I’m a city girl, I’m an animal lover at heart!

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska (USA) with various fluffy rabbits, escape-artist hamsters, numerous goldfish, cats, dogs and even a hedgehog at one point. So, it comes as no surprise to my husband when I suggest something wild like, “Hey, do you wanna go to a goat farm?” Or better yet, “How about walking a llama?”

Now, my last suggestion sounded a bit far-fetched at first. But, when I started researching things to do on the Isle of Wight, I found a farm that raises/breeds alpacas and llamas. This family farm just happened to be near the route that we planned to cycle on this English island, located an hour train ride south of London and a short ferry boat ride away.

Apparently, many city folks like ourselves are interested in this fairly new-ish idea of walking an alpaca or llama in the English countryside. There are literally dozens of these farms and bed-and-breakfasts across the U.K. now offering “meet the alpacas” or walking experiences. 
When I called the West Wight Alpacas before our trip, I secured the last two spots for a 20-minute walk around the farm. The farm, started in 2010 by husband and wife team, Neil and Michelle Payne, also offers 40-minute walks and has numerous animals that can be petted or fed before or after your walk. You’ll find more than 60 alpacas and llamas here as well as goats, chickens and two adorable fat pigs!

After we were given a good intro about the farm and its animals, I quickly learned two things about my particular llama.

1.    1.  Llamas can be stubborn AF. Mine certainly was. My llama often wanted to brush up against the hedgerows to have a scratch or start eating the leaves.

2.     2. Llamas do not cooperate very well for photos/selfies. I had many failed attempts with my llama and opted for some other llama photos afterwards that hubby took.

I learned another truth later, but we’ll get to that story in a moment.

Now you may be wondering, what the heck is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

To be honest, I didn’t really know until we went on this llama walk on the Isle of Wight.

First, llamas and alpacas are both in the camelid (camel) family and originally hail from South America.

Based on physical characteristics, llamas have long, banana-shaped ears while alpacas have straight, smaller ears. Also, llamas are bigger than alpacas, sometimes weighing twice as much.

Another difference between the two is the fur. Alpaca wool is much softer and has a finer fiber than the llama’s double-layered coat.
But the one common trait they both have is that they spit!

After our generally nice walk with our llamas, we bought some animal feed from the farm café so we could feed the other animals. We set out to feed some of the other llamas and alpacas that were out in the pasture. Well, I was feeding one of the llamas, but I thought he/she was being a bit too greedy, so I moved over to feed one of his/her pals. That was enough to piss off the first animal, and the next thing I know I was partially covered in green, grassy-smelling spit – on my face and on my t-shirt!
It was disgusting, but also pretty funny! Of course, this would happen to me! Somehow, I always seem to be the accident-prone person.

Luckily, I had a spare t-shirt in my backpack so I could change. No problem!

Walking a llama was still a cool, farm experience and it’s something I would recommend to any other fellow animal lovers.

Just don’t expect to actually learn how to walk a llama because they do what they want!



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When it’s not raining this week in London, take a couple moments to wander past some interesting life-size sculptures in Regent’s Park. The free Frieze Sculpture exhibit ends on this Sunday, October 6th.

More than a month ago on one of my weekdays off, I cycled from our home in Battersea to check out this year’s sculpture exhibit, which is set up among the English Gardens in the southeastern corner of the park. There are more than 20 sculptures designed by internationally known contemporary and modern artists. I would say that the designs themselves range from bizarre to blah and interesting to what-the-hell-is this. I may be creative in the kitchen, but I don’t really understand art sometimes.

Below, you’ll find the photos I took of the 2019 Frieze Sculpture exhibit. Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.


P.S. If the weather does cooperate, bring some snacks and a picnic blanket. Regent’s Park is perfect for an afternoon picnic!
ONE through ZERO in Cor-ten steel by American artist Robert Indiana, 1980-2002.
It is “a monumental example of the Indiana’s long-held fascination with the power of numbers with One representing birth, ascending through adolescence to maturity, ending with Zero, which stands for death.”
A 4-meter-long, bronze figure entitled When I Sleep, by British artist Tracey Emin, 2018.
“A bronze sculpture portrays a reclining female figure. Curled up in a fetal pose, her vulnerability forms a contrast to the weight and density of the sculpture’s material.”
A full-size reproduction of a 1973 Jaguar E-Type Matchbox toy car (“Mnemonic Vehicle No. 2”) by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz speaks of childhood memories and questions value within art history.
I love rabbits!
Usagi Kannon II by Leiko Ikemura, 2013-2018. 
“This monumental bronze sculpture of a figure with rabbit ears and a human face in tears symbolizes universal mourning, its walk-in bell-shaped skirt evoking a protective shrine or temple sculpture.”
A pure white 3-meter-high rendition of a Japanese cartoon character, My Melody, by New York-based sculptor Tom Sachs, 2008.
Autonomous Morris by British artist Zak Ové, 2018, made from deconstructed car parts.
It is a “motorized ‘macco’ – a person who involves themselves in other people’s business for the purpose of gossip and posterity.”
Tudor Ball by American sculptor Lars Fisk, 2019, made from wood, stucco, thatching and glass.
“In this case, Fisk presents an example of quintessential English vernacular architecture 
as a painstakingly crafted icon.”
Solar Disc III by Emily Young, 2018, made from Onyx stone. 
“The disc conjures the shape of our solar system, our planet, the sun, the moon, the eye, the mother’s breast, and the galaxy.”

Receiver by American-Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha, 2019, bronze and styrofoam.
This “highlights Bhabha’s interest in transforming everyday materials into otherworldly forms, that hover between abstraction and figuration, monumentality and entropy.”

Strange Temporalities by Ghazaleh Avarzamani, 2019,
made from a segmented slide on metal poles.
This one “embodies the failed assurance of safe enjoyment. It exposes the paradoxical reliaties behind educational methodologies, personal aspirations and cultural manuals.”
Composition by Barry Flanagan, 2008, bronze.
“Flanagan’s emblematic Nijinski hare is supported by a trio of elephants, caught during their circus balancing act, demonstrating the artist’s ability to combine wit and gravitas…”

Celloswarm by London-based artist Bill Woodrow, 2002,
made from bronze, steel and gold leaf.
“Celloswarm explores the result of a swarm of bees alighting on and
covering an inanimate object.”
Laura Asia’s Dream by Jaume Plensa, 2018, bronze.
“The artist’s constant use of new materials informs his ongoing search for a universal depiction of a reflective inner world.”
Untitled by Beijing artist Ma Desheng, 2011, bronze. 
“Ma’s stone series comments on the fragile coexistence between people and government – a precarious balancing act that can come crashing down at any moment.”